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The Dangers of Gorilla Glue
Great for handicrafts, terrible for dogs

We all have one—that bottomless black hole known as the “catch all” drawer, and it is not uncommon to find a bottle of Gorilla Glue tucked away in this vortex of odds and ends. People who do a lot of handiwork or crafts love this stuff, but unfortunately, so do our dogs; they find it to be a sweet, appetizing treat.

Why is it bad?

Gorilla Glue and Elmer’s ProBond are popular polyurethane-based adhesives that when ingested can cause serious problems, including death, if not properly diagnosed and treated. While classified as ‘nontoxic,’ these glues contain a catalyzing agent called Diphenylmethane Diisocyanate (MDI). When MDI-based adhesives come in contact with water they expand rapidly and create a hard foam material. The rate of this reaction is enhanced in warm and acidic environments, such as the stomach, and ingestion most commonly results in an obstruction. The reaction also produces heat, which can result in secondary complications such as thermal burns to the esophagus and stomach, which can also be life threatening.

What are the signs of ingestion?

Animals who have ingested these adhesives may present with a variety of nonspecific clinical signs including loss of appetite, restlessness, difficulty breathing, vomiting or a change in behavior. Signs generally develop within 15 minutes, but can occur up to 20 hours following ingestion.

What should I do if my pet ingests a polyurethane-based adhesive?

If ingestion is suspected, it is important that your pet see a veterinarian as soon as possible. A point to stress: Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home! The glue can expand and harden within minutes, and obstruction or injury to the esophagus (swallowing tube) can occur while your pet is in the process of vomiting. It should also be noted that ingestion of as little as 2 ounces will likely cause obstruction in a medium-size (50 pound) dog!

How is the diagnosis made?

Radiographs of the abdomen often show evidence of the glue mass. An important side note is that this radiographic finding can sometimes be mistaken for “food bloat,” which is when your pet ingests a large amount of food resulting in distention of the stomach— one is deadly and the other is not. History is a critical part of arriving at a diagnosis, and it’s important to mention if you have this type of glue in your home, even if you think your pet cannot get into the area where it is stored. 

How is it treated?

In cases where an obstruction develops, surgery is needed to remove the glue mass. Prompt identification of the problem and medical care greatly improve your pet’s chances of a successful outcome.

As always, the best treatment is prevention: If you use MDI-based glues, please take extra precaution to keep away from pets. 

I have personally treated three cases of glue ingestion in the past couple of years, and it is my hope that this information will prevent me from seeing case number four! As always, please feel free to leave comments or questions. 

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Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

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Submitted by Anonymous | October 12 2011 |

I really appreciate you posting this. So many things in the house a dog can get into. My present dog (lab)is the first I've had who eats anything and everything. It's an eye-opener for me. All "tasty" treats are up high, in snap-tight boxes, or out of the way. Thanks!

Submitted by Shea Cox DVM | October 13 2011 |

Thanks for the comment and I'm so glad you found the topic helpful! It IS amazing how much stuff our pets can get in to and so much of it seems benign. That's one of my main goals here... helping save a pet, one blog at a time :).

Submitted by Wendy | November 5 2011 |

I really appreciate this post. as a woodworker with a full studio, I have bottles of gorilla glue in the shop - and we just adopted a dog that seems to have a penchant for plastic bottles (he decimated a shampoo bottle he found in the shower), and this article gave me the shivers knowing he could have gotten a hold of this glue. Harry is a tall standard poodle so he can easily reach things.

Submitted by Shea | November 15 2011 |

Wow! Thank you, Wendy, for taking the time to share your feedback- I am so happy that you came across this blog and I am even more happy that you read it before any Harry mischief could occur! Those standards are smart cookies! Hearing your comments makes every hour I spend writing at the computer so gratifying and worth it- I truly hope to help pets and their pet parents one blog at a time! Thank you again! Shea :)

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