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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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