The Dangers of Gorilla Glue for People and Pets

Great for handicrafts, terrible for people and dogs
By Shea Cox DVM, October 2011, Updated August 2020
gorilla glue toxic to 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. Unfortunately, Gorilla Glue is harmful if inhaled, an irritant to eyes, skin and can cause gastrointestinal blockage if ingested by people or pets.

This post will cover the health hazards associated with the ingestion of Gorilla Glue, full precautions of using Gorilla Glue and the associated health risks including toxicity can be found on their safety sheet.

If ingestion is suspected, it is important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Health Hazards

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.

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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 of Gorlla Glue most commonly results in an obstruction of the stomach. 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.

Symptoms of Ingestion

Symptoms include may include loss of appetite, restlessness, difficulty breathing, vomiting or a change in behavior indicating pain. Signs generally develop within 15 minutes, but can occur up to 20 hours following ingestion.

Important: Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home!

The glue can expand and harden within minutes, and stomach obstruction or injury to the esophagus (swallowing tube) can occur while 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!

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

When dogs have ingested these adhesives, it is tough to determine the cause without seeing it happen or evidence. If ingestion is suspected, it is important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnosis

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. 

Treatment

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.

Prevention

Polyurethane adhesives may taste sweet to dogs, so as always, the best treatment is prevention. If you use MDI-based glues, please take extra precaution to keep away from pets and children. Clean up any accidental spills quickly, keep these types of glues locked away securly and keep children and kids out of work area.

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. 

Photo by Goochie Poochie Grooming. The Gorilla Glue logo and name are trademarks of The Gorilla Glue Company.

Shea Cox earned a veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine since. In 2006, she joined PETS Referral Center. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb and cook up a storm. She shares her days with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman.