Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Polyurethane glues that expand when they’re exposed to moisture pose a serious risk to dogs that chew the container and swallow even a little bit of the product. Some (not all) Gorilla Glue products are expanding adhesives. Some wood glues, craft glues, general household glues, and construction adhesives also expand when wet.
Dogs rarely swallow expanding adhesives, but the potential consequences can be severe. Anything that swells up when it’s wet is hazardous if swallowed. With expanding adhesives, the risk is even greater: these products expand to a size much larger than the amount swallowed and then harden to form a solid mass that can block material from entering or leaving the stomach.
Expanding adhesives contain diisocyanates, which are chemicals used to make polyurethane products. Diisocyanates are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture from the air. Glues that contain diisocyanates are used to seal cracks and fill gaps.
In the moist, acidic environment of the stomach, products containing diisocyanates expand up to 8 times their original volume. Expansion starts within minutes after the product is swallowed. The hardened mass of glue becomes a foreign object in the stomach. A volume of glue as small as half an ounce can form a mass large enough to cause a blockage.
Glue that has cured before being swallowed—has already finished expanding and has formed a solid mass—is much less of a chemical risk, although of course it could still cause an obstruction if a dog managed to swallow a big enough chunk. Diisocyanates also irritate the skin and respiratory system, but these problems are much less common in animals than in people who are exposed to high levels at work.
Signs and Diagnosis
A mass of glue in the stomach causes the same signs as any other foreign object: vomiting, loss of appetite, painful abdomen, and loss of energy. Glue ingestion is diagnosed, or at least strongly suspected, when a dog is seen swallowing glue, the dog’s owner finds a chewed glue container, or the dog has glue residue on the fur.
The mass formed by a diisocyanate glue is visible on radiographs (x-ray images) but can look very similar to food in the stomach. Other imaging tests or a series of radiographs taken over time might be needed to definitely diagnose a foreign object in the stomach.
Expanding adhesives don’t stick to the inside of the stomach, luckily. In a study of dogs treated for Gorilla Glue ingestion, the glue irritated the stomach lining and caused ulcers in some dogs but didn’t cause serious damage to the stomach in any dog. The dogs had bloodwork abnormalities similar to those caused by vomiting in general or any type of stomach obstruction. Whether the presence of diisocyanates in the stomach caused any other problems wasn’t clear.
A foreign object that’s causing a stomach obstruction needs to be surgically removed. If a mass of glue seems small enough to pass on its own and the dog doesn’t have any worrisome signs like belly pain, the veterinarian and dog’s owner might decide to watch and wait.
What to Do if Your Pet Is Exposed
1. Friday S, Murphy C, Lopez D, Mayhew P, Holt D. Gorilla Glue ingestion in dogs: 22 cases (2005-2019). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2021;57(3):121-127. doi:10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7126
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Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.