My Dog Ate A Contact Lens? Here’s What Will Happen!

Razors, crayons, drywall, underwear, pinecones, contact lenses, tampons, diapers, dirt, and poop – these items seem like they have nothing in common. However, there is one place they can all fit together – the dog’s belly. Yes, as scary and disgusting as it seems, these are all common foreign bodies in dogs. 

Help, my dog ate a contact lens! The good news is that this scenario is unlikely to cause harmful effects as contact lenses are not toxic to dogs. However, if your dog stole and ate both a lens and the contact lens solution, things get tricky, and you should call the vet for further instructions on what to do. 

In this article, we will talk about dogs eating contact lenses, contact lens solutions, and everyday eye drops. We will review the consequences, explain what to expect, and give tips on when to visit the vet. 

WHAT ARE CONTACT LENSES MADE OF?

Contact lenses are made of plastic, and depending on their characteristics, there are three types of lenses:

  • Soft lenses – made of a specific type of hydrophilic plastic that absorbs water, thus remaining soft, moist, and comfortable to wear. Commonly used materials include hydrogel, hyper gel, and silicone hydrogel.
  • Hard or rigid lenses – made of materials like silicone, acrylate, and fluorine. Instead of absorbing water, they remain wearable by filtering oxygen.
  • Hybrid lenses – as the name suggests, these are made of a rigid lens center and a soft lens periphery.  

ARE CONTACT LENSES HARMFUL TO DOGS?

Contact lenses are not considered generally harmful to dogs. Since they are made of plastic, it is safe to assume that the dog will partially digest the lens and then poop out the remains. 

All in all, the only scenario expected to yield more severe consequences is if a tiny dog like a Chihuahua eats a lot of contact lenses (which is highly unlikely to happen unless living in a contact lens store or all family members wear lenses and keep them at the same place). 

What about the contact lens solution?

While the contact lenses themselves are not hazardous for dogs, the solutions can be. Namely, whether a contact lens solution is harmful or not depends on its type. For example, simple saline solutions are safe. In contrast, hydrogen peroxide-based solutions will upset the stomach and trigger vomiting (after all, hydrogen peroxide is used as first aid to make dogs vomit). 

However, certain ingredients (benzalkonium chloride and chlorhexidine) found in harsher solutions do more than initiate vomiting – if ingested, they are extremely poisonous and can have fatal consequences. 

The good news is a dog would need to drink a substantial amount of contact lens solution for these toxins to exhibit their effects. 

And what about eye drops? 

Same as contact lens solutions, eye drops can be dangerous depending on their ingredients. For example, many over-the-counter available contact lens solutions contain imidazoline. 

Imidazoline is a vasoconstrictor meaning it works by shrinking the blood vessels inside the eyes. Sadly, it is toxic when ingested and causes issues like depression, vomiting, and ataxia (loss of coordination). 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that eye drops, even those sold without a prescription, pose a danger to dogs and must be kept out of reach. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG EATS A CONTACT LENS?

If your dog eats a contact lens, you will probably find it coming out the other way in a couple of days. The normal transit time through the dog’s intestines is between 8 and 12 hours. However, when there is a foreign body, the transit is likely to be longer. 

Dogs cannot digest plastic properly, which means the contact will be eliminated either intact or slightly digested at the ends. During the transitioning, depending on the dog’s tummy sensitivity, digestive upsets are possible. 

Namely, a digestive upset is to be expected whenever a dog consumes an inedible item. The telltale signs and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and lethargy. This clinical manifestation is transient, and it will stop as soon as the dog poops the lens. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG ATE A CONTACT LENS? 

As with all dietary indiscretion incidents, you should give the vet a quick call if your dog ate a contact lens. While lenses are unlikely to be harmful, talking to your trusted veterinarian will provide you with peace of mind. 

In most cases, the vet will recommend the “wait and see approach” and probably give tips for managing the potential tummy issues. Namely, you can feed your dog a bland diet (a mixture of plain, boiled chicken meat and white rice) as well as bread to coat the ingested lens and make its transit smoother. The bread is given in bulk, while the bland meals are offered frequently but in small amounts. 

If your dog has diarrhea, to prevent dehydration, you need to ensure proper water intake. One of the most efficient ways of stimulating your dog’s water appetite is by adding chicken broth to the drinking water. 

If the tummy upset persists, and you cannot find the contact lens in your dog’s poop, it is best to visit the vet for a more detailed examination. Just keep in mind that the lens will probably need two to three days to come out. 

Finally, if your dog ingested contact lens solution or eye drops, you should skip the call and head to the vet’s office. It is helpful to bring along the solution/drops package or what is left of it so that the veterinarian can see precisely what your dog ate and whether there are harmful ingredients. This will help tailor the treatment strategy. 

HOW CAN I PREVENT MY DOG FROM EATING CONTACT LENSES? 

Dogs are like vacuum machines – extra efficient at picking up everything you dropped and misplaced. Luckily, when it comes to contact lenses, ingestions are an avoidable situation. 

Lock Them Up

All you need to do is store the lenses together with their solution and the eye medications you use in a safe and preferable lockable cupboard. 

It goes without saying that keeping them by the bed or mirror is more practical, but a crafty dog can easily steal them from such accessible places. 

SUMMING UP: HELP, MY DOG ATE CONTACT LENS

All in all, a dog eating contact lenses is rarely a life-threatening situation. However, more often than not, it will cause self-limiting tummy issues. While the contact lenses themselves do not pose a particular danger, contact lens solutions and eye drops do. 

Therefore, to avoid rushing to the vet’s office and paying hefty vet bills, it is best to keep your contact lenses and utensils (solutions, containers, eye drops) in a safe place, out of your dog’s reach. 

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