Hypernatremia secondary to homemade play dough ingestion in dogs: a review of 14 cases from 1998 to 2001


  • Cases were obtained from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Illinois.
    The paper was presented as a poster and abstract at the North American Conference of Clinical Toxicology. Chicago, Illinois 2003.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. Petra A. Volmer, 3836 VMBSB, 2001 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61802.
E-mail: pvolmer@uiuc.edu


Objective: To correlate the sodium chloride dosage and the serum sodium concentration to clinical signs, to determine if the dosage of homemade play dough (and, therefore, sodium chloride) is the most reliable way to predict clinical signs and prognosis, and to review previously reported treatment options.

Design: Retrospective case series.

Animals: Fourteen dogs with a history of homemade play dough ingestion.

Procedure: Cases were examined for each animal's signalment including body weight, age, approximate amount of play dough ingested, the estimated sodium chloride dosage, clinical signs, serum sodium concentration, and outcome when available. The literature was reviewed to determine pathophysiology and treatment regimens.

Results: Twelve of 14 dogs (86%) that ingested homemade play dough showed clinical signs. Vomiting (9 of 14, 64%), polydipsia, and seizures (4 of 14 each, 29%) were the most common signs followed by polyuria, tremors (3 of 14 each, 21%), and hyperthermia (2 of 14, 14%). The lowest calculated dosage associated with objective clinical signs was 1.9 g/kg. Seizures were reported in all animals with serum sodium levels greater than 180 mEq/L.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Homemade play dough ingestion can be a serious and life-threatening problem. Many factors can contribute to the toxicity of homemade play dough. This study indicates that the serum sodium concentration is a more reliable indicator of the clinical course of the toxicity rather than the amount of play dough and, therefore, the dosage of sodium chloride ingested. Treatment should be based on a clinical evaluation of the patient and laboratory results, and consists of controlling seizures, reducing serum sodium concentrations slowly, and supportive care.