So your dog has decided to chow down on some water beads (aka Orbeez) and you’re wondering whether a visit to the vet will be required. Thankfully, in most cases that will be a no. However, it does depend on a few factors.
Water beads are made from a safe, stable and non toxic material. They won’t dissolve in your dog’s stomach or be absorbed by the intestines. However, there is the possibility of a blockage as the water beads make their way through your dog’s gastro-intestinal tract (this does depend on the size of the water beads as well as the size of your dog).
Most water beads will only grow to between 7 and 15mm (about half an inch) in diameter, and these ones are usually not an issue for most dogs. However, some water beads (often sold as “giant orbeez”) can grow much larger, and with this increase in size comes an increase in the chance of a dangerous blockage.
It’s important to note that the digestive tract of a dog won’t allow water beads to grow to their full size. Water beads won’t reach their full size in stomach acid. They’ll also slightly shrink in size when passing through the intestines as liquid is drawn out of the beads.
Are Normal Sized Orbeez Dangerous To Small Dogs?
Normal sized orbeez (aka water beads) grow to between 7 and 15mm in diameter. These are a danger to most small dogs as small dogs have a narrower digestive tract. A water bead of only 7mm in diameter may cause choking in tiny dog breeds such as the Papillon or Pomeranian.
If your small dog manages to eat dehydrated water beads (which might only be 1mm in diameter in their dehydrated state) then the water beads will make it into the stomach and then grow in size. Once they have enlarged they may not pass through your dog. As mentioned previously, water beads won’t reach their full size in the digestive tract but there is still a risk of a blockage in tiny and small dogs.
Be ready to visit the vet on short notice if you believe your tiny/small dog has eaten water beads.
Are Normal Sized Orbeez Dangerous To Medium and Large Dogs?
Normal sized water beads will likely not be a danger for medium (e.g. Border Collie) and large dog breeds (e.g. Labrador). If normal sized water beads are chewed up and swallowed, then they will usually pass through your dog with no issues.
If the water beads are swallowed whole whilst in their dehydrated state, they should still pass safely through your dog. They will enlarge in size in the stomach, but not to their full size. Your dog may vomit them up if too many have been eaten.
Regardless of this, you should be on the lookout. Don’t leave your dog on its own if you think it has eaten water beads. If you see signs of gagging or continued attempts to vomit without results then you should visit your vet.
Giant Obeez Are Dangerous To All Dogs
There is no set definition of what constitutes a giant water bead. We describe them as anything large than 50mm (about 2 inches) in diameter once enlarged.
Giant water beads are a danger to all dogs, as their size is so great that they may not safely pass through the stomach or intestines of even large breeds (such as Labradors). It’s not possible for your dog to be able to swallow a hydrated giant water bead whole, but they could certainly swallow one or more when they’re in their dehydrated state (and then once inside your dog’s stomach they can absorb liquid and become enlarged).
If you suspect that your dog has swallowed giant water beads (giant orbeez) then you should be ready to visit the vet at short notice. Keep an eye on your dog and watch for signs of gagging or vomiting. Surgery may be required.
I Think My Dog Has Aspirated An Orbeez Bead! What Should I Do?
Aspirating a water bead is different than swallowing one. When aspirated, the water bead will make it into the airway or lungs. This is very unlikely to happen, and if it does happen then your dog has a good chance of coughing it out.
However, if a water bead does make it into the lungs and gets lodged there then it can expand in size as it absorbs moisture. Even a small increase of 1/2mm could cause damage, localized swelling or lead to an infection.
If you believe this has happened, then you should visit the vet as soon as possible. An orbeez bead that has made it into the lungs should be removable via a bronchoscopy.
What About Cats! Are Orbeez Toxic/Dangerous to Cats?
All water beads, regardless of their size, are dangerous to cats. Cats are simply too small to safely pass water beads. They should be treated in the same manner as small dogs (see above).
The good news is that cats generally don’t try and eat everything they see so it’s not likely this situation will eventuate.
Other Helpful Tips:
Should I Allow My Dog/Cat To Drink If It Has Eaten Orbeez?
We would recommend getting guidance from your vet in regards to this question. Drinking water could cause the water beads to grow in size (as they grow larger in water when compared to stomach acid). However, drinking water may help in passing the water beads through the digestive tract.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Orbeez?
Always keep water beads out of reach of your dog. This means in a cupboard or on a high shelf. Water beads might not taste or smell great to a dog but this doesn’t mean they won’t try eating them.
I personally own a Labrador and he attempted to eat a packet of orbeez on one occasion (most likely after mistaking it for a bag of food). Thankfully, there were no issues.
What Should I Expect At The Vet?
If you take your pet to the vet because they have ingested water beads then you should expect the vet to do an ultrasound to locate the water beads. With this information they should be able to decide whether intervention is required.
An x-ray may also be done. However, it will most likely show an inconclusive result due to the physical properties of hydrated orbeez. Dehydrated orbeez that are stuck in the lungs may show up on an x ray though.
Whist Orbeez are non toxic to dogs, they are a danger to small dogs if ingested as they may cause a blockage. They are also a danger to all dogs if aspirated (get into the lungs).