February 20, 2017

A Sticky Situation: Dog Undergoes Emergency Surgery after Swallowing Construction Glue

She-ra
Photo of She-ra courtesy of Frank Bauer.

Frank Bauer had just squeezed a four-ounce bottle of a popular brand of polyurethane construction glue to secure loose screws on his neighbor’s wooden front porch steps, when he stepped away to fetch some tools. When he returned a few moments later, the bottle of glue was missing.

Frank’s eyes darted across his neighbor’s southeast Yonkers, New York, yard until he spotted the bottle lying 20 feet away, with the top chewed completely off.  Nearby sat his seven-year-old Lab/Shepherd-mix, She-ra, smacking her lips.

she-ra sitting outside
Photo of She-ra courtesy of Frank Bauer.

“It dawned on me that this type of glue expands to several times its original size when it hardens, forcing itself into whatever material is around it,” explains Frank. “That’s what makes repairs so strong.”

Immediately, Frank took She-ra inside and called the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) for advice. Simultaneously, he went online and searched, "dog eats construction glue."

“I realized I had good reason to fear, as my Internet search showed that if this glue is swallowed, it almost always causes severe blockage in one's digestive tract that requires surgery,” Frank said. His search results were then confirmed by the APCC specialist on the phone.

In 2016, the APCC had 137 cases involving expanding adhesives, with this particular brand of glue making up 64 of those, according to Dr. Tina Wismer, the APCC’s Medical Director. “Any glue/adhesive that contains isocyanates can expand in the stomach,” she says, noting there are several brands that cause the same symptoms.

Frank, a computer repair specialist, and his mother, Erica, took She-Ra to their local Animal Specialty Center. X-rays showed a huge ball of hardened glue inside She-ra’s stomach. Veterinarians gave her a saline injection to prevent dehydration and advised against giving her food or water. The next morning at the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) in Manhattan, She-ra underwent surgery.

She-ra's x ray
X-rays showed hardened glue in She-ra’s stomach.

“After the glue hit her stomach, it expanded and filled it with a hard foam, making a hard cast from the inside,” explained Dr. Anna Whitehead, who performed She-ra’s surgery. “It stretches the stomach and can even kill the stomach wall depending on how much is ingested.”

Luckily for She-ra, who ingested just a small amount, her stomach was still healthy and the glue mold was simple to remove. 

Stomach mold
The stomach mold removed from She-ra in comparison to Dr. Whitehead’s hand.

According to Frank, She-ra, whom he adopted as a puppy from the New Rochelle Humane Society, normally doesn’t ingest non-food items. But polyurethane glues may smell and taste sweet to dogs and can be easily mistaken for food.

“I’m aware of chemicals such as car antifreeze that are sweet tasting but hazardous to pets, but nobody seems to know how dangerous this glue is,” says Frank, who has since contacted the manufacturer to explain his ordeal.

she-ra and her x ray
(Left) X-ray showing the mass of hardened glue. (Right) Photo of She-ra courtesy of Frank Bauer.

As for She-ra, she went home the day after her surgery. Though she tossed and turned during the night for three days, she was back to her old self after a week, according the Frank, and is steering clear of sticky situations.

If you believe that your dog has ingested a potential harmful item, contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888)-426-4435 immediately.