Many household items, including detergents, are hazardous to pets. However, laundry detergents rarely appear on lists of toxic products but they really should. Many contain chemicals which are ionic and anionic surfactants. These can cause excessive drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea.
But most pets are not attracted to washing powder and so animals rarely ingest significant quantities of it. Laundry pods are potentially a different matter altogether.
The Detergent that Looks Like treats
Laundry pods tend to be brightly coloured and to smell pleasantly fragrant. To a pet, they could well look like a tasty treat and they are certainly small enough to be easily consumed. It is quite possible that a cat or a dog could eat enough detergent to cause a blockage to their GI tract. However, there is a more significant problem with these pods.
Laundry pods and dishwasher pods can be bitten into by an animal. The detergent is highly concentrated and under pressure. When an animal bites down on one of the pods, the contents can be expelled forcefully leading to the animal inhaling them as well as consuming the soap. The detergent is very foamy so when an animal ingests it and then vomits, the foam can be pulled into the lungs. It can then coat the airways and hamper oxygen exchange in the lungs. Suffocation is a possibility.
It would seem that most pets which have been exposed to laundry pod do develop symptoms of toxicity. Most vomit and some become short of breath. The pods certainly represent a serious hazard.
Accessible and Soluble
The detergent pods are also problematic because they are so accessible. They are often sitting in the house in opened packets or boxes from which they can easily be retrieved. They are often dropped by people and then left lying on the floor. The pods are formulated to dissolve in water and so contact with saliva weakens the plastic causing leakage. Pets could be exposed to the detergent even if they haven't punctured the pod.
Treatment for Detergent Ingestion
Unfortunately, there is no antidote available for the poisoning caused by exposure to laundry or dishwasher detergent. Treatment involves diluting the exposed area such as the mouth, skin or eyes by rinsing. The areas should be rinsed until the soapy feeling is gone. Detergent which has been consumed can be diluted by encouraging the pet to drink small amounts of water or milk. Aspiration (removal from the body) may be necessary in extreme cases.
If your pet bites into a laundry pod, rinse out their mouth, clean any other areas of the body which have come into contact with the detergent and then take your pet to the vet without delay. Naturally prevention is always better than cure so keep all laundry pods in sealed containers and out of the reach of pets and children.