The mind of a dog can be a bit of a mystery. While some pooches will show absolute disinterest in non-food items, others seem to find them completely irresistible. Ask any local vet for a list of the weird and wonderful items they have removed from a doggo and you will be fairly astounded.
In this article though we will focus on a surprisingly common cause of vet trips for domestic dogs. The humble tea light candle. Just why would your dog munch on one and what are the risks?
Your dog could munch on a tea light for many reasons, from hunger/ nutritional deficiency to being wooed by the smell. In some cases, it is just a dog’s inquisitive nature. No matter the reason it is best to avoid it happening as it can have negative complications for your canine companion.
Are Candles Toxic to Dogs if Eaten?
A tea light candle is more than just wax, it also includes a wick and a metal casing. What does each part mean for your dog if it is swallowed?
The majority of candles are made from a few different wax types, namely paraffin, beeswax, or soy. While these substances in themselves are not toxic to dogs, they can cause digestive discomfort (constipation or diarrhea) as they pass through. The good news is a tealight contains only a small amount of wax and should pass through most dogs without issue unless they are a particularly tiny breed.
Some tealights though have chemical or essential oil-based scents added which can prove toxic to a dog. If it is not a plain wax tealight that has been eaten there may be an increased risk of toxicity or complications.
The wick of a candle is effectively string. Swallowing string has the risk of causing internal strangulation of organs if it wraps around them. Realistically though tea lights have a very short wick and would not be expected to be as much of a danger in comparison to if your dog ate a full-size candle.
Many tealights come with a thin aluminum casing. This generally represents the most problematic aspect of eating a tealight if your dog has swallowed this as well. If you have ever felt an empty tealight case you will know that it’s very bendy and pliable. Although the edges don’t start out sharp if the casing is compressed during digestion this can result in sharp points being folded into the case. This runs the risk of puncturing an internal blood vessel or damaging a structure.
My Dog Just Ate a Tea Light Candle – What Should I Do?
You walk into a room to see your tealight is gone and your dog is the only one who could be responsible. The initial thought may be to panic but it’s important to stay calm. We have reached out for guidance from two local vets to help advise what to do in this situation.
“The first thing to establish is what exactly the dog ate, was it just some wax, or was it the full tea-light, wick, casing, and all? The second thing is to thing is to check what kind of candle you think it might have been……. sizing, type of wax and whether it was scented? I would suggest that unless your dog is choking, the candle is toxic, the dog is very small or has known allergies, then a call to the vet for advice rather than an emergency dash is appropriate. In most cases a dog should pass a tealight without need for intervention, but it is important owners watch for any signs of deterioration such as pain, lethargy, or vomiting. If this happens the dog needs to see a vet urgently.” Vet (small inner-city practice)
Similar advice was gained from the second vet we approached who agreed that in most cases tea light ingestion would not be expected to be fatal however they expanded a little further on complications that could occur:
“My biggest concern as a vet is the metal casing, if that has been swallowed and the dog is smaller I would generally recommend the owner attends the clinic for investigations such as X-rays to make sure it isn’t lodged somewhere or looks like it could tear the stomach or bowels when being passed. Some owners may try and treat at home by giving medication to encourage vomiting, I would advise this is only done by the vet due to the risk that when bringing the casing back up the dog could cut its throat or stomach” Vet (large vet chain)
Can Candles Cause Seizures in Dogs?
While candles that are pure beeswax, paraffin, or soya should not cause seizures it is the added components in some candles that can be particularly hazardous and have lasting effects on your dog.
Synthetic fragrances common in some cheaper candles comprise of chemicals that when burned can release compounds that have been associated with seizures. This is particularly relevant if you are burning a candle for a prolonged time in an enclosed space with your dog.
General Safety Advice Around Dogs and Candles
If burning candles around your dog cannot be avoided it is recommended you think carefully regarding the kind of candle you burn, opting for the ones without toxic ingredients. Keeping it burning for a minimal time and ideally in a different room from your dog is preferable.
Burning candles around or near a dog can also have the added risk of fire or burns should a misplaced tail swish knock a lit candle over. Ensuring all candles are out of reach of your dog not only avoids burns but also limits the chance of them having a little unauthorized nibble on them should the fancy take them.
Remember a great alternative if you want a candle’s flickering glow while snuggling on the sofa with your dog, is to purchase any one of the number of great no-flame LED alternative candles that are now available.