Paintballs Are Toxic to Dogs

Paintballs Are Toxic to Dogs
If a dog eats unexploded paintballs or licks the contents of ruptured paintballs, the most common consequence is vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and loss of coordination. (682A IA/Shutterstock)
Q: My husband and his friends want to play their paintball games on our rural property. Our dogs would be confined to the house during the games, but I’m concerned about their safety once they’re back outside. Are dogs attracted to unexploded paintballs, and if so, are the paintballs safe to eat?
A: Paintballs are spherical gelatin capsules that are filled with dye and, depending on the brand, vegetable oil, mineral oil, polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, glycerin, glycerol, and/or sorbitol. Some of these ingredients taste sweet, so dogs are attracted to them.

If a dog eats unexploded paintballs or licks the contents of ruptured paintballs, the most common consequence is vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and loss of coordination. Seizures and electrolyte imbalances can also occur.

Signs of paintball toxicity appear within 30 minutes to a few hours after ingestion. The toxic “dose” is anything more than one paintball per 10 pounds of dog. Paintballs are usually sold in packs of 100 to 2000, and dogs often eat many paintballs at a time.

If one of your dogs does eat paintballs, take him to your veterinarian immediately. Recovery usually takes one or two days, unless seizures are prolonged.

The product’s label may claim that paintballs are nontoxic, but that’s true only if you’re getting spattered by them after they’re fired from an opponent’s gun. Your concern for your dogs’ safety is justified. Talk with your husband about either playing elsewhere or making certain he and his friends clean up your property after their games.

Q: I am allergic to cats, and I’m thinking about moving in with my girlfriend, who has a cat. Antihistamines put me to sleep. Is there something we can give the cat instead?
A: At present, the answer is no. But that may change in the coming years.

Like most people who are allergic to cats, you probably are overly sensitive to a feline protein called Felis domesticus allergen 1, nicknamed Fel d 1. This protein is produced in the cat’s salivary glands and transferred from the saliva to the fur when the cat grooms; it’s also made in the skin’s sebaceous glands and the tear glands. Its role in the cat’s body is unclear.

Cats produce at least eight similar allergens; for example, Fel d 4 also is found in saliva. However, Fel d 1 is the most troublesome because it causes allergic reactions in more than 90 percent of cat-allergic people, and it is present in high concentrations.

The Fel d 1 protein is small, so it remains airborne for long periods of time. Its molecular structure helps it adhere to fabrics, upholstery, and carpet, so it easily makes its way into schools, offices, and homes without cats.

A cat’s gender, weight, color, and coat pattern do not affect Fel d 1 levels, according to a 2019 study of 64 indoor cats whose saliva was collected for a year. This study also showed that Fel d 1 levels vary considerably among cats and even within an individual cat over time.

It’s not clear that anything currently on the market that is applied to or given to a cat makes it easier for allergic humans to live with them. One study compared four treatments: Allerpet-C spray, acepromazine (a tranquilizer thought to help with this problem), bathing in water, and no therapeutic intervention. None of the treatments decreased the cats’ Fel d 1 levels.

However, there is hope. Research published last fall evaluated a diet supplemented with an antibody that binds the Fel d 1 protein. By the third week of the study, salivary Fel d 1 levels were significantly reduced in cats fed the supplemented diet compared with those fed the same diet without the antibody. The company, Nestle Purina, is continuing its research.

Another company, HypoPet, is studying a vaccine designed to decrease Fel d 1 levels. In research published this year, vaccinated cats produced antibodies that neutralized their Fel d 1. They also seemed to produce less Fel d 1, at least in their tears. Further research is needed to determine whether this approach is safe for cats and will actually help cat-allergic people.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at Copyright 2024 Lee Pickett, VMD. Distributed by
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