Mothball Toxicity in Pets: A Hidden Danger to Your Furry Friends


If you’re a pet owner, you understand the importance of keeping your furry friends safe and healthy. However, there is one everyday household item that could pose a serious threat to your pets: mothballs. As the seasons change and we switch out our wardrobes, it’s crucial to be aware of the dangers of mothball toxicity. Let’s delve deeper into this hazardous issue and why it’s time to reconsider using mothballs.

Understanding Mothballs

Mothballs are small balls that release an insecticide vapor to repel and kill moths, larvae, and other insects. They are commonly placed with clothing and blankets in sealed containers to protect against fabric damage caused by clothes moths. However, it’s important to educate yourself on the different types of mothballs and their potential dangers.

While some people choose to use mothballs, it’s essential to be aware of the risks involved. Misusing mothballs can be harmful to both animals and humans. It’s crucial to read labels carefully and understand how to safely use them. Notably, using mothballs to repel snakes and rodents is highly unsafe for pets and the environment.


The Toxicity of Mothballs

Mothball toxicity stems from the insecticide contained within. While the most common types of insecticides used in mothballs are naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene (PDB), and camphor, it’s important to note that naphthalene mothballs are the most toxic.

Ingesting even a small amount of naphthalene balls can cause symptoms such as stomach upset in pets. High doses can lead to more severe issues like low red blood cell counts, liver or kidney failure, and neurological signs such as tremors, seizures, and loss of balance. PDB mothballs are less toxic but can still cause gastrointestinal upset, neurological signs, and organ failure. Camphor mothballs, although less common in the United States, can also cause gastrointestinal issues and seizures in pets when ingested in large quantities.

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Recognizing the Signs of Mothball Toxicity

It’s important to be aware of the signs of mothball toxicity in pets, as early detection can greatly impact their treatment and prognosis. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, mothball-scented breath, pale or brown gums, yellow gums or eyes, weakness, lethargy, labored or rapid breathing, walking off balance, tremors, and seizures. Keep in mind that the onset of these symptoms can be delayed by hours to days due to the slow dissolution of mothballs.


Taking Action and Seeking Veterinary Care

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a mothball or has been exposed to the fumes, it’s crucial to contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital immediately. They may recommend calling a pet poison center or seeking immediate veterinary care. While there is no antidote for mothball toxicity, prompt treatment can significantly reduce the risk of severe poisoning. The type of mothball ingested and the amount consumed will determine the appropriate treatment and prognosis.

To prevent mothball toxicity, ensure that mothballs are stored in airtight containers out of your pet’s reach. Always follow the product’s labels and guidelines. Never place mothballs in an unsecured area, such as a closet or yard, as this only increases the chances of your pet consuming them. The best prevention is to stop using mothballs altogether and opt for safer, non-chemical alternatives.

Latasha Sikes, DVM

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Remember, ensuring the safety and well-being of our pets is our responsibility as pet owners. By being aware of the dangers of mothball toxicity and taking the necessary precautions, we can protect our furry friends from harm. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to seek advice from professionals.

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For further information about pet health and safety, visit Katten TrimSalon.