You swallowed a dog hair, or worse, your baby got ahold of a handful of it. Should you be worried? Parents, new pet owners, and people with immune deficiencies often ask questions that wouldn’t occur to the rest of the world.
Luckily, I did some research to help put your mind at ease. The good news is that, for most people, a bit of dog hair isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, you could swallow quite a bit and still not be harmed, but there are limits and a few risks of which you should be aware.
What happens if you swallow a dog hair? When you swallow a dog hair, your body cannot digest it. As a result, too much dog hair can cause you to form hairballs internally. However, you shouldn’t worry too much because most accidentally swallowed dog hair is harmless.
Possible Complications From Swallowing Dog Hair
Sure, when you swallow a dog hair, it can rub along the back of your throat, which can feel gross. If you’re new to pet ownership, the occasional swallowed dog hair is a normal part of life. Unless you own a hairless dog, they’re going to shed, and you’ll probably eat the occasional hair.
People with health issues like compromised immune systems, the very young or elderly, and diabetics are at a higher risk for problems. Under normal circumstances, a healthy person has no reason to worry. However, there are some rare issues that you can get from swallowing dog hair.
Problems Caused By Swallowing Dog Hair:
Just because it’s unlikely that swallowing dog hair could harm you, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I’ve compiled a quick list of the most common problems you might encounter.
2. Allergic Reactions
If you’re already allergic to dogs, then it’s more likely that you’ll have allergy problems if you swallow dog hair. The dander from your dog is probably mixed up with any hair that you accidentally ingest. This can lead to hives, breathing problems, and other issues for pet allergy sufferers.
2. Asthma Exacerbation
Folks with asthma might also want to avoid swallowing pet hair. Anything that irritates your airways is more likely to cause an asthma attack. While there’s no reason to panic over a single strand, especially if you carry an inhaler, as you should, being extra cautious about potential irritants is wise.
A Bezoar is a mass of indigestible material. Typically they’re found in the stomach or small intestine. The occasional hair isn’t going to cause this, but over time you can form a bezoar. They’re very rare, but dog hair can contribute. The amount varies, but you’d likely need to swallow a large quantity of hair all at once to have any real concerns. One or two furballs from under the couch probably wouldn’t do it.
The Echinococcus Granulosus or dog tapeworm can spread its eggs through dog fur. Unfortunately, humans can act as hosts for the larval stage, known as Hyatid, and end up contracting worms themselves as a result if you swallow the eggs along with dog hair.
5. Ticks & Fleas
Parasites like ticks and fleas are much larger than a tapeworm egg, but they live in your dog’s fur if it’s not cared for properly. When you swallow an infected flea or tick with that theoretical dog hair, then you might get sick.
What Can I Do to Avoid Dog Hair Dangers
You can’t bubblewrap the world, but you can cut down on the risks of swallowing dog hair. The most obvious answer would be to simply not own a dog, but you could still be exposed to dogs by neighbors, friends, or family.
Rather than missing out on outstanding, loyal, loving companionship, take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to cut the risk without ditching your canine companions. Plus, that would be crummy of you.
Pick up a breathing mask if you’re anxious. Better yet, follow the tips below to reduce the already uncommon risks. Dog hair is unlikely to be the source of your problems, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Reduce the Chance of Swallowing Dog Hair
Anyone can clean the house to avoid swallowing dog hair. Realistically, most people vacuum at least once a week. However, for dog owners, that’s not often enough. You should be cleaning and sweeping at least every other day, and more often during seasonal shedding.
Focus on getting the areas where your dog spends the most time extra clean, and make sure you’re using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter. Additionally, you need to do a deep clean every three to four weeks.
You can also pick up an air purifier designed to remove pet hair and allergens from your home. I use a Levoit High-Efficiency Air Purifier in every room of my house, and they certainly help. You can pick one up on Amazon when you click here.
Reduce the Dangers of Swallowing Dog Hair
It’s not practical or even possible to avoid swallowing every dog hair. Resultantly, it makes sense to do everything you can to reduce the potential dangers as well. There’s more to keeping your pet pest-free than you might think.
To avoid worm issues in dog hair, puppies from 2 weeks to 12 weeks old should be wormed every other week. After that, once-monthly, until they’re six months old, is fine. Beyond the first half-year, it’s easier. Worm adult dogs every three months to stay parasite free.
I suggest using a highly effective product like Durvet’s Triple Medium & Large Dog Wormer from Amazon. Naturally, you should always talk to your vet first, but home treatment is often more practical. You can pick some up by clicking right here.
Flea & Tick Prevention
Unfortunately, just washing your dog in a good shampoo when you notice the signs of ticks and fleas isn’t enough. Your pet deserves better. Plus, you can prevent complications for the humans in the house as well by picking up an outstanding Flea & Tick Collar. Since they can contain dangerous ingredients that are more likely to harm your pet than help them, skip the super-cheap fixes.
Instead, I strongly suggest you choose a product like the Bayer Seresto Flea & Tick Collar that lasts for eight months at a time. Pests like fleas and ticks are only dangerous if you’re exposed to them. Check prices and availability by clicking here.
Don’t fall for the old myth about fleas and ticks in winter. Despite the common belief that they’re not a risk in cold months, you should always protect your beloved pet. Replace their collar in a timely fashion. Moreover, you should always do a tick check if you’ve been outside, especially if you went to a dog park or took a nature walk.
Should I Worry About Swallowing Dog Hair
The problems associated with swallowing dog hair are incredibly uncommon. Additionally, more than half of them have nothing to do with the hair itself. There’s no reason to stress. However uncomfortable it made you, swallowing that hair is unlikely to be an issue.
Should I Worry About The Kids Swallowing Dog Hair
No. Kids who are raised around pets frequently ingest dog hair. In addition to helping them develop stronger immune systems, dog hair isn’t as dangerous as some people believe. The myth that pet hair can get inside your liver and cause trauma is entirely baseless. That goes double for your kids.
Even though they can’t digest the hair, it won’t be there very long. A healthy human body will process whatever it ingests in approximately twenty-four to forty-four hours. In short, this too shall pass, typically in a day or two.
What Happens to Dog Hair When Swallowed?
Nothing unusual happens when you swallow a dog’s hair. It passes through your digestive tract whole. The acid in your stomach is powerful enough to digest your own body, but it can’t dissolve dog fur.
The hair will travel from your esophagus to your stomach. Next, it will pass to your small and large intestines. Finally, you expel it. You probably won’t even notice. Unless your dog has exceptionally long hair, it probably won’t even do that weird thing where it attaches two pieces of fecal matter like a cord. Also, if it does, the worst that should happen is some discomfort.
Why Can’t Humans Digest Dog Hair
Several factors are contributing to why you can’t digest that hair you swallowed. First, your stomach acid has a pH of roughly 1.5 to 3.5, or about as strong as lemon juice. Dog hair is made of keratin. Unlike softer tissues, proteins, and plant matter may provide, the keratin in hair is more resilient.
Secondly, a big part of digestion is the churning action, which helps break up the food you eat. Unfortunately, hair doesn’t break easily. It’s elastic enough that it simply doesn’t ‘crumble’ the same way under pressure.
Third, once the hair passes through the stomach, your body can’t absorb anything it needs from the strand. Hence it’s not weakened or broken down further and stays in the same form.
You’re more likely to have a problem from swallowing dog hair than you are to get hit by a meteor. However, that doesn’t mean you should worry about what’s going to happen if you swallowed a little ‘gift’ from your shedding pet. Common sense goes a long way.
Reducing risks is simple. People with allergies and severe problems with their immune systems might want to forgo pet ownership. For everyone else, keeping a clean house and taking proper care of your pup’s health should be enough.
Exposing children to pet dander and fur can help them develop a robust immune system. For the adults, it’s not going to do you much good, but a little dog hair won’t hurt you either.