Cartoon image of a dog, goldfish in a bowl, and a cat with question marks and the caption "All About Pets and Insulation."

You love your pets dearly and would do anything for them. That means you must be aware of the risks that your home insulation could pose to your cat or dog.

It doesn’t matter where in your home the insulation is, if a curious pet can access it, bad things can happen. This ultimate guide is full of answers to FAQs for what to do if your pet gets into insulation, as well as how to keep pets away from fiberglass or spray foam. (For questions about insulation and human health, click here.)

Can Insulation Make Pets Sick?

You come home one day after work, and to your horror, your cat or dog has gotten into some insulation and is munching away like it’s candy. You immediately shoo them and notice the soft insulation has chunks missing.

Will your cat or dog fall ill if they snack on insulation, be that fiberglass, spray foam, or another type?

Yes, insulation can certainly cause illness in pets. If your insulation is from decades ago, then it might contain asbestos, which is a carcinogen.

Even though newer insulation might not contain such damaging toxins, it’s still not exactly healthy for dogs or cats.

We recommend taking your pet to a veterinarian immediately; do not wait for an appointment. If the insulation poisoned them, they can be treated with an antidote in some cases. Endoscopies can also remove the chemical or toxin, as can surgery in the most serious of cases.

Photo of a German Shepherd dog sitting on vet's office examining table. The vet is seated next to it with a clipboard and looks like he is asking the dog some questions about pets and insulation.
You might have to answer a few questions for the vet if your dog won’t talk.

What Are the Signs of Poisoning in Pets?

If you catch your pet in the act of eating insulation, consider yourself lucky. After all, now you can help them right away. Many pet owners don’t even notice that their insulation was eaten until their pet begins exhibiting symptoms.

Here are some side effects of having consumed toxins that dogs might manifest:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pale gums
  • Drooling
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Wobbliness when standing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Kidney failure
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Agitation

In cats, some of the above symptoms can occur, but there are other unique signs to be on the lookout for as well. They are as follows:

  • Wobbliness when standing and walking
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Skin inflammation or swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Coughing

Can Insulation Kill a Dog or Cat?

The reason we encourage you to see an emergency vet if you believe your cat or dog has eaten insulation is that yes, consuming it can be deadly for your pet.

Here are the risks your pet faces without medical intervention.

Blockages

Let’s say the insulation you selected for your basement is foam. Although the foam might be non-toxic, it’s still not edible. A large dog might be able to swallow a block of foam insulation easily enough, but what about smaller breeds or cats?

They can choke trying to get the foam down their throat. And if they do swallow it, now that it’s in their digestive system, it can cause blockages. Tissue death can occur in the case of a blockage, and your pet’s blood supply might be restricted as well due to the block of foam in their stomachs.

A cat or dog might be able to pass foam eventually in the form of feces, but this can prove difficult as well.  

Internal Damage

What if the type of insulation your cat or dog consumed was harder than foam? The above blockages can still occur, but now your pet risks internal damage as well. The rough outer material of the insulation can scratch a pet’s throat on its way down or damage its stomach and intestinal lining.

At worst, internal bleeding can occur. Your cat or dog might collapse from the severity of their injury, and they could have abdomen distention, pale gums, and breathing issues. Internal bleeding should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring an immediate trip to the vet.

Poisoning

We covered this thoroughly enough in the sections above, but we really want to stress that insulation is not something your cat or dog should be allowed to eat. Poisoning is a serious risk.  

Cancer

To recap, if yours is an older home and you’re certain the insulation is just as aged, then the insulation could contain asbestos. We’d recommend having a professional test your insulation for the health of your human and four-legged family members, and recommend a plan for remediation if asbestos is found.

In the interim, ensure that you schedule cancer screenings for your pet as often as your vet recommends. Your cat or dog might not get cancer from breathing asbestos fibers, and hopefully they won’t, but a cancer screening is the only way to be sure.

Photo of a Labrador-type dog that appears to be ill lying on a vet's examination table with one pair of gloved hands using a stethoscope on the dog and another pair taking notes on a clipboard. Insulation can cause a medical emergency for your pets.
Getting into your home’s insulation can be a life-threatening emergency for your pets.

How Do You Remove Insulation from a Dog?

Besides eating it, your dog decided they’d roll around in your spray foam insulation as well. Now their fur is coated in the stuff. How do you get it off safely and painlessly for your canine companion?

We advise you to wear gloves to minimize your own direct contact with the insulation. Foam insulation isn’t dangerous for the skin per se, but it can be an irritant.

For spray foam that’s stuck to the fur, take some petroleum jelly from your medicine cabinet and coat the affected area of your dog’s coat. If your dog allows, put plastic wrap over the jelly so they can’t lick it off. Supervise your dog over the next hour to ensure they don’t try to remove the plastic wrap from their body.

The petroleum jelly should majorly loosen the spray foam, enough that you can wriggle it free with your gloved hand. It’s okay if you can’t get every last little bit out. Bathing your dog or trimming the fur can ensure your pup’s coat is completely clean.

Is Fiberglass Insulation Safe for Dogs?

You recently installed new insulation in your home, and you decided to use fiberglass. It turns out, you’re not the only one who likes the new insulation. Your dog does too, and they decided to ingest some.

Fiberglass has that name due to the glass contained in the insulation. You wouldn’t want to touch fiberglass with bare hands because it can scratch or even cut the skin. When in your dog’s mouth, it can slice up their gums and tongue. On the way down, it can lead to the internal damage we described earlier.

It’s not safe for dogs, nor is fiberglass insulation okay for cats. Ideally, your pet shouldn’t eat any type of insulation, as none are exactly pet-friendly.

What Do You Do If Your Dog Eats Fiberglass?

The moment you discover pieces of fiberglass insulation all over the floor, it’s easy to get panicked. Take a deep breath, stay as calm as you can, and be ready to act, as time is of the essence. Here’s what you do when your dog eats fiberglass.

Check Your Dog

Find your dog and give them a once-over. Are they already exhibiting symptoms of illness or injury? Remember, some signs of poisoning or internal damage in canines are not easily seen. Keep an eye on their food and water consumption, how they stand and walk, and how they behave.

Leash Them Up

Even if your dog isn’t looking or acting sick yet, you can never be too careful. You need to take them to a vet right away, so coax them out of wherever they were hiding and put their leash or harness on them.

Drive Them to an Emergency Vet

Internal bleeding can cause very serious damage in little time, so you can’t afford to wait for openings at your regular vet’s office. We stress again that you must take your dog to an emergency vet. Even if their usual veterinarian doesn’t see them, they’re still getting cared for by a professional.

Treat and Monitor

Depending on the illness or injury your dog has sustained, the vet will recommend a treatment. As we mentioned earlier, in some instances, the best treatment might be surgery, especially if there’s a blockage.

Once the vet administers the treatment, pay careful attention to their instructions for how to continue caring for them at home. Monitor your dog’s health in the days and weeks to come. If they’re not recovering or if their health gets worse, you need to take them back to the vet.

How to Treat Fiberglass Dermatitis in Pets

Fiberglass is a dangerous type of insulation for pets not only because it’s scratchy and can cause internal issues, but it spreads dust as well. The result is fiberglass dermatitis, which affects cats and dogs alike.

Closeup photo of a white and tan cat suffering from dermatitis near its eye. Insulation can cause dermatitis in pets.
Dermatitis is no fun for your furry friend.

Fiberglass dermatitis is caused by fiberglass dust. The dust settles on the fur of your pets, where very small pieces of fiberglass nestle into the skin. 

Areas such as the eyes, face, body, paws, and tail can develop symptoms. The areas of skin become inflamed and scabby as your pet desperately itches and licks at themselves for relief. Fur sheds from these areas, leaving bald patches.

Cortisone skin cream can treat the red, raw areas of skin. Within several weeks, the skin will scab over, and new fur will start to develop. It will take longer for the bald patches to fully regrow, though.

Unless you deal with the fiberglass residue, then your pet could suffer from fiberglass dermatitis yet again. You should comb the entire house, cleaning the floors thoroughly. After all, your pet very well could have tracked the fiberglass dust into several rooms.

It’s also not a bad idea to reconsider your insulation choice.

Can Dogs Die from Eating Foam?

You recall that your dog can develop a blockage from eating foam, but can the insulation be deadly?

Sure, it can! Your dog can choke on the foam as they try to swallow it. If you’re not home when this happens and no one intervenes, the choking can sadly be fatal.

Even the constipation that foam blockages can cause is anything but mild. The waste products and bacteria in your dog’s body can build up without an exit. Eventually, the waste reaches your dog’s bloodstream, where it can cause sepsis.

This blood infection can cause symptoms such as confusion, increased heart rate, a severe drop in blood pressure, and fever. Your dog would need extensive treatment to recover from sepsis, and sometimes, they might succumb to the condition.

Can Dogs Lie on Insulation?

Fortunately, your dog doesn’t want to eat insulation. They just enjoy lying on it. Is this okay or is it behavior you should discourage?

It’s best to prevent your dog from lying on insulation if you can. Your dog might view the insulation as a comfy place to sit now, but what if they get bored? They might rip the insulation to shreds just to entertain themselves.

Plus, you now know that fiberglass insulation can inflame and irritate the skin, so it’s not exactly a great place to sit.

How to Keep Pets Away from Insulation

More than likely, your insulation won’t be exposed for prolonged periods, only until the installation work wraps up. But if you have used certain types of insulation such as spray foam in an attic or a basement, your pet could still access it.

Photo of a cat sitting in the middle of a pile of shredded paper.
It’s a fact of life that cats shred things. It’s best to simply keep insulation out of their reach.

Here’s how to deter that behavior.

Cover the Insulation

Whether it’s hiding fiberglass batts behind the wall or putting a curtain over that upper corner in the basement you insulated (that your cat could easily reach), what’s out of sight is out of mind for pets.

Close the Door

If you have no means of hiding the insulation, the least you can do is block off your pet’s access to it by closing the door. 

Spend Some Time on Training

Your cat or dog is misbehaving, and what do you do with a misbehaving pet? Train them not to go near the room with the insulation. By incentivizing your pet with treats, they’ll forget all about the insulation anyway.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you prefer cats or dogs: insulation and pets don’t mix. When exposed to insulation or its fine dust particles, pets can develop painful dermatitis. Consuming insulation is even worse, as that can cause poisoning, blockages, internal injuries, and even cancer.

We hope this guide helps you prioritize energy efficiency through insulation in a way that’s safe for your four-legged friends!

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