With the return of cold weather, stores are stocking firestarter logs again. Although this product is great for the fireplace, it can be dangerous for pets. Firestarter logs are not toxic per se, in that they do not directly poison an animal who ingests it. (Please note that logs that burn with special colors may contain heavy metals resulting in direct toxicity. Also, the fumes may be dangerous to birds.) The danger comes from the log ingredients causing an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Firestarter logs are made from saw dust and wax. These products do not breakdown in the stomach becoming foreign bodies instead. Common signs include drooling, anorexia, vomiting and abdominal distention.
When an animal ingests a firestarter log, I recommend abdominal X-rays to look for obstruction of the gastrointestinal system and chest films to look for material in the esophagus. If the material is still in the stomach, I will induce vomiting to help the animal get rid of it. If the pieces are small, they have already passed out of the stomach and there are no signs of obstruction, I recommend a high fiber diet to help them pass. This approach requires careful monitoring as the material may still form a foreign body. I perform X-rays on a daily basis to make sure the material is moving through the intestines and have the family watch closely for vomiting. When animals, usually dogs, eat a large amount of a firestarter logs and/or swallow large chunks, surgical removal is required.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, some firestarter logs contain heavy metals (usually thallium) that create colors when burned. If ingested, signs of heavy metal poisoning may occur. Clinical signs of toxicity vary slightly for each metal but usually include vomiting, diarrhea and/or seizures.
Please seek immediate veterinary attention for any pet who ingested a firestarter log. The Pet Poison Helpline is a wonderful resource for only $49.00 per incident. Their number is (855) 764-7661.
-Lee, Justine. “Top Ten Small Animal Toxins: Recognition, Diagnosis, Treatment. ACVIM 2010. Proceedings Library VIN.com.
-Firestarter Logs, PetPoisonHelpline.com