Orchard Vet's Blog

Don't be a SAP!


A recent case reported in the Journal of Small Animal Practice has highlighted again the issue of ingestion of superabsorbent beads. A ten-month old Chihuahua required surgery to remove the bead from its stomach.

Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) are chemicals which are excellent at absorbing liquids. They are best known for use in nappies and other disposable sanitary products. However they are also used to make grow-in-water toys: small moulded figures such as dinosaurs that will expand to many, many times their original size if left in water over several hours. Sometimes called water beads or hydrogel, SAPs are also utilised in water retaining gels used in gardening and floristry.

The potential hazard of ingestion is not only as a choking risk but as an obstruction as the polymers absorb fluids in the digestive tract and swell. After an eight-year old girl required surgery after swallowing a Water Balz marble in Texas in 2012, the manufacturer Dunecraft recalled the product, but similar items are still available, for example, as decorative, water retaining balls for use with household displays of cut flowers.

Be aware of SAPs in and around your home and make sure your pets can't get at them. If you think they may have ingested a product containing such polymers, or that there may be an obstruction, please ring us immediately for advice. §