Skip to Content

Is Pen Ink Toxic to Dogs, Cats, Birds & Other Animals?

If you have a dog, cat, or bird at home, or any other pet who you love most dearly, one aspect that might scare you most is the thought of your pet eating something harmful to them.

This includes nails, wood, dirt, nail polish, medicines, and the infamous pen ink. Whether eating pen ink can or cannot harm an animal should be discussed and kept in knowledge.

Is pen ink toxic to dogs?

Pen ink is not highly toxic to your dog’s health if swallowed in small amounts. If the dog eats too much pen ink, it might show signs of ink poisoning. Some of the symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, mouth irritation, or lethargy. In any case, it is best to consult a vet immediately.

For your dog to become severely ill from pen ink poisoning, the pup has to eat a considerable amount of about 6 mm in every 2.2 lbs. of the pup’s bodyweight of the ink.

 If your canine has licked ink, it could at most cause some mouth irritation. The pup might also vomit and have imbalanced movement if it eats too much ink. Either of which does not become too serious.

In any case, take your dog to the vet where the first thing the vet would do is induce vomit. Further checking can confirm whether your dog needs more treatment.

More than the ink, the main problem arises when the dog eats the plastic in the pen.

What should you do if your dog eats an ink pen?

If your dog has eaten some of that pen ink, you might want to know a few ways on how to act immediately for treating any possible poisoning. Here is what you should do:

Rinse the skin:

If your dog has just put the ink in their mouth without swallowing, just rinse their mouth with water and try to use a brush to clean the inner parts.

Try to induce vomit:

If you feel your pup has swallowed ink already, the immediate action you can apply is to try to induce vomiting in your dog.

Take to the vet:

The safest thing to do is go to the vet and get your pup checked up.

Ink poisoning symptoms in dogs

Suppose your dog has tasted ink in your absence. You might observe ink slits here and there on your floor and around your dog’s mouth. If you’re not sure whether your dog has put some of that ink in its mouth, you would want to look for the following symptoms:

  • Your dog might be throwing up, along with diarrhea.
  • They might become lethargic and avoid eating food properly.
  • Mouth irritation or itching is also a sign
  • Your pup might have breathing problems along with loss of proper sense and leg control.
  • In extreme cases, seizures might be a sign of ink poisoning as well.

Is pen ink toxic to cats?

When a cat eats a lot of ink, it can be toxic and harmful to them but in small amounts, the side effects are not so noticeable. Since ink can contain some form of ethanol. consuming it can cause ethanol poisoning. This could result in hypothermia, vomiting, and other mental issues as well.

The effect would largely depend on whether the cat had eaten the ink on an empty stomach or a full stomach. The most prominent of effects, surprisingly, happens to be depression in cats. In some cats, the heart rate becomes quite slow as well.

Only when the cat eats a lot of ink, the poisoning can be as severe as body acid production or heart attack.

However, you may want to note that cats cannot ingest toxic level ink unless there is a cartage full of ink in a bottle. The most that can happen in small swelling is mouth irritation, and of course some staining.

What happens if a cat eats ink?

Now before you are just one of them panicking over your cat eating ink, here is what happens when your cat swallows’ ink.


Your paw pet might have stained the mouth and cause itself mild discomfort. This could include irritation in the mouth including the tongue or gum.


The problem could be when the cat eats too much ink. This could be more severe and cause ethanol poisoning. Symptoms could include vomiting, slow reflexes, hypothermia, and slow breathing.


If your cat ingests a lot of ink, it could also have mental problems, besides physical. From depression to other changes in behavior, you can expect your pet to go quiet.

How do you treat cats if they ingest ink?

Here is how to treat a cat who ingested ink:

Rinse them:

At first, check if your cat has eaten a lot of ink or only licked it a little bit. If certain, you can rinse its mouth and tongue to get rid of the immediate effect.

Contact vet:

Next, take your cat to the vet for a thorough checkup. If it is serious, a blood test and urine test are more likely. This is when ethanol poisoning is a possibility

Medical treatments:

For treatment depending on how bad the poisoning is, the vet might either go for vomiting, mouth rinsing, or IV fluid provision.

Is pen ink toxic to birds?

Generally, if a bird intakes ink only by a small amount, the pen ink is more nontoxic and does not harm the bird severely or internally. The bird might still have stomach upsets and few internal or mouth discomforts from it. The type of ink eaten by the bird is also important in such a case.

Your bird is going to be fine with mild stomach upset if it has eaten a bit of ink. However, some types of ink contain zinc, which is a metal.

If a bird has ingested a lot of zinc-containing ink, there could be more severe problems to name a few. They then might be diagnosed with Heavy Metal poisoning which can be fatal.

Other than that, if the ink contains ethanol, animals are often subjected to another find of poisoning if they have a lot of ink by accident.

Other than immediately noticeable effects like hypothermia and imbalance or slow movement, birds could also get heart rate irregularity. 

What happens if a Bird eats ink?

Stomach issues:

If your bird has eaten a little bit of ink, the problems would only be on the surface. Meaning you would expect some kind of stomach issues at most.


Other than having the mouth area and other parts stained with ink, a bird could face irritation in the mouth or throat, although that would be mild.

Metal poisoning:

In more serious cases, a bird that has ingested a zinc-containing ink might suffer from heavy metal poisoning. In that case, the bird’s health and physical state is put to danger.

Ethanol poisoning:

Sometimes ethanol poisoning can also occur if the bird eats too much ink

Is pen ink toxic to other animals?

For most animals, the rules are pretty much the same. This is because pen ink is not so toxic if eaten in small amounts. However, if any animal, whether it’s a bird or a dog, eats a lot of it, there are chances of internal sickness. Ethanol or metal poisoning can be fatal in some cases.

For a small amount intake of ink, you can expect an animal to have mild problems like mouth discomfort, stomach issues, or vomiting. Yet, depending on what ink the animal consumed and of what amount, their health might become worse.

When an animal eats an ink that contains a lot of zinc or ethanol, more grave symptoms surface in a short time. These include hypothermia, irregular heart rate, acid production in the body, and even heart attack

These cases are rare but the possibility always sustains.

Which animals have ink poisoning threats?


Dogs are particularly at threat of ink poisoning from large amounts of ink that contain ethanol.


Cats also have a chance of getting severe ink poisoning if they eat too much of it. Although it would largely depend on what kind of ink they are having.


Smaller rabbits are prone to ink poisoning as well. The ink in pamphlets or leaflets is particularly harmful to rabbits.

Guinea pigs:

while newspaper ink is not harmful to guinea pigs, metal-containing ones are still poisonous.

What makes pen ink toxic?

There are several chemicals in pen ink. These chemicals are usually mixed and processed to make ink which is only toxic when eaten in big amounts.

Pens like inkball, fountain, or ballpoint pens don’t contain enough ink to be poisonous.

From ethanol, dyes, glycol ether, all these are chemicals that are not meant to be eaten. Ethanol and metals like zinc in the ink are particularly toxic.

What kind of pen ink is non-toxic?

You can find a few non-toxic pen inks if your animal is obsessed with the smell or look of them. Sport safe Semi-Permanent Markers are one of them.

India ink is also made to be non-toxic to the skin as well. Other than that tattoo ink is safe.

Final Thoughts

Pen ink is generally non-toxic to humans. When it comes to birds, dogs, cats or other animals ink is only toxic if it is eaten in a significant amount which could lead to more serious health problems. If an animal eats a bit of ink, it may have mild irritations in the body.