Will Paintballs Hurt Your Dog? Keeping Pets Safe

Dogs and other pets may sometimes encounter stray or stored paintballs, or worse, be struck by one. The question is, will paintballs hurt your dog or other pets?

Paintballs will hurt your dog. They can also be dangerous to other pets. Specific to dogs, swallowing a paintball can be extremely toxic and even lead to death. For a small dog, being struck by a paintball can cause serious—sometimes fatal—injury.

If you have dogs or other pets that can come into contact with paintballs, read on. This article will cover the risks associated with paintballs and dogs on a variety of levels.

Are Paintballs Toxic to Dogs?

If you play paintball, the chances are that you will store your paintball equipment in your house. This equipment can include your safety gear, your paintball marker, and the paintballs themselves.

Interested in how you should store paintballs? I have a great article for you here.

On the surface, this might seem benign for your dogs and pets. After all, if your paintball marker is stored correctly, it should not be pressurized, and no paintball pellets should be in the hopper. What risk could they possibly pose to dogs and pets?

The main risk that paintballs pose to dogs is that they are extremely toxic to their system. This fact can come as a shock to many paintballers. After all, paintball pellets are marketed as being non-toxic and made from food-grade components. They are required to be biodegradable and safe for the environment.

Paintball pellets sourced from reputable suppliers are non-toxic to humans but can be very harmful to your pets.

The outer shell is made of food-grade gelatin—some include wax. They are meant to be safe if accidentally ingested by a human. The coloring agent contained within the pellet is also made of food-grade materials. If a human ingests the coloring of a paintball pellet, they should not experience any adverse effects. The worst part would likely be the awful taste.

Paintball pellet ingredients are also meant to be non-toxic to the environment, degrading rapidly without harm to the surface where they land or splatter. Why then are they toxic to dogs?

dogs shouldnt be on paintball fields.
It will be as painful for a big dog to be hit by a paintball that it is for an adult human. But the bigger risk is that dogs of course don’t have protective gear that is mandatory for paintball players. If your dog gets hit by a paintball it can result in serious injuries.

Paintball Colorants Contain Osmotically Active Ingredients

To understand why paintball pellets can be very toxic and deadly to dogs, you need to understand the concept of osmotically active substances. In short, when a substance is osmotically active within the body of an organism, it causes water to be drawn out of one tissue and into another tissue.

Paintball colorant contains many ingredients. These include glycerol, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, vegetable dye, and wax. The two latter elements are not the culprits; the other components, however, do pose a threat to dogs.

To humans, the glycerol and glycols used in pellets are not toxic. They are used in some laxatives and cough syrups precisely due to their osmotically active effects. Dog biology, however, reacts differently to these agents. When ingested by a dog, they will pull large amounts of water into the dog’s intestinal tract in a short period—such a rapid reaction results in a severe imbalance of salts and electrolytes in your dog’s system.

The rapid rise in sodium in a dog’s bloodstream is known as hypernatremia. It will cause water to be drawn from the brain. When this happens, blood vessels can rupture or hemorrhage in the brain. If untreated, the condition can quickly unfold into a deadly event for the dog.

Symptoms of Paintball Intoxication in Dogs

Many factors come into play when determining the seriousness of the toxicity of paintballs when ingested by dogs. These include the dog’s weight, age, overall health, and the number of paintballs consumed.

For the most part, the smaller the dog, the fewer paintballs are necessary to produce a toxic reaction. Smaller dogs under 25 pounds (11.4 kgs) can experience harmful effects with as few as one to three paintballs. Larger dogs may be able to ingest a greater quantity before manifesting effects. 

Another factor to consider is the window of time in which the dog consumed the paintballs. In other words, the shorter the window of time of consumption, the greater the risk of toxicity.

Some of the symptoms of paintball intoxication in a dog include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors and stumbling walking
  • Unusually heavy panting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Depression
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

These symptoms can begin manifesting themselves within an hour of the dogs ingesting the paintballs.

Treating a Dog for Paintball Intoxication

When consumption of paintballs is suspected, you should take your dog to a veterinarian immediately, where the dog’s sodium and pH levels will be tested. The dog will also be screened for elevated chloride levels and lowered potassium levels. If treated in a timely fashion, most dogs will be able to survive paintball intoxication.

The treatment will involve rehydration of tissues through the introduction of intravenous fluids. In more severe cases, the veterinarian may inject the dog with medications to lower its heart rate and control seizures. Recovery times range from one to three days.

Toxicity to Other Pets

Dogs are at the most significant risk of toxicity from ingesting paintballs. Other pets, such as cats, ferrets, birds, and small rodents, can display similar reactions. However, most will not be as severe as those presented by a dog.

Nevertheless, it is best to keep all household pets and children away from stored or loose paintball pellets.

Will the Impact of a Paintball Pellet Injure Dogs?

Another way that paintballs hurt dogs is when they are accidentally or intentionally shot with a paintball marker.

Owners can accidentally shoot their dogs if they take them with them when playing or practicing with paintball markers. Intentional shootings can occur from people trying to deter a dog from entering their property, defending themselves from a dog attack, or, sadly, for needless and senselessly cruel reasons.

The average .68 caliber paintball has a velocity of 280 feet (85.34 meters) per second. This velocity translates into a pellet achieving 190 MPH (306 KPH). If you have played paintball and have been shot, you realize how stinging the pain can be if it strikes you in an unprotected area of your body.

Being hit with many paintballs at the same time leaves visible welts and bruises on an adult human person, and can be even more harmful to your pets. To see what damage to the human body without wearing protective gear does getting hit by 100’s of paintballs result in, check this article.

That is the same level of force and amount of pain that a dog would feel when shot with a paint pellet. On larger dogs, the chances for serious harm when shot are about the same as that of a human. However, since dogs are not wearing protective face and headgear, they can permanently lose an eye, lose hearing, or suffer other serious head injuries and death if they are shot in the head.

The risk for such permanent or deadly injury increases the smaller the size of the dog. Smaller dogs and other small pets are also more susceptible to limb injury when impacted by a paintball. Cats, rabbits, birds, and reptiles receiving the impact of a paintball pellet will usually suffer severe injury and, in many cases, death.

There are paintball pellets that are manufactured specifically for animal control. Such pellets are intended for large animals, such as bears, coyotes, and cougars, that venture into populated zones. However, their use should not be misconstrued to mean that shooting a domesticated dog is ever a good idea.

Video: Paintball guns to be used to deter coyotes.


Paintballs can hurt dogs. If a dog were to ingest enough paintballs, it could result in a severe toxic reaction that can lead to death. When impacted by a paintball pellet, a dog can suffer severe pain and is also at risk of permanent injury in the form of eye and hearing loss if struck in the head.

Smaller dogs and other pets face a more significant risk of injury when impacted by a paintball pellet. It is best to keep dogs and all other pets away from stored paintball pellets and areas where paintball markers are being discharged.