It’s a call that veterinarians receive all too often. “My dog ate plastic…can dogs digest plastic?”
“The dog ate a plastic bag, will he pass it with his next bowel movement?”
“My dog ate plastic wrap, will it cause his intestines to twist?”
“The dog ate a plastic toy, should I make him throw up?”
An important question is, can dogs eat plastic at all – can they digest certain types of plastic but not others?
Unfortunately, dogs cannot digest plastic and therefore, they should not eat it. However, dogs can be very sneaky when it comes to chewing on things that shouldn’t be chewed.
You may not know that your dog ate plastic until he passes a small object in his stool, is unable to eat, and/or starts throwing up. This often indicates an intestinal blockage.
Depending on the size and type of plastic object that your dog ate, the situation may or may not be urgent.
You may be able to induce your dog to regurgitate a small/soft plastic object (with your vet’s recommendation first).
Or you may need to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible for removal of a larger/sharp object.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the types of plastic objects that dogs often eat.
We will discuss what happens if a dog eats plastic and he manages to swallow it.
Then give you advice so he receives proper care quickly, and how you can prevent a similar problem in the future.
My Dog Eats Plastic – Why Does He Do That?
If you’re on any type of social media platform, then chances are that you’ve seen dog shaming posts.
Owners post pictures of their beloved pets with a sign stating what embarrassing or funny object they’ve eaten or chewed up.
Dogs chew or ingest foreign objects for a variety of reasons.
As parents to Labradors and other “chew-happy” breeds know, some dogs chew and/or eat whatever they can find. Just because they find it amusing!
It is important to leave them with plenty of chew toys and also interact or exercise with them enough. Dogs that do not like to be cooped up in the house will find something to amuse themselves with.
Unfortunately, many household items are within reach of a bored dog.
This is particularly true with large breeds that can easily reach onto dining room tables or even kitchen countertops!
My Dog Ate Plastic Due To A Nutritional Deficiency?
The act of eating inedible objects is sometimes referred to as “pica.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States, some dogs (and even cats) may eat non-edible objects because they are lacking a certain nutrient in their diet.
While this has not been proven through scientific studies, it’s possibly also why a few species of animals eat their own poo.
We have seen horses chew wood or eat feces when they are lacking nutrients from fresh green grass. This is typically seen during the winter, especially if they are not provided with high-quality hay.
My Dog Ate Plastic Compulsively?
According to the Merck Veterinary manual, some dogs develop abnormal obsessive behaviors as a method of coping with anxiety or stress, such as separation-induced anxiety.
They take a normal everyday behavior that they take pleasure in, such as chewing on something or eating, and begin engaging in that behavior obsessively in order to calm themselves.
For example, some recently weaned puppies (and kittens) will suck on blankets or other soft materials in an effort to release the same “feel-good” endorphins that are released when they nursed from their mother.
My Dog Ate Plastic When Teething
This one may be the most obvious cause for chewing of inedible objects: puppy teething!
Puppies who are not provided with proper chew toys will find solace in anything they can get their little chompers on. Smooth, hard plastic may be the something that they decide to chew on!
This is why it’s especially important to crate teething puppies when you’re unable to keep an eye on them.
My Dog Ate Plastic Because He Was Hungry?
Some dogs have seemingly bottomless appetites. As it turns out, Santa isn’t the only one who loves when you leave sweets.
If you leave plastic food containers on the counter, be they full or empty, a hungry dog with a powerful sniffer will surely find it.
Just ask anyone who has left last night’s takeout or a Tupperware container full of cookies out!
Dog shaming posts can be funny, and some overly anxious or hungry dogs have a reason for seeking something to chew on.
However, a dog ingesting a foreign object is definitely not a laughing matter!
Later in this article, we’ll talk about the varying levels of health hazards that may present when a dog swallowed a plastic toy or a dog swallowed plastic bags, for example.
What Plastic Objects Do Dogs Chew On Or Eat?
You may not realize how many plastic objects can be found in many a household on any given day! Here are just a few plastic items that pet dogs commonly like to chew.
- milk jug
- plastic bag
- children’s toy
- dog chew toy
- candy/food wrapper
- baby bottle
- bottle cap
- water bottle
- plastic ball – wiffle ball
- flying disc
- plastic parts of dog crates
- shampoo or conditioner bottles
- tennis shoes and sandals
- tampons/tampon applicators
- kids’ building bricks
- dog food bowls
- food storage containers
Many of us have these items on hand pretty much all of the time. So, it’s not feasible to simply do away with plastic in your home altogether.
Don’t worry though! Keep reading to learn some tips for preventing your dog from eating plastic and other foreign objects!
What Happens After My Dog Ate Plastic?
Depending on the type of plastic that your dog ate, the situation may be relatively non-urgent, or it may turn urgent in a matter of time.
Small plastic objects, such as plastic candy wrappers or soda bottle caps without sharp edges, may pass through a dog’s digestive system with little or no stomach irritation.
He’ll continue eating and acting normally.
You may not notice that your dog swallowed plastic of some sort until you see the object in his poo.
However, when a dog eats plastic (soft or hard) and begins choking, exhibits abdominal pain, or starts throwing up and/or has constipation or diarrhea, it is a medical emergency.
An ingested plastic object that cannot be passed smoothly has the potential to cause any of the following health hazards in a dog.
A soft or hard plastic object can cause a dog to choke as he tries to swallow the object.
Any foreign object can create a blockage in a dog’s digestive tract, causing him to vomit when he tries to eat or drink and/or to not be able to pass normal stool.
A sharp plastic object may damage the inside of his digestive system as it moves.
Some objects, if they’re large and sharp enough, can even puncture a lung or other organ.
Therefore, ingestion of any foreign object has the potential to require surgical intervention.
Even if you did not see your dog eat a plastic object, if he is unable to keep food and water down, his condition will deteriorate rapidly.
Take him to the vet for evaluation and x-rays to determine what is causing his symptoms as soon as possible.
So, what do you do if, say, your dog eats plastic bags? We’ll talk about the actions you should take based on your dog’s symptoms in the next section.
My Dog Swallowed Plastic – What Should I Do?
So your dog has found something more creative to eat… what’s a doggie parent to do now?
As we stated earlier, what happens if a dog eats a plastic bag or a dog eats plastic toy?
This varies based on the size and shape of the object and whether or not it’s soft enough to pass, or too hard to make it through the dog’s digestive tract.
If your dog ate plastic, even in a small amount, the general rule of thumb is to always loop your vet in, no matter how understated the situation may seem.
This way, your vet will already know what is going on, should the situation take a turn for the worse.
Some vets will even recommend hospitalizing the dog so that they can track the offending object via x-ray.
They may try use Barium swallow until the dog passes the object via defecation.
If the object does not continue to move and/or your dog starts to vomit, then your vet can immediately take him into surgery.
We recommend speaking with your vet before you take any type of action, even if your dog has swallowed something relatively minor and not as likely to cause damage.
Timing is everything when it comes to foreign object ingestion. A blockage in the gut can cut off the blood supply to impacted organs within hours.
Furthermore, never induce vomiting in your dog without your vet’s instruction or guidance.
My Dog Ate Plastic – It’s Time For Action!
If your dog has ingested a plastic object but doesn’t appear to be in distress yet, we recommend taking the following actions for the next few days. It may take that long for your dog to naturally pass the object.
Immediately following the incident, place a call with your vet to keep her informed of the situation and to see if she has a recommended treatment plan.
If you’re worried about constipation due to the foreign object, give your dog a little plain yogurt or pureed pumpkin to help soften her stools.
Make sure that your dog is still eating and drinking normally. If she stops either and/or becomes lethargic, chances are that she’s in pain.
Watch for any sign of digestive upset or abnormal bathroom habits. Unwillingness to eat or drink, as well as the onset of diarrhea or constipation, signifies a trip to the vet.
My Dog Ate Plastic – How Can I Stop Him Doing It Again?
You (and your dog) may have gone through the traumatic experience of having a large plastic object surgically removed from your dog’s digestive tract.
Or perhaps you’ve found a particularly interesting pile of poo which contained a small plastic object.
How should you prevent such a scare from happening again?
Depending on what your dog got a hold of, here are some steps that you can take.
Is your pup bored and found something to chew on (such as a shampoo bottle or other plastic toiletry item) that wasn’t necessarily “just lying around?”
Buy her some of her own chew toys if she doesn’t already have some. If she’s a powerful chewer, make sure that the toys are indestructible.
Did your dog find an empty or half-empty container of leftover food? Make sure you clean out all food dishes that are not going to be put away in the cupboard, refrigerator, or dishwasher.
Is your pooch is a “dumpster driver” that likes to go through the trash (and found the plastic object there)? Get a trash can that has a locking lid or that they cannot get into.
Does your dog suffers from a compulsive chewing or eating behavior?
She may need some special training to help relieve the stress that induces the anxious behavior.
You can read our article about coping with separation anxiety in Labrador dogs here.
Regardless of your dog’s reason for chewing or eating a plastic or other foreign object, you can train her that picking up non-food objects that aren’t her toys is a big “no-no.”
My Dog Ate Plastic
When a dog ingests a plastic object, small or large, there’s a risk that they will become seriously ill in a number of hours or days.
Some objects can be easily passed, some objects can be passed but not without damage to the inside of your dog’s gut, and some objects stop everything from moving, period.
Even if your dog ate a small bit of plastic, it’s best that you consult with your veterinarian before taking additional measures.
A dog may pass a small piece of plastic on their own, with no change in their overall demenor.
However, it takes a few days for a food particle or foreign object to pass from ingestion to defecation.
You may think that your dog is fine initially but be taken by surprise when he becomes ill in 24 to 48 hours.
Once your dog becomes ill, it’s best that you take immediate action to ensure the best probable outcome.
A ruptured stomach from a sharp plastic object is nothing to sneeze at!
If you are having problems with your dog chewing or eating inappropriately, then you may need to determine the root cause of the behavior before you can completely eliminate the issue.
While you can do your best to put potentially hazardous objects out of your dog’s reach, a determined and anxious pup may find other things with which to relieve her stress.
- Bogue Animal Hospital, Ack – My Pet Ate Garbage!, 2013
- Humane Society of the United States, Pica: Why Pets Sometimes Eat Strange Objects
- Landsberg, G, Denenberg, S, Behavioral Problems of Dogs, Merck Veterinary Manual
- The Happy Puppy Site
- The Labrador Site
- Ward, E. Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Dogs, VCA Animal Hospitals