Unless you follow a strict zero-waste lifestyle, chances are you have plastic in your home. If you aren’t careful, your dog can easily get their paws or jaws on something that looks yummy, which is wrapped in some plastic.
So if your dog indulged in some plastic, should you be worried?
If your dog ate a small amount of plastic, chances are it’ll pass through their system. If it is quite a bit of plastic, it is serious. You need to act swiftly. Eating plastic can cause serious health issues, like gastrointestinal perforations, choking, mouth injuries, and intestinal obstructions.
In the event that your dog has eaten plastic, what should you do?
Why Do Dogs Eat Plastic?
There are several reasons why dogs eat plastic. These reasons are that your dog may be bored or frustrated. They may be suffering from separation anxiety, and chewing on plastic and other random materials is an attempt to self-soothe.
They may also be curious and eating the plastic is a way to explore what it is. Or maybe they want to get to the inside contents that smell oh-so-yummy.
Puppies can also eat plastic objects. In most of these cases, the puppy is probably teething.
Dogs suffering from pica, which is a condition whereby dogs eat inedible things, won’t be able to resist chewing on foreign objects like plastic.
What Happens If My Dog Eats Plastic?
Firstly, there are several types of plastic your dog can possibly consume, but these generally fall into soft plastic and hard plastic categories.
Soft plastic objects include things like plastic wrap and plastic bags, while hard plastic would be Tupperware, plastic bowls, plastic cups, plastic caps or bottle lids, dog chew toys, and more.
Risks With Soft Plastic Items
So if your pooch ate soft plastic, it isn’t as serious compared to eating hard plastic items. However, there are still some risks, so worry is still on your to-do list.
One hazard of a dog eating soft plastic is the risk of choking. The Saran wrap, for example, can block your pooch’s airway, so they may have trouble breathing.
Another risk is that the soft plastic can cause an internal blockage. While bigger dogs may be able to pass this, smaller dog breeds will be in danger of other health complications if they suffer from an intestinal blockage.
Risks With Hard Plastic Items
If your dog eats hard plastic, your worry-o-meter should skyrocket. This is a very serious issue as eating hard pieces of plastic is dangerous.
The sharp piece of plastic that your dog’s teeth broke off can injure their mouth. These sharp plastic pieces can further lacerate and cause damage along the digestive tract as they are swallowed. This is painful, and these lacerations will bleed.
Like with a dog eating soft plastic, hard plastic can also cause a gastrointestinal obstruction as pieces can become lodged in your pooch’s digestive tract. This is life-threatening, and surgery may be the only treatment.
What to Do When Your Dog Ate Plastic
Follow these steps when your dog eats plastic:
Step 1: Check Your Dog
The first step is to see if your pooch is breathing normally. This means they aren’t choking.
If your doggo is choking, you’ll see and hear coughing, gagging, and panicking behavior. In this case, immediately call your vet and head over there.
Other signs to watch out for if your dog has eaten plastic is if your dog is lying in a strange way and looks to be bloated or in pain. This could mean that their stomach or intestines have been blocked by a piece of plastic.
Step 2: Remove the Plastic
The next step is to open your pooch’s mouth and remove any plastic you may find there. This includes checking their teeth and the roof of their mouth. You definitely don’t want your dog to be swallowing more plastic.
If you don’t feel safe placing your fingers in your dog’s mouth, rush to the vet. Getting your fingers nipped won’t help matters.
Step 3: Determine How Much Plastic Your Dog Ate
If your dog isn’t in immediate danger (breathing normally and not in distress or pain), you should recreate the “scene of the crime.”
Determine how much plastic and what kind of plastic your pooch has eaten.
Figuring out what may have been in the plastic lets you know if there is an additional danger. For example, if your dog eats a plastic bottle that contains dangerous household chemicals, you need to know so you can inform your vet.
If your dog ate something and swallowed batteries, you’d want to head over to your vet as soon as possible. Batteries can cause life-threatening burns and internal bleeding due to their corrosive nature.
Step 4: Call Your Vet
If your dog is in danger due to pain, what they ate (other than just the plastic), and so on, rush over to your vet.
If your doggo isn’t in imminent danger, you’d want to call your vet and explain what happened. Your vet will advise what course of action to follow after considering all the factors.
So if your dog ate some plastic wrap because they really wanted the yummy BLT sandwich, and they seem to be themselves – normally running around, etc. – your vet may advise that you keep an eye on your pooch. Chances are they will pass the plastic on their own with their next bowel movement.
But if your small breed dog demolished a CD or DVD, then you may need to take your dog to the vet since your pooch could be suffering from internal damage and bleeding. Chances are that there may be an intestinal blockage too.
Step 5: What’s Next?
If your dog isn’t in immediate danger, your vet may ask you to check your pooch. The plastic may pass naturally when your dog has a potty break. If the plastic doesn’t pass, then your vet will let you know what the next course of action will be.
If your dog is in imminent danger, then at the vet, there are several possibilities of treatment:
- Manual removal: depending on the condition of your dog, your vet may remove plastic pieces by hand or with special tools
- Surgical removal: if the plastic is blocking your dog’s intestines, then your vet may want to surgically remove the obstruction(s)
- Medication: your pooch may need to take antibiotics or other medicines to prevent infection
Complications That May Arise If Your Dog Ate Plastic
If your dog ate plastic, there are several complications that may arise.
The dangers of your pooch consuming soft or hard plastic are:
- Tooth damage
- Mouth, throat, tummy, intestine, and/or rectum injuries because of lacerations
- Choking because of airway obstruction
- Intestinal irritation
- Stomach pain
- Internal bleeding
- Gastrointestinal obstructions
Symptoms of Plastic Eating in Dogs
There are various symptoms to look out for if you suspect your dog has been eating plastic (that is if you don’t catch Rufus in the act):
- Abdominal bloating or discomfort
- Strange body behavior
- Panicked behavior
- Inability to poop
- Constant whining or crying
- Eating less than normal
- Blood in their stool
When to Visit a Vet If Your Dog Ate Plastic?
Take your dog to the vet immediately if they are choking, show signs of abdominal distress and pain, or are constantly throwing up. An inability to poop, lack of appetite, and blood in their stool are other reasons to visit the vet if your dog consumes plastic objects.
Should You Induce Vomiting When Your Dog Ate Plastic?
Many dog owners think they should induce vomiting as a way for their pooch to get rid of the plastic they swallowed.
Unless you’ve gotten direction from your vet to induce vomiting, this is not an advisable course of action. The plastic may not be able to pass back through your dog’s throat or esophagus. And with the strong muscular contractions that occur while vomiting, the plastic pieces may do more damage.
How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Pass Plastic?
If your dog ate some plastic, it’ll end up in his intestines within about 2 hours. In general, food takes about 10 hours to pass through your pooch’s digestive system, so the plastic may take just as long.
If after 10 hours you haven’t seen any plastic when inspecting your dog’s poop, then you want to call the vet since the plastic will still be inside your dog.
A dog eating plastic is definitely a cause for concern. While soft plastic and a large breed dog eating a bit of soft plastic isn’t as much of a worry, you should still keep a close eye on your pooch and call the vet if you are unsure or need help.
If your dog shows any of the symptoms (choking, abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, or constant whining and crying) after eating plastic, treat it as a medical emergency and rush to your vet for help.
Acting swiftly will save your dog’s life. Be sure to discuss with your vet how you can prevent your dog from eating plastic.