Dogs are mischievous scavengers who get into all sorts of trouble. They gnaw on and swallow most things on their path, including non-food items. Dogs also think our garbage can is a treasure trove and won’t want to miss a chance scavenging for anything that might be “edible.”
Is your Fido constantly munching on non-food items, including plastic? Before you think you have the weirdest canine, fear not. You aren’t alone. Dogs are notorious for putting all kinds of things in their mouth, including inedible stuff.
If you’ve walked in on your dog eating plastic, you can’t help but worry. Not only is it dangerous to your canine companion’s health, but you might end up with a hefty bill from the vet for removing plastic from their stomach.
We’ll explore why your dog eats plastic, the risks, and how you can curb this dangerous habit.
What Causes Dogs to Eat Plastic?
Dogs eat non-edible items, including plastic, for various reasons. Some of the underlying causes include:
A bored pup will readily engage in destructive habits like eating plastic. Teaching your dog a new skill could keep them sharp and focused. Also, consider buying your pup a variety of toys and switching up their daily routine.
Your dog might be munching on plastic while trying to pick up the tasty treats in the packaging if they are starving or deficient in nutrients. The best way to prevent your dog from scavenging on plastic food packaging is by offering it a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Puppies will chew on anything and everything during their teething phase. Your pooch will gnaw on socks, shoes, sticks, and even plastic items.
Ensure you provide your puppy with plenty of safe teething toys to reduce the likelihood of chewing on inappropriate things.
30% of dogs will suffer from separation anxiety in their lifetime. Several things can cause it, including genetics, abandonment, early trauma, long periods of separation, cognitive decline, and lack of stimulation.
Your furry friend will indulge in various things to help calm his frazzled nerves, and for many chewing on something like plastic offers quick relief.
What Happens If My Dog Eats Plastic?
There are several risks involved when your canine eats plastic. Here’s what you can expect to happen:
A piece of plastic can get lodged on the roof of your pup’s mouth, which can cause distress. They can also cough, claw at their mouth and exhibit panicky behavior. Sharp plastics with jagged edges can also puncture the gums and tissues, causing abscesses and life-threatening infections.
Depending on the extent of the trauma, the plastic item can damage underlying soft tissues and penetrate the chest cavity, which can be life-threatening.
Your dog can choke on a plastic toy or wrapper, making it difficult for them to breathe properly. If you notice your dog gagging, pawing at its mouth, coughing, or rubbing its face on the ground, you should schedule a visit to the vet ASAP.
Always treat choking as an emergency and learn how to perform canine CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.
Plastic items can get lodged in your canine’s esophagus and cause gagging, excessive drooling, repeated attempts at swallowing, and regurgitation.
Furthermore, the plastic item can perforate the esophagus, which will need surgery. If regurgitated pieces of plastic are inhaled into the lungs, they can cause aspiration pneumonia.
In many cases, your vet can remove the plastic in your dog’s esophagus, but timely treatment is crucial.
Bowel obstruction in dogs can result in several complications since the movement of food and water in the gastrointestinal tract is restricted. If not treated promptly, your dog can die within three to seven days.
Your canine’s plastic-eating behavior increases the risk of intestinal obstruction. Intestinal or stomach blockage symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, whining, restlessness, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain.
Depending on your vet’s advice, digestive obstruction can require surgical or non-surgical treatment.
Internal bleeding can occur if the plastic object punctures your dog’s insides. Symptoms of internal bleeding include lethargy, black diarrhea, glazed eyes, depression, vomiting blood, shallow breathing, shock, and coma.
Your pet may require oxygen therapy, IV fluids, blood transfusion, pain medication, antibiotics, and if their heartbeat is erratic-antiarrhythmic drugs.
My Dog Ate Plastic. What Now?
If your dog has swallowed plastic, stay calm and follow the steps below to prevent further health complications.
1. Clean up the Area
Remove your dog from the crime scene and place it in a crate or a separate room. You want to clean up the surroundings of any remaining plastic bits.
While at it, work out how much plastic your furry friend might have consumed and whether it had any harmful contents such as chocolate, chemicals, or medication.
2. Monitor Your Dog
Is your dog showing any signs of discomfort, or are they still alert and cheerful? Look out for these symptoms:
- Blue-tinged or pale gums
- Pawing at the face
Also, monitor your dog’s body posture. Is it slumping or appears bloated? This might indicate intestinal obstruction.
If possible, check for any plastic in their mouth or gums. But, only do so if it’s safe since canines can bite if in distress or pain. You don’t want to get your fingers nipped.
Life-saving tip: All dog parents should learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and canine CPR and have a dog first-aid kit at hand.
3. Call Your Vet
If you suspect your dog has swallowed plastic, call your vet immediately, even if your pup seems okay. Tell the vet about your dog’s size and breed, how much plastic he swallowed, whether it’s soft or hard and whether it contains any toxic ingredients. Also, inform the vet of any signs of distress such as pawing at the mouth, choking, whining, or vomiting.
4. Follow Your Vet’s Advice
Your vet might suggest you bring Fido to the clinic for further treatment. You should only provide home treatment and induce vomiting following your vet’s recommendation. There’s the risk of the plastic getting stuck on its way back, which is more complicated to treat. Also, the strong, muscular contractions during vomiting can cause the plastic pieces to tear and damage your canine’s organs.
Treatment for a Dog that Ate Plastic
Depending on the circumstances, your vet can recommend you monitor your dog at home. Alternatively, they may recommend you bring Chewy in for diagnostics such as X-ray, ultrasound, or endoscopy.
If the plastic is in your dog’s stomach, your vet may administer medication to induce vomiting. However, large, sharp plastic pieces can damage the esophagus if vomited up, so surgery may be a better option, especially if the item is lodged in the small intestine.
Surgery allows the vet to examine the organs for further damage. If an obstruction is caught early, the prognosis is good. But if the blockage has been left untreated for a while, the damage can be severe or even fatal.
Alternatively, your vet can remove the plastic using an endoscope (a tiny, thin, flexible tube with a camera attached). This can be inserted into your canine’s body through his mouth or rectum.
If your furry friend is dehydrated, the vet will administer IV fluids which can also help push out any items stuck in the GI tract. Your dog might pass plastic given time, but if not, they’ll need urgent treatment.
After surgery, the vet will put your dog on antibiotics to help prevent infections and recommend lots of rest to prevent the sutures from tearing. Your vet will also prescribe pain medication and drugs to manage nausea and vomiting.
What are the Signs that Something is Stuck in My Dog’s Stomach?
Water and food might not pass through properly if something is stuck in your canine’s tummy. This will cause your furry friend to vomit, become lethargic, dehydrated, and struggle to pass stool. Your pup may also have blood in his stool because of inflammation of the GI tract.
Next, severe abdominal cramps may occur, and you’ll notice Fido adopting a downward-facing or prayer-position to try and feel more comfortable. He may also cry, whimper, and whine out of pain.
Finally, infection and tissue necrosis occur, creating a fatal situation that can result in death if immediate medical attention is not provided.
Other symptoms include:
- Vomiting after meals
- Incessant whining and crying
- Change in their stool
Can My Dog Pass Plastic?
Dogs can sometimes pass pieces of smooth plastic without any adverse symptoms. Plastic wrappers or bits of plastic bags are more accessible to pass than hard, sharp plastic. Also, a Great Dane will easily pass things compared to a Chihuahua.
However, other factors come into play, like the size of the plastic, whether it was swallowed whole or chewed, and if your canine is healthy.
If your dog swallowed plastic, we don’t recommend you adopt a “wait and see” approach if they’ll pass it or not. Time is critical, especially if there’s an obstruction. Instead, call your vet for guidance.
How Long Does it Take My Dog to Pass Plastic?
Depending on the size of the plastic consumed, it may take several hours to days for your dog to pass it. Your dog can pass small pieces of plastic within 6 to 8 hours without a problem, provided it has no sharp edges. But some plastic items are too large to pass through your dog’s gut and will require endoscopy or surgery to remove them.
How Much Does Bowel Obstruction Surgery Cost?
The cost for bowel obstruction surgery is anywhere between $1,000 and $7,000. It varies between clinics and regions and depends on the extent of the damage. We recommend you get pet health insurance to cut down the overall costs of emergency treatments in the long run.
Can Eating Plastic Kill My Dog?
There’s a likelihood that your dog’s plastic-eating behavior can lead to death, especially if an obstruction is left untreated.
The risk increases if your dog vomits, is dehydrated, or develops life-threatening peritonitis. Luckily, if your dog receives immediate vet care after eating plastic, the prognosis for recovery is excellent.
How Can I Help My Dog Pass Plastic?
Before administering any first aid to your dog, you should consult your vet as you might end up worsening your dog’s situation. You can discuss with your vet what to give your furry friend to help them pass the plastic.
How to Stop Dogs from Eating Plastic
Some dogs are more mischievous than others and will likely munch on things they shouldn’t, such as plastic. So, how can you protect your furry companion from the risks of eating plastic?
We don’t recommend punishing or verbally scolding your dog, as this can only worsen their behavior. Although there’s no foolproof answer, there are several measures you can take to prevent the risks.
1. Monitor your dog during walks or playtime
Supervise Fido when outside or playing with their plastic toys. Dispose of toys showing signs of wear and tear from damage.
Also, consider buying more rigid toys if you have a large dog and discourage your dog from playing with plastic wrappers or small bottles.
2. Provide plenty of mentally stimulating exercises
Keeping your canine well-exercised can stop him from scavenging out of boredom. A tired dog is a happy dog. So indulge your pup in plenty of high-energy games like tug of war, fetch, or frisbee.
3. Buy durable chew toys
Most chew toys are made of plastic, and your dog can easily rip them apart and swallow the pieces. So, invest in safe, durable dog toys. Although no chew toy’s indestructible, a high-quality chew toy designed for aggressive chewers can reduce the chances of your canine swallowing plastic.
Related: Coffee Wood For Dog Chews
Plastic can be dangerous to your furry companion depending on the quantity and size eaten. If your dog has swallowed a plastic, reach out to your vet before attempting anything.
Try keeping plastic items away from Fido, provide plenty of entertainment, and replace worn-out chew toys.
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