My Dog Ate a Paper Towel and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Eating large quantities of paper toweling can cause digestive upset or obstruction in your dog.
  • If you know or suspect that your dog ate paper towels, you should contact your veterinarian and follow his instructions.
  • If you observe signs of obstruction, take your dog to the vet immediately. 

You come home one day and find a shredded paper towel all over the kitchen floor. Naturally, your dog looks guilty, and you notice some material on his bottom lip. Should you be worried?

While paper towels aren’t toxic to dogs, they can be very dangerous for your furbaby to eat. Because these products are made from wood pulp, they’re not digestible to dogs. Usually, a few bites of paper towel is harmless for your pooch, but if he continually chows on the material, it could collect in his gut and cause an upset stomach, or worse, a blockage. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how much paper towel is dangerous for dogs, how the material can harm your pooch, and when you should call the vet.

How Much Paper Towel is Dangerous to Dogs?

If you have a large dog like a German Shepherd or Labrador Retriever, one or two towels are probably not a big deal. Smaller pieces should pass safely through the digestive tract. But if your pooch is a small breed like a Dachshund or Pug, even a single piece could be problematic.

There are several reasons your pooch might munch some paper toweling. Usually, the behavior occurs with curious puppies. However, adult dogs may also eat the material because they’re curious, bored, or anxious. 

Regardless of the reasons your dog ingests paper towels, if he swallows a chunk of materials, it can clump together. When paper towels form a bolus and enter the intestines, they can obstruct the gastrointestinal tract. If you see your pup eating some paper towel, let your veterinarian know about it. Depending on the circumstances, the doctor may want to examine your furbaby.

Unless you have a smaller dog, a sheet or two of paper towels may not be an issue. Dogs eat paper towels for various reasons. When dogs swallow several paper towels, the material can clump and cause an obstruction. It’s best to inform your vet if your dog eats paper towels.

What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Paper Towel?

If you catch your dog eating a paper towel, assess the situation calmly. It’s possible your pooch only snagged a few bites. Remove all the remnants from his reach and try to figure out how much material he ingested. If you discover paper towel shreds on the floor, attempt to determine when your dog ate them. You should also check to see if the towels were new or used. They may have cleaning chemicals or other substances on them that can cause digestive upset.

Once you’ve collected information about the paper towels, observe your pup’s behavior. Some dogs will show signs of illness after ingesting foreign materials while others may seem fine. Regardless of your findings, call your vet and report the incident and all of your observations. The doctor may tell you to bring your pooch in for an exam or he may advise you to observe your furbaby for signs of trouble.

If your dog ate toilet paper, stay calm and assess the situation. Take away any remaining paper, and figure out how much he swallowed, whether the towels were new or used, and when he ate them. Check your pooch for signs of illness and contact your vet to report your findings.

When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

You may not need to rush your dog to the vet after eating paper towels. If your dog isn’t in distress, call the doctor and let him know what’s going on. He will advise you about whether you should bring your pooch in. It will depend on 

  • Your dog’s size
  • How much material he ate
  • Whether he ingested tiny shreds or swallowed large chunks
  • Whether you suspect that there were harmful chemicals on the towel
  • How your dog is acting

However, if your pup is vomiting, pawing at his face, gagging, acting anxious, or appearing depressed, you should take your dog to the vet immediately. Your pup could be choking on a bolus of tissue or reacting to chemicals on the paper. The sooner you get veterinary care the better.

You won’t always need to take your dog to the vet, but if you notice signs of choking or illness, seek immediate care. Otherwise, your doctor will advise you if he wants to see your pooch. It will depend on the information you share about the incident.

What If My Dog Ate Plenty of Paper Towels But Is Acting Fine?

Even if your furbaby appears normal after eating several pieces of paper towels, he may still be in danger. Signs of trouble won’t always surface within a few minutes. 

Once paper towels reach the stomach, the foreign substance can irritate the gut lining. Vomiting or diarrhea may not appear for a few hours to a day. If a bolus of paper passes into the intestines, it can cause a blockage. The symptoms of obstruction may not surface for a few days after your dog swallows paper towels. Over the next several days, observe your pooch for signs of obstruction or digestive upset and take him to the vet immediately whenever you notice:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hunched appearance
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Just because your dog appears fine immediately after eating paper towels, it doesn’t mean he’s out of trouble. Signs of digestive upset and obstruction may take hours to days to surface. Continue to monitor your pooch for several days after he eats the paper towels.

Signs To Watch Out For After Your Dog Eats Paper Towels

When dogs eat paper towels, small pieces or shreds may pass through the digestive tract without any trouble. If the material your dog ingested irritates or balls up in the digestive tract, there will be some tell-tale signs. Watch for:

  • Nausea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea in early stages, constipation after a day or two
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hunched appearance
  • Lethargy and depression

Sometimes, dogs can get away with eating paper towels. But if the materials irritate your pooch’s digestive tract or cause obstruction, there will be typical symptoms that you can watch for after he eats them.

What Happens When a Dog Eats Paper Towels?

When dogs ingest paper towels, smaller pieces may pass safely through the digestive tract. However, larger quantities or wads of paper towels can be problematic. The material can irritate the digestive tract and cause imbalances. When this happens, your dog may experience:

  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting 
  • Ulcers
  • Anorexia

If the paper congeals into a bolus and passes into the intestines, it can cause obstruction. When this happens, digested materials cannot exit the gastrointestinal tract. This is an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary care. Additional signs you may see in the event of an obstruction include a hunched appearance, abdominal pain, and constipation. 

If dogs eat several wads or pieces of paper towel, they may irritate the stomach or create an obstruction in the intestines. These conditions will cause signs of digestive upset and abdominal pain.

Why Are Paper Towels Dangerous To Dogs?

Bored dogs will find almost anything to entertain themselves. So, if they can reach a roll of paper towel, they may pull at it and yank off several sheets. Before you know it, they’re feasting on a pile of paper towels. In the stomach, the foreign material can rub against the lining or clump together and obstruct the gastrointestinal tract. All of this happens because dogs can’t digest the wood pulp-based materials.

To discourage boredom that can lead to eating paper towels, try providing your furbaby with a puzzle toy or chew toy. You can also crate your pooch when you’re not around to supervise him and keep paper towels out of reach. 

Bored dogs can find toilet paper entertaining. The problem is that their systems can’t digest the materials. Once in the stomach, the materials can cause irritation or obstruction. Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent your dog from eating paper towels.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog If He Eats Paper Towels?

The first thing your vet will do if you take your dog to the clinic after he eats toilet paper is getting a history of events. After that, the doctor will initiate a physical exam. Depending on the symptoms your pooch shows, your vet may take an ultrasound or x-rays to locate the wad of paper. 

Once the vet locates the paper and diagnoses the situation, he’ll start treatment. It may include:

  • IV fluids to prevent hydration
  • Inducing vomiting to get your dog to expel the paper towels
  • Endoscopy to remove the paper bolus
  • Surgery to correct an obstruction 

When you take your dog to the vet, he’ll get a history of events and conduct a physical exam. Depending on the findings, he may use diagnostic tests to locate the paper. Once he has a diagnosis, your vet may induce vomiting or use endoscopy or surgery to remove the bolus.

How long is the recovery?

The time it takes your dog to recover depends on the type of treatment he needs. Mild digestive upset generally resolves in a few days. You can support your pooch by providing a bland diet and plenty of water to encourage motility. When dogs undergo endoscopy, the recovery period should take a few days. Expect flatulence as the gasses used in the procedure escape your pup’s digestive tract. The recovery period for surgery is a few weeks or more.

Your dog’s recovery period can vary depending on how the paper towels impact his digestive tract. Mild digestive upsets usually resolve in a few days while conditions that call for corrective procedures can take a few weeks or more.

The Final Woof

When dogs eat small quantities of paper towels, it may pass through without any trouble. However, if they ingest several sheets or wads, the material can cause irritations or obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract. If you know or suspect your pooch has eaten some paper towels, assess the situation and talk to your veterinarian. Depending on the circumstances, he may want to examine your pooch or ask you to observe him for signs of trouble.

Symptoms of trouble may not appear in your dog immediately after eating paper towels. Depending on how the foreign materials affect your pup, it may take several hours to a few days before you notice signs. Anytime you see symptoms of digestive upset or obstruction, you should take your pooch to the vet. The doctor will examine and treat him based on the diagnosis.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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