My Dog Ate Plastic and Seems Fine – What Should I Do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Dogs cannot digest plastic, but it can damage your dog’s system.
  • Any time your dog eats plastic, you should contact your vet and let them know what happened.
  • Fragments of plastic can cause your dog to choke, create an obstruction, or perforate the bowel.

Your dog has been quiet…too quiet. So, you walk into the next room and see him devouring a plastic toy your daughter left out. What should you do next? 

Any time your dog eats plastic, you should call your veterinarian. Depending on how much your pup ate and the signs you observe, the doctor may recommend an exam or emergency treatment.

In this article, we’ll explain why plastic is harmful to dogs and how much it takes to do damage to your dog. We’ll also go over signs you might see if your dog ingested plastic and what you should do.

To prepare you for visiting the vet, we’ll explain how the doctor will treat your dog if he ate plastic. Then we’ll provide an estimated time for your pup’s recovery.

Let’s get started.

How Much Plastic Is Harmful to Dogs?

Dogs can’t digest plastic, so it’s never good for them to eat anything made from the material. It doesn’t matter if it’s a child’s small action figure, a candy wrapper, or a plastic bag. As soon as plastic enters your pup’s stomach, it can cause trouble.

Even a small fragment of plastic can lodge in the intestines and cause a blockage. If there are pieces of material, they may also have sharp edges that can cut or pierce the gut. So, if you know or suspect your pooch inhaled something made from plastic, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Let him know approximately how much was ingested and the size of the pieces, if you know.

Dogs can’t digest plastic, so it can be problematic in the gut. When the material gets to the stomach it can cause a blockage. Sharp edges may also cut or pierce the gut. That’s why you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if he eats any plastic.

What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Plastic?

Unfortunately, our furbabies often act like vacuum cleaners, and they explore their surroundings with their mouths. As a result, they sometimes snarf up unsafe materials like plastic. If your dog ate some plastic, here’s what you should do.

  • Remove any remaining plastic – You want to keep your dog from eating any more plastic. Take away any materials that are still within reach.
  • Assess your dog – Observe your dog and note his condition. Check for any signs of choking or discomfort. If your pooch is agreeable, look in his mouth for signs of plastic or injuries. 
  • Contact your veterinarian – Call your veterinarian as soon as possible and report what happened. Let the doctor know how much plastic your dog ate, what type of plastic, and the size of the pieces if you know the information. Follow your vet’s instructions.

When your dog eats plastic, remove any leftover material from his reach and check your dog. Make sure he’s not choking or showing signs of pain. Call your veterinarian and let him know approximately how much plastic your dog consumed. Follow his instructions.

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten Plastic

If you find evidence that suggests your dog ate some plastic, you should call your veterinarian immediately. The doctor will want to know approximately how much plastic your pal may have ingested and how your dog is acting. Be prepared to report whether your furbaby appears uncomfortable, is showing signs of choking, or has any other concerning symptoms.

Depending on what you tell your vet, he may want you to bring your pup into the clinic right away. Otherwise, he’ll instruct you to observe your dog for signs of trouble. You must do whatever the doctor tells you to do.

If you think your dog ate plastic, call your doctor immediately. The vet will want to know approximately how much plastic your pup may have ingested and how your dog is behaving. Depending on what you report, the doctor may tell you to bring her in or monitor her for signs of trouble. 

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Plastic But Is Acting Normal?

Some plastics like small candy wrappers can pass through the digestive tract and come out in your dog’s poop without any trouble. However, if your dog ate a pile of plastic, it can collect in the gastrointestinal system and cause an obstruction. Even if your dog is acting normal, you need to call your veterinarian immediately. Take action before there’s an emergency.

When you talk to the clinic, let the staff know how much and what kind of plastic you think your dog ate. They’ll likely tell you to bring your furbaby in for x-rays. At the very least, the vet will instruct you to monitor your pooch for any signs that the plastic got caught in the intestines and caused a blockage.

If your dog eats a pile of plastic but seems normal you should still call your veterinarian. The materials can still collect in the intestines and cause a blockage. Report the type and amount of plastic involved. The vet will probably want you to bring your dog to the clinic for x-rays. 

Signs of Blockage or Damage from Plastic

If your dog eats plastic, and it gets stuck in the throat, you may see signs of choking:

  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Pawing at the face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Agitation or nervousness

When plastic causes a blockage in the intestines, you may notice:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness or panic
  • Diarrhea followed by constipation 
  • Lethargy or depression

If sharp plastic edges cause lacerations or perforations in the gastrointestinal tract, you may notice signs similar to a blockage along with fever, digested blood in the poop, and pale gums.

The signs of trouble you may see when your dog eats plastic depends on the type of damage the material causes. In some cases, you’ll notice symptoms related to choking. Other times, the signs will point to distress in the gastrointestinal system such as vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Plastic?

When your dog eats plastic, the material can get caught in the throat and cause your dog to choke. If it makes it to the stomach, it can’t be digested. Unfortunately, plastic can cause trouble once it’s in your dog’s gut. Usually, plastic will collect and cause a blockage so food and water can’t pass through the system. This is an emergency.

A blockage isn’t the only issue with plastic. Pieces of plastic often have sharp edges. These fragments can lodge in the intestinal wall and irritate it. If the plastic cuts or pokes deep enough, it can cause a perforation. Holes in the intestines allow digestive juices to seep into the abdomen and cause peritonitis. 

When a dog eats plastic, it may get stuck in the throat and cause choking. In the stomach and intestines, the materials often cause blockages. Sharp edges can also cause the plastic to embed in the intestinal wall triggering inflammation and irritation. If plastic cuts or pokes deep, there may be perforation and peritonitis.

Why Plastic is Dangerous for Dogs?

Plastic is dangerous for dogs because the digestive system can’t break the materials down. The shape and edges of some pieces permit plastic to lodge in soft tissues. As a result, chunks of plastic can cause life-threatening conditions like choking and intestinal obstruction. Because some plastic pieces have sharp edges, the intestinal lining may also be damaged or perforated causing inflammation in the bowel. 

It’s always best to keep plastics away from your pooch. If he manages to get his teeth on some, call your veterinarian immediately.

Plastic is not digestible, and many pieces have a shape and size that allow them to get stuck in soft tissues. When chunks of plastic lodge in the throat or intestines, it’s an emergency. However, sharp edges may also cause inflammation or perforations of the intestines. 

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog if He Ate Plastic?

Under some circumstances, your veterinarian may instruct you to monitor your dog’s condition at home. But it’s more likely the doctor will tell you to bring your furbaby to the clinic. 

As part of the examination, your veterinarian will ask you how much your dog ate, what type of plastic was involved, and if you have noticed any signs of trouble. He’ll conduct a physical examination and offer any supportive care like fluids. 

Depending on the type of plastic your vet may induce vomiting. However, if there’s any risk that the material could get stuck on the way out, this won’t be attempted. After the physical examination, the doctor will take an x-ray or ultrasound to determine how much plastic was ingested and where it’s located. 

If the plastic is in the stomach, your veterinarian may be able to use an endoscope to retrieve the material. However, surgery is necessary if plastic is in the intestines.

Although in some situations, the veterinarian will have you monitor your dog at home, it’s more common to have you bring them in for an evaluation. The doctor will take a history, conduct a physical, and take x-rays. Depending on the findings, your vet may remove the plastic with an endoscope or by surgery.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover After He Eats Plastic?

The recovery period depends on the type of damage the plastic did to your dog’s system. 

  • Choking: If your dog chokes on plastic, recovery from the damage to the throat may take several days. Feed soft foods to ease his discomfort while he’s recovering.
  • Obstruction: For a simple obstruction, the recovery period following surgery will be a few weeks. If there are complications, it will take longer.
  • Perforation: When plastic perforates the intestines, the condition can be fatal. The recovery period may be several weeks or months depending on how quickly the injury was treated and the severity of infections and other complications. 

The recovery period for dogs that eat plastic depends on the effects of the material on the system. It can range from a few days for dogs that choked on pieces of plastic to several months for bowel perforations with complications.

The Final Woof

Plastic is dangerous for dogs. The material is not digestible, but it can become lodged in the throat, stomach, or intestines. Sharp edges can also cut or perforate the soft tissues in the digestive system. If you know or suspect your dog ate plastic, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Even if your dog seems fine after eating plastic, you should call your vet. Let them know how much your pup ingested and how your dog is acting. Expect a visit to the clinic for an exam and x-rays. 

Depending on the type and amount of plastic, and where it’s located in your dog’s system, the vet may choose to remove the material with an endoscope or by surgery. Recovery varies depending on the effects of the plastic on your dog’s digestive system.

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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