My dog ate Wood. What Do I do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Wood is dangerous for dogs to eat because the pieces easily splinter, creating sharp edges.
  • The sharp splinters can perforate the stomach or intestinal wall and cause peritonitis.
  • Dogs cannot digest wood, so it collects in the stomach and may cause obstructions.
  • You should contact your vet if your dog eats wood.

Dogs are curious creatures, and they explore their surroundings with their mouths. So it’s not surprising when they start to browse on sticks in the backyard. If you catch your furbaby chewing on wood, should you be concerned?

Wood can be hazardous to your dog because larger sticks easily splinter into sharp pieces. It can cause damage to the esophagus or digestive tract, or create an obstruction. 

If you suspect or know your dog has eaten wood, contact your veterinarian. He can examine your dog and the location and amount of wood in your dog’s system.

How Much Wood is Dangerous to Dogs?

Even a small splinter of wood can cause significant damage to your pooch. The sharp edges may injure the esophagus or lodge in the soft tissue and cause your dog to choke. If pieces of wood reach the stomach, slivers can puncture the stomach wall and cause peritonitis. 

Canines can’t digest wood, so the materials can stay in the digestive tract for months or longer. If a dog ingests a large amount of wood, there’s a risk that it will cause an obstruction. That’s why you should stop your dog and notify your vet any time you see him munching on wood.

A small wood splinter is all it takes to potentially cause damage to your dog. Any time you notice Fido munching on wood, stop the behavior and notify your vet. Possible results of ingesting wood include perforations of the esophagus or digestive tract, choking, and obstruction.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Wood?

If you catch your dog chewing on wood, remove all the pieces and check his mouth. Do not attempt to remove pieces that are lodged in the back of the throat, and do not try to make your dog vomit. 

Once you assess the situation and have an idea of how much wood your dog ate, call your vet and report the situation. Your vet may instruct you to bring your dog in for an examination, or he may have you observe your pooch for signs of trouble.

If your dog is showing signs of choking, take him to the clinic immediately. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Panting or wheezing
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the face
  • Whining
  • Hunched appearance
  • Trembling

If you catch your dog eating wood, remove any pieces you can and inspect his mouth. Do not attempt to remove pieces lodged in the throat or to induce vomiting. Call your vet and let him know what happened. If you notice any signs of choking, take your pup to the clinic immediately.

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

If you suspect your dog ate wood, check him for signs of distress. Any time you notice symptoms like drooling, pawing the face, panting, or wheezing, take your dog to the vet.

When there aren’t signs of choking, carefully inspect your dog’s mouth if he’s compliant. Look for pieces of wood in the throat area. If there are any loose pieces, gently remove them as long as your dog won’t struggle. Don’t attempt to pull slivers that are stuck in the tissues. Once you’ve done all you can to remove wood fragments, call your vet and report the incident.

If your dog looks like he’s choking or in distress, take him to the vet immediately. Otherwise, check his mouth. Remove any pieces of wood unless something is lodged in the throat. Call your vet and explain what happened.

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

Unfortunately, sharp splinters of wood can injure the esophagus or gastrointestinal tract and cause inflammation or infection. If the shards poke through the stomach muscles, digestive juices may leak into the abdomen and cause peritonitis. Symptoms of infection may not appear for about 48 hours.

Even if the wood doesn’t damage the stomach lining, it may still lodge in the tissues of the intestine and causes an obstruction. Affected dogs become bloated and have sore abdomens. It may take 1-2 days for symptoms of intestinal obstruction to develop.

Because the symptoms of these conditions aren’t immediate, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Sharp wood splinters can cause a range of problems for your dog, and many times the symptoms aren’t immediate. It can take 1-2 days for signs of peritoneal infection or intestinal obstruction to surface.

What Signs of Trouble Can I See if My Dog Eats Wood?

The signs of trouble that you see depend on how wood damages your dog’s system. If you notice symptoms of any of the conditions below, immediately call your vet. The most common effects of eating wood include:


If wood splinters lodge in the throat, they can obstruct the airway. This is an emergency because choking blocks oxygen from reaching your dog’s lungs. Signs of choking include:

  • gagging or choking sounds
  • heavy drooling 
  •  anxiety/nervousness
  • pawing the face 
  • blue or pale gums
  • difficulty breathing
  • collapse

Perforated Gut/Peritonitis

Wood shards can be sharp and may perforate the gastrointestinal tract. This causes digestive juices to seep into the abdomen and cause peritonitis. Signs of peritonitis include:

  • bloated/tender abdomen
  • vomiting/diarrhea
  • refusal to eat
  • fever
  • bloody stool
  • depression

Intestinal blockage 

Pieces of wood sometimes lodge in the intestines and create a blockage. Signs of an obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Early diarrhea followed by constipation and straining to defecate later on
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hunched appearance
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness/reluctance to lie down
  • Flatulence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression.

When your dog eats wood, signs of trouble may vary depending on how the slivers cause damage. There are several signs of digestive upset or distress. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see symptoms of choking, peritonitis, or intestinal blockage.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Wood?

If your dog eats wood, the sharp splinters can injure the mouth, throat, or digestive tract. Once wood enters the stomach, the shards may irritate the gut lining or perforate the wall and allow digestive fluids to seep into the abdomen causing peritonitis.

Canine systems can’t digest wood. If splinters enter the intestines, they may lodge in the passage and create an obstruction. The wood ends put pressure on the tissues and cause perforations, necrosis, or tissue death. Meanwhile, digested food cannot continue through the body. These two conditions combine to create an emergency.

Dogs that eat wood can injure the mouth or digestive tract. Splintered edges may perforate the stomach and all digestive juices to spill into the abdomen. Pieces that pass into the intestines can also poke holes in the intestinal wall or lodge and form an obstruction. 

Why Is Wood Dangerous to Dogs?

When dogs chew wood, it easily splinters into sharp-edged pieces that can injure or perforate tissues in the digestive tract. They can get stuck in the throat and make your dog choke. In the stomach, the shards may poke through the walls of the stomach. Additionally, canine systems can’t digest the materials, so when they don’t perforate the lining, they collect in the stomach or pass into the intestines and can obstruct the passageway. 

Wood splinters easily. The sharp edges may injure the esophagus or cause choking. If they pass to the stomach, they can perforate the muscle walls. Because canines can’t digest the wood, the pieces can also cause obstructions.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog After He Eats Wood?

When you take your furbaby to the vet after he eats wood, he’ll examine your pooch and based on his findings run diagnostic tests like bloodwork and x-rays. The treatment will depend on the results of the examination and tests. 

For choking, your vet will:

  • Give oxygen therapy if needed 
  • Sedate your dog
  • Attempt to safely remove lodged wood – If the fragment won’t move, the doctor will perform a tracheostomy to establish an airway.

Surgery is required for pooches with intestinal obstruction. In addition to removing wood pieces, your vet will stabilize your pooch with supportive care: 

  • fluid therapy 
  • anti-inflammatory medicines
  • painkillers

If wood splinters perforate the gut or intestines and cause peritonitis, the doctor will evaluate the situation and stabilize your pooch by:

  • providing antibiotics
  • administering IV fluids
  • giving anti-nausea medicine
  • Giving anti-inflammatory medications

Depending on the extent of the damage, your vet may perform surgery to repair perforations, flush the abdominal cavity with antibiotics, and insert a drainage tube.

How your vet treats your dog will depend on the effects of the wood pieces on the gastrointestinal tract. Common treatments include administering IV fluids, treating with anti-nausea medications, and administering antibiotics. Dogs with obstructions and peritonitis often require surgery.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover From Damage After Eating Wood?

The time for recovery depends on how the wood splinters affect your dog. 

  • Choking – It may take a few days for dogs to recover from choking if the wood comes out easily. In the case of significant damage, it can take the throat weeks to heal.
  • Intestinal obstruction –  The recovery period is at least 4-6 weeks if your dog has surgery for intestinal obstruction.
  • Peritonitis – If sharp wood pieces perforate the gut, the recovery period varies depending on the severity of the infection. It can take a minimum of 4-6 weeks for your dog to recover after surgery and antibiotic treatment. 

The recovery time varies depending on how the wood affected your dog.  If your pup chokes on some wood, the recovery can be a matter of days. When the damage is more extensive or surgery is needed, the recovery period is at least 4-6 weeks.

The Final Woof

Ingesting wood can be dangerous for dogs. The pieces easily splinter, and they can lodge in the throat or intestines. The sharp edges may poke through the stomach or intestinal walls and cause peritonitis. These situations are emergencies that require immediate veterinary care. 

How your vet treats your dog after he eats wood depends on the damage inflicted by the splinters. If there are no immediate signs of problems your veterinarian may instruct you to observe your dog. Other situations require veterinary care that can include medical treatment or surgery. How long it takes to recover depends on the effects of the wood on your pup’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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