Plastic has become ubiquitous in modern life, and dogs increasingly encounter opportunities to eat plastic items. Dogs are naturally inquisitive animals and may eat plastic out of boredom, hunger, or simple curiosity. However, plastic can pose serious dangers if consumed by dogs.
While every dog owner dreads an emergency trip to the vet, being aware of the risks, taking preventative measures, and knowing how to respond can help keep your pup safe. This guide covers all you need to know if your dog ate plastic.
Signs Your Dog Ate Plastic
If your dog ate plastic, there are some common signs to watch out for. Some of the most noticeable include:
– Strange behavior: Your dog may seem more lethargic than usual or act abnormally after swallowing plastic. They may hide, whimper, or avoid their regular activities.
– Vomiting: One of the first signs of intestinal obstruction or gastrointestinal irritation from plastic is vomiting. Your dog may vomit up bits of plastic they ingested or have consistent vomiting without plastic pieces. The vomit may contain blood.
– Diarrhea: Along with vomiting, dogs may develop diarrhea after eating plastic. The diarrhea may also contain blood or pieces of plastic.
– Lethargy: Plastic can obstruct the intestinal tract and cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The dog may become increasingly tired and lethargic.
– Loss of appetite: Your dog will likely lose interest in food after swallowing indigestible plastic. The loss of appetite may persist until the obstruction or irritation clears.
Pay close attention to any these signs, especially vomiting and diarrhea containing blood or plastic fragments. Those specific symptoms indicate your dog did indeed ingest some type of plastic and is having a reaction. If you notice those gastrointestinal signs, be prepared to call your veterinarian.
Dangers of a Dog Eating Plastic
Eating plastic can pose a few different dangers to your dog’s health. Some of the main risks include:
1) Intestinal Blockages: One of the most common dangers is that plastic can get lodged in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, blocking their intestines. This can prevent your dog from being able to pass stool normally. An intestinal blockage is extremely painful and life-threatening if not treated promptly.
2) Intestinal Perforations: Sharp pieces of plastic have the potential to puncture holes in your dog’s intestinal lining as it passes through their system. This can cause dangerous bleeding and infection in their abdomen.
3) Poisoning: Another hazard is that chemicals in certain plastics can leach out and be absorbed by your dog’s body. This depends on the type of plastic consumed, but can potentially lead to toxic poisoning. Things like antifreeze on plastic bottles, BPA in food containers, or other plasticizers can have toxic effects on your dog’s liver and kidneys if ingested.
All of these require rapid veterinary treatment, so it’s critical to act quickly if your dog eats plastic. Don’t wait to see if symptoms resolve on their own, as these risks can be fatal if not addressed promptly. Call your vet or emergency animal hospital right away if you suspect your dog swallowed any plastic.
Types of Plastic Most Dangerous for Dogs
Certain types of plastic are more dangerous for dogs to ingest than others. The type of plastic your dog ingests can have varying levels of harm. The most hazardous plastics include:
– PVC: Used in pipes, wire coatings, and some children’s toys. PVC contains phthalates and lead that can leach if chewed or ingested. These toxic chemicals can cause liver, kidney, and neurological damage.
– Soft plastics: Includes plastic bags, food wrappers, plastic film, and foam takeout containers. These plastics can bunch up and cause blockages or even perforate the intestines if swallowed. Soft plastics are a common culprit in intestinal obstructions that require surgery. Styrofoam and polystyrene release carcinogenic chemicals like styrene when ingested.
– Small plastic pieces: Any plastic broken into tiny pieces, like plastic beads or small parts of toys, can be trouble if swallowed. The smaller the pieces, the more likely they’ll cause an obstruction. Pieces smaller than 1.5 inches in diameter can get stuck and require emergency surgery.
Dog owners should be especially cautious if their dog gets into any PVC plastic, plastic bags, food wrappers or foam containers. These pose some of the greatest risks due to toxicity or intestinal obstructions. Keeping plastic stored safely away can help prevent ingestion of the most hazardous types.
First Aid if Your Dog Eats Plastic
If you believe your dog has ingested plastic, the first step is to call your veterinarian immediately to help indicate the appropriate course of action.
In some cases, your vet may recommend inducing vomiting at home to expel the plastic before it can cause a blockage or poisoning. Use ONLY hydrogen peroxide, and follow your vet’s dosage instructions based on your dog’s weight.
Some key tips if you need to induce vomiting at home:
- Use 3% hydrogen peroxide only. Ipecac syrup can be toxic to dogs.
- Give 1 teaspoon (5ml) per 10 pounds of body weight, or follow your vet’s dosage guidelines.
- Use an oral syringe or turkey baster to administer into the back of the mouth.
- Expect vomiting within 10-15 minutes, though it may take up to 45 minutes.
- Closely supervise your dog during this time.
Never give homemade remedies, salt water, milk, butter or other substances to your dog without direct guidance from your veterinarian. Well-meaning attempts to remove plastic from the stomach at home can potentially make the situation much worse. Always consult the experts to ensure the proper first aid steps are taken.
If your dog ate a small amount of plastic, your vet may just recommend watchful waiting to allow the plastic to pass through the digestive system naturally. They may advise feeding your dog high-fiber foods or giving laxatives to help speed up this process.
However, if your dog ate a large amount of plastic or there is an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, more aggressive treatment will likely be needed:
– IV Fluids: Your vet will administer intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and maintain healthy organ function. This helps support your dog as they undergo treatment.
– Surgery: If an endoscopy or x-rays reveal a blockage or large plastic item, surgery may be performed to remove it before lasting damage is done. This may involve making an incision into the stomach or intestines.
– Medication: Your vet may prescribe medicines like antiemetics to control vomiting or laxatives like mineral oil to help pass plastic through the system. Pain relievers may also be given after surgery.
No matter the treatment method, close monitoring and follow-up care is crucial. Your vet will want to check for improved symptoms and make sure all plastic has passed or been removed. With prompt treatment guided by a vet, many dogs recover fully after eating plastic. But prevention is key to avoid a scary and risky situation.
Diagnostic Tests To Carry Out
If your vet suspects your dog ingested a large amount of plastic or a particularly dangerous type, they may run diagnostic tests to check for internal injuries and toxicity.
1) Physical Exam
The vet will do a complete physical exam, looking for any signs of external injury from swallowing plastic like cuts in the mouth or throat. They will palpate your dog’s abdomen to feel for obstructions or foreign objects. The vet will also check your dog’s gums and vitals for any signs of shock.
Your vet may run blood tests to check for toxicity, electrolyte imbalances, and organ function. Elevated liver enzymes could indicate plastic has started damaging the liver. Low red blood cell counts or low platelet counts can signify internal bleeding.
3) Imaging Tests
X-rays or ultrasound allow the vet to potentially identify plastic pieces in the digestive tract. Your vet may want to take X-rays even if your dog shows no symptoms to locate plastic pieces for removal. Contrast X-rays using barium may help highlight obstructions. An endoscope inserted down the throat into the stomach may also directly visualize plastic pieces.
Preventing Dogs from Eating Plastic
Unfortunately, dogs are extremely curious and will put just about anything in their mouths. When it comes to plastic, prevention is key to keeping your dog safe. Here are some tips to prevent your dog from eating plastic:
– Keep plastic and packaging secured and out of reach: Make sure plastic bags, packaging, wrappers and containers are properly disposed of. Garbage cans should have tight fitting lids. Recycle bins should also be kept away from your dog’s access. Never leave plastic out on counters or anywhere your dog can get to it.
– Pick up any stray plastic debris in the home and yard: Make sure there are no plastic pieces or packaging on the floor that your dog could swallow. Do a sweep of the floors and yard regularly to dispose of any plastic items.
– Supervise your dog when outside: Even outdoors, plastic can end up in your backyard or at the park. Keep a close eye on your dog when they’re outside to prevent eating plastic. You may want to avoid dog parks or public areas where stray plastic is more likely.
– Train your dog to “leave it: One of the most important commands you can teach your dog is to “leave it.” Reward them for ignoring plastic items and other prohibited objects. With positive reinforcement training, you can teach them that plastic is not a toy.
Taking preventative measures is the best way to avoid emergency plastic ingestion incidents. Be vigilant about keeping plastic cleaned up and properly secured. With training and supervision, you can help curb your dog’s desire to put plastic in their mouth. Prevention will save your dog from potential GI obstructions and toxicity.
Plastic can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction or perforation, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Even if your dog seems fine initially after eating plastic, symptoms can develop over the next 12-24 hours as the plastic moves through the intestinal tract.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Call your vet promptly if you suspect your dog ingested a significant amount of plastic, or if you notice any behavioral changes or signs of illness.