What To Do If Your Dog Ate A Paper Towel (Or Toilet Paper)

Have you ever returned home to find your dog in a pile of shredded paper towels, or toilet paper?

Paper towels and toilet paper can seem like a fun toy for your pup, as it easily pulls apart with every chomp of their teeth.

While it may seem harmless in small amounts, can eating paper towels be dangerous for a dog?

In this article we will introduce you to the potential dangers of paper towel consumption in dogs, and help you better understand why you should take this occurrence seriously!

Why Would A Dog Eat Paper Towels?

Unfortunately, our canine friends have habits we just don’t understand. Some have an interest in eating things outside of their normal diet, even products like paper towels or toilet paper.

Though we can understand why dogs would dive into items with an enticing smell, it can be a bit more challenging to understand why dogs would eat paper towels.

Dogs may choose to shred and eat paper towels due to boredom, an interest in the unique texture, to relieve teething pain, and even when experiencing anxiety.

Most dogs tend to fall somewhere on this list when getting to the bottom of their home destruction, though we can never know their exact reasons.

You may notice this behavior after being gone for a day and coming home to seeing shredded paper around your home. This could be a sign your canine friend is experiencing anxiety because of your absence.

At the end of the day, some dogs just enjoy getting into things they should not. These curious creatures don’t understand the risks that follow their actions, so it’s up to us to be fully educated on the topic.

Will Eating Paper Towels Hurt A Dog?

The simple answer to the question is yes, eating paper towels can be harmful to dogs.

Though factors ranging from the size of your dog to the amount eaten will dictate the complications they experience, the overall risk makes it an activity your pup should refrain from.

Eating paper towels could cause complications requiring anything from hospitalization to emergency surgery, proving just how dangerous eating paper towels can be.

The Dangers Of Dogs Eating Paper Towels

As we mentioned above, a dog that eats paper towels is at risk of serious complications. While we don’t often think of paper towels as dangerous material in itself, it’s what happens to paper towels in the digestive tract that makes them so dangerous.

For example, have you ever attempted to clean up a large spill, only to have your paper towels swell with liquid?

Contact with a large amount of moisture can almost cause paper towels to turn into a thick sludge, and this can happen within the GI tract.

Get a big wad of toilet paper wet and see how it turns into a sticky sludge. Most toilet paper is made to dissolve but too much toilet paper can cause problems within the GI tract.

If a large amount of paper towels are consumed, this can cause a thick blockage that makes it impossible for other digestive materials to pass.

This can range from causing a life threatening obstruction that must be surgically removed, to a mass of paper towels that makes it tough for a dog to regularly pass stool.

Not only can consuming paper towels lead to an intestinal obstruction in dogs, but it can also cause serious irritation as it passes through the GI tract.

This material can rub and cling to the intestines as the body attempts to digest it, causing abdominal discomfort in some cases. This be painful for a pup and can lead to GI upset such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Does It Matter How Many Paper Towels They Ate?

Like many other cases of dietary indiscretion in dogs, the amount of paper towels your pup consumed can dictate the complications they experience.

A dog that shredded one ply of paper towel may pass the material with ease, while a dog that shredded an entire roll can experience life-threatening symptoms.

The amount of paper towels they ate does impact how serious of a situation this is, but it’s important to take this occurrence seriously no matter what.

We can never know how much paper material is too much for a dog to pass on their own, so it’s always best to just reach out to your vet if it ever happens.

Symptoms Of A Dog Sick From Eating Paper Towels

If your pup is experiencing medical complications due to eating paper towels, there are a few symptoms that typically develop.

These complications often develop due to a blockage being present in the GI tract, so the symptoms often reflect that.

Some of the most common signs of illness from eating paper towels include:

  • Vomiting, often excessive
  • Excessive drooling
  • Anorexia
  • Not being able to keep down food or water
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal discomfort or tenderness
  • Increased flatulence
  • Hunched appearance, often due to abdominal pain
  • Refusing to lay down or settle, or appearing restless when trying to rest
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining when trying to pass stool
  • Abdominal bloating

If your pup begins to experience any of the above symptoms, it’s best to reach out to your vet for further guidance. Not only are these potential symptoms of an intestinal blockage in dogs, but they can point to other complications as well.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Paper Towels?

If you catch your pup in the act of gnawing on a roll of paper towels, you may wonder how to best react in this situation.

To help you offer your pup the best chance at recovery, let’s list the steps you should run through.

  1. First, it’s important to gather as many details as possible. This means reviewing the roll to get an idea of how much they ate, looking for evidence of simply shredding the paper towels rather than eating them, and determining whether or not the paper towels were covered in/contained any harmful ingredients (such as household cleaners, fruit pits, food grease, etc.).
  2. Next, it’s important to create a timeline of when this happened. If you walked in right as they were eating the paper towels, this makes treatment easier when relaying this info to your vet. If you found the shredded paper towel mess after returning home, try to give your vet a potential time frame of when it occurred.
  3. Once you have a clear picture of what happened, it’s time to reach out to your vet. They will likely instruct you on what to do next, or recommend that you bring your pup into their office to be seen. 

What To Expect At The Vet

If you bring your canine friend to the vet for eating paper towels, there are a few things you can typically expect.

This will often vary based on your dog’s specific situation so let’s discuss a few possibilities.

They just ate the paper towels

If your pup ate the paper towels within the last 4 hours, there’s a chance that your veterinarian can induce vomiting safely in their office.

Your vet can administer an IV medication that causes your dog to become nauseous instantly, causing them to vomit the contents of their stomach. If your dog is able to vomit all the paper towels they ate, they should be in the clear.

They ate the paper towels over 4 hours ago

If your dog ate the paper towels over 4 hours ago, the material may have already moved past their stomach. At this point your veterinarian will either suggest x-rays to look for any evidence of obstructive patterns, or offer you guidance on how to properly monitor them.

This will vary greatly based on your dog’s size, how much they ate, and if their x-rays show any sign of intestinal blockage.

They are already experiencing GI symptoms

If your dog is experiencing GI upset, your vet will need to be a bit more aggressive with their approach

Once they perform abdominal x-rays they can determine if your dog needs hospitalization, surgery, or even at home care. Every situation will vary, so it’s important to follow your vet’s guidance.

Treatment For A Dog Who Ate Paper Towels

Just as the standard approach to diagnostics will vary from case to case, your dog’s treatment options will vary as well.

The details around your pup’s case will impact your vet’s treatment of choice, but let’s discuss a few of the most common paths available.

Inducing Vomiting

As we mentioned above, if your pup is lucky, your vet can catch the paper towels before they move past the stomach.

This is typically only an option if you bring your dog to the vet within 4 hours of consumption, and most pups don’t require any additional treatment after. 

Monitoring In Hospital

If it is too late to induce vomiting, and your vet is fearful of the paper towels passing on their own, they may suggest keeping your dog in the hospital on IV fluids.

Not only will they keep your pup hydrated in effort to assist their intestines in passing the material, but they will also repeat x-rays every 12 hours to monitor any suspicious spots.

If the paper towels appear to be passing through the GI tract with this treatment, then your pup may be able to avoid surgery.

This is only an option if your dog is not already experiencing severe symptoms, or as long as there is no evidence of a severe intestinal obstruction. 

Endoscope Removal

If any paper towel material is trapped in the stomach, your vet may be able to perform an endoscopy to remove the blockage.

This only works if the material is still in the stomach, or if any material is trapped in the esophagus. Not all vet offices have the tools needed for this, so your pup may need to see a specialist. 

Surgery To Remove The Paper Towel

If the paper towels have caused an obstruction that your dog is unable to pass, they may require surgery to remove the blockage.

A foreign body surgery can include removing the blockage, removing any damaged portion of the intestines, and also a brief stay in the hospital after their procedure.

Can Some Dogs Pass Paper Towels On Their Own?

My Dog Ate A Paper Towel

Not all dogs will require aggressive medical care when getting their paws on a roll of paper towels.

Some dogs may shred the paper towels into small enough pieces that it doesn’t cause any complications, while others will simply get lucky in how well their body is able to pass the material.

Though it’s a possibility for a dog to pass paper towels on their own, it is never a possibility you should rely on.

There is no way for us to know whether or not our dogs will experience any complications, so it’s always best to seek veterinary care.

Waiting it out to see what happens can cause our dogs harm in the long run, as this can give the paper towels plenty of time to cause a blockage.

Your vet may give you the go ahead to monitor your pet at home, but it’s always best to be safe and make an appointment just in case.

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