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What should I do if my dog ate plastic?

Little boy with dog picking up plastic advice

Dogs can be particularly tempted by plastics used to store or handle food

© Shutterstock

Children's toys, plastic bags, pens can all look like a tempting treat to a dog, so in case your pet eats one, look no further to find out what to do.

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS

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If you have seen your dog eat some plastic, or if you suspect they may have done, observe them initially for a few minutes to check that they do not choke. What do to next depends on the size of your dog and the amount and type of plastic consumed.

Plastic with harmful coatings or contents – such as cleaning chemicals – may require an immediate trip to the vet for treatment. Broken plastic or plastic with sharp edges may cause punctures and pierce the oesophagus (food pipe) or the stomach or intestines. But small, soft, inert plastic should pass through your dog’s digestive system without causing harm. If in doubt, speak to a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I do if my dog ate a plastic sandwich bag?

Plastics used to store or handle food are particularly tempting for dogs, and it’s not uncommon for them to eat items such as a sandwich bag, cheese wrapper, supermarket bag or plastic spoon. Small, soft plastic may pass through with no ill effects. Yet longer lengths of plastic such as food bags or spoons may cause blockages in the stomach or intestine. In some cases, dogs will require surgery to remove the blockage.

To reduce the risk of this happening, it is safest to contact a vet immediately, who will be able to safely induce vomiting in your dog. If the plastic is still in your dog’s stomach, hopefully they should sick it back up.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I do if my dog chewed and ate a plastic pen?

Plastic pens are typically made of hard plastic that can shatter to leave sharp edges. While the actual amount of plastic is small, these sharp edges may cause problems as they pass through your dog’s digestive tract, especially in small or younger dogs. As such, it's a good idea to speak to a vet – you may be advised to monitor your dog for signs of salivating, repetitive swallowing or retching, abdominal (tummy) pain and vomiting or inappetence. The amount of ink in the pens should not cause ill effects in your dog, though you may see a colour change in their poo.

How long does it take for a dog to pass plastic?

The transit time through a dog’s gut usually takes 8-12 hours. For items such as pieces of plastic, they may take longer to pass through the gut – up to several days. Some larger plastic items may be too large to leave the stomach at all. Provided the plastic item(s) do not entirely block the stomach outflow, you may only notice occasional vomiting in an otherwise healthy dog for days or even weeks. These intermittent blockages can be difficult to diagnose; your dog may just appear to have a sensitive tummy.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What happens if my dog accidentally eats plastic?

If your dog accidentally eats plastic, they may simply pass the plastic through their gut with no ill effects. Yet complications occur if the plastic contained or was coated in a harmful substance. Sharp pieces of plastic can cause physical damage to the gut, and large or long plastic items can cause a blockage. If you are in any doubt, it is best to speak to a vet. The more information you can give them about the size, shape and type of plastic and when your dog is likely to have eaten it, the better.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I do if my dog ate Lego?

If your dog has eaten a single, small Lego piece, it is unlikely to do any harm and you should monitor your dog for the next few days to make sure they are eating and passing poos normally. You may even see the Lego brick come out. If your dog has eaten a larger, more complex Lego piece, or several pieces, these pieces of plastic may cause a blockage. If you are in doubt, it’s best to see a vet. The vet may check your dog’s stomach contents with x-ray or ultrasound and be able to determine if treatment is necessary.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What home remedies are there if my dog ate plastic?

There are home remedies available to induce vomiting in dogs, but they tend to have a low safety profile and are not recommended. Also, in some circumstances, it is not safe for your dog to vomit up material that may cause further damage to the oesophagus. If your dog ate a small amount of plastic, then feeding them little and often may help the passage through the gut.

When should I talk to a vet?

If your dog has eaten any plastic, it is best to contact a vet as soon as possible. The vet may advise that the plastic is unlikely to cause harm and to monitor your dog at home. Or they may advise that your dog should be made to vomit as soon as possible. If the plastic was very large or sharp, or contained harmful substances (such as a bottle containing a cleaning product), it may be safer to surgically remove it in order to reduce the risk of damage to the oesophagus – if your dog was to vomit it back up.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

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Ask for advice

Worried about your pet?

Speak to a qualified vet online, from the comfort of your home