Is It Dangerous If My Puppy Ate Plastic?

As I’ve mentioned many times in my other blogs, you take on many responsibilities when adopting a puppy. Like a child, a puppy cannot fend for itself, make its food or take itself for a walk. Even more challenging is that a puppy can’t talk to you and tell you when something is wrong.

For these reasons and several more, ensuring your puppy has a safe environment is critical. I’ve often written about “puppy proofing” your home and how you must do it before bringing any new puppy to live with you.

Like a child, a puppy explores its surroundings with its mouth as much as its eyes. (If you’ve ever seen a  toddler put something random in their mouth, you know what I’m talking about.) That can be dangerous, especially if your puppy has access to food, plants, and other harmful items.

The truth is dozens of things around the average household can cause a puppy harm if swallowed. Medicine, plants, chemicals, and even some types of food can be harmful and even deadly for a small puppy. 

And then there’s plastic. As ubiquitous in an American household as a light bulb, plastic is everywhere. A lot of the plastic used in an American home protects food, which can be problematic with a puppy around.

For example, let’s say you wrap some ground beef in plastic wrap and leave it on the countertop. Then, let’s say that somehow your puppy manages to grab that ground beef and eat it. One thing is certain; your puppy doesn’t have the dexterity or knowledge to remove the plastic first.

Many times over the years, I’ve heard from new puppy parents whose puppies have eaten plastic, and the question they ask is always the same; is it dangerous if my puppy ate plastic?

The answer is that it is dangerous if your puppy eats plastic. Even a small amount of plastic can cause a choking problem for a puppy. If the plastic manages to get past your pup’s throat and into its stomach, it can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction.

As you might imagine, neither of those scenarios is a good one and should be avoided as much as possible. That means keeping food covered in plastic far away from your puppy. It also means keeping an eye on them and taking away any plastic toys if they become damaged and start breaking into small plastic pieces.

Now that you know that plastic is dangerous if your puppy were to eat it, I’m sure you have other questions about today’s subject. What should you do if your puppy eats plastic, for example, and can a puppy digest plastic?

For the answers to those questions and several others, read on. I have them for you below, critical information that could save your puppy’s life if they accidentally eat some plastic.

What are the Symptoms that a Puppy has Eaten Plastic?

The signs and symptoms that your puppy has eaten a large amount of plastic are usually obvious. You will see them relatively quickly and realize something is wrong. 

Smaller amounts of plastic, however, can be a little more difficult to detect if eaten by your puppy. The most common outward sign is choking if the plastic blocks their airway. 

Besides choking, however, you might not even notice that your puppy has eaten a small amount of plastic. Some pups will pass it easily, but for others, even a small amount of ingested plastic can cause intestinal problems. 

Whether a small or large amount, the following signs and symptoms will usually be apparent if your puppy eats plastic, including:

  • Abdominal bloating. Your pup’s belly suddenly is bigger (and tighter) than normal.
  • Your puppy uses strange body postures and positions you haven’t seen before.
  • Your puppy seems panicked or anxious for some reason.
  • They cry or whine incessantly.
  • They vomit or have repeated diarrhea. Often you will see blood in their stool.
  • They stop pooping completely for several days. (This can be very dangerous to their health.)

What Should I do if my Dog Eats Plastic?

As with any puppy or dog-related emergency, don’t panic if they eat plastic. Stay calm, assess the situation, and, if necessary, contact your local veterinarian.

The thing about plastic is that if it’s only a small amount and it’s torn into tiny bits, most puppies will pass plastic with no problem. For some puppies, however, especially younger and smaller pups, a small or large amount of plastic could produce symptoms.

The first thing I would do is determine, if possible, how much plastic your pupper ate. For example, was it a tiny amount when biting into some ground beef wrapped in a plastic bag, or was it the entire bag?

If you think it’s the former, keeping a close eye on your puppy for 24 hours is probably a better choice than calling a veterinarian. On the other hand, calling your vet is the best choice if they’ve eaten an entire plastic bag, a large portion of a ball or toy, or any excessive amount of plastic.

If you decide a vet is necessary, try to get an appointment immediately. The faster the plastic is removed from your puppy’s body, the better. It can cause havoc in their intestines if it gets past their stomach.

Can a Puppy Digest Plastic?

Plastic isn’t digestible for a puppy or any other mammal. Plastic is an inert object, which means it causes no chemical or biological reaction. In other words, plastic will pass through your puppy and exit out the back mostly unchanged.

The problem plastic causes are that it can become an obstruction in a puppy’s GI tract and digestive system and prevent the proper flow of foods, nutrients, and waste. Severe constipation caused by a plastic blockage can become deadly in only a few days for a puppy.

So, while plastic won’t cause biological problems, it can easily cause physical problems for a puppy, including blocking their bowel movements. 

How Long does it take for Plastic to Pass in a Dog? 

If your puppy has eaten a small amount of plastic that doesn’t get stuck in its GI tract, it will usually pass it out in about twelve hours. (Give or take a few hours.)

Larger amounts of plastic, however, may take longer. The reason is that a large amount of plastic will not travel smoothly through a puppy’s intestines. In some cases, plastic might not even pass from their stomach into their intestines because it’s too large.

In short, larger amounts of plastic are more problematic for a puppy and take longer to pass. The good news is that most puppies don’t eat large amounts of plastic. It’s simply not palatable for a puppy, and most will avoid it when possible.

Can Dogs Poop Out Plastic Bags?

Depending on the size of the plastic bag and the size of the puppy, yes, some dogs can poop out entire plastic bags. Amazingly, some bags will look more or less unchanged after the digestive ordeal. A bigger puppy and a smaller bag are usually the right mix for this to occur, but it depends on the bag and the puppy. 

Pooping plastic bags whole happens because, even though dogs and puppies have a lot of stomach acid, it’s not strong enough to dissolve plastic. If the bag doesn’t become an obstruction and passes through the GI tract in the usual digestive time frame, your puppy may hardly be affected.

Final Thoughts

Is it dangerous if my puppy ate plastic? The answer to this question is that it can be very dangerous, but it depends on how much plastic your puppy ate.

A tiny amount of plastic will typically pass directly through a puppy’s digestive tract, and you might never know the difference. However, a larger amount could cause several health problems for your puppy, including intestinal blockages that can be fatal.

If your puppy eats plastic, stay calm, assess the situation, and, if needed, get veterinary help quickly. Typically, that would be for a large amount of plastic, but all plastic and puppy situations are different.

I hope you found the answers you were looking for in today’s blog. Please see my other puppy blogs if you have more. They’re filled with information, advice, and tips on being an award-winning puppy parent!