We often see dogs that eat shoes in movies and unfortunately, this is a dangerous reality. Dogs will sink their teeth in anything that is soft and chewable unless they’re trained otherwise.
If your dog ate a leather shoe or any other leather-made item and they don’t pass it within 36 hours, you should take them to the vet. If the amount they ate is considerable (for example, a whole shoe) you should not wait before taking them to the emergency room.
What should you do if your dog swallowed leather?
The first thing you should do is determine how much your dog has eaten, in fact, if your dog has eaten a small piece of leather, he will most likely digest it without problems, but bigger amounts could indeed cause trouble.
In that case, you should immediately bring your dog to the veterinarian because they will most likely need surgery to free the intestines from the material.
On the other hand, if you think your dog has only eaten a moderate amount of leather, you can keep them under observation to see if they keep eating, drinking, and behaving normally, but at the first sign of discomfort, you should nonetheless call your veterinarian or bring them directly to the emergency room.
If your dog is passing the leather, you may start to notice pieces of it in the stools. This is a good sign because not passing the item means your dog will need a trip to the vet, even if they’re not showing symptoms.
Sometimes passing leather through the stools may be a very slow and difficult process, so if you see pieces of leather sticking out of your dog’s anus, do not pull them out because you could damage their intestines. They will eventually come out.
There are some items for which it is hard to tell what the consequences for your dog could be. For example, you may find that your dog ate baseball leather. This is very common because dogs find these items very entertaining.
Now, it is unlikely your dog managed to swallow the baseball whole, and they most probably chewed it into pieces. These pieces shouldn’t be big enough for your dog to be severely sick.
However, it could be the other way around and your dog may have swallowed big pieces which can be very dangerous. When you happen to be in a situation where you’re not sure what or how much your dog has actually eaten, making a preventive call to your veterinarian is the safest option.
How to help your dog pass leather.
As we mentioned, even if your dog seems fine after eating leather, they will need to pass it and you need to check the stools to confirm that they have indeed expelled it.
To encourage this process, you can help your dog bulk their stools by temporarily enriching their diet with spongy food like bread, mashed potatoes, or cottage cheese.
You can also help the stools pass more easily by putting a knob of vaseline on their paw for them to lick off.
Reminder: it can take up to 36 hours for a dog to pass leather. However, if they haven’t passed it after a couple of days, you should definitely have them checked.
What happens if a dog eats leather?
Swallowing leather has more or less the same consequences for your dog as eating plastic or rubber. Usually, these materials aren’t poisonous for your pet, but could still be dangerous and even put them in a life-threatening situation.
The leather is the same. The material itself isn’t in the toxic category, but it can easily provoke gastrointestinal blockage and this is usually why it is considered harmful for dogs to eat leather.
We can categorize GI obstruction in:
- Partial: allows food/liquids to pass in small amounts
- Complete: doesn’t allow food/liquids to pass at all
Both of these conditions require immediate medical attention.
In some cases, your veterinarian will proceed with an endoscopy, during which they will use a long flexible tube with a camera on one end to check inside your dog, find the cause of the obstruction, and, if possible, remove it.
Severe cases may require abdominal surgery and hospitalization of your pet.
There are different degrees of severity for partial obstruction. It may be so small that your dog doesn’t experience particular discomfort and keeps digesting regularly, but the absence of leather in the stools is a worrying sign.
It can also be as severe as allowing only liquids to pass. In this case, your dog will most likely feel sick and have diarrhea.
Partial obstruction is not to be overlooked because it can get worse with time. If your dog doesn’t pass the item, they will need a medical examination.
Complete obstruction of the intestines is very dangerous and will be very painful for your dog. Symptoms of complete obstruction include:
- Lack of appetite/inability to eat
- Weight loss
A partial obstruction can turn into a complete obstruction if not taken care of. Luckily, symptoms of a complete obstruction are hard to ignore and usually show up immediately in the hours following the ingestion.
Why do dogs eat leather?
Leather is attractive to dogs because it offers them something to try their teeth and jaw strength on. All dogs have this instinct, and this is why specific dog chew toys exist for this purpose.
Puppies go through a teething period just like children and they will try to chew anything in their reach. Sometimes this may be a symptom of discomfort, as growing teeth can be painful for them.
Another reason why your dog may be attracted to a leather item is the smell. For example, your dog ate a leather glove, not because of the glove itself but because you touched something with it that your dog finds attractive, like food.
Sometimes they may just bite things for entertainment or as a sort of game. If your dog ate your leather belt or their leather leash, they may be trying to get your attention.
Some dogs easily get lonely and anxious if they spend a lot of time alone. Boredom also kicks in in these situations, so they might keep busy with things they shouldn’t touch. Your dog shouldn’t be understimulated, so make sure to spend time with them every day.
Pica can be very dangerous, because most of the things your dog feels compelled to eat may compromise their health and even put their life at risk.
On top of that, the causes behind pica are very different, but maybe the most worrying and difficult to manage is the psychological health of your pet. In fact, pica is often a mental health issue that may require professional therapy and medications.
Other common causes of pica in dogs include:
- Abandonment issues
- Lack of specific nutrients in your dog’s diet
- Liver/pancreas disease
It would be safer to bring your dog to the veterinarian if you notice this recurring behavior because it’s important to understand the cause in order to cure it.
Depending on the cause, your dog may need behavioral training, psychological treatment, or a new improved diet.
How to prevent dogs from eating leather.
Now that you’re aware of the risks of eating leather for dogs, you can understand the importance of avoiding the problem at the root. As in most cases, prevention is the best medicine.
There are several ways in which you can prevent your dog from eating leather:
– Store away leather items where your dog can’t find them: sometimes we forget that some of the items we use every day, like gloves or shoes, can be made of leather and if we leave them lying around, they become easy targets for our dogs. Storing your shoes in a closet or in a shoe rack as soon as you get home should become a habit.
– Try not to leave your dog alone during the day: lonely dogs may develop unhealthy coping habits. You could ask a friend or a dog-sitter to keep them company a few hours a day while you’re gone, or you could consider adopting another dog.
– Train your puppy: if you train your dog to avoid certain items from an early age, they will become well-behaved adults. Make sure your puppy understands there are certain things like toys or balls that are chewable and others that are forbidden.
– Redirect their chewing frenzy: online and at your local pet store you will find appropriate chew toys and even leather chews for dogs in case your pup is really into that. Remember to choose carefully by considering the size and jaw strength of your dog.
Can dogs eat leather?
Dogs cannot eat leather. Although the material itself is not toxic, the risk of gastrointestinal obstruction is very high and should not be overlooked.
Eating inedible objects could be a symptom of pica, which is dangerous because it could push your pet to eat something that could be potentially fatal to them. A dog affected by pica will require treatment based on the cause behind the condition, so have your dog examined as soon as possible.
A dog that chews leather isn’t necessarily sick, but we as pet parents need to discourage this behavior in order to keep them safe. It is important to take the right precautions to keep leather away from our dogs and to keep them entertained in a healthy way.