What Should You Do If Your Dog Ate Paper Towel?

Among all the weird things dogs seem to find attractive, paper surely makes the top of the list. There are many reasons why the paper is so alluring to dogs, but what you need to know is that ingesting paper, and especially paper towels, can be very dangerous.

If your dog ate paper towels, contact your veterinarian to see how to proceed. Depending on the type of paper and the amount ingested, your dog may need a medical examination as soon as possible.

What should you do if your dog ate paper towels?

First of all, it is important to check what was on the paper towels your dog swallowed. Clean paper towels that have been used to absorb water or other harmless liquids won’t poison your dog, but if that’s not the case you need to call your vet immediately.

Not all ingestions of paper towels are dangerous, but when in doubt it is always better to contact your veterinarian and make them aware of the situation. That way, if your dog starts acting strange even days after the ingestion, they will be prepared to act quickly.

Generally speaking, big dogs should have fewer troubles passing paper towels. However, a big amount of paper towels can be harmful to any dog, regardless of their size.

After alerting your veterinarian, keep an eye on your dog for the following hours to see if they show symptoms and pass the stools normally. Any unusual behavior should be considered a symptom and you should bring them in for an examination.

To help the process of passing paper towels, you can feed your dog canned pumpkin and cooked white rice instead of their usual meals. You can continue this bland diet even for a few days until you’re sure they’ve passed the paper towels or they’re out of danger.

Paper towels vs normal paper

Normal paper usually breaks down with fluids and stomach acids — for example, if your dog ate a kleenex, they should pass it without problems.

However, as times change, so do our everyday products. Today, we have an extra-strong paper that is more similar to cloth than paper and it’s usually the material we find in industrial paper towels.

This kind of material is capable of absorbing a great amount of water and still remaining very hard to break down. Useless to say, having something like that inside your dog’s stomach can be very dangerous.

As dog eating paper towels are more common than you may think, it is important to take into consideration the material they’re made of and be sure your dog has no access to this product.

What happens when a dog eats paper towels? 

People tend to underestimate the consequences of eating paper towels, but this kind of accident can easily cause harm to your dog and in the most serious cases it can even kill your pet.

Upset stomach 

Even when your dog is eventually able to pass the paper without serious consequences, at the very least you can expect an upset stomach.

Stomach discomfort or pain is common if a dog ate tissues, napkins, or any kind of paper. Your dog will most likely experience vomiting or diarrhea, or both. Luckily, it should not be worrying and it shall pass on its own.

When your dog has stomach-ache it would be better to suspend their normal diet and keep them on a bland diet of rice and white meat(chicken or rabbit), or canned pumpkin. It would be better to feed them several times per day but in small amounts, rather than a few bigger meals.

GI obstruction 

A blockage in the stomach or intestines caused by foreign objects is a fairly common problem in dogs. Our furry friends eat anything they find on the ground or have access to, and that’s why veterinarians are no strangers to this kind of problem.

Although far from rare, GI obstruction can still be very dangerous and painful for your pet, not to mention expensive for your wallet. In serious cases, surgery may be required, while if left untreated it may be fatal.

A blockage is usually provoked by those items that cannot be broken down by a dog’s stomach acids. Stomach acids in dogs are far stronger than humans’, that’s why dogs can eat a large amount of weird stuff with little to no consequences.

The type of paper ingested will play a big role, because if your dog ate toilet paper or similar kinds of paper that are fairly thin and weak, they’re less likely to develop GI obstruction.

On the other hand, paper towels made from cloth-like fabric are the real threat, because they aren’t digested and easily get stuck in the intestines.

Malnutrition

If the stomach of your dog is filled with paper towels, it goes without saying that they won’t be able to eat as much as before. This is unlikely to happen with one-time ingestion, but if your dog has the bad habit of eating paper towels often, it may be harmful.

It won’t take long for your dog to start developing the common symptoms of malnutrition, starting with a worrying weight loss and extreme weakness because they are not able to receive the nutrients they need.

Long-term consequences maybe even more serious and eventually lead to their death, so it’s important not to overlook these symptoms.

Malnutrition is especially dangerous for puppies and small dogs because their stomachs are smaller and therefore easily filled. If your puppy ate paper towels, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Poisoning 

Sometimes the paper in itself is not a threat, but what was left on it can harm your dog.

Dogs usually find their “unusual treats” in the trash can, where it’s just as easy to find paper towels or other wiping products covered in detergent, food, or other components that are poisonous to them.

Food is simply irresistible to dogs, but nowadays even some cleaning products have natural scents that could be alluring to your dog, so you should make sure they don’t have free access to the trash can.

Common symptoms of poisoning in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Weakness
  • Swelling in different parts of the face and body
  • Breathing problems
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Pale gums
  • Seizures

While vomiting and diarrhea are common to several health issues and maybe misinterpreted, any other symptom of the list requires an immediate medical examination.

Why do dogs eat paper towels?

Dog parents may never know what exactly it is that pushes their furry friends to eat the strangest things they can find, but we can make some careful guesses based on the most logical explanations.

Food leftovers 

A dog’s sense of smell is so strong that even just wiping your mouth with a napkin after you’ve finished a meal could be the reason why your dog ate the napkin afterward.

This could quickly turn into a tragedy because dogs may be attracted to food that is dangerous or poisonous to them.

Attention-seeking behavior 

You could be the unintentional culprit behind your dog’s dangerous eating habits. In fact, your dog will go great lengths to gain your attention and if they realize that a certain behavior sparks a certain reaction from you, they may feel compelled to repeat it.

For example, if every time your dog goes for the paper towel roll or tries to go through the trash can, you immediately rush to stop them, they may link that behavior with an immediate response from you.

Dogs who spend most of the day alone or otherwise feel neglected may be more inclined to develop this kind of behavior. You should always try to take some time for your pet every day.

Pica 

Pica is a serious condition where your dog feels compelled to eat non-edible things. Dogs that routinely eat shoes, plastic, metal, paper towels, and other foreign objects may be affected by this disease and are more at risk of developing harmful consequences that could put them in life-threatening situations.

Pica is usually considered a psychological illness, though there may be physical causes as well. Specific treatment for Pica doesn’t exist, but many pets already get better once they improve their diet and daily exercise. For other underlying issues, professional behavioral training may be required.

The most common causes of pica include:

  • Stress
  • Separation anxiety
  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Pent-up energy

The first thing to do if you suspect your dog is affected by pica is to consult a professional. They will help you identify the condition along with the primary cause.

Before you proceed with treatments for pica, be sure to remove all the foreign objects your dog may feel compelled to eat. As long as your dog is affected by this condition, the only solution is prevention.

Can dogs eat paper towels?

No, dogs cannot eat paper towels because they won’t digest the material and feel sick or become ill because of it.

Paper towels should not be underestimated because these industrial products have become increasingly strong and harder to break down even when soaked in liquid. This means it’ll be easier for them to cause blockage in your dog’s intestines.

A severe blockage may require endoscopy, surgery, or hospitalization, which means expensive medical bills and a great deal of pain and stress for your pet.

Eating paper towels may also be a distress call from your dog, that may need attention from you or be suffering from a psychological condition called pica.

Most issues related to the ingestion of paper towels will require a professional, but you can do your part by making sure your home supplies are stored where your dog cannot reach them.