You wouldn’t usually think of pencils as dangerous items, however, some dogs find enjoyment in chewing pencils and other stationery, which sometimes lead to unpredictable and harmful consequences.
If your dog ate a pencil, you should immediately contact your veterinarian, in fact, even if the pencil may pass through without problems, it could also cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestines.
What should you do if your dog eats a pencil?
The first thing you should do is call your veterinarian because he will be able to tell you how to proceed and after assessing the situation, he may suggest that you bring your dog for an examination.
If you are unable to bring your dog in or in the absence of worrying symptoms, he will probably ask you some of these questions to understand better what happened:
- How long since your dog ate the pencil?
- How much of the pencil did your dog eat?
- Did they chew it or did they swallow big pieces of it?
- Is your dog eating and drinking normally since the ingestion?
- Has your dog pooped after eating the pencil?
- Has your dog shown any abnormal symptoms or behavior?
Your veterinarian will probably recommend keeping an eye on your dog and will discourage you from trying to induce vomiting, because if your dog chewed the pencil, the wood shards may hurt their esophagus coming up.
One thing you can do to help the pencil pass through without hurting your dog and also to help your pooch push the pencil out is bulking the stools with specific foods such as bread.
The most common symptoms of GI obstruction are diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog is experiencing one or both of these symptoms, they will need a medical examination.
What should you do if your dog ate the metal part of the pencil?
Some pencils have a small part at the top that usually holds the eraser. This part of the pencil is made from aluminum.
Aluminum isn’t easily digested and has the potential to cause internal wounds and blockage. Although not confirmed, there has also been at least one case of a dog poisoned by aluminum.
If your dog ate the metal part of the pencil, bring them to the veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Hotline.
What should you do if your dog ate the pencil eraser?
Pencil erasers aren’t usually big enough to cause any major issue for your dog, however, if you notice diarrhea or vomiting you should get your dog checked.
These erasers are usually made from synthetic rubber or plastic, which won’t be digested by your dog, so you should check their stools to see if the eraser pops out. If it doesn’t appear after a couple of days, you should bring your dog to the vet.
As in the case of Magic Erasers, pencil erasers can cause gastrointestinal blockage, especially in small dogs. Big dogs are unlikely to be affected by such a small eraser unless they eat several ones.
Are pencils harmful to dogs?
Pencils are not toxic to dogs, but as all inedible objects, they pose some risks for the health of your pet, for example, gastrointestinal obstruction. This is true for most types of pencils, including charcoal and graphite pencils, and crayons too.
Unfortunately, small dogs are always more at risk in these situations, so if your puppy ate a pencil there’s a higher chance their unsupervised snack will cause blockage in the GI tract.
Colored pencils are slightly different because the dyes that provide the color may not be the safest thing your dog will eat, but the amount used to produce them is so insignificant, they’re not likely to cause problems to your dog.
Eating pencils may be worrying for another reason: it may be a symptom of pica, which is a condition where your dog is attracted to inedible items. If it’s not the first time your dog eats something strange, you should consult your veterinarian.
Most pet parents are extremely concerned when their dog eats a pencil because pencils are immediately associated with lead poisoning. However, this is actually one of the least concerning aspects of eating a pencil.
Is the lead from a pencil dangerous for dogs?
It is not possible to eat lead from a pencil. This is a common misconception, as we usually refer to pencils as “lead pencils”, while actually, lead hasn’t been used in pencil production for more than 200 years now.
The heart of the pencil is made from a form of carbon called graphite, which isn’t likely to make your dog sick.
Despite that, there is a small risk related to lead ingestion and pencils: some pencils are made with toxic or lead-based paints. The usual yellow pencil you can find anywhere could be one of these examples.
It is important to notice that US-based manufacturers have stopped using lead-based paints a long time ago. However, if the pencil comes from a different country, there is a small chance to find these poisonous paint.
If you suspect that your dog ate pencil lead, you should bring them to the vet, because lead can make your dog anemic and they will require immediate assistance.
This happens because lead has the ability to substitute itself to calcium and zinc in the cells, slowly destroying them from the inside.
A dog that ate a lead pencil and is suffering from anemia will show a variety of symptoms, among which pale gums, weakness, weight loss, black stools, and eating dirt.
Treatments for lead poisoning include gastric lavage to clean the stomach if your dog gets medical help within a couple of hours from the ingestion; a detox therapy or administration of other drugs are also alternatives.
Most dogs recover within 48 hours and prognosis is generally positive if the animal is treated quickly.
What happens if your dog ate the wood of the pencil?
As we said before, the graphite in itself is not dangerous for your dog, but the material around the pencil could be. Some pencils are made from plastic or similar materials, but most are made from wood, which can be harmful for more than one reason.
For starters, wood doesn’t get digested at all and it comes out the way it went in. If you find the pieces of the pencils when inspecting the stools, your dog should be out of danger. If the pencil doesn’t come out, it’s time to go to the veterinarian.
A pencil stuck in the body will cause obstruction, which in the case of wood is particularly dangerous because wood easily splinters and could cause internal wounds and bleeding.
Most dogs chew the pencil thoroughly before they accidentally swallow any shards or pieces, which only increases the chances of some fragments hurting their insides and causing dangerous infections that can lead to death.
Also, some types of wood are poisonous for your dog, one of them being cedarwood (Cupressus). Pencils worldwide are usually made with the so-called incense cedar, which is part of the Cupressaceae family. Although rare, wood poisoning is a possibility.
Symptoms to look out for
GI obstruction remains the most likely consequence of wood ingestion, so you should contact your veterinarian and watch over your dog to see if any of the following symptoms arise:
– Vomiting: this is usually the first symptom to show up, along with diarrhea. It can be misinterpreted because vomiting can be associated with many other issues and not all of them are overly concerning. However, if your dog vomits after eating a pencil it would be better to call your veterinarian.
– Diarrhea: diarrhea can be a symptom of GI obstruction because food cannot pass through the intestines and therefore only liquids come out. It’s particularly worrying if it’s associated with other symptoms, such as abdominal pain.
– Abdominal pain: your dog experiences pain when touched on the belly and they probably look bloated as well. A dog with abdominal pain will have a hard time lying down in their usual positions and could also move or walk unusually.
– Bleeding: wood shards can open wounds along the GI tract. Internal bleeding is not always evident, but if you notice very dark stools or blood in the vomit, then your dog will need to be seen as soon as possible because they may be developing peritonitis, an inflammation of the membrane of the abdominal cavity.
– Shock: if your dog developed infections because of the internal wounds, they could go into shock unpredictably because of the bacterial toxins. Unfortunately, this can happen at any time and without forewarning and death due to shock may follow.
A complete medical examination will be necessary to determine the problem. X-rays may be necessary if a blockage is suspected.
Once your veterinarian has identified the object and its position, they can decide how to proceed.
In the case of peritonitis, your dog will most probably need to be hospitalized in order to stabilize them. The diagnosis of peritonitis can be done through x-rays and blood analysis.
When possible, it would be recommended to visit your trusted veterinarian because they already have the complete medical history of your dog.
Once the pencil (or pieces of it) are located, the veterinarian will establish whether to proceed with endoscopy or surgery. Your dog will be put under general anesthesia in both cases.
Both procedures are invasive, but surgery is certainly the one that could bear more consequences in the long run, especially for old or sick dogs.
Endoscopy is actually used for the diagnosis of blockage as well, and sometimes the veterinarian may decide to proceed immediately with the removal of the object through this procedure.
If the obstruction is deemed too difficult to remove with an endoscopy, your dog will need to undergo medical surgery, where the abdomen will be opened in order to remove the object.
Peritonitis will require several medications to reduce inflammation and stabilize the patient, including antibiotics. After that, your veterinarian may decide to proceed with surgery to repair any damage caused by the perforation of the abdomen.
Can dogs eat pencils?
Your dog shouldn’t eat pencils because inedible objects are usually the main cause of gastrointestinal obstruction in dogs.
Although pencils we use nowadays are not made from lead and are usually non-toxic, countries outside of the US could have different regulations in regards to lead-based paints for pencils and therefore if your pencil was produced abroad it may be poisonous for your pet.
Wood pencils are especially dangerous because wood tends to splinter easily and the sharp fragments could open wounds inside the intestines.
Even if your dog is a big chewer, remember that there are safer and much healthier alternatives designed for their needs, and if your dog has diet or behavioral problems, consider consulting your veterinarian or a professional trainer.