Dogs sometimes eat weird things.
They eat sandwiches they find on the sidewalk. They may chomp on grass they find in your lawn. They may eat dog poop they find in the park.
And a surprising number of dogs eat toilet paper.
Eating toilet paper can have serious health consequences for your dog, and it’s a reason to take your dog to the veterinarian right away.
Preventing your dog from eating toilet paper will help your canine friend lead a happier, healthier, and longer life.
Why Would a Dog Eat Toilet Paper?
Whether dogs are scattering toilet paper around the house like a snowstorm or they are chomping down on a whole roll at a time, they eat toilet paper for a variety of developmental, behavioral, and medical reasons.
Puppies, especially when they are seven to eleven weeks old, may eat toilet paper out of nothing more than curiosity.
This is the time in a puppy’s life when it is learning what to bite and what not to bite.
As a puppy stops nursing, it starts eating solid food, but it may simply not yet have learned what food is and is not.
Some older dogs crave paper because they are missing iron and trace minerals in their diet.
Dogs that lack mineral nutrition try to compensate by eating a variety of non-food substances, including toilet paper, but also small metal objects, cardboard, sticks, rocks, glass, and dirt.
This is a behavioral issue, but it is triggered by a nutritional deficiency.
There is a common eating disorder known as ‘pica’ that makes dogs (and humans) crave non-food items because of a zinc deficiency.
Pica also occurs in dogs that have gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, or intestinal parasites.
When a dog’s digestive tract can’t absorb vitamin B12 or something has happened to the dog’s small intestine so it is unusually short, or parasites are competing with the dog’s bloodstream for nutrients, odd eating behavior may result.
Dogs also sometimes eat paper because they are anxious or bored.
When dogs don’t get the human attention they crave, they may get your attention by making a mess, or just because they think it’s fun.
Separate Your Dog From Toilet Paper
The first thing to do to prevent your dog from eating toilet paper is to keep your dog and toilet paper separate. Make sure toilet paper is not easy for your dog to find.
Hide any extra rolls of toilet paper where your dog can’t find them.
Keep your fur baby safe from toilet paper the same way you would keep your human baby safe from the contents of your cabinet.
Make sure that pulling on a roll of toilet paper isn’t fun for your dog. Dogs often enjoy making a roll of toilet paper spin around. Use a dispenser with a hood over toilet paper so your dog can’t see the roll spin.
If you can’t supervise your dog all the time (and not many of us can), set up a gate in front of the bathroom door or keep your dog in a crate when you have to go out.
Dogs will sometimes retrieve used toilet paper from a trash can.
They do this because the used toilet paper smells like their people, and your scent, even those scents is comforting to your dog when she is alone.
If your dog is eating toilet paper from a trash can, start using a trash can with a secure lid, or keep the whole trash can out of reach of your dog.
If your dog is a dumpster diver, then keep your trash behind a closed door that your dog isn’t ingenious enough to open.
Toilet Paper Can Cause Intestinal Blockages in Dog
Eating toilet paper is never healthy for a dog, but eating small amounts of toilet paper isn’t likely to cause a healthy dog a lot of harm.
Problems come up when a dog that already has some kind of undiagnosed digestive issue eats paper and blockages follow.
Signs that your dog is suffering serious consequences of eating toilet paper include:
- Lethargy: Your dog may have stomach pain and just want to hide and curl up into a ball somewhere. Or your canine companion may just lose interest in playtime. Lethargy sometimes just makes a dog act out of sorts, without drastic changes in energy levels.
- Drooling: Toilet paper can contain scents, soaps, dyes, and various kinds of chemicals. All of these compounds can cause allergies either in your dog’s mouth or in the lining of the throat or stomach. As a result, your dog may drool. Drooling that stops can be a sign your dog has either passed the paper or become dehydrated.
- Oral allergies: Allergic reactions to toilet paper can make your dog’s lips, gums, or tongue red and inflamed.
- Vomiting: Regurgitating undigested food is more serious than regurgitating digested food. When food can’t get down to the stomach at all, there may be a serious blockage.
- Diarrhea: Dogs that eat used toilet paper can pick up bacteria that cause food poisoning.
- Constipation: Accumulated toilet paper in the intestines may block bowel movement. If the colon is completely blocked, your dog’s body can’t absorb water, and severe, life-threatening constipation may result.
Eating toilet paper can also cause longer-term, less severe symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
Large accumulations of toilet paper may have to be removed with surgery.
To Be on the Safe Side, Take Any Dog Eating Toilet Paper to the Vet
If you see your dog eating toilet paper, or you just suspect your dog has been eating toilet paper, don’t waste any time making an appointment with your vet.
Eating toilet paper can produce digestive problems that can become life-threatening for your dog in 24 hours or less.
Your veterinarian can identify any health problem, such as parasites or a nutritional deficiency, that is causing your dog to eat toilet paper.
And if the issues are behavioral, your vet can recommend a behavioral intervention.
Your dog may need additional training to stay healthy, but your vet can suggest low-cost options that won’t break your family budget.
Provide Your Dog with Fun Things to Do
There is an old saying about dogs and their humans: Tired dogs, happy people.
A dog that is worn out having acceptable kinds of fun is less likely to get into trouble. Dogs that are bored will look for things to do.
Not every dog is natural for agility training, retrieving, or scent work. Some dogs just aren’t that energetic.
But if your dog eats toilet paper to burn off excess energy, focusing on any or all of those activities may solve the problem.
Running alongside your bicycle and vigorous games of fetch may do the trick, too.
Train Your Dog in Basic Obedience Skills
To stop problems with eating toilet paper, at some point you will have to teach your dog basic commands like “Give” and “Leave it,” as well as “Come here.”
If you teach your dog these basic commands, they will realize that even though toilet paper is in reach, it is not a plaything for them. And certainly not their lunch.
You need to train your dog in basic commands, and then make sure your dog is listening.
And then after your dog has learned these commands from you, or at obedience school, or at an American Kennel Club (AKC) Family Dog Program, you need to reinforce the training over and over again.
Your dog is never too old to be rewarded for obeying your commands. But it doesn’t do any good to punish your dog for eating toilet paper or spreading it all over the floor.
Your dog won’t make an association between eating toilet paper or tearing up the toilet paper, and punishment.
Your dog will just think you are being strangely mean. Focus on rewarding the behaviors you want instead of punishing the behaviors you don’t.
How can you reinforce what your dog learns in obedience school?
If you see your dog with toilet paper in his mouth, place your hand under his mouth and say “Give.” If your dog sees your stash of toilet paper and goes for it, say “Leave it.”
Then give your dog a toy instead.
Make sure you are only rewarding your dog for behaviors you want. If your dog ignores your command to leave the toilet paper, don’t give it the toy later.
Your dog may conclude that you are rewarding them with a toy for eating the toilet paper.
On the other hand, if your dog picks up a toy instead of going for some contraband object, praise them, pet them, or give them a treat.
You want your dog to make legitimate high-value objects, much more attractive than a roll of toilet paper.
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