Even the most careful pet parents will have to deal with their dog eating something they’re not supposed to eat at some point in time. Some of these things will be mostly innocuous, but others won’t.
If your dog swallowed a whole toothpick, it’s better to call your vet immediately because toothpicks are very dangerous for your dog, just like they are for humans, and require immediate treatment.
What should you do if your dog ate a toothpick?
There might be situations where you can’t bring your dog to the vet, you can’t get in contact with a professional or you might want to assess the situation before you go because a mere medical examination could come out quite costly.
There are a few things you can do at home after your dog swallowed a toothpick, but my advice would be not to wait for major symptoms to show up before you take them to a professional, because it could be too late or it could lead to expensive surgeries, in fact, any minor discomfort should be taken into consideration in this kind of situation.
Wood vs plastic toothpicks
Most toothpicks are made of wood, but some of them are made of plastic. In the first case, there’s a chance your dog may have chewed on them before swallowing them, which could lower the possibility of getting wounded, making wooden toothpicks seemingly less dangerous.
However, in both cases, it’s important to remember that your dog’s gastric acids are not strong enough to dissolve the toothpick, especially the plastic ones.
This means that the whole toothpick will travel through their digestive system, effectively increasing the chances of wounds or internal bleeding, which is why a prompt intervention is fundamental.
How to help your dog in this situation.
The easiest and most useful thing you can do as soon as your dog ate the toothpick is to feed them more food. It should be the kind of soft food you find in white bread or sandwiches, for example.
The ideal solution would be to spread a nice amount of butter on a slice of white bread and feed it to your dog immediately after they swallowed the toothpick.
The goal is to wrap the stick with soft food so that it can pass easily (and hopefully without causing damage) through your dog’s intestines.
After that, you should check if your dog successfully expelled the toothpick(s). This won’t be a pleasant step for you, but it’s necessary to ensure your dog is now safe.
Using gloves (not too thick ones or you might not be able to feel anything), you should check the feces by squeezing each piece and rubbing it between your fingers until you find the remnants of the toothpick. Of course, the little stick won’t come out looking the same as it was when it went in, so you should be very careful when checking.
You can also pick up the stools with a plastic bag like you would do on walks and check them through that, but it might make it more difficult to recognize the toothpick to the touch.
Some people also recommend giving your dog Sauerkraut, which is raw cabbage cut in very thin strips that are covered in salt and then fermented.
It’s originally a German recipe and you can find it ready-to-eat in most supermarkets. Your dog probably won’t go crazy about it, but there are ways to make it more appealing to them, such as mixing it with beef broth.
You can provide 1-2 tablespoons of Sauerkraut to your dog at every meal for a few days along with plenty of water and see how it goes.
Sauerkraut is a good alternative to peanut butter if you want to avoid giving your dog too much fat, which is not healthy for their diet. The small strips of cabbage should wrap around the toothpick, softening their pointy ends and also helping digestion.
What not to do if your dog ate a toothpick.
You might think the situation isn’t much different from the one where your dog eats a stick because in both cases your dog ate wood, but it’s not the same thing.
Toothpicks are, generally speaking, much smaller and much sharper than the average stick. Also, dogs usually use sticks for gnawing, while toothpicks are mainly found on food that your dog will want to eat, hence a bigger chance they might swallow it all by mistake.
One procedure that is commonly used when our pets eat foreign objects and that you should absolutely avoid in the case of tooth sticks is to induce vomiting.
Chances are that while coming back up through your dog’s esophagus as they gag, the toothpick might only do more damage.
Another thing you must avoid is to take any of the aforementioned procedures as the recommended way to deal with this problem. There’s no guarantee your dog will be safe because you fed them soft food or Sauerkraut.
These are emergency procedures that can’t nor shouldn’t replace a medical consultation. The first thing to do should always be to call your veterinary.
What could happen if your dog swallowed a toothpick?
As with everything else, the main rule regarding dogs and foreign objects is that when you have a big dog and a small item, it should be fine; on the other hand, a small dog with a big item could be dangerous.
The average toothpick is really small and it might be easier for big dogs to digest it without problems, but don’t assume they can just because of their size. You should always take that extra step to assure their safety.
Small dogs are at risk, whether it’s a big toothpick or a small one. The pointy ends can pierce through the walls of their gastrointestinal apparatus.
If the toothpick pierces their bowel, gut bacteria might mix with their blood and cause bad infections like peritonitis, which can be fatal if not treated in time.
Another risk, especially for small dogs, is to suffocate if the toothpick gets stuck in their throat or in their esophagus. Moreover, it could cause a blockage and prevent them from eating or expelling anything.
Symptoms to look out for.
When your dog eats a toothpick, it’s better to play it safe, which means that you shouldn’t wait for any of the following symptoms to become prominent, because when they do the situation might be too compromised and invasive surgery will be required, which is both expensive for your wallet and extremely painful for your pet.
– Vomiting: one of the most common signs of discomfort in your dog. It’s worrying especially if it’s projectile vomiting and it could be the way for your dog to get rid of the toothpick. It’s dangerous because it could get stuck in their throat.
– Lethargy: if your dog looks lazier than usual, gets tired more easily, or has lower energy levels than normal there is definitely the need for a check-up.
– Lack of appetite: your dog might be feeling too weak or sick to eat, or something prevents them from absorbing any food. It’s a major sign of gastrointestinal problems.
– Unusual posture: if you notice your dog walking or moving differently from the usual, they might be feeling pain or discomfort in their abdomen, due to the toothpick causing a blockage or internal wounds.
– Pale gums: this is a very bad sign and one that should never be overlooked. Pale gums in dogs can mean many things, but in the case of dangerous ingestions, it might be due to internal bleeding or kidney disease caused by infections or bacteria.
– Fever: if your dog ate a toothpick, you should check their temperature regularly. It should be around 101-102, if it’s higher there might be an ongoing infection that requires immediate treatment.
– Blood: blood in the vomit or feces is the sign that the toothpick might have caused bleeding wounds by piercing the stomach or the intestines of your dog. Bring your dog to the vet immediately.
Can dogs eat toothpicks?
Dogs should never eat toothpicks. This is one of those items that should never be ingested by your pet, not even by mistake.
Wood and dogs don’t get along, because they can’t digest it. Some types of wood can be even poisonous to them. And if the toothpick is made of plastic, it’s even worse.
Dogs should never get access to toothpicks and it’s important to be very careful when handling these items.
Let’s say you bought a takeaway sandwich that has one of those funny toothpicks with a flag on top and you left it on the kitchen counter or on your living room table while you go fetch a drink. Those five seconds you turn away or leave the room seem innocuous but could be fatal to your dog.
Taking that extra minute to find a more suitable place for your things can save your pet’s life, so be sure to always think responsibly.