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What happens if a dog eats paper?

My dog loves paper. If the bathroom door is open, she helps herself to the toilet paper. Paper towels? Not around her. I’ve cleaned up more paper messes than I care to count.

I never thought about it being a danger to her health, only my sanity. I was desperate to get her to stop eating all my paper products, so I finally dove in and did some research.   It turns out that eating paper can be dangerous to dogs. 

What happens if a dog eats paper?

You come home from work, and find that your four legged family member has been busy while you were gone. The evidence of their naughtiness is everywhere. 

You are picking up the mess when you begin to wonder, what happens if they eat the paper? Will it hurt them? 

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario is that your pooch will pass the paper in their poop. If they ate paper, keep an eye on their poop for a few days. You should eventually see small bits of paper within their poop, indicating that it passed through their digestive tract. 

The good news is that paper rarely causes problems for dogs. Most of the time, it just passes harmlessly through their digestive system. Dogs can’t digest paper, but it’s soft and flexible nature make it relatively easy to pass. 

Bowel Obstruction

On the other end of the spectrum, you have bowel obstruction. It is possible for paper to get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract, which causes a blockage. 

The more paper they eat, the higher the risk of this occurring. Smaller dogs are also at a higher risk, because they have smaller digestive tracts. However, it’s really proportional. A large dog can eat more paper than a small dog without problems, but even the largest dogs can get an obstruction from too much paper. 

When this occurs, food or waste can’t move through the digestive tract. A partial blockage will allow some material to get through, but a complete blockage won’t allow anything to pass through. 

Signs of an intestinal blockage include constipation, lethargy, and stomach pain or swelling. 

Chemical Concerns 

Depending on the type of paper your dog ate, there may be chemicals in it that can be toxic. 

Printed paper poses a risk due to ink. Because it’s not meant to be ingested, the ink used to create printed paper can be mildly toxic. If eaten in a large amount, it can cause problems for your dog. 

Other types of paper can also pose a risk. Paper towels, for example, typically contain formaldehyde and chlorine. These are toxic when ingested. 

In most cases, these aren’t toxic enough to cause major problems for your pooch. They may experience vomiting or diarrhea as a result. 

Why does my dog eat paper?

Dogs typically eat paper due to pica. This is a condition that causes your dog to eat non-food items. Pica can have either behavioral or physical causes. Some dogs will eat one type of object, like paper. Others will eat a wide variety of non food objects. However, there are a few other reasons your pooch might snack on paper. 

Playing With Paper

The simplest reason for your dog eating paper is because they are playing with it. Some dogs, including mine, love the sound and feel of tearing paper. 

If your dog is tearing paper with their mouth, they can accidentally eat a small amount of it. 

It Tastes and Smells Good 

Paper itself is unlikely to be tasty to your pooch. However, if it’s been exposed to food, it suddenly becomes a gourmet treat. Paper towels used to wrap food, for example, will keep the smell and taste of the food. 

Your pooch will then eat the paper, because it smells and tastes like food. 

Pica Behavioral Causes 

If pica has a behavioral cause, it’s likely related to stress or anxiety. Humans often stress eat. Dogs have a tendency to become destructive when anxious, or eat non food items. 

Boredom can also be the culprit. If a dog is bored, they will find a way to entertain themselves. For many, this includes eating things they shouldn’t. 

Pica Physical Causes 

Pica can have many physical causes. These include nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, or problems with digestion. Anemia, parasites, and liver disease can also trigger pica. 

How to stop my dog from eating paper?

There are a few strategies to get your pooch to stop snacking on paper. They involve removing access to paper, treating physical issues, and correcting behavioral issues. 

Removing Access 

The first step to stopping your dog eating paper is to remove their access to it. Keep paper products out of reach of your dog. Keep lids on trash cans. You may need to keep your pooch out of your bathroom or kitchen, where there are lots of paper products. 

Of course,  dogs can be ingenuitive, so you’ll also need to take some other steps. 

Considering Behavioral Issues

If your pooch is bored or anxious, this may be why they are eating paper. If your dog is bored, they need more mental or physical stimulation. Puzzle toys and regular walks and play sessions can help relieve boredom. 

Consider turning the tv on when you are away from home. Dogs enjoy watching tv, and it helps keep them entertained. They are partial to shows that feature other dogs, or animals that are potential prey. 

This isn’t a replacement for other types of activity, but it can be benefical. 

If your pooch is anxious, try to determine the cause. A change in your household or routine can trigger anxiety in dogs. If there’s a lot of activity in your home, they may need a quiet area to relax. Try to keep their routine as normal as possible. 

Physical Causes of Dog Eating Paper

If behavioral issues don’t seem to be the  culprit, you’ll need to look at physical issues. This requires working with your vet. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the pica. 

What to do if my dog eats paper?

If your dog eats paper, there are a few steps you’ll need to take. 

Remove Access to Paper

If your pooch has eaten paper, the first step is to make sure they don’t eat more. Place any paper products where your pooch can’t reach them. If they love getting into the trash, as mine does, consider getting trash cans with lids to prevent your dog from accessing them.

Determine What Type and How Much 

First, try to determine how much paper your dog ate, and what type of paper it is. If you are concerned about chemicals in the paper product, call your vet or animal poison control for advice. 

You may find it helpful to write down everything you can about the incident. This includes the type of paper, any other ingredients, the amount your dog ate, and when they ate it. 

If you need to consult with your vet later, this information will be very useful. 

Monitor Their Poop 

Now, it’s a waiting game. You’ll need to monitor their poop to see if they pass the paper. They should pass it within 24 to 48 hours.

If you don’t see any paper in their poop, this is a bit concerning. However, it could be that they digested the paper. Some types, like toilet paper, break down easily. 

It’s also possible that they didn’t actually eat the paper, and only shredded it. 

It’s also possible that they have a blockage. If you notice any signs of a blockage, you’ll need to take them to the vet. 

Watch For Signs of Blockage 

Even if your dog passes the paper, you’ll need to keep an eye out for signs of a bowel obstruction. However, you’ll need to watch them closer if they don’t pass the paper. 

The signs of an intestinal blockage include constipation, lethargy, bloody stool, stomach pain, and stomach swelling. They may also lose their appetite. 

If you notice these signs after your pooch eats paper, they need immediate veterinary care. 

If They Show Signs of Toxicity 

If your pooch ate something that contains toxic chemicals, it’s best to contact your vet or animal poison control. You should also seek help if they show signs of eating something toxic, including vomiting or diarrhea.

Get a Checkup 

If your pooch makes a habit of eating paper, it’s best to get them a check up. A dog regularly consuming non food products can be suffering from pica, which can have a physical cause. If physical causes are ruled out, you can look to your dog’s behavior.