Your kiddo is drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. They are having a great time, and all is well with the world. Then, something strange happens. Your dog begins eating the chalk.
You take the chalk away from them, but now you are worried. Will eating chalk harm your pooch? What should you do?
What happens if my dog eats chalk?
It’s natural to be concerned anytime your dog eats a nonfood item. The good news is that chalk is considered nontoxic, and is unlikely to cause any significant health effects.
However, there are a few concerns and side effects from eating chalk that you should be aware of. Your pooch may have stomach upset. In rare cases, they may develop an obstruction.
What’s in Chalk?
First, let’s take a look at what chalk is made of. Chalk is made of either calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate. These materials are completely benign, and probably in your home right now.
When you think of chalk, you probably think of the type used to draw on sidewalks or blackboards. However, technically, chalk is a carbonate rock. It’s made of calcium carbonate, which is the active ingredient in popular antacids like Tums.
What we think of as chalk can also be made from calcium sulfate. This is also a type of rock, better known as gypsum. Today, it’s used in everything from drywall to food manufacturing. Like its carbonate cousin, it’s nontoxic.
Colored chalk also contains substances that create pigments. These pigments often contained lead in the past. However, lead was phased out of most products in the 70s and 80s.
The last instance of chalk containing lead was in 2003. Lead was found in one brand of chalk, which prompted a recall.
Stomach Upset After Eating Chalk
Your pooch may experience stomach upset after eating chalk. Small amounts of chalk aren’t likely to cause problems. However, if they eat a significant amount of chalk, they may have gastrointestinal issues.
This doesn’t mean the chalk is toxic. Dogs have sensitive stomachs, despite their ability to eat things that would make us sick. When they eat something unusual, vomiting and diarrhea can occur. This is because their system isn’t used to the material.
Chalk is not digested by your dog’s system, which may also cause their body to push it out by vomiting or diarrhea.
The biggest concern after your dog eats chalk is an obstruction. Because chalk can’t be digested, it must move through their system in the same form it entered it.
Your dog’s digestive system isn’t designed to accommodate large pieces of material. Food goes into the stomach, where it’s broken down into smaller pieces before moving into the intestines.
This means that larger pieces of chalk can become lodged in the digestive tract causing an obstruction.
Signs of bowel obstruction in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Abdominal pain, weakness, and bloating are also common. Your dog may also be in a hunched position or whine frequently.
Mild stomach upset after eating chalk is normal. However, if it continues or is severe, or accompanied by severe stomach pain, your pooch may have a bowel obstruction.
Choking on Chalk
The other serious concern with chalk is choking. If your dog is eating chalk, it’s possible for them to choke on a piece. The most common sign of choking is gagging or retching.
They may also have difficulty breathing, paw at their mouth, or rub their face on the ground. A choking pooch will clearly be in distress.
What to do if my dog eats chalk?
If your pooch ate chalk, what to do will depend on their reaction. In most cases, you’ll simply need to monitor them. However, they may need medical treatment if they are ill after eating chalk.
Monitoring Your Dog
Assuming your dog has no immediate symptoms of choking after eating chalk, you’ll need to monitor them. Watch for signs of vomiting and diarrhea.
You’ll also need to watch their poop. Once they pass the chalk, they are out of the danger zone. Their poop will appear chalky, and may be a strange color if they consumed colored chalk. This is perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about.
If your pooch doesn’t pass the chalk within 24 hours, it’s best to speak with your vet. They may need an exam to rule out a bowel obstruction.
Treating Stomach Upset
If your pooch has vomiting or diarrhea after eating chalk, there’s a few things you can do. Famotide is commonly given to dogs for stomach upset. You’ll need to give them .5 mg per pound of body weight.
A 20 pound dog would take 10 mg of famotide, for example. The dose can be repeated every 12 hours.
You can also give pepto to dogs. The dosage for Pepto is one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Don’t exceed 4 teaspoons for dogs weighing over 40 pounds.
This dosage can be repeated every 6 to 8 hours.
In addition to or instead of medication, your pooch may need a bland diet for a few days. The best way to do this is to give them rice and boiled chicken in a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio. If you feed them 1 cup of food, you would give them 2/3 to 3/4 cup rice and 1/3 or 1/4 cup chicken.
This combination is easier for them to digest, so it gives their digestive system a bit of a break. This allows them time to repair their system before consuming their regular diet.
After 24 to 48 hours, you can begin giving them their regular food. It’s best to do this gradually. Start with 1/4 regular food to 3/4 bland food. Increase the amount of regular food by 1/4 each day until they are only eating regular food.
If your dog is choking, the first thing to do is check their mouth. If you can see the obstruction, you may be able to sweep it out of their mouth. Be careful not to push it further in. If you don’t see it, or can’t reach it, you’ll need to perform the hiemlich.
First, you’ll need to lay them on their side. Hold their back against your stomach. Use a closed fist to find the hollow spot under the ribs. Pull up and in firmly two to three times.
This should dislodge the object. Once the emergency is over, it’s a good idea to get your pooch checked out by the vet.
If your pooch has a bowel obstruction, you’ll need to bring them to the vet. This cannot be treated at home. Surgery may be required.
How to prevent my dog from eating chalk?
Chalk isn’t likely to cause your dog any serious harm, but it’s not a good idea for them to eat it. There’s a slight risk of bowel obstruction or choking, and a chance of stomach upset.
There are a few things you can do to prevent your pooch from eating chalk.
Removing the Temptation
The easiest way to stop your dog from eating chalk is to keep it out of their reach. Keep any chalk away from your pooch. However, this isn’t always possible or convenient.
To stop your dog from eating chalk, you’ll need to know why they are eating it in the first place.
When your pooch eats non-food items, this is known as pica. Pica is typically caused by a medical or behavioral issue.
Some dogs with pica will eat lots of nonfood items, while others will only consume one strange item.
Behavioral Causes of Pica
Common behavioral causes of pica include separation anxiety, stress or anxiety, and boredom. In some cases, treating the underlying problem will stop the pica.
If your pooch is experiencing anxiety or stress, eliminate the cause if possible. Changes to your dog’s routine or household are common anxiety triggers. A traumatic event can also cause anxiety.
Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is left alone. They may become destructive when left alone. They may also pee or poop in the house and bark excessively.
Severe cases of anxiety can be treated with anxiety medication. You’ll need to speak with your vet if you think your pet would benefit from medication. A behavioralist may also be helpful for working through anxiety with your pooch.
Boredom is easier to treat. If your pooch is bored, you’ll simply need to provide them with more mental and physical stimulation. Be sure they get plenty of physical exercise. This can include walking and play sessions.
You’ll also need to stimulate their mind. Food puzzles are one way to do this. Your pooch will need to manipulate the toy to get the kibble.
Surpisingly, TV can also help entertain your dog. Dogs vision is different than ours, but they can see the images on a TV screen just as we do. They typically enjoy shows with real animals that they are interested in during their daily lives.
Prey animals, including squirrels and birds, and other dogs are popular with dogs. There are even doggie TV channels these days.
Tv can help ease your dog’s boredom, particularly when you aren’t home. However, it’s not a replacement for regular activity and interaction.
Physical Causes of Pica
There are a wide variety of physical causes with pica. Nutritional and hormonal imbalances are common culprits. Diseases, including thyroid disorder and diabetes can also cause pica.
If your dog has pica, your vet will perform tests to determine if there’s a physical cause.