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What happens if my dog eats steel wool?

You give your fur baby the best. Perhaps you spoke to your vet or spent hours scouring the internet determining what would be the best diet for them.

You’re cautious about the treats you give them. You know things like cooked bones are off the table. You think your pet is perfectly safe. After all, you’ve done all you can to ensure their health and safety. 

Unfortunately, your pooch has other plans. You discover them eating a steel wool pad, and your stomach drops. After all the time, effort, and money you spent to keep them safe, they are now in serious danger. 

What happens if my dog eats steel wool?

There are some very serious consequences to your dog eating steel wool. Unfortunately, steel wool is made of, you guessed it, steel. No wool in sight. 

These small strips of steel are sharp, which can cut your pooch’s digestive tract. And that’s just the beginning of the problems. 

What is Steel Wool? 

Steel is pulled through a machine to remove sharp edges. It’s then bundled together into what we know as steel wool. If you’ve ever used a steel wool pad and got a metal splinter, you know how sharp these pieces can be. 

Many steel wool pads also contain cleaning agents, like harsh soaps. Brillo and SOS pads are examples of this. Other types of steel wool don’t contain soaps, but they do contain larger pieces of steel wire. 

Why Would A Dog Eat Steel Wool? 

There are two main reasons why a dog might eat steel wool. The first is because it smells and tastes appetizing. 

If you’ve recently cleaned your grill or your favorite frying pan with steel wool, it contains food residue. Unfortunately, this is very appealing to dogs. It has the smell and even taste of food. 

It’s natural for your pooch to grab it and munch down, thinking its food. After all, it tastes and smells yummy. 

The other reason a dog might eat steel wool is pica. Pica is a condition that causes dogs to crave and eat non-food items. Some dogs will crave only one non food item, while others will eat many types of non food item. 

Pica can be caused by behavioral or emotional issues. These include anxiety, separation anxiety, and boredom. It can also be caused by physical issues. These include diseases and nutritional deficiencies. 

Steel Wool Dangers

Steel wool is relatively safe when it’s in its intended state. The bundled steel wires are unlikely to cut you due to the way it’s designed. The problem is that when your dog eats it, it will begin to unravel. This exposes the individual steel wires, which are sharp. 

Steel Wool Soap

One of the concerns with steel wool pads is the soap that some contain. In addition to soap, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, there are some toxic chemicals contained in the pads manufactured with soap. 

SOS pads, for example, contain sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate can cause cardiovascular and blood toxicity. They also contain titanium dioxide, which can cause cancer. 

If your pooch eats a steel wool pad with soap, you can expect vomiting and diarrhea due to the stomach irritation. These are the body’s way of trying to eliminate the problematic substances. 

The problem is that vomiting also attempts to bring up the steel wool. This can increase the risk of cuts or injury. 

Internal Injury 

Internal injury is one of the dangers of ingesting steel wool. Because the individual pieces are sharp, they can cause cuts to your dog once inside their body. 

Your pooch may experience cuts in their mouth, esophagus, or stomach soon after swallowing the steel wool. If you notice bleeding or they are vomiting blood, this has likely occurred. 

However, it can also cause cuts in the lower half of the digestive system. The stomach will push the steel wool into the intestines. The intestines contract to push it through, which increases the chances of injury. 

In cases of mild injury, you can expect bloody vomiting and diarrhea. However, more severe wounds can cause peritonitis. This occurs when the intestines are perforated, allowing their contents to leak into the abdominal cavity. 

This can be fatal. 

Intestinal Blockage

The other concern with steel wool is intestinal blockage. Because your pooch’s stomach can’t digest steel wool, it must go out through their intestines and rectum. 

The digestive process may unspool the steel, which creates small strips of metal. These may be passed without incident. However, there’s still a concern of cuts or injury to the intestines due to the sharpness of the metal. 

There’s also a chance that this wire will ball up in the intestines, and not be able to be passed. This is an intestinal blockage. 

The symptoms of intestinal blockage include stomach pain which can become severe, vomiting, gas, and bloating. Your pooch will be in obvious pain. They may be restless or lethargic. 

What to do if my dog eats steel wool?

It’s a scary situation when your dog eats steel wool, because it can cause serious harm to them. However, dogs are resilient animals, and their digestive system can often pass things without incident. 

If your pooch has eaten steel wool, there are a few basic courses of action. 

Contact Your Vet 

In this case, the best thing to do is speak to your vet. They may recommend that you bring your dog in for examination and treatment immediately. 

Depending on the details of your situation, they may also recommend that you monitor your pooch at home and provide home treatment. 

Be sure to explain the type of steel wool your pooch ate. SOS pads or other chemical containing pads can pose a toxicity danger in addition to the steel wool itself. 

Home Monitoring and Treatment

If your vet recommends home treatment, or you want to take a wait and see approach, the first thing to do is feed your dog bread. Bread is commonly used when a dog swallows sharp objects. 

It provides some protection and cushion to the stomach and digestive tract, which might prevent injury as the steel wool works its way through your dog’s system. 

You’ll also want to monitor them carefully for signs of injury or toxicity. If they begin vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, or seem to be in pain, you’ll need to get them to the vet. 

The other aspect of monitoring your pooch is monitoring their poop. Once your dog passes the steel wool, the danger has passed as well. Checking their stool will allow you to know when they pass the steel wool. 

Most items will pass through the system within 48 hours. If they haven’t passed the steel wool after 48 hours, you’ll need to contact your vet again for advice. 

Animal Poison Control 

In addition to, or instead of, calling your vet, you can also contact animal poison control. They have an extensive database of toxins, and formulas to determine the risk to your pooch if they ingest them. 

They can also work with your vet to design a treatment plan if needed. You can reach the animal poison control center at (855) 764-7661

Taking Your Pooch to the Vet 

If you need to take your pooch to the vet, you can expect them to perform  a physical exam. They may also do imaging tests to determine the location of the steel wool. Blood tests can determine if there’s been any internal injury. 

Depending on the location of the steel wool, your vet may adopt a watch and wait approach. In other cases, your pooch may need surgery to remove the steel wool.