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What happens if my dog swallowed a ribbon?

Your dog is playing with a ribbon toy, when disaster strikes. They swallow the ribbon. You try to catch it before they swallow it, but it’s no use. It’s down the hatch before you can do anything. Now you are wondering if you should be concerned. Is your dog in danger? 

What happens if my dog swallowed a ribbon?

If your dog swallowed a ribbon, there’s a chance it could cause them serious harm. A ribbon may seem innocuous, but it can cause a life threatening condition. 

Why Ribbon is Dangerous

Ribbons are beautiful, and pose little danger outside of the body. However, when swallowed, the situation changes. 

Have you ever used a wire cheese cutter? It’s amazing the way the thin wire slices through the cheese so easily. Unfortunately, this can also occur in your dog’s intestines. 

A ribbon is known as a linear foreign body, which is why it’s so dangerous. Other linear foreign bodies including rope and string pose a similar danger. 

The Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario after your dog swallows a ribbon is that it makes its way through their digestive tract and out in their poop. In this case, it causes no harm to your dog. 

After 24-72 hours, you’ll see the ribbon in your dog’s poop. Then, you know they are safe from harm. 

Gastrointestinal Upset 

Of course, you don’t want to see your dog with an upset stomach, but this is the next best outcome. Because it’s a foreign body, your dog’s body will recognize that it doesn’t belong. 

This triggers stomach irritation, which can lead to vomiting. If the vomiting leads to the ribbon coming back up, your dog will be fine. They may experience stomach upset for a day or two after the incident, however. 

Intestinal Injury

Now for the concerning outcome of your dog eating a ribbon. You would think a ribbon would easily pass through the digestive tract. After all, it’s not large enough to get stuck. 

The problem is that a ribbon is a long object. Your dog’s intestines contract, which pushes food and waste through the intestines. When they eat a ribbon, this can cause the ribbon to get stuck. 

One end of the ribbon can be in one part of the intestine, while the other end is in another part. As the intestines continue to contract, this can cause the ribbon to cut the intestines because it’s pulled taunt. 

It’s also possible for it to tangle around the intestines, which cuts off circulation to the area. 

Intestinal Perforation

An intestinal perforation is essentially a cut in the intestines. This can cause inflammation of the abdominal lining, which is known as peritonitis. The cut can become infected, which causes a life threatening infection known as sepsis. 

If the intestines are cut in a way that allows their contents to spill into the body, this can also cause sepsis. 

Common symptoms of an intestinal perforation include vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration. Diarrhea which can contain blood is another symptom. 

If sepsis occurs, your dog will likely have a high fever. 

What to do if my dog swallowed a ribbon?

 If your dog ate a ribbon, it’s best to act quickly. There are steps you will need to take to keep your pooch safe after they eat a ribbon. 

Stay Calm 

The first thing you need to do is stay calm. As long as your dog isn’t choking, take a few moments to settle and assess the situation. Your dog will likely be ok, but they  may need veterinary treatment or surgery. 

Don’t Pull It Out 

If you see the ribbon hanging out of your dog’s mouth or butt, it’s very tempting to grab it and pull it out. Why not, right? 

Unfortunately, this can cause injury. If the ribbon is tangled in the intestines or other area, pulling it can cause serious problems, instead of solving them. 

If you see the ribbon hanging out of either end, get them to the vet as soon as possible. 

Remove Any Remaining Ribbon From the Area

If there’s any ribbon left near your dog, remove it from their reach immediately. This will prevent them from swallowing more of it. You should also remove any other potential hazards, including strings and similar objects. 

Seek Treatment Quickly

It’s very tempting to wait and see if your dog passes the ribbon, or vomits it back up. A ribbon doesn’t seem very dangerous, so why not simply wait and see if they show symptoms of a problem? 

If the ribbon creates an intestinal perforation, this is life threatening. Your dog may need extensive treatment. The longer the ribbon is in their system, the higher the risk. 

As the ribbon makes its way through the intestines, the risk of cuts increases. If it does cut the intestines, the longer it remains there, the worse the cuts are likely to be. 

If the ribbon is in their stomach, treatment is much easier. After 1-2 hours, it will move out of their stomach, so you have a small window of time to get treatment. 

For these reasons, vets recommend bringing your dog in immediately if they’ve swallowed a ribbon. 

Vet First Steps

The first thing your vet will do is perform a physical exam. This includes feeling of your dog’s abdomen, and listening to their breathing and heart rate. 

They will also discuss exactly what happened, and if your dog is experiencing any symptoms. Be prepared to explain the size and length of the ribbon if possible. If the ribbon has metal wire, you’ll need to tell your vet this. It increases the risk of injury. 

Next, your vet will  likely perform tests. An X-ray is the most common, but an ultrasound may be needed to get a clear picture. This will let the vet know exactly where the ribbon is in your dog’s system, and how high the risk of injury is. 

Inducing Vomitting 

If the ribbon is still in your dog’s stomach, your vet will likely induce vomiting. This is a simple procedure typically performed by giving them hydrogen peroxide. 

There are some situations where inducing vomiting at home is a good idea. However, anytime your dog has swallowed a foreign object, you shouldn’t induce vomiting unless your vet tells you to do so. It’s much better for the vet to do it, in case something goes wrong. 


Your vet may be able to perform an endoscopy if inducing vomiting won’t work. Your vet will use a camera to see down the esophagus and into the stomach. They will have a tool to grasp the ribbon. If they can grab the ribbon with the tool, they can pull it out through the mouth. 

This procedure requires your dog to be sedated, but it’s much easier to recover from and less risky than surgery. 


If the ribbon has passed into the intestines, surgery may be needed. There are a few types of surgery that can be performed, depending on exactly where the ribbon is and its size. 

If your dog needs surgery, they will need time to recover. They may need to spend a few hours to a few days at the vet to be sure they are ok. 

If a blockage or intestinal perforation has occurred, your dog will need surgery to repair it. In many cases, this can save your dog’s life. 

If surgery isn’t done to repair the cuts quickly, peritonitis will occur. This unfortunately leads to death in about 50% of cases.