My Dog Ate a Tampon! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)
Why would a dog eat a tampon? Dogs love to eat strange things as they often chew new objects as a way of interacting with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they can swallow feminine hygiene products, which are often soft and novel for them. Without meaning to sound disgusting, if these products have been used, they can seem even more intriguing to a dog’s nose!
Both used and unused tampons can present a danger to dogs, so treat them equally. If your dog has eaten a tampon, contact your veterinarian immediately and monitor your dog for any signs of discomfort or stress.
In this article, we will expand on what can happen if your dog swallows a tampon, the symptoms to watch for, and what you can do about it. Click the links below to jump forward:
- Dangers of Dogs Consuming Tampons
- Signs of Bowel Obstruction
- Vet-Approved Steps to Take if Your Dog has Eaten a Tampon
- Should I Make My Dog Vomit?
- What Expect At The Vet
The Dangers of Dogs Eating Tampons
Tampons are designed to withstand being inside the body for a long time and are usually made of cotton or plastics. Applicators are usually plastic too, although some are made from cardboard. This means both tampons and tampon applicators aren’t able to be digested by the gut. They’ll need to come out, one way or another, in pretty much the same condition they went in. Tampons are even worse than other foreign objects, as unused tampons will swell in the stomach, making them larger and more difficult to pass.
If your dog ate a tampon and it passes out of the stomach into the gut, it may scrape along the lining of the guts, causing pain and bloody diarrhea. At certain sections of the gut, often when it narrows or turns a corner, the tampon can become stuck. This is known as a blockage or bowel obstruction, which can rapidly become life-threatening.
Signs of Bowel Obstruction When Your Dog Has Eaten a Tampon
Bowel obstructions will typically cause vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, and diarrhea within 24 to 72 hours of eating the object. Dogs quickly become dehydrated and aren’t able to keep down food or water.
Because tampons are so absorbent, they can dry out the gut wall when they’re stuck. This will cause damage to the gut wall. It can stretch very thin over the blockage, and even burst and spill its contents, leading to peritonitis—an infection that can easily become fatal.
Can a Dog Pass a Tampon Naturally?
In some very lucky dogs, the tampon may be vomited back up again immediately, or be passed through the gut successfully and exit at the other end (after about 2 to 5 days), but there is always a risk of complications developing. Lucky cases usually depend on the size, type, the number of tampons or applicators, and the size of the dog, but there are never any guarantees!
In general, unused tampons are typically smaller but may swell up a lot inside, whereas used tampons are larger to start with, but should not swell much more.
Contacting Your Local Vet
The consequences of a foreign object like a tampon can be life-threatening, but don’t panic. There are lots of chances to intervene and prevent this dangerous progression of events from happening. It is vital to involve your veterinarian at the earliest opportunity to ensure you get tailored advice to your situation and get it sorted before problems arise. The longer this problem is left, the more extreme the consequences are likely to be.
The 4 Steps to Take if Your Dog Has Eaten a Tampon
1. Prevent Your Dog From Eating More Tampons
If you’ve found the bathroom trash on the floor, take a moment to make sure your dog can’t get into any more trouble. Either clean up the mess or simply close the door to prevent your dog from entering whilst you assess the situation.
2. Determine How Many Tampons Were Eaten and the Time They Were Consumed
Work out how many tampons have been eaten and when they were likely eaten. If you’re not sure when they were eaten, make sure you know how long your dog was left unattended—this is vital information for your veterinarian.
3. Contact Your Veterinarian for Advice
A quick phone call will let you discuss the risks with your vet. Don’t be embarrassed—you’d be surprised how common this is! They’ll need to know how big your dog is and the details collected in step 2 so they can give you the best advice.
4. Follow Your Veterinarian’s Advice
You may need to go down to the clinic for an assessment and treatment, or your veterinarian may be happy to have you monitor the situation at home under close supervision.
Can I Make My Dog Vomit if They’ve Eaten a Tampon?
If the tampon was eaten within the last 4 hours, then your veterinarian may be able to give an injection to induce strong, reliable vomiting to remove the objects from the stomach. This will prevent them from going any further into the bowels where they may cause more severe problems.
There are circulating stories of inducing vomiting at home without the veterinary injection, such as feeding your dog hydrogen peroxide or salt and butter. These home remedies are not reliable, and these products can be extremely dangerous for your dog. The home remedy can sometimes make the dog sicker than the original problem!
The veterinary injection is safe and reliable, so it is the best option and you can get the right professional veterinary advice at the same time. You should never induce vomiting at home unless your vet deems it’s worth the risk.
What Can I Expect From the Vet if My Dog Has Eaten a Tampon?
If the tampon was eaten more than 4 hours beforehand, vomiting is no longer an option. Your veterinarian may recommend monitoring the situation depending on the size of your dog and the size of the tampon(s), as well as any symptoms your dog is showing. This is only a decision a veterinarian can make safely.
Feel free to discuss the risks of leaving the tampon with your vet—they’ll be happy to explain why they recommend what they do. Your dog may need some help with it at the other end! If your veterinarian is worried about the potential for a blockage, or if your dog is showing symptoms of illness (especially vomiting and pain), then further investigation of the problem is likely to be needed.
The next logical step is usually to take images of the inside of the gut to look for the foreign object or the effects of the object, such as bowel obstruction. This can be done by X-rays, which give an overall picture of your dog’s abdomen and may show suspicious patterns in the gut that suggests a blockage. Tampons and some other foreign objects do not show up on X-rays, though. This means that sometimes interpreting these images is not straightforward, especially in the early stages of an obstruction. Veterinarians may also use ultrasound to look for problems, which gives a smaller picture but can be more accurate in detecting objects. Tampons do show up on ultrasound and might be hard to find!
Following these investigations, the veterinarian may again decide that monitoring the situation with supportive care (intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, and pain relief, for example) is best. If the veterinarian feels that a blockage is likely or is happening, then urgent surgery to remove the tampon may be required. This is important to do quickly before the gut loses blood supply, tears, or dies around the obstruction.
Bowel Obstruction Surgery Protocol
To remove a bowel obstruction, your veterinary surgeon will need to put your dog under a general anesthetic. They’ll make a cut in your dog’s tummy and locate the tampon. They’ll then cut over the tampon, pull it out, and sew the gut back up again. They’ll then check the stomach and intestines for any further damage or blockages—sometimes a second tampon will be found, or even something else you didn’t know your dog had eaten! If the bowel is badly damaged through stretching or tearing over the tampon, parts of it may need to be removed.
Most dogs after a simple retrieval surgery will be able to go home within a day or two and will be up to their usual mischief within a week or two. If your surgeon had to remove the bowel due to a severe blockage, the risk is higher, although most should be fine.
However, if your dog ate a tampon, they can still die from the complications of bowel obstruction even if surgery is undertaken. This is why it’s essential that you get your dog seen as soon as you suspect a problem. The more damaged the gut is, the more complex the surgery, which means it’ll carry higher risks. It’ll also be more expensive than a simpler surgery.
Dogs are often tempted to eat foreign objects like tampons, and if not treated properly and promptly, this can have life-threatening complications. If your dog ate tampons, it is important to seek professional veterinary advice from your local clinic at the earliest possible stage to give your dog, your veterinarian, and your wallet the best chance of a good outcome!
Featured Image Credit: Stas Malyarevsky, Shutterstock