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My Dog Ate Styrofoam! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

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No matter how many great toys we get our furry friends, dogs always seem to eat whatever they aren’t supposed to. This article will address the common questions you may have if your dog has eaten Styrofoam.Divider 8

What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a polystyrene (or plastic) foam material commonly used for packaging. It comes in many forms, such as Styrofoam blocks, Styrofoam beads, and Styrofoam peanuts. Styrofoam beans can be found in soft toys, bean bags, and dog beds      – and if your dog decides to chew any of these, they may cause harm. Some meats and other foods are packaged in Styrofoam and these will seem very tasty for your dog as the food flavor tends to be left on them. Watch out – your dog might even find food packaging like Styrofoam meat trays and Styrofoam cups or plates on your walks! Styrofoam can also be used as a building material, such as pipe insulation or wall insulation, so be mindful on building sites too.

Other compostable and biodegradable alternatives to Styrofoam have recently been produced which are better for the environment. It is good to double-check the type of Styrofoam packaging you think your dog might have eaten to get the information to tell your vet.

Whatever type of Styrofoam packaging your dog has eaten, it is important that you contact your veterinarian to prevent your pup from becoming ill.

What Should I Do if My Dog Eats Styrofoam?

If you’ve spotted your dog snacking on Styrofoam, you now know it’s not a good idea. Follow our step-by-step guide below to help you make decisions on what to do next.

1. Check your dog.

Just in case your dog has inhaled (     rather than eaten)      the Styrofoam, you should first check that they’re bright and well and breathing properly.

2. Prevent access to more Styrofoam.

Make sure your dog can’t get to any more Styrofoam. You should also take a moment to ensure other pets in the house are also safe. This may mean shutting your dog away whilst you clear up a split bin bag.

3. Call your veterinarian.

The next step is to call your veterinarian for advice. Things to tell your veterinarian include; when you think your dog ate Styrofoam, how much Styrofoam your dog has eaten, and if your dog has had any signs of problems with vomiting or breathing.

4. Follow your veterinarian’s advice.

Your vet will help you to decide whether your dog needs monitoring, imaging, or urgent treatment. If you’re worried about costs, make sure to tell your vet here that you’re working on a budget      – they’ll help you weigh up the risks of each decision and stay in budget.

5. Don’t treat at home.

Don’t make your dog sick at home unless your veterinarian tells you to. Inducing vomiting in dogs is not a benign process      – the Styrofoam could get stuck or cause damage on the way back up, or get to the throat and then be inhaled, putting your dog’s life at risk. In addition, remedies suggested on the internet for making your dog sick at home are frequently dangerous or can limit the treatment options for your pet further down the line. If your vet recommends that you make your pet sick at home, they will tell you so and give you an appropriate drug and dosage to use.

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Image Credit: J C, Pixabay

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What Happens if My Dog Eats Styrofoam?

The main danger that your dog faces if he eats Styrofoam is blockage of the gastrointestinal tract (guts). Large bits (or lots of small bits!) of Styrofoam could become lodged in your dog’s stomach or intestines, causing a blockage.  Blockages of the guts are classed as a veterinary emergency. They can quickly cause dehydration and become life-threatening. The chemicals on Styrofoam may also irritate their mouth, throat, or stomach, causing your dog to become uncomfortable or start throwing up. Diarrhea is also a possible side effect of Styrofoam.

Styrofoam could also be inhaled and get stuck in an airway or the nose. This could block the airway and stop your dog from breathing which is a life-threatening emergency. If you think this may have happened, call your veterinarian immediately.

Will My Dog Be Ok After Eating Styrofoam?

If your dog has swallowed Styrofoam and is being sick, then your dog might have a gut blockage. This may mean that your dog might need fluids, overnight care, X-rays, and potentially surgery to correct a blockage. It may be that your dog only needs monitoring, and this will be decided by your veterinarian. If your dog has inhaled Styrofoam, emergency treatment may be needed. The prognosis for all of these problems is good as long as treatment is done early. The longer a blockage of the guts or airways is left, the poorer the prognosis for your pet.

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Image credit: Ezzolo, Shutterstock

How Poisonous Is Styrofoam for Dogs?

Styrofoam is bad for dogs because it can cause a blockage of the gastrointestinal tract or airway. But is Styrofoam poisonous for dogs? Well, any chemicals on the Styrofoam could also irritate your dog’s mouth and insides and could potentially have poisonous harmful effects. This depends on the chemicals involved. Luckily, most chemicals aren’t in large enough quantities to cause problems for your dog, and the main concern is that they get a blockage.

Is Styrofoam Dangerous for All Dogs?

Puppies are more likely to chew on lots of different things, including Styrofoam, putting them at a greater risk of problems. They’re also smaller, meaning they’re more likely to get blockages from Styrofoam. However, if your dog ate Styrofoam, know that it is dangerous for dogs of all ages and breeds as it can cause blockages in all dogs.

What Are the Symptoms of a Blockage in a Dog?

If your dog goes off its food, or shows any signs of vomiting or trying to vomit, it is very likely that your dog may have a blockage in his gastrointestinal tract due to the Styrofoam and this can be a life-threatening emergency. Inappetence and inability to keep food or water down are both important signs of a blockage. You may also find that your dog gets diarrhea or constipation.

Abdominal pain is another symptom – often seen as dogs that sit in the ‘prayer position’, with their chest on the floor but bum in the air. Lethargy is also a concern.

It is important to remember that your dog may have swallowed or eaten something you don’t know about, so these signs are always a concern, regardless of whether you’ve seen them eat Styrofoam. You should always contact a veterinarian if you think your dog might have a blockage, even if you don’t know what they ate.

How Long Can You Leave a Dog With a Blockage?

You cannot wait if you think your dog has a blockage. Untreated cases can become fatal very quickly. The best thing to do when your dog eats packaging like Styrofoam is to seek advice from your veterinarian and see whether the Styrofoam can be removed before it blocks the intestines.

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Image By: VP Photo Studio, Shutterstock

How Serious Is a Blockage in a Dog?

A blockage of the gastrointestinal tract or airways by Styrofoam can be life-threatening. It is important that you contact a veterinarian immediately to assess and correct the problem before the blockage becomes fatal.Divider 5

How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Styrofoam?

Make sure you keep all packaging (or food in packaging!) out of reach. Consider taking any empty Styrofoam meat trays straight to an outside bin that your dog cannot access.  If your dog is tempted to tear up packages, you could ask that any deliveries are not put through the door or are left somewhere that the dog does not have access to. Whilst out on a walk, keep an eye out for bin spillages or other trash that could cause problems for your dog. If your dog is the sort that seems to find something to eat on every walk, you might want to consider getting him to wear a muzzle whilst out and about to avoid him eating Styrofoam, rotten food, plastic, or other trash.

Hopefully, this guide will help you know what to do if your dog eats Styrofoam. The most important thing to remember is that your vet is the best person to advise you, so do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for advice if your dog ate styrofoam.

This article does not replace advice from your own veterinarian and if there are any concerns regarding your pet's health and wellbeing, veterinary advice must be sought from your veterinarian as soon as possible. Please read dog toy packaging to assess any safety warnings before giving to your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Naronta, Shutterstock

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