Complications of Dogs Eating Paper Towels

by Melodie Anne Coffman Google
"The cat did it."

"The cat did it."

Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images

Does your dog eat anything he can get in his mouth? It’s not only frustrating to clean up after him nonstop, it also can be detrimental to his health. Paper towels can be particularly dangerous for your pooch. Make sure you hide the roll on top of the refrigerator, far out of his reach, and seal your garbage can tightly. Otherwise you could wind up with a very sick pooch and a costly vet bill.

Why Paper Towels?

The cause of Rover’s odd habit can stem from a number of things. Dirty paper towels smell like treats. After all, you just used it to wipe that juicy dribble from a burger off your face. No wonder he wants a shot at that paper towel. Maybe you’ve encouraged the behavior – unintentionally of course. Every time Rover reaches up on the counter, you come running across the room to stop him. He just got your attention and has learned quickly that grabbing paper towels makes you come see him. Some dogs have a tendency to eat things that aren't supposed to be edible. This condition, known as pica, makes your pooch crave paper, dirt or other non-food items, possibly because he has a deficiency in his diet. Let your vet know about Rover’s weird behaviors just to rule out any medical concerns.

Intestinal Obstruction

Your canine companion should be able to pass small amounts of paper towels all on his own or even throw them up. If he eats several, his body won’t be able to pass the foreign objects. Instead the indigestible paper towels will travel down into his intestinal tract and get stuck. The next time he swallows his kibble, it’ll get backed up behind the paper towel wall. He won’t be able to relieve himself and will suffer from a horrific belly ache. Sadly, in a severe case like this, your veterinarian may have to remove the obstruction surgically.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition probably doesn’t come to mind when worrying about Rover’s paper towel-eating habit. However, if he fills up on his papery treat all day, he won’t have room for dinner. He’ll eat only half of his meal and leave the rest behind. Eating less than normal isn't a big deal in the short run, although if he keeps it up for a while, he’ll lose a lot of weight and won’t get all of the nutrients he needs.

What to Watch For

After catching Rover digging through your trash can, keep an eye out for certain behaviors that warrant a sick pup. Depending on how many paper towels he ate, he might be very lethargic, since his belly doesn't feel well. Whimpering, moaning, drooling or howling during the night let you know that something isn't right. If he goes for more than a day or two without having a bowel movement, you’ll need to get him to the vet as soon as possible. He may have a blockage. Lastly, if he ate dirty paper towels you used to clean with, he can get poisons into his body from the cleaning products, which can be deadly if you don’t get him to the hospital quickly. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

Photo Credits

  • Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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