Styrofoam is the trade name for a type of polystyrene foam, which is used to make many different types of products, including home insulation. This light-weight material provides protection inside your walls against the loss of hot or cold air within your home. Unfortunately, if Fido happens to get his paws on your Styrofoam insulation and decides to snack on it, it could make him very sick.
Styrofoam insulation is produced by the Dow Chemical Co. and is formed by extruding hot polystyrene, a type of plastic, through a rectangular die, according to the Healthy House Institute. Once cooled, the polystyrene is cut into sheets of different sizes, which are placed within the walls, floors, foundations and roof system of your home. Styrofoam insulation has a trademark blue color and comes in rigid sheets of varying thicknesses. While this insulation isn't usually exposed in areas where your dog could get to it, if you begin remodeling your home, you'll likely uncover it during your construction. Fido also might find it among your construction supplies from a home repair project.
While Styrofoam insulation isn't considered toxic to your dog if he ingests it, it can be a choking hazard, warns the Partnership for Animal Welfare. Depending on the amount of Styrofoam your pup has ingested, it could lead to a potentially fatal intestinal blockage, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. Unfortunately, Styrofoam isn't digestible and won't break down naturally in your pup's tummy, which is why it sometimes becomes stuck in the intestines. Polystyrene foam can damage the intestines themselves or even other organs as pieces of the rigid material pass through your pup's system, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
If you find that Fido's been chowing down on any Styrofoam insulation, get him to the vet right away for treatment. Your vet can take X-rays of his stomach and intestines to see if the material has become lodged there, usually after your pup ingests some barium to better illuminate the area, according to DogChannel.com. She may use a special scope with a camera on the end of it to look directly into his digestive tract. If your vet finds a blockage of the Styrofoam, she likely will need to perform surgery to remove the material, according to petMD. She'll also give him intravenous fluid to prevent him from becoming dehydrated.
To prevent Fido from eating Styrofoam insulation, don't let him access any areas of your home that you are remodeling by using pet gates to block them off. After removing any old insulation from your home during a remodel, seal it in garbage bags and place them outside in an area your pup can't get to. Repair any holes in your walls through which Fido could access any insulation. All forms of insulation potentially are harmful to dogs, causing either blockages, intestinal irritation or even poisoning, depending on the chemicals they contain. If your pup is continually trying to eat nonfood items like insulation, visit the vet to rule out a medical cause for this condition, known as pica.
- petMD: Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Dog Tip: Household Hazards, Poisons and Safety
- Friends for Life: Hazards in the Home
- Dog Breed Info Center: Common Doggie Hazards
- American Animal Hospital Association: Ack -- My Pet Ate Garbage!
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
- Healthy House Institute: Insulation -- Chapter 17
- DogChannel.com: House Insulation in Dog's Feces
- The Dow Chemical Company: Dow Announces New Technology for STYROFOAM Insulation
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images