That cute, innocuous fabric toy. At least, that’s what you thought it was. That was before your dog ripped it up and has since swallowed some of its insides. Now you’re panicking right? Is your dog at harm, what could happen to him, is he able to pass it, and if so, how long? These questions are likely racing through your mind. Today, I’ll be answering these very questions and outlining exactly what you now need to do.
So, what should you do if your dog has eaten a piece of fabric toy? If your dog has eaten a piece of fabric toy, call your vet (at the earliest opportunity). The consequences of eating fabric can be fatal, and you can’t tell what’s happening to that fabric once it has been swallowed.
Don’t take any chances here.
While there is no immediate need to panic, consider this as pre-emptive care.
And the sooner you can act, the better.
Besides, chances are you don’t know how much fabric your dog has eaten. And how long ago they’ve eaten it.
Nevertheless, you now you know what you need to do.
But do keep reading to find out what may happen if you don’t, and some other practical recommendations to both now support your dog and stop it from ever happening again.
What Will Happen To A Dog That Eats A Piece of Fabric?
Even a small piece of fabric, once eaten, can make your dog sick. Whether it’s highly dangerous or not depends on how much your dog has swallowed and the size of your dog. Dogs can pass fabric, but sometimes fabric can cause blockage in the digestive tract, which can be fatal.
Sadly, there are dogs who eat fabric and other items that aren’t food, and many of these items are very dangerous for them.
There’s actually an entire condition named after it, called Pica.
This resource is worth checking out as it helps to explain the causes and why your dog may resort to this interesting behaviour.
Can A Dog Die From Swallowing A Piece Of Fabric?
A dog can die from swallowing a piece of fabric, either by choking, blockage, intestinal tightening, sepsis or kidney failure. All outcomes are worst case scenarios, and dependent on factors such as how much fabric a dog swallows, how quickly they are treated, etc.
Choking or Blockage
Your dog can indeed die from swallowing a piece of fabric.
The main initial problems with eating fabric are choking and blockage, although other, often fatal problems follow on from that (see below).
Your dog can start choking if the fabric is blocking his air passages. He may start coughing and gagging to try and get rid of the fabric that’s stuck in his throat.
Some fabrics can use chemicals that are toxic for pets, especially those used in low-quality fabric toys.
These chemicals could cause irritation when they reach your dog’s stomach. As a result, your dog could start throwing up or have diarrhea.
If your dog swallows the fabric, it may move further along his digestive tract and cause a blockage. The blockage could be in his stomach or along his intestines.
Some types of fabric can even expand when they come into contact with stomach acid or the other contents of the digestive tract.
These types of fabric can lead to a dangerous blockage that could be fatal.
Other kinds of fabric contain lots of small fibers or threads which can come apart and cause a blockage.
Even small pieces of fabric can cause damage – just as many small hairs can clog a shower drain.
Tightening Of The Intestines
If strands of the fabric come undone, some strands may get caught in your dog’s stomach while others travel to his upper intestines.
As your dog tries to move these threads through his digestive tract, his intestines can become compressed, much like an accordion.
The result is a lot of pain for your dog, often followed by an infection caused by lacerations, leading to sepsis (infected blood).
Once an infection takes hold, the recovery rate is not good for dogs: the mortality rate for dogs that go into septic shock is from 20 to 68 percent.
Kidney failure from dehydration is another possible result because of extreme dehydration – the blocked intestines won’t allow for food or hydration to pass.
Can A Dog Pass A Piece Of Fabric?
A dog can technically pass a piece of fabric if it isn’t too large for him, but that doesn’t mean he should have to nor will he always be successfully able to.
While some dogs may successfully pass a piece of fabric if they’ve managed to chew it into tiny-enough pieces, the risks of severe pain, injury, or death aren’t worth ignoring the situation.
Ultimately, this is not something that should be left to chance, or hope.
How Long Does It Take For A Dog to Pass Fabric?
If your dog has eaten fabric, it can take 10, 24, or even 48 hours to pass through his digestive tract. Of course, if there is an intestinal blockage, it won’t come out at all without help.
Some resources say that you can safely wait for this length of time if your dog has eaten fabric, but the fact is you can’t tell if the fabric will get caught or blocked.
And if you wait hours to do anything, chances are the problem could get worse.
Dogs are very good at hiding their pain, so you might not suspect your dog has been in trouble for quite some time.
If the piece of fabric has caused a blockage, your dog could die within 3 days, and you might not even notice he’s hurt until it’s too late.
So, just because your dog can perhaps pass the fabric on his own, that doesn’t mean he should.
What To Do Now That Your Dog Has Eaten A Piece Of Fabric
The best thing to do if you suspect your dog has eaten a piece of fabric is to consult or get him to the vet. As soon as you can. It’s better to be on the safe side than to risk the health (and even life) of your dog.
What You Need To Do
Unless you were there with your dog when he ate the fabric, you have no way of knowing if he’s chewed it into tiny pieces or not.
You also can’t know what will happen to the fabric once it’s reached his digestive tract – it could expand, or toxic chemicals could leech into your dog’s body.
The pieces of fabric, even if they aren’t toxic, could still cause discomfort for your dog.
On your way to the vet (or while you are waiting to see them), keep an eye on your dog for:
- More drool than normal.
- Straining to defecate.
- Inability to pass gas naturally.
- Licking his lips and gums a lot.
- Signs of being in pain (whining, straining, etc.).
- A swollen abdomen or a stomach that’s painful to the touch.
- Not wanting to eat.
Note: If you see fabric protruding from your dog’s mouth, only attempt to remove it if it comes out easily. You don’t want to risk causing injury to your dog’s esophagus – and you don’t know if the fabric has gotten stuck.
If your dog starts to choke and you can’t see anything blocking his throat, you may have to try to perform a Heimlich maneuver on your dog.
What The Vet May Do
Depending on the size of the piece of fabric and how much time has gone by, your vet may be able to induce vomiting.
In rare instances where the fabric is stuck in your dog’s throat, your vet may be able to remove it without resorting to surgery.
If you are unsure whether your dog has swallowed a piece of fabric (or anything else), your vet can carry out any of the following procedures:
- An endoscopy
- An ultrasound
- A physical exam
Sometimes an exam will reveal that the fabric has passed to the large intestine, in which case you can usually safely wait for your dog to pass it himself.
Your vet will advise you if this is the case.
If, however, bits of the fabric have caused a blockage, your vet may have to resort to hours of surgery to safely remove everything.
In the process, often large parts of your dog’s bowel will have to be removed.
The aftercare following this type of procedure is extensive and delicate – you will have to provide special foods for your dog as he heals.
How To Avoid Future Problems With Fabric Toys
The most effective way to avoid similar issues is to give your dog different types of toys and restrict his access to fabrics as much as possible.
If your dog loves fabric toys but has swallowed a piece of fabric in the past, you will want to avoid this situation happening again.
Of course, you can choose to watch your dog while he plays with fabric toys, but you can’t know if he’s swallowed tiny bits of fabric fibers or threads.
The risk outweighs the benefits – and dogs can adapt, after all, with training and patience.
Offer These Toys
Try some of these alternative types of toys for your dog:
- Hard rubber toys such as Kong frisbees,
- Tough rubber chew rings. The best ones have several layers, with the bottom layer being a different color so that you know when to replace it,
- Kong balls or other toys that can be stuffed with treats
- Ice cubes. Dogs love skittering ice cubes across the floor, chewing on them, etc. The best part is even if they swallow them, they won’t get hurt. And they’re easily available!
- Edible chew toys. Like ice cubes, these toys won’t last forever, but dogs love them. Fish sticks, pigs ears, and other chew treats are ones your dog may love. He can lick and chomp on them to his heart’s content, and they’re safe to play with.
Take Additional Precautions
In addition, you can take the following precautions if your dog loves fabric:
- Secure all fabric in closed spaces, such as hampers with lids, closets, etc.
- Make a point of instructing friends and family not to leave any fabric lying around the house, whether it’s part of a toy or not. Lots of dogs like the smell and feel of fabrics, and they’ll go for the soft feel of even a sock or a t-shirt if they crave fabric.
Avoid These Toys
Stay away from these types of toys:
- Rope toys. Despite being in pet shops everywhere, rope toys are very dangerous for dogs. Rope or string is one of the worst things dogs can ingest, as the rope can get caught at both ends of their digestive tract.
- Vinyl or latex toys. Suitable rubber for dogs is better than these materials since an eager dog could chew off a piece and leave a sharp edge behind that could cause damage.
- Squeaker toys. Dogs love the sounds squeaker toys make because they mimic the sound of prey they’ve ‘caught’, but they will often chew the toys until they get to the squeaker. Many dogs then swallow the squeaker, potentially leading to more problems.
- Plush or fleece toys. Although these types of toys look cute, they are not made for dogs, despite what the label might say. No plush or fleece toy is truly ‘indestructible’ for a chew-loving dog.
You may find your dog gravitating towards clothes if he enjoys chomping on soft things and you have taken away his fabric toy.
Fortunately, there are ways to discourage your dog from doing this.
You can retrain him to not chew on clothes, and then you hopefully won’t have to worry about him eating more fabric!
Dogs often find themselves eating all sorts of things they probably shouldnt.
Sometimes its intentional, other times its inadvertently.
Either way, there are some toys that are quite simply, a health risk to your dog.
Fabric toys often fall into this category.
If you are still here and you know that your dog has swallowed a piece of fabric, even if you think its a small amount, act now.
Call a vet. Get your dog checked over.
Don’t take any chances.
But do take that fabric toy away and perhaps refrain from offering this type going forward.
Related guides you may want to read:
- Dog Ate Toy Stuffing [What You Now Need To Do]
- Dog Whining While Chewing Toy [Why & What To Do]
- Why Does My Dog Hold A Toy In His Mouth?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.