Even when we choose the best food for our beloved dogs, they will find ways to eat things they shouldn’t. One common item that dogs are found eating is napkins. And naturally, if you have found your dog has done this, you are going to be concerned. How do you respond? Is it a serious cause for concern? Well, here is everything you should do and consider.
So, what should you do if your dog ate a napkin? If your dog ate a napkin, you will need to keep a close eye on them over the next 24 – 48 hours. Most of the time, a tissue napkin will pass through a dog’s digestive system without any major issues, but other times (such as with a cotton or linen napkin), they may experience pain and distress, or even a blockage; a call to a veterinarian may be needed.
Ultimately, how your dog responds will depend significantly on these three factors:
- The material of the napkin
- The size of your dog, and
- How much they have eaten.
But more on this later.
What you need to think about right now is that monitoring your dog closely and responding if you observe any changes is key.
In some cases, calling a vet right away may be the best approach to take.
You might see immediate signs of pain or distress, or you may even know that this is a napkin that they will not be able to pass.
Other times, you may want a little time while being ready to get professional assistance IF necessary.
This is something you will have to ultimately decide. And only you will know for sure.
Nevertheless, let’s look more closely at why dogs eat napkins (so you can help prevent this in the future) and perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.
Why Do Dogs Eat Napkins?
The main reasons that dogs eat napkins are as a form of play, as a cure for boredom because napkins often carry tasty food smells on them after a meal, or as a consequence of a medical issue known as Pica.
Many dogs like the taste of a napkin if it has been used because the napkin still contains bits of human food.
The food scent or oil left behind after we wipe our hands or a dinner mess is the main draw.
Dogs are able to sense faint flavors and smells and can happily eat a paper napkin if they taste something appealing like pizza or pasta on the cloth.
Bored or Stressed
Some dogs may eat napkins that haven’t been used.
In this case, it is likely that a dog likes the way that its teeth feel as they bite into a napkin.
The paper shredding sensation can also help relieve built-up energy and/or stress that is being experienced.
If your dog eats only bits of napkin and leaves the rest behind in a shredded mess of remains, this is a sign.
A dog that is bored or stressed will find enjoyment in tearing apart the soft and shreddable material of a napkin.
Once the dog has other things that are enjoyable to chew on, it will often stop napkin eating.
In rare cases, a dog may suffer from a medical condition that makes them want to eat a range of non-food items.
The condition where a dog regularly eats non-food items on purpose is called Pica.
Dogs with pica will eat items such as napkins regardless of whether they have been used or not.
They often won’t shred the item but will eat it whole.
If you notice your adult dog often eating (not just destroying) items that aren’t food, it might be worthwhile to get a veterinary examination.
What Will Happen To A Dog That Eats A Napkin?
What will happen to a dog who eats a napkin will depend on the context, the material the napkin is made of, the amount consumed, and your dog.
They Pass It Naturally
When a dog eats a napkin, the napkin will begin to travel through a dog’s digestive tract – down the throat, through the stomach and intestines, and hopefully back out again as waste.
If a dog has only eaten one plain paper-type napkin, it will normally be just fine.
The dog may have a mildly upset stomach or a limited appetite for a short while after eating the napkin, but it’s very likely you won’t notice anything happening to your dog at all.
It Causes Illness
If your dog eats more than one napkin at a time, eats a napkin made of very thick material or non-paper material, or a napkin with food on it that isn’t safe for dogs, your dog may become ill.
Dog stomachs can handle eating a wide variety of things, but suddenly taking in non-food items or food that isn’t safe for dogs can cause your dog to feel sick.
Your dog may throw up or gag, spitting up chewed-up napkin.
It Causes A Blockage
If your napkin wasn’t made of paper or your dog ate a lot of napkins, the napkin could settle in your dog’s stomach or digestive tract and cause your dog to have diarrhea, vomiting, or not be able to use the bathroom properly.
Your dog may seem low on energy and act generally unwell.
Your dog may also pace and whine, it may walk slightly off balance with a hunched appearance, and it may not want you to touch its belly area.
All of these are signs that your dog may have something blocking its digestive tract and warrant a call to your vet.
Will A Napkin Pass Through A Dog?
Most of the time – but not always – a paper napkin will pass right through a dog’s digestive system. Cotton or linen napkins, on the other hand, are unlikely to do so.
There are some factors that influence if a napkin is likely to pass through a dog. These include what the napkin is made of, how many napkins the dog ate, and how big the dog is.
Also, some dogs just have more sensitive digestive systems than others.
If your dog has a history of an easily upset stomach or diarrhea, it may be more likely to have trouble passing a napkin through its system.
In short, it is very likely that if your dog decided to snack on one stray napkin, it will pass it through its system and be just fine.
However, each case is unique, and some dogs may experience blockages or other stomach troubles after eating one (or several) napkins.
When A Napkin Should Pass Through A Dog
Paper napkins are non-toxic, and because the people who make them know that they will be around people who are eating, they are designed to be safe if humans accidentally swallow a piece of one.
Many dogs who eat a napkin only eat part of a napkin or eat one only once in a while, and the napkin passes right through.
When A Napkin May Not Pass Through A Dog
When dogs eat napkins that are very large, or in cases where a dog eats multiple napkins, the risk increases for a digestive block.
This means that instead of passing through the dog’s system, the napkin gets stuck either in the stomach or intestines and cannot break down or pass through.
This may also happen if a dog is a smaller breed and eats a large napkin.
When a napkin can’t pass through the digestive tract, and a blockage happens, other food and waster cannot pass through the dog either.
A blockage can lead to a backup of food and waste that causes our dogs to become ill.
If food cannot travel through our dog, its nutrients cannot be absorbed, and as food and waste back up, it puts pressure on all the parts of a dog’s digestion.
Dogs with a blocked digestive tract may also have a hard time swallowing and keeping down water. The water is usually spat right back up and can lead to dehydration.
If your dog has eaten a napkin, there is no immediate need to panic, and following the steps in the next section can help.
What To Do Now That Your Dog Has Eaten A Napkin
After your dog eats a napkin, take time to assess how many napkins they may have eaten, offer your dog some water and a light meal, observe your dog closely for the next 24 hours; if your dog appears to be showing signs of a blockage call or visit your veterinarian right away. Finally, take steps to prevent your dog from eating more napkins in the future.
If your dog ate a napkin, there are several things you can do to help make sure they remain safe and comfortable.
Assess The Situation
If you suspect your dog has eaten a napkin, take time to investigate the area.
Did your dog just swipe one napkin around dinner time, or that missed going in the trash can? Did they raid the garbage for every napkin they could find?
Were the napkins paper or cloth?
These are all questions you should consider when you feel your dog may have eaten a napkin.
Since we know that eating one paper napkin isn’t likely to cause most dogs a problem, you can relax a bit if you realize that your pup just grabbed one strange snack.
If you notice that your dog ate many napkins, you know that close monitoring is very important.
If your dog ate a napkin of any size that wasn’t paper, skip ahead and give your vet a call for advice.
Offer Your Dog Some Water And A Light Meal
By offering your dog some water and food, you are helping to create an environment that might push along any larger pieces of napkin that are in your dog’s stomach.
By keeping the digestive tract a bit stimulate you are making it more likely the napkin will pass through quickly.
If your dog that is normally hungry is refusing to eat or if your dog appears thirsty but refuses to drink for over an hour, let them rest and then try offering one more time.
If your dog is still not showing its normal interest in food or drink, call your veterinarian.
After eating a napkin, your dog’s stomach might be a little upset.
If you give your dog food or water and it gags or throws up, let your dog rest and then try again.
Your dog might even vomit up the offending napkin.
If your dog gets to a point where every drink or bite of food is being thrown back up more than once, contact your veterinarian.
Observe Your Dog Closely
If your dog is eating and drinking and not vomiting, your best course of action is simply to be an extra observant owner over the next day.
If your dog is acting normal and not showing any sign of distress, then its digestive tract probably handled the napkin invader just fine.
You may or may not see pieces of napkin in your dog’s poop.
If your dog didn’t chew very much before swallowing the napkin, you might see pieces of it in your dog’s poop.
If your dog shredded and ate the napkin, you might never see any signs of it passing, and that’s okay.
When observing your dog, watch for changes in its activity level and overall comfort.
If your dog is refusing to participate in its favorite activities, is extremely restless, is whining more than normal, or shows signs of bloating and pain, they likely need to be checked for a blockage.
Take Steps To Prevent More Napkin Eating
The best thing we can do after our dog eats a napkin is think of how we can prevent it from happening again.
This might mean getting a trash can with a locked lid or placing a trashcan behind a closed door.
It could also mean monitoring children who are likely to drop used napkins on the floor or leave them on the table for a dog to pick up.
Sometimes a solution is as simple as making sure our dog has something to chew on when it feels stressed or bored; that isn’t the first napkin it can find.
Either way, preventing another napkin from being eaten is the best way to protect your dog and relieve yourself of some unwanted stress.
Dogs eat many bizarre things!
In fact, there does not seem to be a limit on what dogs will attempt to eat.
With napkin eating specifically, this typically happens when a dog is looking for something to shred when they are bored. Or, they may just have caught a pleasant smell and want to enjoy the leftover food flavors found on used napkins.
Most of the time, a dog eating a single napkin isn’t a reason for you to need to be particularly worried or scared.
But there could be.
So, simple observation of your dog and calling a vet if there are signs of a progressive stomach problem is a great approach if this does happen.
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.