Dogs eat all sorts of things that they aren’t supposed to. But their rubber toy isn’t one you would ever expect them to. In fact, it’s quite alarming and concerning if they have. It leads to a state of anxiety and many questions, such as, like, what will happen to your dog? Can dogs digest rubber or pass pieces of rubber? If so, how long will this all take? What should you do first? Well, I’m here to provide you with the answers you need.
So, what should you do if your dog has eaten a piece of a rubber toy? If your dog has eaten a piece of rubber toy, contact a vet without delay. The amount of danger for your dog if he eats a piece of a rubber toy depends on the size of the piece, the type of rubber, and how big your dog is. Nevertheless, eating rubber can be fatal, so waiting to see if your dog will pass the rubber isn’t worth the risk.
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From there you should absolutely refer back to the below.
Besides, you need to know what to expect and how you (and your vet) will approach it all.
What Will Happen To A Dog That Eats A Piece Of Rubber?
Several things can happen to a dog that eats a piece of rubber, ranging from nothing at all to serious complications. The biggest risks to your dog are choking or a blocked digestive tract. Some types of rubber pose additional health hazards.
If the piece of rubber is big enough, your dog can start to choke and struggle to breathe.
If you believe your dog is choking and he’s struggling to breathe, it’s worth trying to perform a Heimlich maneuver.
Your dog may still be able to breathe but may gag and cough to try and dislodge the object.
Pieces of rubber (and other objects, like string, stuffing or fabric) can easily get stuck in a dog’s esophagus.
Blocked Digestive Tract
Sometimes the piece of rubber can get stuck in your dog’s stomach, intestines, or even his bowel.
The resulting blockage can lead to:
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the abdomen, usually fatal).
- Kidney failure (usually fatal).
If you haven’t seen your dog eating any rubber, you may not realize something is wrong, especially as dogs have a natural instinct to hide weakness such as sickness.
Here are some signs to watch for:
- Lack of appetite.
- Sensitive abdomen (your dog may get aggressive if you try and touch his stomach).
- Lethargy (due to dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea, or from pain).
- Excessive drooling.
- Whining or panting.
- Pawing at the mouth.
- Straining to defecate.
Can Dogs Digest Rubber Toys?
Dogs cannot digest rubber. They have strong stomachs, but their stomach acid cannot break down rubber. The only choice for a dog is to vomit up the rubber, pass it naturally, or have it surgically removed.
Sometimes a piece of rubber can become stuck in your dog’s system in such a way that food can still travel around it.
This can last for weeks, with your dog being in considerable pain and unable to tell you about it.
It’s always worth remaining alert to any changes in your dog’s behavior, given that dogs are known for eating just about anything, and a lot of it is on the sly!
Can Dogs Pass Pieces Of Rubber?
Dogs may be able to pass small pieces of rubber, but that doesn’t mean they necessary can nor should you assume they can.
Some rubber toys contain toxic chemicals for pets, mainly if they aren’t designed for pets (such as children’s toys).
One such chemical is BPA (Bisphenol A), which researchers have found to cause changes in a dog’s metabolism and the microorganisms in your dog’s gut (the gut microbiome).
Even if your dog can pass the piece of rubber, it might have sharp edges which could pierce the bowel or intestines, leading to fatal consequences (see above).
A Word On Toys With Batteries
Some rubber toys have batteries, which are extremely dangerous for dogs.
If your dog has ingested a piece of rubber and a battery as part of a toy, you will need to seek veterinary attention immediately.
The acid in batteries can cause:
- Burns or ulcers in your dog’s mouth.
- Damage to the tongue or esophagus.
Note: Disc batteries can cause blockages and burns, even if they aren’t punctured.
How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Pass a Piece of Rubber?
It can take from 10 to as long as 72 hours for a dog to pass a piece of rubber. Unfortunately, dogs who suffer from a blockage due to a foreign object such as rubber can die within 3 days.
Given the high risks, it is not worth waiting to see if your dog will pass a piece of rubber that he’s eaten.
Besides the possible intestinal or bowel damage, your dog can experience extreme pain.
Some pet websites even suggest feeding your dog particular foods to unblock his gut – when the problem is that food can’t get through in the first place.
A piece of rubber – if it doesn’t get stuck in his throat – can reach the stomach within 2 hours.
Because rubber is too hard to break down, it will get passed along to the small intestine.
If you have a large adult dog who has eaten a small piece of rubber, it might pass through his feces within 2 days.
But there is no way to know for sure.
If you have a small breed or a puppy, even a tiny piece of rubber has fewer chances of being eliminated.
And why risk your dog’s life? Best to get to the vet for help.
What To Do Now That Your Dog Has Eaten A Piece Of Rubber
If your dog has eaten a piece of rubber, no matter how small, get him to the vet as soon as possible.
Despite what some other resources may promise, there are no home remedies for helping a dog pass rubber safely. The only remedy is to get him to the vet.
What You Can Do Yourself
If you aren’t sure if he’s eaten rubber and you want to check, try to look toward the back of his throat.
You may not see anything there, but it could be worth a look, especially if your dog starts choking.
Here are some things NOT to do under any circumstances:
- Don’t try to induce vomiting yourself. It takes skill to do this – if you do it wrong, you can make things worse. Your vet has the skills (and, for some dogs, the meds) to do this safely.
- Don’t try and remove the piece of rubber yourself. Once again, you can cause severe damage by doing this. Your dog’s esophagus and other parts of his throat are very tender, and you can cause tears if you don’t know what you’re doing. Sometimes trying to remove it can cause it to travel further down his throat and even cause him to choke.
What Your Vet Will Do
Depending on how much time has passed (under 2 hours), your vet may be able to induce vomiting.
After 2 hours, vomiting is no longer an option if the rubber has passed into the intestines.
If the rubber is stuck further up in your dog’s throat, he may be able to remove it safely before it travels further.
Here are some of the procedures your vet may do, depending on your dog’s symptoms, size, and how much rubber he has swallowed:
- A physical exam.
- An ultrasound.
- An endoscopy (using a small camera, either down your dog’s throat or up his rectum).
- A barium study (performed if your vet suspects an intestinal blockage but can’t see it on an X-ray. Your dog is fed barium, and your vet checks using X-rays to see if it passes through your dog’s intestinal tract: if it doesn’t, there’s a blockage).
In some cases, antibiotics and medicine can help reduce the inflammation, and your vet may say your dog can safely pass the rubber himself.
However, if your dog requires surgery, it can be a lengthy (and expensive) process.
If the rubber has gotten stuck in your dog’s bowel, your vet may have to remove large portions of the bowel.
If your vet manages to repair any internal damage before peritonitis sets in, the prognosis is usually good (especially for puppies or young adult dogs).
If some of the tissue has died, your vet will remove the damaged sections and reattach the living sections of the bowel.
Once your dog comes through the other side of the lengthy surgery, he will need ample recovery time.
You will most likely need to give him a special diet and perhaps (additional) pain medication.
You’ll need to observe your dog for the first 72 hours post-surgery, as there are potential complications such as:
- Sepsis (blood poisoning).
- Dehiscence (a wound opening or separating).
- Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count).
Dogs can feel nauseous after surgery because of the anesthesia, so your vet may prescribe medications to help relieve symptoms. In addition, anesthesia carries its risks.
How To Prevent Your Dog Eating A Piece Of Rubber
The most common cause of dogs eating pieces of rubber is chewing rubber toys. However, you can provide alternatives for your dog that are safer for him.
Toys That Cause Problems
Chew toys that cause problems are:
- Wet (making the rubber more chewable).
- Old (even rubber can start to wear out between the jaws of an eager dog).
- Very small.
Steps To Take To Prevent The Problem From Recurring
Here are some steps to take to keep your dog as safe as possible:
- Be there with your dog to supervise him. Whether you have an eager puppy or an older dog, you can supervise him around chew toys. Don’t let him break pieces off.
- Don’t leave chew toys around your home. If your dog spots a tempting object and you’re not around, he can easily gobble it up and swallow it or chew it to bits and ingest pieces.
- Don’t give old, wet, or small chew toys (see above).
- Make your home dog-proof. If your dog likes rubber, check your doorstops. You wouldn’t want your dog chewing on the rubber sections. Rubber can be found in many parts of the home, so a thorough check can prevent many problems.
- Change your dog’s chew toys regularly. And if you have a puppy, change the toys as his mouth grows. You don’t want toys that your dog can fit in his mouth.
- Choose hard rubber toys that are meant for dogs. Pet-friendly toys are less likely to contain harmful chemicals like BPA (see above).
- Don’t get toys that resemble ‘real things’ like toothbrushes, shoes, or stuffed dolls. Your dog can’t distinguish between these toys and their real equivalents, which can cause problems.
- Avoid laser pointers. Laser pointers may be effective in teaching your pet to hunt lights, but that carries problems of its own. Your dog can get frustrated as he will never catch his ‘prey,’ and you wouldn’t want him chasing other types of lights such as car backlights!
Note: Some resources recommend using a muzzle for enthusiastic chewers to give the owners peace of mind when they aren’t around their dogs. However, how comfortable is this for your dog? In addition – and more importantly – dogs who tend to chew a lot when their owners aren’t around are often suffering from boredom, stress, or anxiety. Rather than addressing the symptoms, it’s always best to address the situation (more playtime, a calmer environment for rest afterward, etc.).
If your dog has eaten some of their rubber toy.
Try not to despair.
Calmly and collectively contact a vet.
Get your dog seen.
Let your vet diagnose and attempt the safe and effective removal of the rubber.
And remember, the faster you act, the better the chances your vet will have at ensuring the rubber is safely removed. All of it.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.