My Dog Ate Styrofoam – What Should I Do?

Did your dog take a chunk out of the styrofoam for your packing box? Here’s what you should know about if your dog ate styrofoam.

If your dog ate styrofoam, you will want to schedule them for a vet appointment sooner rather than later. Styrofoam is a plastic product that can be toxic and dangerous to dogs since they can’t digest it. Styrofoam can be a choking hazard and cause serious intestinal blockages in your dog.

Is styrofoam toxic to dogs?

We use the term “styrofoam” for everything from packing peanuts to the sheets of styrofoam used on houses. However, it’s not all the same as far as its actual active ingredients in it. Since styrofoam is a hazard, especially for children, many companies now use exclusively non-toxic styrofoam. 

So, it’s rare to find styrofoam made from toxic materials these days. Chemical poisoning is not often a concern. However, if you are using styrofoam that came out of an old product (such as an old box or a plushie from years ago), it may still have toxic ingredients.

The most risk will be from the choking hazard that it causes. Since the plastic doesn’t break down or degrade, it can cause a problem in your dog’s twisty and turny digestive system.

Can styrofoam kill a dog?

Yes, styrofoam can kill a dog if they eat it. Many think that “just a few bits” is fine, but the reality is that it doesn’t take much to cause a problem. Whether it be toxic ingredients in the styrofoam or the risk of a blockage, your dog’s snack of styrofoam can be a fatal one if left unattended!

How much styrofoam can a dog eat?

Ideally, a dog should never eat any styrofoam. However, the risk of a problem is going to depend on the exact details that often determine what makes a dog okay or not okay:

  • The dog’s size
  • The dog’s health
  • How much the dog ate

If your large dog ate only a few bites, you’re most likely going to have a minor obstruction that will pass in about 24-48 hours. A small dog eating a few bites could cause a problem, though, simply because of the size difference.

Styrofoam made from toxic ingredients can cause a problem in just a single bite, though, so it depends on what kind of styrofoam your dog ate.

Symptoms to look for if my dog ate styrofoam

That leads to the inevitable question, then, of how you should determine whether your dog is having an adverse reaction to it. Signs to watch for include:

  • Panting
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Lethargy
  • Retching or vomiting
  • Signs of distress
  • No appetite
  • Visible bloating
  • Unable to go to the bathroom

The first 3 are often most likely to happen immediately if there is a problem with the toxic ingredients in the styrofoam. The symptoms may be focused on the out hor stomach, but they will be sudden.

This is similar to an allergic reaction — it will happen within minutes of eating the styrofoam. Get your dog to a vet to help them counteract the effects of the toxic styrofoam ingredients. The sooner, the better. Don’t wait until morning.

If you notice lethargy, retching or vomiting, or just signs of distress, this is also a sign that you need to get your dog to the vet. These could be further signs of toxicity, or they could be the beginning signs of an obstruction in your dog’s throat or stomach.

If your dog has no appetite, has visible bloating, or can’t use the bathroom, it’s a sure sign that they have an obstruction. You will need to get them to the vet to have them intervene. Ignoring it will only make it worse!

What to do if your dog has eaten styrofoam?

It’s understandable if this kind of information makes you a little nervous! If you want some support, then here’s a list of to-dos that you should do if you’ve discovered that your dog has eaten styrofoam!

  • Call your vet and get their advice
  • Get information on the kind of styrofoam your dog ate
  • Monitor your dog for symptom

Call your vet and get their advice

After you’ve taken the styrofoam from your dog, including what is in their mouth, call your vet. Let them know what’s happened and ask what to do. Some will tell you to wait for a few hours and see how they do. If your vet advises you to bring them in immediately, follow that advice!

At the very least, they’ll know to hold an emergency slot open for you in case you need to bring them in a bit later.

Provide plenty of water for your dog, and feel free to feed the ma bland diet of bread or plain white rice if your vet approves it. This can help push out obstructions.

Get information on the kind of styrofoam your dog ate

Since not all styrofoam is the same, do what you can to get some information on the kind of styrofoam. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Focus on hard versus soft, color, where it came from, etc. 

Also, note how much your dog ate and whether it was in large or small chunks. This is all helpful for the vet to know when getting information on toxic ingredients and the possibility of a blockage. You can even bring some of the styrofoam with you!

Monitor your dog for symptoms

Whether it’s the symptoms that your vet told you to watch for or the ones you are learning about here, watch carefully. From mild to severe, symptom tracking is one of the best things that you can do. The more you notice, the more likely it is for you to bring your dog in. 

If you notice that your dog has passed the styrofoam, which takes 24-48 hours, this is a sign that your dog should be okay. However, most will recommend monitoring for several days to ensure no remaining pieces are causing a problem. A trip to the vet afterward is a great confirmation, just to be sure!

photo of styrofoam closeup

My dog ate styrofoam and is throwing up

This can be alarming and for a good reason. If your dog is vomiting, it could either be a toxic reaction or an attempt to throw up the styrofoam. Monitor the vomit and do what you can to help your dog stay calm.

If the vomiting continues, a trip to the vet is an excellent idea. Vomiting can lead to dehydration and further blockages in their throat, so always take your dog in if they are unsure.

How to stop my dog from eating styrofoam

When you are looking at stopping your dog from having an unauthorized snack of styrofoam, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk as much as possible. These include:

  • Keep all styrofoam out of sight
  • Keep anything with styrofoam out of reach
  • Monitor your dog when they are exploring new locations
  • Think of uncommon areas for styrofoam

It sounds silly to think this way, but dogs don’t understand that styrofoam isn’t food. They just think it smells interesting and feels cool, so they eat it.

When it comes to the last point, your focus will be on the idea of searching and asking around for uncommon areas for styrofoam. For example, a packing meat tray, single-use coffee cups, and even plush toys and bean bag chairs. In some cases, backpacks and sleeping bags contain it, too!

You have to keep all of those things out of sign and reach for your dog so that they can’t get access to it. That lack of access is your best defense against having this problem!

How to prevent my dog from eating styrofoam

When looking at how to prevent your dog from eating styrofoam itself, the actual act of eating it can be controlled by two approaches:

  • Your attitude in protection
  • Your dog’s obedience

Do whatever you can to keep your dog as far away as possible from styrofoam, and keep them firmly under control when you are in a situation such as a building site or otherwise, where styrofoam is common! This is a considerable part of being a responsible pet parent!

The other thing is that a dog won’t eat styrofoam if he listens to you when you tell him to “stop” or “drop it.” Focus on obedience training for your dog and make sure that he listens to you! This will keep you from a disaster much more than you might think!

Conclusion

Whether it be styrofoam from a coffee cup or a package, a trip to the vet is a good idea. Sometimes it can be toxic in its ingredients, and it can be both a choking hazard and a possible intestinal blockage. Know the symptoms to watch for to keep your dog safe and sound.

Your dog’s eating of styrofoam is a frustrating thing as a pet parent, but it is something that you can deal with by being attentive to any side effects and making sure that you’re ready to get them to the vet to ensure that everything is okay!

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