My Dog Ate A Paper Towel (Kleenex or Toilet Paper) What to Do?

My Dog Ate A Paper Towel. Photo of a dog and a paper towel.

Dogs eat the strangest things, and paper is often one of them. Regardless of what kind of paper they ate, you’ll want to learn what to do about it below!

If your dog’s eaten something paper, be it paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, or even just loose-leaf paper, it’s considered a foreign body. This means that it can wad up and lead to an obstruction in their intestine. This blockage is an emergency, so you’ll need to learn about the symptoms below so that you can get your dog to an emergency vet for proper treatment.

What to do if my dog ate paper

Regardless of the reason or the type of paper your dog ate, you need to follow the same steps to help keep everyone safe and as calm as possible (including you). The steps to follow include:

  • Estimate how much your dog ate
  • Figure out just what he ate
  • Call your vet
  • Learn about, and watch for symptoms of a blockage

Estimate how much your dog ate

Firstly, you need to take a moment to figure out just how much your dog ate. Was it one sheet of loose-leaf paper? Was it an entire roll of paper towels? Do your best to estimate just how much they ate so that you can tell your vet if you need to call them.

Figure out just what he ate

You also want to take a moment to figure out just what your dog ate. For example, paper towels are going to be different compared to the classic white paper. Also, what was on that paper or paper towel? Printer ink, for example, or perhaps bacon grease or even mechanic grease. This can add possible complications, so it’s essential to think about and determine as much as you can.

Call your vet

This is here for a reason. Regardless of how they seem to be acting, call your dog’s usual vet to see just what they recommend. Depending on what they ate, how much, and what was on that paper source, they may recommend that you take them in. At the very least, they’ll know that you might possibly have an emergency later, so they’ll keep an emergency slot open for you. Follow whatever advice your vet recommends.

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Learn about, and watch for symptoms of a blockage

The main complication from eating paper products is a blockage, which we introduced above as the foreign body. Your vet can help you understand what those symptoms might be and when you should possibly make the call to bring them in for a vet’s assessment if they recommend at-home care for the moment.

Symptoms to look for if my dog ate paper

There are some symptoms that your dog is dealing with, an obstruction that you can watch for, as mentioned above. The common signs that he’s struggling to digest his paper treat include:

  • Lethargy or restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Drooling
  • Irritability

The more of these you see, the more likely it is that your dog is struggling to digest and expel his treat. While it’s common to want to “wait and see,” you’ll want to let your vet’s advice override this. These are signs that your dog’s digestive tract has an obstruction. This can worsen very quickly and can easily become an emergency before you know it. Do not ignore these symptoms — get your dog to the vet.

Are paper towels digestible?

Paper towels are just pulp fibers, right? Should mean that your dog can just digest them. Technically, you’re correct. Dogs can entirely digest paper towels since they shred them as they chew them, and then stomach acid will break them down to help them digest. 

In many cases, though, dogs will eat so much at a time that they will come together in a large lump that then blocks their stomach and intestines and makes it hard for them to digest. This is what makes paper so dangerous — especially that which is meant to absorb!

Differences between paper towels, facial tissues, and toilet tissue

There are differences in the safety of eating paper, most of which will be with what kind of paper your dog ate. 

For example, tissues and toilet paper tend to be thinner and safer. They don’t absorb as much, so they are easier for your dog to break down and digest through their system with less of a risk of it forming a blockage. It can still happen, of course, mainly if your dog eats an entire box/roll. We’d also consider loose-leaf paper to be in this category since it isn’t intended to absorb.

Paper towels are considered more dangerous because they absorb a lot and compact down much faster and easier. This is great for when you rely on them for traditional purposes, but not good for your dog!

FAQ situations for your dog eating a paper towel

Here are some of the most recent situations where your dog eats a paper towel, and you need to figure out just how “bad” is “bad” when it comes to what’s on the paper towel. 

  • My dog ate a paper towel with bacon grease. What should I do?
  • What should I do if my dog has diarrhea after eating a paper towel?
  • My dog pooped out paper towels. What does that mean?

My dog ate a paper towel with bacon grease. What should I do?

This is a common problem since the bacon grease appeals to dogs, and they want to eat it. Naturally, the paper towel goes with it. Since this situation means that it’s often just one or two paper towels and the grease, your dog should be okay. You’ll still likely notice mild diarrhea (more from the bacon grease), but most dogs can pass it okay. That being said, still, keep an eye out for any possible complications. If your dog ate the grease-soaked paper towel quickly, an obstruction is still very possible and just as serious. 

As well, if there is a lot of thick bacon grease, this can make your dog’s stomach really upset and lead to vomiting and diarrhea on its own since it’s not a good or safe treat for dogs.

What should I do if my dog has diarrhea after eating a paper towel?

Diarrhea is one of the symptoms that your dog possibly might be dealing with a bowel obstruction. If this is the case, you’ll need to get him to a vet as soon as you can to help him stay healthy. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it’s still much better safe than sorry!

My dog pooped out paper towels. What does that mean?

Your worry time is over! If your dog has pooped out remnants of a paper towel, it means that he’s passed it safely and that you can start to get back to normal. Depending on how much they ate, it may take a few poops to help get it all out.

Photo of a sick dog who ate a paper towel and is visiting the vet with its owner.

Why do dogs eat paper products?

Why do dogs eat anything, really? Because it looks good. Babies and toddlers eat all sorts of strange things, after all. As far as why dogs are fascinated with paper products of all types, several reasons can factor in:

  • They’re curious
  • They’re teething
  • They’re bored
  • They’re anxious
  • They’ve got a nutritional deficiency

They’re curious

Dogs greatly enjoy eating things that simply look interesting. Since a dog’s mouth is their hands, they’re often just checking it out and then decide to eat it because it tastes good. Think of it like humans fiddling with something and then accidentally breaking it because they were “playing” with it. This is part of why dog-proofing your home is so important (more on that later).

They’re teething

When puppies are teething, they search for ways to help manage the itchiness, pain, and discomfort. This often means that they want to sink their teeth into something since that can often help manage the symptoms they’re feeling. 

The paper, tissues, paper towel, etc., will feel good on their teeth and gums, so they’ll gnaw away on it and will often swallow it. This is part of why puppies are so prone to chewing on walls and eating rolls of toilet paper!

They’re bored

Bored dogs are destructive dogs. When they have nothing else to do, they’ll wander the house and destroy whatever looks interesting. Paper products are often in reach and will give them something to “work on” while waiting for their human to come home and entertain them. Other examples include going through the garbage and eating shoes!

They’re anxious

Very similar to their boredom, dogs can also often get anxious when left alone. This anxiety can lead to them chewing on whatever they can possibly get a hold of. Often, dogs destroying wads of toilet paper and paper towels are common signs that your dog is dealing with separation anxiety. It can be hard to differentiate between that and boredom, but both are addressed the same way (more on that below).

They’ve got a nutritional deficiency

Yes, seriously. A dog’s lizard brain will tell them that they have a nutrient deficiency, leading them to seek it out from other methods. This is part of why dogs eat grass and other random things that don’t make sense to humans. This is often only “diagnosed” by your vet, so don’t worry about trying to figure out just what they’re deficient in!

How to stop my dog from eating paper products

Since no one wants to be rushing their dog into an emergency vet or dealing with them eating your month’s supply of toilet paper, avoidance is essential. When you want to keep them out of your products, here are some tips to help you keep your paper supplies (and your dog) safe:

  • Limit access to bathroom/supply rooms
  • Give them lots to do while you’re gone
  • Help them burn off their energy
  • Make sure they have a balanced diet

Limit access to bathroom/supply rooms

When it comes to access to paper products, the harder you make it, the better. Store everything on really high shelves when it comes to paper towels and bathroom tissue/classic tissue. These shelves can still easily be reached by humans, but not by your furry friends.

You’ll also want to make sure that they aren’t left unsupervised in any area where those supplies are in reach (such as the bathroom). Many of us pen our dogs up in the bathroom when we are focused on something without thinking, and this gives them easy access to toilet paper and very few other things to do. Make bathrooms dog-free zones, or be prepared to move your toilet paper every single time that you pen them in there!

Give them lots to do while you’re gone

When you’re gone to work for the day, or you do need to pen them up somewhere, and you’re concerned that they’ll take it out on your paper supplies, give them more exciting things to do. From puzzle mats to treat toys to interaction suction cup toys to dog TV, it all can help them enjoy something fun and stimulating. 

Not only will this make it easier on them when you are gone, as far as staying calm and relaxed, but it also means that they are less likely to destroy something else (like your shoe collection) in your absence. This isn’t a replacement for limiting their access to paper products, though!

Help them burn off their energy

Any bored dog is going to destroy things. It’s essential to help them get their exercise throughout the day so that they have no energy to do anything else other than sleep and rest up while you’re gone. Take them for a walk before work, and then be ready to take them out again after you arrive home. A tired dog will be a happy dog, and this goes for your supplies, too.

Make sure they have a balanced diet

While we know that your paper towels have no nutritional value, your dog doesn’t know that! If you suspect that your dog is eating your paper towels because of the nutrition in them, you’ll want to talk to your vet. They often will give suggestions on what they should be getting and often recommend a particular food brand. While food from the vet can be expensive compared to other brands, it’s also going to be balanced nutrition and beneficial for your dog’s health, so keep that in mind.

Should I visit the vet just in case?

Bringing your dog for a check-up will never be a bad idea after they’ve eaten some paper products. Even if they don’t show signs of a complication or have pooped it out, having a vet check them out will be a great way to ensure that they are safe and that everything is okay after their unapproved snack.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for suggestions on how you can redirect their behavior, too, since they often have great options that they can forward on!

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To sum up

Any time that your dog’s eaten a paper product, be it paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, or loose-leaf, it can condense into a lump that is called a foreign body. This can lead to a blockage in their digestive tract, which will require an emergency trip to the vet.

Understanding the symptoms of a problem and how to keep it from happening again will be necessary for long-term health.

It’s never fun to come home and find out that your dog has helped themselves to your fresh roll of toilet paper, but it happens.

Understanding when you should be concerned and what to watch for keeps this unwelcome surprise as safe as possible.

Know someone whose dog is prone to doing this? Share it with them to help keep everyone calm and safe!

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Andre Neves

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.