If Fido has eaten one of your homework pencils, here’s everything that you’ll want to know about its potential harm, symptoms to watch for, and when to get help.
My Dog Ate A Pencil What Should I Do? If you’ve discovered that your beloved dog has eaten a pencil, the steps you must take include: taking away whatever is left and in his mouth, call your vet to ask what they recommend, and then watch for signs that your dog is struggling to digest it.
As hard as it is, you should keep calm and controlled, as your dog will pick up on your worry and this will make him anxious, too. Think of it as your game face! More detail on what to expect is waiting for you below, including the pencils “ingredients”, the risks in eating a pencil, and symptoms and signs that could mean a trip to the vet!
Are pencils toxic to dogs?
Take a breath and find some peace in this: pencils are not toxic to dogs. While pencils used a hundred years ago may have been dangerous if they were eaten, thanks to lead and chemical use in paint, today’s pencils are very much evolved into harmless versions! Today’s pencils don’t use lead at all, but instead, use graphite (more on that later). The pain that is used on the body of the pencil — colorful and decorated or otherwise — is either based on cellulose or non-toxic paint.
You may also be happy to know that colored pencils and crayons won’t hurt your dog either. Even though they use dyes to get their colors, they are so minimal that they won’t harm your dog. The exception, of course, is if they somehow manage to eat an entire package (or two).
Are charcoal pencils toxic for dogs?
If you are sketching or working on something in the art world, you may find that your dog has eaten a charcoal pencil. Charcoal is dangerous, right? In huge, large quantities, charcoal can be dangerous. But, again, remember that he’s only eaten a pencil! It’s basically an Oreo where the charcoal is the thin creamy part and the wood is the thicker part. There is so little actual charcoal content, it isn’t dangerous to your dog.
Are graphite pencils toxic for dogs?
Same as a with a charcoal pencil, graphite is a carbon-based substance and not considered a toxic unless it is large quantities. It is also a very low dosage even on the carbon scale. This is why it is often used in pencils these days. It’s as effective in pencil form as the lead would be, but it isn’t, you know, going to kill anyone.
All joking aside, however, there is a risk to dogs who eat pencils. It just doesn’t come from the “lead” (pencil lead, in this case) itself. It’s the wood, rather, that can cause some problems for your snack-searching doggo.
Is it dangerous for dogs to eat wood?
Yes, it’s dangerous for dogs to eat wood. This could be anything from a piece of firewood to — yup, you guessed it — a pencil. Since wood is not considered an organic substance (meaning his digestive tract is not able to break it down like he would with his food), it will simply make its way through his digestive tract in its form before he poops it out on the other end.
However, because it just stays in its current form of dog-sized chomps, pencil edges and their sharp splinters can be dangerous. Unless your dog has decided to properly chew his food — yeah, right — he’s more than likely swallowed it in two or three large chomps, all of which have pointy edges. These pointy edges can easily snag and cause problems in your dog’s digestive tract.
If they’re pointy and awkward-shaped enough, they could get caught in the throat and prevent food from getting past it. It can also get stuck in the tummy, or upper or lower digestive tract and create digestion issues. It all depends on how the pencil fragments spin and move in the dog’s stomach.
What should I look for?
Okay, so that sounds pretty scary, right? The thing is, dogs eat things all the time (like bees) and can pass them easily without you being any the wiser! A pencil often will be the same way, albeit, uncomfortable for your dog. Some complications can happen, however, and signs to watch for that your dog is struggling after eating a pencil.
If your dog vomits as soon as he eats, it’s commonly because the pencil is stuck in his throat and it is blocking the food from getting down. Therefore, whatever can’t do down must come up! Sometimes the retching can also loosen the pencil and cause him to spit it out as it comes up with his food. If he is vomiting, look at it closely to see if this is the case. While it’s disgusting, it’s certainly better than the alternative!
That being said, don’t ever force your dog to throw up! It could just lodge the pencil in your pooch’s throat even more. If he vomits on his own, don’t discourage it or punish him for it, either!
Unable to go to the bathroom
If it’s stuck in his digestive tract, it means that all of his poop and much of his pee is most likely getting stuck as well. You may notice him straining to go to the bathroom, or trying to go every 10 minutes or so. If this is the case, the pencil fragments are likely causing a problem.
A dog with a pencil stuck in his system isn’t going to have much of an appetite. This is especially so if shards of it are stuck in his throat — did you just shudder, too? If he won’t touch even his favorite snacks or treats, it’s time to take him to the vet to see what’s going on.
Signs of internal bleeding
In serious cases, sometimes the pencil can puncture the throat, tummy or intestine and it can cause internal bleeding. If your dog is lethargic or showing signs that he is in pain or just generally uncomfortable, this also is a sign to take him to the vet!
Should I call the vet?
Even if you don’t see any of these symptoms, giving your vet a call is always a great idea. Sometimes they’ll be able to keep an emergency slot open for you in case you need it. Sometimes they’ll want you to come in when you describe the situation, too. At any rate, a vet will be able to help calm you down because they’ll tell you about the serious symptoms to watch for and what to do or not do. A professional’s opinion can really help make a stressful situation easier!
At the vet’s office
If you do decide to take him in, you’ll want to make sure that you are ready for the most obvious questions (which can help determine what the pooch needs). These can include information on how much of the pencil he ate, how long ago he ate it, whether he ate it whole or chewed it up into small fragments if he’s eaten or used the bathroom since, and what kinds of symptoms you’ve been seeing.
You can expect a vet to also give him a physical exam and maybe even send him for X rays depending on what they find as well as your answers to the questions. In some cases, they’ll recommend feeding your dog bread and other soft and absorbent foods. They can often soak up small of the fragments and make it easier for him to pass them. The more bulk that pushes them through his system, too, the better.
If X rays and other checks tell your vet that he possibly has internal bleeding or a really bad blockage, surgery may be the safest and best way to keep your dog safe and healthy. This is often a personal choice, of course, but it’s not recommended unless a vet feels it’s in the best interest of your dog.
How can I keep a dog from eating pencils?
Whether you’re reading this after your pooch chows down on a pencil or you just want to be prepared, here are some tips to help you keep his sights off of your pencils!
Train him with “drop it”
One of the basic commands that you should teach your puppy is “drop it” or “spit it out”. In these cases, he will learn to drop whatever is in his mouth. This can be helpful for things like fetch or if he has gotten a hold of your slipper, but it’s also crucial when it comes to something dangerous like, say, a pencil!
Don’t leave your pencils out and around
It sounds obvious, of course, but it’ really important! Your doggo can’t understand how pencils aren’t yummy breadsticks so he’ll have a snack if you leave them unattended on the floor or table. Try not to leave them out where he can get them.
Never tease him by using a pencil
If you’re playing with your puppy or dog, and are teasing him with a pencil so that he’ll chase you, remember that your dog doesn’t understand that he can’t chew on that toy (like he does his others). If you teach him that a pencil is a toy, he’ll treat it as a toy!
Make sure your dog has enough toys
Speaking of toys, you’ll want to make sure that your dog has plenty of toys to play with. A lot of times boredom leads to the destruction of your belongings and that can often include random eating of pencils and other school supplies. Keep him out of your pencil case by making sure he access to durable and immersive toys.
It’s never fun to find out that your dog has eaten a pencil — though it’s probably better than eating your homework! — but it’s also reassuring to know that it’s not the end of the world in the worst-case scenario!