What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Insulation?

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Insulation? German Shepherd Looking sick at the vet.

Dogs don’t often understand the human-accepted rule about not eating the house. Sometimes the “house” involves the insulation in the walls. Find yourself in that situation? Here’s what you should know, what you should do, and how to avoid it in the future.

Firstly, if your dog eats insulation, you should immediately take him to the vet. Dogs can’t safely eat insulation, so even if he ate just a tiny little amount, it is always a serious medical-grade problem that needs to be addressed immediately after it happens to prevent complications. Complications range from indigestion to internal bleeding to death.

My dog ate insulation, what happens now?

No matter what kind of insulation you use in your home (more on that in a minute), a dog eating insulation is always a bad thing. In fact, many consider insulation to be the worst thing that your dog can eat — even more so than chocolate!  

If your dog eats insulation, you immediately need to get him to the vet. There are all sorts of possibilities when it comes to your dog’s potential health outcome in eating insulation. For example:

  • Suffocation on the insulation
  • Choking on the insulation
  • Suffering from a serious intestinal blockage
  • Suffering from internal bleeding
  • Toxic poison
  • Death

Pretty serious, huh? There’s really no good case scenario for a dog who’s eaten insulation, which is why a quick trip to the vet is very, very important to helping your doggo get through this very bad snacking choice.

What do I need to know about insulation?

Part of doing what you can to help your vet figure out the best course of treatment is understanding what kind of insulation that he ate, how much, and what is in the actual insulation itself. The most popular kinds include:

  • Fiberglass
  • Polystyrene
  • Rock wool
  • Polyurethane foam and/or polyisocyanurate foam

These all have their own properties that could make them more serious than others, much of which depends on how much he ate, as you’d imagine. Not sure what kind you have? Let’s take a closer look.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is the most common material used in house construction. This is the pink, fluffy wad that reminds us of cotton candy. Fiberglass is made from tiny shards of glass wrapped up into fibers in batts, rolls, or even loose fill (such as in an attic). Since it is made from literal pieces of glass, it’s very dangerous and can make your dog very, very sick in a terrifyingly short period.

Polystyrene

This is the firm board of insulation that some people use to insulate outhouses, sheds, doghouses (don’t panic, more on that below), and more. It can be used in houses too, though!  This is a firm styrofoam piece that is lightweight and backed with some sort of reflective foil in most cases. It is made from man-made plastic materials in all cases. It can vary in color from pink to brown and is often white.

Rock wool

This is a newer form of insulation that comes in bats and wads similar to fiberglass. Instead of being made from fibers and glass, though, it’s made from minerals and rock particles that are finely woven together. This is a popular option in eco-friendly homes. In this case, your dog is literally eating minerals and rocks. It’s most often green or gray but otherwise looks identical to fiberglass.

Polyurethane foam and/or polyisocyanurate foam

This is the newest form of insulation and is commonly known as “spray-in foam”. This is an insulation that most likely sprays in wet, then dries and firms up into firm clouds. This is a manmade combination of plastic and chemicals. It often has a tan or off-white color.

Don’t forget the potential for asbestos

Remember, too, that older homes often have asbestos in their insulation!  If you are living in an old home, your dog may have also eaten asbestos particles, which are known for causing cancer and other illnesses.

Dangerous symptoms you should look for

Any and all of these kinds of insulation can and will make your dog very sick. Realistically speaking, there are no mild or moderate symptoms to watch for after your dog has eaten insulation. Here are the dangerous symptoms to look for instead.

  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration and excessive thirst
  • Swelling in the mouth or the tongue and drooling
  • Vomiting or passing blood
  • Seizures and loss of consciousness

Lethargy

This is often the first symptom that your dog is dealing with some sort of poisoning from the insulation. Since it is meant for walls and not tummies, it’s laced with all sorts of poisons and chemicals to keep its insulation grade high and also prevent pests from eating it in your home. 

Dehydration and excessive thirst

If your pooch is constantly at his water bowl, panting excessively, and can’t get enough to drink, this is another symptom that he is dealing with poisoning in his system and/or that he has a blockage and is trying to push it through.

Swelling in the mouth or the tongue and drooling

From the gums to the tongue to the throat, you may notice swelling around your dog’s mouth,  This means that he is dealing with poisoning, but also that the materials have pierced him (think a series of mini knife blades), and he’s got a serious amount of cuts in his mouth. This is also the case if he’s drooling a lot, which is an automatic reflex as your dog’s mouth tries to heal itself.

Vomiting or passing blood

If your dog is passing blood from either end or vomiting excessively, these are more common when he’s got international bleeding or a serious blockage that is going to need surgery.

Seizures and loss of consciousness

If he starts to seize or simply faints, this is another sign that he’s dealing with poison complications, organ shut down, internal bleeding, and more. This is the most serious symptom and is often a point of no return for your pooch.

How to treat a dog that ate insulation

We’ve said this already, of course, but it’s so serious that we’ll repeat it again: you absolutely must take your dog to the vet if you suspect, fear, or discover he’s eaten insulation. Even if he’s not showing symptoms, take him to the vet. The actual treatment will vary, but often includes:

  • Bloodwork
  • A physical exam
  • An x-ray
  • Medications and poison treatments
  • Surgery

In many cases, eating insulation involves all of these. Even in the best-case scenario, a dog who’s eaten insulation (and survives past the initial 24 hours or potential poisoning) is going to at least have a serious intestinal blockage — often requiring one or more surgeries — and some amount of damage to his throat, mouth and digestive tract. We turn again to our description of “mini knife blades”, here. You already know the worst-case scenario, of course….

How to prevent a dog from eating insulation

Since you don’t want to ever, ever have to deal with this — not to mention your poor doggo — you’ll want to make sure that you are as preventative as possible!  The good news is, keeping your dog from eating insulation is 100% possible!  

Keep your dogs away from home improvements and renovation sites

No matter what, never allow your dog onto a construction site or a home renovation site. Even if you don’t think that insulation is readily accessible (for instance, it’s not stored within a dog’s reach, or the walls are mostly closed), it’s never, ever a good idea to let your dog free on a construction or renovation site.

Never use insulation in a doghouse

We mentioned above that sometimes doghouses use polystyrene for insulation, but this is dangerous for many reasons. Make sure that you always build a dog-friendly design. Not sure what that is and want your dog to be safe from the elements? Take a look at these dog-safe tips when building a doghouse for maximum safety and functionality!  

Train your dog to “drop it” on command

Most dogs live to please their owners, shown no better through proper dog training. When you teach your puppy or adult dog the basic commands, make sure you teach him to drop whatever is in his mouth when you tell him to do so. This way, worst-case scenario, you can tell him to drop the insulation that’s in his mouth before he swallows it. Of course, you’ll still want to take him to the vet immediately even if you’re sure he hasn’t swallowed any — just in case.

Insulation is the absolute worst thing that your dog can eat, even when compared to chocolate, a bee, or toothpaste. These tips will help you keep him safe and sound as much as possible, and know what to do just in case.

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