My Dog Ate Dental Floss – Should I be worried?

By Kevin Myers | 2020 Update

Here’s the truth:

Dogs are heedless creatures. They eat or swallow anything that appeals to their sense of smell.

However, these foreign bodies can pose a serious threat to their life. And more often than not, it’s something as benign as dental floss.

So what should you do if your dog ate a bunch of dental floss? Dental floss is harmless to dogs if it’s shorter than four inches in length. However, a long string of floss could tie up your dog’s intestines, leading to intestinal obstruction and an excruciating death if not treated immediately.

But what if you’re not sure how much floss your dog ate? What symptoms should you look out for then?

To find out, keep reading ahead!

Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Ate Floss?

So your dog just ate some floss right in front of you. Or maybe you just came home and found your box of floss chewed up and empty. Should you be worried?

Yes and No. Dental floss in itself isn’t that harmless. It’s made of nylon and can easily pass through your dog’s digestive system, even if it didn’t get dissolved by your dog’s stomach acid. 

But that’s based on the assumption that the floss was shorter than four inches. It’s actually the length of the floss that can turn it from a harmless nylon string into a slow poison.

If you’re sure that your dog didn’t get a hold of too much floss, you should be safe. Your dog will probably pass it out in a few days without any repercussions. 

However, if you find the whole spool of floss empty, you should rush your dog to the ER vet straight away. Floss can tie up your dog’s intestines and cause a fatal obstruction. This can quickly turn into necrosis, and the significance of the damage will mostly lead to death.

Despite this, there are a few techniques you could implement to figure out whether your dog is at risk or not, and how you can prevent a major disaster like this from occurring.

Dog That Swallowed Dental Floss with Endoscopy

What To Do After Your Dog Eats Floss

Your first action after confirming your dog has eaten floss should be figuring out how much floss they ate and of what length. If your dog managed to get a hold of a used piece of floss from the garbage, it probably wouldn’t be long enough to cause any major issue.

But sometimes, dogs can munch on a whole spool in one go. While this is a situation of emergency, you can save your dog’s life if you act quickly. And the way to do this is by inducing vomiting.

Inducing Vomiting In Dogs

Vomiting is probably the only way that can give your dog a fighting chance if they’ve ingested dangerous amounts of floss. If the floss bundled up into a ball in your dog’s stomach, they can vomit it right out.

But for this technique to be successful, you have to be quick. You have about 2 hours since the time your dog ate floss before it heads down into their intestines. If you induce vomiting any time before that, you could possibly save your dog from a lot of pain.

You have two options here; induce vomiting on your own at home, or let a vet do the procedure. While the whole process isn’t too complicated, we highly recommend you take your dog a veterinarian if you haven’t induced vomiting in your dog before.

Because complications can also arise if you make you intentionally make your dog vomit, it’s best to be thoroughly familiar with the process and have some back-hand experience.

However, in a situation where you don’t think you could make it to the vet in time, or have induced vomiting before, you could try and do the procedure on your own. 

Steps to induce vomiting in dogs

Before you attempt to induce vomiting, try to make sure your dog has some food in their system. If they don’t, feed them a small meal to make it easier for them to throw up. We also recommend having a veterinarian or some other knowledgeable person on the line.

1. Take 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Solution: The ingredient we’ll be using to induce vomit will be 3% Hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide irritates the dog’s stomach by causing bubbling and eventually leads to vomiting.

2. Collect the right dosage: The recommended dosage for inducing vomiting in dogs is 1 teaspoon of 3% Hydrogen peroxide per 5 pounds of bodyweight. The maximum amount of peroxide to be administered for dogs is 3 tablespoons. So any dog weighing more than 45 pounds should not be fed more than 3 tablespoons of peroxide at a time.

3. Feed your dog the peroxide solution: Once you’ve found out how much peroxide you need to administer, take a turkey baster or syringe, and fill it up with the solution. Open your dog’s mouth, and gently squirt the solution towards their cheek near their back teeth or towards the back of their mouth. Do not aggressively squirt the solution as your dog could inhale the peroxide.

4. Take your dog to a bathroom: While it may take your dog up to 15 minutes to throw up, take them to a bathroom or any place that’s easy to clean. We recommend having a tray in which your dog can vomit in; otherwise, a hard surface will also do.

5. Examine your dog’s vomit: After your dog starts vomiting, use a stick or rod to inspect the vomit for floss. Dogs usually vomit out 50% of their stomach content this way and might vomit more than once. So be sure to check whether the floss has come out or not.

6. Check with your vet: Go to see your vet after about 45 minutes of feeding your dog the peroxide solution. If your dog did manage to throw up the floss, your vet would give them a few medicines to clear out any remaining foreign body. But if the floss is still in their system, your vet will decide the next course of action after taking a few tests.

How to induce vomiting in your dog | Dr Justine Lee

Preventing Your Dog From Eating Floss

Situations where dogs eat something that they’re not supposed to, are very frightening. Dental floss has been known to cause fatalities before and will most certainly put your dog’s life in jeopardy if consumed.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s your responsibility to remove anything from your dog’s path that can cause them harm. And the first step to do this is by arranging a good garbage disposal system that prevents your dog from scavenging through it.

Items like dental floss and strings that are used to tie meat are a primary target for dogs. Since they smell like mint and meat, your dog’s sense of smell will often guide them towards consuming such stuff.  

Therefore, it’s your responsibility to safely dispose of these items, away from your dog’s reach. Dispose of everything you suspect your dog might try to eat in a separate container that’s hard to reach. Make sure this container reaches the garbage truck directly.

Another tip is to store anything you suspect your dog might try to investigate in a safe compartment such as a high shelf or cupboard. If you casually place your floss on the sofa or coffee table, your dog is bound to ingest it one moment or the other.

FAQ’s

What are the symptoms of dental floss ingestion?

If your dog ate dental floss, they would exhibit symptoms like abdominal pain, loss of appetite, difficulty in defecating. All of these signs are a major red flag and should be looked at by a vet immediately.

How long does it take for a dog to digest something?

It takes about 10-24 hours for any item to pass through a dog’s digestive system, from the moment they eat something to the time they poop it out.

Is thread dangerous for dogs to consume?

Yes, thread poses the same health hazard as dental floss. It has the potential to tie up their intestine and cause necrosis at worst.

How long does a dog with intestinal obstruction survive?

For complete obstruction, it may only take a dog 3-4 days to die. However, with partial obstruction, your dog will gradually lose weight and die within about 3-4 weeks.

How much does an intestinal obstruction surgery cost?

An intestinal surgery to remove obstruction costs anywhere between $1,000 – $3,000 depending on the case and the veterinarian that’s doing the surgery.

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