My Dog Ate Paper Towel - Should I Be Worried?

Did you just catch your dog eating paper towels? Find out if the ingestion of paper towels pose a risk to your dog's health and when you should take it to a vet.

It is well known that many dogs are tempted to chew or eat various things they find in their surroundings. This is not a rare behavior and you don't have to worry about it typically, because most dogs do this. However, you have to make all the efforts possible at keeping the things that are harmful to them out of their reach.

Today we are going to talk particularly about some household items that are present in all kitchens and which can be dangerous if your dog ingests it, paper towels. After you read the entire article you may want to keep the rolls of paper towels away from your dog.

The risks that your dog is exposed to when he eats paper towels, the quantity he should be ingesting to be at risk, and when you should start worrying and take him to a vet, that's what we are going to talk about further in this article.

Why Do Dogs Eat Paper Towels?

It may seem strange and at the same time very unclear why a dog would eat paper towels in the first place. So, we made a list of the most common reasons for this behavior.

They Smell Like Food

Most dogs will not touch a roll of paper towels, or maybe they will only do so while playing. In these cases, they will just tear the paper into pieces and enjoy the moment, but many of the dogs will not swallow any of it.

Obviously, paper towels become really attractive for dogs when they smell like food. We often use paper towels to wipe the table, clean various dropped food bits, or utilize them to wipe our mouths after eating. Therefore, it is not surprising that paper towels often end up having an enticing smell for dogs and other pets.

To prevent these paper towels from becoming a part of the menu of our pets, we must make sure that we throw them away immediately after use in a container the animals cannot open. Do not let these sit on the table after you finish your meal because dogs might just grab them when you are not looking. Avoid throwing these in trash cans that do not have a lid or that can be opened very easily. Dogs are very smart and if they smell food, they can find a way to open the trash bin.

Paper towels are made up of cellulose fiber and are biodegradable. Hence, if you have a garden, and you want to do a service to the environment you can add them to your composting bin instead of throwing them away.

Eating Disorder

In addition to consuming paper towels due to the smell and food debris on them, dogs can also eat these non-food products due to an eating disorder called "pica."

Pica consists of the animal's desire for chewing and eating stuff that has no nutritional value and which brings no real benefit to it. This condition is not particularly confined to paper towel consumption. An animal affected by this disorder can also have the tendency of swallowing things like rocks, wood, rubber, plastic, and about anything they can chew.

This unusual eating habit on dogs may be caused due to improper nutrition, as well as several psychological factors such as anxiety, stress, boredom, teething, or compulsive disorders.

Keep in mind that even if your canine friend has a tendency of chewing on various things, that doesn't necessarily mean that he suffers from this eating disorder. It is not uncommon for many young puppies and even for untrained adult dogs to chew on non-food things around them. As long as they are only chewing these items but don't swallow them, they should not be cataloged as having this disorder.

Dangers Of Dogs Eating Paper Towels

The consumption of paper towels and paper in general can cause mild to critical issues in your dog's health. 

A dog's stomach produces gastric acid which is way stronger than the one of humans. This acid is so strong that can soften even bones. Therefore, most dogs will have no problem digesting a small amount of paper.

Things get complicated when the dog ingests a significant amount of paper in a short time. Also, the gravity of the situation can vary from one breed to another.

Vet Dog Stomach Ultrasound Gastrointestinal BlockageSome dog breeds have a much more problematic digestive system than others. In particular, small breeds of dogs, such as Chihuahua, Terriers, Shih Tzus, Bichonsand, French Bulldogs, and others that are generally prone to various digestive issues, may have major problems after paper consumption.

Even though swallowing one or two paper towels may not be enough to cause health issues to a german shepherd, that might be just sufficient to send a small French Bulldog straight to the vet.

Another factor that increases the risk is the age of the animal. Dogs of all ages are at risk, but young puppies are particularly vulnerable.

Gastrointestinal Blockage

Gastrointestinal blockage or bowel obstruction is the most common issue caused by the ingestion of a substantial amount of paper towels or other foreign objects in dogs. This is a severe health condition that can quickly turn deadly for any animal if you do not rush to a veterinarian.

The blockage can occur in the stomach or at the intestinal level and can be either complete or partial. The solid mass will prevent food and fluids from passing through the gastrointestinal tract and lead to various complications and even to the animal's death if not removed in time.

Gastrointestinal Blockage Symptoms

Your dog may experience one or more of the signs listed below. These are the most common symptoms of intestinal blockage in dogs and when you notice their presence, you should take your dog urgently to a veterinarian.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Repetitive Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because the symptoms are common to many diseases, the veterinarian must first determine if it is a gastrointestinal blockage or other illness with similar manifestations.

The vet will ask you first of all if you saw the animal swallowing non-food items. A physical exam and an X-ray or ultrasound inspection are usually needed in order to detect the presence of a foreign object inside your dog's digestive system.

In some situations and depending on how severe the gastrointestinal blockage is, the veterinarian will try to induce a vomiting sensation in the canine.

To remove small objects, an endoscopy might be the quickest and most suitable solution. Though, if your dog has swallowed a good amount of paper towels, or anything significant and has a big blockage, surgery might be needed to save the animal.


Another possible problem when your dog swallows paper towels, newspaper, toilet paper, or other large pieces of paper is suffocation. 

While most dogs will chew small chunks of paper at a time, there are also some more greedy and who will try to swallow large pieces of paper. The second approach can end quite badly if the paper type is hard to dissolve and not very pliable.

Thus, a blockage may create on your dog's throat and obstruct its airways, therefore, preventing the oxygen from reaching the lungs.

Observe if the dog coughs or has other breathing problems and contact a veterinarian immediately if this happens.

Upset Stomach

One of the least serious things that can happen if your dog eats paper towels is an upset stomach. This obviously isn't as worrisome as a gastrointestinal blockage. Yet, your dog might not feel very good and could develop diarrhea or abdominal cramps.

Keep in mind that an upset stomach may at the same time just be an incipient state of bowel obstruction, so you'll have to closely monitor your pet in the next 24 hours and observe if its condition improves.

Otherwise, if you notice that the symptoms do not go away on their own, or if the dog's condition deteriorates, then take him to a vet immediately. That might be a sign of something more serious than an upset stomach.

Should I Take My Dog To A Vet If He Ate Paper Towel?

Even if your dog ate paper towels, it is not always necessary to run to the vet immediately. In many cases, the paper will pass through its digestive system and will be eliminated in the stool without causing any health problems. This happens especially if it chews the paper towel thoroughly before ingesting it.

A very important role in this problem is played by the amount of paper that your dog has eaten. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, paper consumption can affect the different breeds of dogs to a different extent. Smaller dog breeds typically develop problems more often.

Another variable factor that can complicate the problem is the age of the dog. Young puppies are more inclined to developing complications after eating these items.

If you are sure that your puppy has swallowed a significant amount of paper towels, it is recommended to keep him under strict supervision for at least the next 48 hours. If it does not develop any symptoms, then most likely the amount of paper swallowed will end up in the stool and will be eliminated without causing any health conditions. You can also watch if parts of the paper towel pass in the stool.

If any symptoms appear that indicate anything more than a simple irritated stomach, then you should urgently visit a vet clinic.

If your dog tends to regularly eat paper towels or other inedible materials, then you should seek the advice of a veterinarian, as it may suffer from an eating disorder.