First of all, if you are reading this, you have my condolences, because ew.
But don’t feel bad – diaper-eating behavior isn’t all that uncommon among dogs, and it’s probably not any grosser than some of the other things some dogs eat, like tampons.
But unfortunately, diaper-eating isn’t just gross, it can also cause serious – potentially fatal – health problems for dogs. So, go wash off your pup’s face if need be (and your hands), and come back so we can explain what you’ll need to do.
Key Takeaways: My Dog Ate a Diaper! What Do I Do?
- Dogs who eat diapers can suffer from very serious health problems. If you discover that your dog has eaten a diaper, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately.
- Baby diapers aren’t the only types of diapers that can cause problems — any type of diaper can. This not only includes cloth and disposable varieties, but also adult diapers and doggie diapers too.
- Once you’ve addressed the problem and your dog is safe, you’ll want to take steps to prevent it from happening again. This includes doing things like storing unused diapers somewhere your pooch can’t reach, and disposing of used diapers in a locking trashcan.
When Your Dog Eats a Diaper: Take Immediate Action
If you notice or suspect that your dog has eaten a diaper (in whole or in part), you’ll want to call your vet immediately.
Diapers represent a number of potential dangers, and prompt veterinary attention is imperative for giving your dog the best chance at a full recovery.
Your vet may recommend that you encourage your dog to vomit by administering a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. However, vomiting can occasionally make things worse, so don’t force your dog to vomit until you speak with your vet first (this also goes for anytime your dog eats anything dangerous or toxic).
In some cases, your vet may recommend that you bring your dog in for immediate treatment. Your vet may want to make your dog throw up or perform a procedure called a gastric lavage to “wash out” your pet’s stomach.
But it is also possible that your vet will just encourage you to observe your dog and act accordingly.
If you cannot reach your vet for some reason, you can try calling the Pet Poison Helpline instead (fees will apply). Alternatively, you can try using JustAnswer’s Vet Services. This will give you the chance to chat with a staff veterinarian (and share photos or video), who can help you figure out your next steps.
Note that you should just load your dog in the car and drive directly to the closest vet or veterinary hospital if your dog looks like he is having trouble breathing, appears panicked, or loses consciousness.
Why Are Diapers Dangerous for Dogs?
Dogs who eat diapers can suffer from a few different health problems, but the most immediate and serious concern is that the diaper will cause your dog to choke or block his digestive tract.
Different diapers are made in different ways, but most are comprised of three basic layers:
- A thin, waterproof outer layer, designed to prevent leaks
- An absorbent middle layer, designed to collect and contain fluids
- A breathable and permeable inner layer, designed to keep the wearer’s skin dry
Both the outer and inner layer can cause issues (especially for small dogs), but it is the absorbent middle layer that causes the most serious problems.
This middle layer can be made from a variety of different materials, but paper products and superabsorbent polymers are the two most common options manufacturers use.
When your dog eats a diaper, this absorbent layer does exactly what it’s designed to do: It begins wicking moisture from its surroundings.
This means it’ll start absorbing water, stomach acid and any other fluids in the digestive tract. This alone can cause dehydration and intestinal problems, as fluids are necessary to keep the contents of the digestive system moving smoothly.
It can also dehydrate your dog pretty significantly.
But the real problem is that the absorbent material will start to swell – sometimes drastically so – as it absorbs fluid. This may cause it to completely block your dog’s digestive tract, which represents a medical emergency.
Even partial intestinal blockages can prove fatal, and complete blockages are obviously very dangerous.
Do Diapers Represent Any Other Dangers For Dogs?
The absorbent material contained inside diapers represents the most serious health threat to your dog, but there are a few other ways diapers can cause problems too.
For example, the adhesive closures attached to most diapers can also become stuck in your dog’s digestive tract. They could also become stuck to your dog’s fur, although this is usually not a terribly serious problem (a little soap and warm water should help you pull the closure free).
Another potential problem is the poop itself.
Human feces is full of bacteria (it is more than half bacteria by weight, once you remove the water), and this includes some that may make your dog sick. Adult dogs have pretty robust immune systems, so this isn’t likely to make your dog seriously ill, but it may cause vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms.
However, some dogs may require antibiotics to help clear any bacterial infection they contract from the poop.
Cloth Diapers Are Also Dangerous For Dogs
We’ve primarily been talking about disposable diapers, but reusable diapers are also dangerous for dogs.
Dogs probably don’t eat cloth diapers as often as they do disposable diapers, but it does occasionally happen.
Reusable or cloth diapers may not be made with superabsorbent polymers, but they’re still made of absorbent fabrics.
This means they can absorb fluids from your dog’s digestive tract, swell, and cause obstructions. They may even cause abrasions to your dog’s throat or intestines (not to mention his butt when it’s on its way out).
Additionally, safety pins and other closures used with cloth diapers present an obvious danger to your pet. Hopefully, any safety pins or clips swallowed by your dog will remain closed and simply pass through his digestive tract, but if the safety pins open, they could easily cause serious injuries and complicate the removal or passage of the diaper.
Veterinary Care: What to Expect at the Vet When Your Dog Eats a Diaper
Most vets will probably recommend that you bring your dog in for an examination after eating a diaper.
Your vet will verify that your dog is in stable condition, and then start performing a physical examination, to look for things like signs of pain and abdominal swelling or tenderness. He or she may also begin administering IV fluids to prevent dehydration.
Your vet will also begin taking a history, by asking you questions about your dog’s general health and any symptoms he’s already begun exhibiting. Your vet will also likely inquire about the diaper, including its size and the number of diapers your dog ate.
If possible, bring an unused diaper with you, so your vet can determine what materials it is made of (it’s also a good idea to try to “recreate the scene of the crime” before you head to the vet, so you can determine how much of the diaper your dog consumed).
At this point, your vet will likely want to determine exactly where the diaper is in your dog’s digestive tract. He or she may do so in a number of ways:
- In some cases, the diaper may be stuck just inside your dog’s mouth or throat, so the vet will perform a visual inspection of the oral cavity.
- If the diaper has been in your dog’s digestive tract for some time, it may already be near your dog’s exit. Your vet may be able to verify this by performing a rectal examination.
- Your vet may be able to palpate your dog’s belly and feel portions of the diaper.
- An endoscope – a long, flexible camera – may be inserted into your dog’s mouth or rectum to allow the vet to see the diaper directly.
- Imaging techniques, such as ultrasound or X-rays, may be used to locate the diaper.
Once your vet has a better idea of where the diaper is, he or she can devise a treatment plan.
In some cases, your vet may try to get your dog to vomit the diaper up or prescribe a laxative or enema to help your dog expel the diaper via the other route. Your vet may even believe that the diaper will pass on its own, and simply recommend that you wait for your dog to poop it out.
If none of these options appear like viable strategies, your vet will likely need to remove the diaper manually. In a best-case scenario, this can be accomplished by inserting long, flexible tools into your dog’s mouth or rectum, which will allow your vet to remove the stuck diaper.
However, surgery may be required in some cases.
Why Do Dogs Eat Diapers?
Dogs are famous for eating pretty unappetizing things, including tampons, dead animals, and “treats” harvested from your cat’s litter box. But diapers are perhaps the most revolting items they occasionally consume.
The question is: What on earth makes them want to do so?
As with so many other aspects of dog behavior, no one knows for sure.
On the one hand, dogs are pretty intelligent creatures, who normally act in deliberate, sensible ways. If they have a problem, they’ll take steps to correct it – although the steps they take may seem strange to humans.
For example, if they’re hungry, they may go foraging in the trash can. If they’re thirsty, they may drink from the toilet.
But dogs also do plenty of things that are just bizarre. They roll around on animal carcasses, they chew on toilet paper, and they often take great offense to vacuum cleaners. Other dogs will try to eat just about everything they can get access to! Dogs surely have their reasons for doing these things, but the logic is typically lost on their humans.
Diaper-eating behavior largely falls into the latter category, but there are also some pretty logical reasons why they occasionally seem to find diapers irresistible.
For starters, as gross as it sounds, dogs do occasionally eat poop. This is likely an evolutionary holdover from the days when they (and their wolf ancestors) had to scavenge food from everywhere possible.
Poop usually contains some undigested material, meaning that it actually represents a source of calories (I’m gonna go barf now, feel free to do the same).
Additionally, dogs often like to chew on things with interesting textures – especially if they’re bored, frustrated or teething. They usually pick things like shoes, TV remotes, and couch cushions, put just about anything they can reach is fair game, including diapers.
It is also possible that diaper-eating can be triggered by feelings of jealousy or anxiety related to the arrival of a new baby.
Dogs sometimes chew on things that they associate with a source of anxiety or frustration, and it’s possible that your pup may find that chewing on your baby’s diapers helps soothe some of these feelings.
Baby Diapers Aren’t the Only Issue: All Diapers Can Cause Problems
We’ve primarily focused on dogs who eat baby diapers, but it is important to realize that any kind of diaper can endanger your pet. This not only includes adult (human) diapers and undergarments but dog diapers too.
In fact, dogs who don’t like wearing diapers may be at particular risk, as they may chew or gnaw on the diaper in an effort to remove it.
This can cause them to inadvertently ingest pieces of it, which can lead to problems.
What Can You Do to Avoid Future Diaper-Eating Incidents?
Given the danger diapers represent to dogs who eat them, you should do everything you can to keep them out of your dog’s reach. Just try to implement the tips and strategies listed below to help keep your pup safe.
- Use a locking or pet-proof trashcan for your child’s dirty diapers. Be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to the best pet-proof trashcans to see what options are available to you.
- Keep unused diapers out of your dog’s reach. Most of the time, you should be able to do so by simply storing them somewhere high above the ground, such as a table or shelf in your child’s room.
- Dispose of adult diapers or used doggie diapers in a safe manner. Don’t just throw them in the bathroom trash can – put them in a pet-proof receptacle, like those discussed in the link above.
- Bag used diapers individually before throwing them away. By sealing them in a plastic bag, you’ll help make the odorless detectable to your dog, which will probably reduce his interest level in them.
- Observe your dog carefully if you need to make him wear diapers. Be sure that he doesn’t try to chew on the diaper and that it fits snuggly – you don’t want him to wiggle free and then have the opportunity to eat it.
- Consider spraying used diapers (or the entire trashcan) with a dog-deterring spray, such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple. This should help discourage your dog from chewing on diapers and investigating the trashcan in general.
Dogs can certainly put themselves in grave danger by eating diapers, so be sure to implement the above tips to help keep your pupper safe.
If you ever find that your dog has eaten a diaper, contact your vet at once and be ready to act quickly to give your dog the best chance at a full recovery.
Has your dog ever helped himself to a diaper from the trashcan? Or perhaps he ate a portion of his own diaper?
We’d love to hear about your experiences. Let us know what happened and how your vet treated the situation in the comments below!