Many dogs love people food, and they’re often willing to choke down a fair bit of inedible material if it means getting the chance to enjoy something delicious.
Most dogs won’t hesitate to snag a French fry dropped on the kitchen floor, and some won’t even let a food wrapper stop them from enjoying something yummy.
This includes aluminum foil (“tinfoil”). Plenty of dogs have eaten their way through some aluminum foil to get to the delicious contents lurking inside. And more often than not, they’ll end up with a bit of the aluminum foil in their belly by the time they’re finished.
This is usually not a big deal. Most dogs will just poop out the aluminum foil and be no worse for the wear. Still, you’ll want to watch your dog carefully for a few troubling symptoms that’ll necessitate a trip to the vet.
We’ll talk about the potential health problems aluminum foil can cause and some of the things you’ll want to watch for below. But first, we need to discuss the actual material we’re talking about.
Key Takeaways: Help! My Dog Ate Tinfoil!
- Dogs often consume aluminum foil while trying to eat the delicious food it contains. In most cases, your dog will pass the foil without issue, but it can cause serious problems in some cases.
- Even though aluminum foil often passes easily enough, you’ll want to contact your vet pronto. Your vet may simply encourage you to monitor your pet at home, or he or she may instruct you to come in for an immediate examination.
- Aluminum is normally considered pretty inert, but it may cause aluminum toxicity in rare cases. Also, the foods contained by the foil may sicken your dog if they include chocolate, excessive fat, or similar things.
Tinfoil Vs. Aluminum Foil: Pedantic Details
Many people use the term tinfoil to refer to the shiny kitchen product used for cooking and wrapping up leftovers.
However, in the modern world, this product is typically made from aluminum, rather than tin.
In the early part of the 20th century, tin was actually used to make foil products for kitchen use. However, many people complained that the tin compromised the flavor of the food. Additionally, foil made from tin isn’t especially flexible, which makes it more difficult to use.
Accordingly, aluminum foil – which doesn’t alter the flavor of food and is much more pliable than tin — took over the market once it became widely available in the middle of the 20th century.
None of this matters to you or your dog, except that there is some concern that aluminum can be toxic when ingested. In any event, the two terms are used interchangeably.
The Dangers of Aluminum Foil & Dogs
By and large, aluminum foil is a pretty benign substance – that’s why we use it to wrap up leftover food. However, that doesn’t mean you or your dog should eat it.
There are essentially three reasons aluminum foil ingestion should be cause for concern.
1. Aluminum foil may cause your dog to choke or create an intestinal obstruction.
This is clearly the most acute danger to dogs in most cases. Typically, this is only a problem for dogs who eat a substantial quantity of aluminum foil.
However, if you have a small dog, it may not take very much to create a blockage or get caught in your pet’s throat.
2. The aluminum foil may be coated in fat, chocolate, or other common ingredients, which could make your dog sick.
Most dogs don’t eat unused aluminum foil (those who do may be suffering from a behavioral disorder known as pica).
Instead, they eat aluminum foil that is coated in (or wrapped around) delicious-smelling foods. This may not be a big problem if the food was roasted pumpkin, but if it was chocolate or ribs, your dog may become sick.
3. Aluminum may be toxic when ingested.
Aluminum can be toxic when ingested, and there is at least one case of a dog who became sick after eating an aluminum razor blade.
However, some vets downplay this danger, and it should probably be the least of your concerns, as the foil will likely pass on its own before causing toxicity problems — otherwise you’ll need to have your vet go in and remove it manually.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Aluminum Foil?
You’ll want to take aluminum foil ingestion seriously, but it needn’t cause you to panic. Most dogs will pass aluminum foil naturally, and it rarely causes severe health problems. Just follow the steps below if you discover that your four-footer has potentially eaten some foil.
1. Start by assessing your dog’s behavior and apparent health. Is he acting normally, or is he exhibiting signs of pain, disorientation, or discomfort?
As long as your dog is acting normally, you can just keep moving down the list. But if he shows signs of pain or distress, you’ll want to go ahead and head over to the vet.
2. Try to recreate the scene of the crime. You need to get an idea of how much aluminum foil your dog consumed, as well as what the aluminum foil may have contained. So, start collecting the pieces left on the ground and dig through your trash can to see how much is left inside.
Did he eat the wrapping from a few Hershey’s Kisses or several feet of aluminum foil used to wrap up what was left of your Thanksgiving Turkey?
Keep moving down the list if the quantity involved was minor, but if your dog ate a substantial amount of foil, give your vet a call.
3. Monitor your dog (and his poops) for the next several days. Typically, any aluminum foil your dog eats will pop out the other end easily enough. You may not always see it in his poop, but it is a good idea to take a look anyway.
If he continues to eat, drink, poop, and behave normally, he’s probably fine. However, if he exhibits any serious symptoms, you’ll want to take him in for a veterinary examination.
Post-Tinfoil Eating Signs and Symptoms of Note
Even if your dog continues to act normally right after eating some aluminum foil, you’ll want to continue to watch for the following signs and symptoms over the next few days.
- Signs of obvious pain or distress
- Panic or hyperactivity (not normal excitement, such as when you get home from work)
- Refusing food
- Difficulty pooping or constipation
- Signs of potential aluminum toxicity, such as tremors, loss of balance, or unusual behaviors.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll want to pack up your pooch and head over to the vet.
What to Expect at the Vet When Your Dog Eats Tinfoil
Your vet will likely start by checking your pup’s vitals and taking a detailed history. He or she will want to know when your dog ate the foil, how much foil he consumed, and what (if anything) was on or inside the foil. He or she will also inquire about your dog’s symptoms, including when they started and their severity.
From this point forward, your vet’s actions will likely be determined by your dog’s condition and your answers.
Your vet may take a blood sample, and then order some X-rays to see exactly where the foil is. This will allow him or her to determine how likely it is to pass on its own.
In some cases, an endoscope (a long, flexible camera inserted into your dog’s mouth or rectum) or ultrasound may be used instead of an X-ray.
If your dog is suffering symptoms because of the substances stuck to the foil, your vet may prescribe medications to counteract the effects or administer activated charcoal to help absorb any chemicals present in your dog’s belly.
Laxatives may be prescribed to help your dog expel the foil too.
If the aluminum foil appears unlikely to pass, your vet may have to go in and remove it manually, which will require surgery.
Dogs who eat tinfoil usually recover on their own, and most won’t even display any symptoms. You may see tiny pieces of aluminum foil in his poop for a few days, but that’s usually the extent of the problem. Just be sure to watch your dog closely and be ready to reach out to your vet if your dog begins displaying any problematic symptoms.
In the meantime, take a moment to look over your kitchen and the way you handle aluminum foil. Make sure you aren’t leaving any foil in places that your dog can access and consider adding a pet-proof trash can if he likes to go perusing for treats. This is doubly important if you have the kind of dog who eats just about everything he can access!
Has your dog ever eaten some aluminum foil? Tell us all about it. What was inside the aluminum foil that drew his attention? Did he pass it on his own or did you need veterinary assistance?