More than one owner has come home to find that their dog has picked through the bathroom trashcan.
And while there are often plenty of things in there that can catch a dog’s attention (from dining on diapers to scarfing down bars of soap), used feminine hygiene products are a frequent source of intrigue for our canine counterparts.
But aside from the perplexing nature of this habit, tampon-eating can actually be dangerous for your dog. We’ll explain the potential problems that can precipitate from the practice and try to illuminate the reasons dogs often find tampons tempting below.
My Dog Ate a Tampon: Key Takeaways
- Tampon-eating is actually a pretty common problem among dogs. It isn’t clear exactly why dogs seem drawn to these types of hygiene products, but it is likely due to the odor of blood and the way cotton feels in their mouths.
- Despite being a common problem, it can cause serious health problems. Some dogs will pass an eaten tampon without issue, but others may choke, experience dangerous intestinal blockages, or suffer extensive (even life-threatening) lacerations from the attached string.
- You’ll want to contact your vet immediately if you discover that he’s eaten a tampon. In some cases, your vet may recommend bringing your dog in for an immediate examination; in other cases, your vet may simply advise you to monitor your pet.
First Thing’s First: Is My Dog in Danger From Eating a Tampon?
After noticing your dog has eaten a tampon, you’ll want to contact your vet and watch your pooch closely (if you happen to catch him in the act, do everything you can to get him to drop it).
The blood won’t cause him any harm (he is, after all a carnivore), but the actual tampon – meaning the cotton fibers and string – can cause him to choke or suffer an intestinal blockage.
These types of blockages can prevent food, fluids, and gas from moving through your dog’s digestive tract. This can not only be excruciatingly painful, it can cut off the blood flow to parts of your dog’s esophagus, stomach or intestines (depending on where the obstruction occurs).
This can lead to necrosis (tissue death), which presents a litany of potential complications. In a worst-case scenario, obstructions can lead to death.
Blockages can take up to four days to trigger symptoms, so remain vigilant for several days following the incident.
Note that dogs may eat used or unused tampons, though the former seems to be more common. While that may make some owners squeamish, there is one thing to be thankful for if your dog eats a used (rather than unused) tampon: Used tampons are less likely to cause an intestinal obstruction than new tampons are.
This is because the blood present in a used tampon will cause the cotton to distend, while an unused tampon will swell more when it contacts your dog’s saliva and stomach acid.
Note that not all dogs become sick or require veterinary attention after eating a tampon. Some will pass it with no problem (just cross your fingers that he does so in private rather than at the dog park). But unfortunately, many dogs will suffer from problems after consuming a tampon.
The relative danger posed will depend on a number of different factors, including:
- Your dog’s size. Larger dogs have larger intestinal tracts, so they can often pass tampons and other eaten items more easily than small dogs can. Point being, a tampon-eating pug is probably in more danger than a tampon-eating Great Dane is.
- The contents of your dog’s digestive tract. The relative amount of water, fats, and fiber in your dog’s digestive tract can alter the speed at which it can pass through his digestive system.
- The number of tampons he consumed. Obviously, a single tampon is more likely to pass through his intestines than a half-dozen will. This is why it is important to try to determine how many tampons your dog has eaten. If you aren’t sure how many were in the trashcan, you could count how many are remaining in the box to get an idea.
With any luck, your dog will pass the tampon through his body and you’ll simply have to deal with some strange-looking poops.
Troubling Symptoms Resulting From Tampon-Eating
You shouldn’t panic if your dog eats a used tampon – your dog certainly won’t be the first. Still, you must keep an eye out for a few symptoms that can indicate serious trouble.
Some of the most troubling symptoms include:
- Intestinal disturbances
- Nausea, vomiting or retching (dry-heaving)
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Disinterest in food
- “Panicked” behavior
- Unusual body postures
Any of these symptoms can indicate that your dog’s digestive tract has become blocked, or that the tampon’s string has entangled part of his intestines. Contact your vet immediately upon noticing any of these symptoms (even if you’ve already called once), and follow his or her directions.
What to Expect at the Vet When Your Dog Has Injested a Tampon
The treatment your dog receives will vary depending on his condition.
The first thing your vet will likely do is check your dog’s vitals and perform a basic examination. He or she will also ask you questions about your dog’s behavior and the timing of the ordeal.
Then, the vet will likely try to ascertain the location of the tampon (and anything else he may have eaten from the trashcan). This will usually begin with a quick peek inside your dog’s mouth – the tampon string may be stuck to your dog’s teeth, for example, which would make removal a bit simpler.
If the tampon isn’t visible in your pet’s mouth, your vet may use a tool called an endoscope (basically a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the end) to look down your dog’s throat. If this proves fruitless, your vet may order an X-ray to try to locate the tampon (technically, tampons don’t show up on X-rays, so your vet will actually look for trapped gas or food, which will indicate where the tampon is).
If your vet determines that the tampon was only eaten within the last hour or so and hasn’t passed very far along the digestive tract, he or she may administer an emetic – a drug that induces vomiting (don’t attempt to do this yourself without first consulting your vet).
If this works, your dog will likely barf up the tampon and recover fairly quickly. If however, the tampon has become stuck farther along the digestive tract, surgery may be required.
Why Do Dogs Eat Tampons (and Similar Sanitary Products)?
Because they are vampires.
Not really, but that would be a much more amusing explanation. The truth is actually pretty boring.
Dogs live in a different world than humans do. Whereas our perceptions are largely shaped and informed by visual stimuli, dogs live in a world full of odors and scents. Given that they have 50 times as many olfactory cells as we do, this is understandable.
So, when your dog gets bored or frustrated, he starts looking for something interesting. His nose naturally leads him to the bathroom trashcan and its bounty of bizarre odors.
Once muzzle-deep in the can, he seeks out the strongest and most interesting scent he can find – more often than not, this comes in the form of a used feminine hygiene product.
Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Dog Out of the Bathroom Trashcan
If your dog likes to root through the bathroom trashcan, you’ll want to employ a few strategies to prevent the practice. While none of the following recommendations are foolproof, most will help keep your dog from eating things you’d rather he didn’t.
Keep your bathroom shut. This is a really simple solution, although it isn’t always easy to get into the habit of keeping your bathroom door closed at all times.
Spray a little dog repellent around the rim of the trashcan. Four Paws Keep Off! Spray is a good choice for these types of applications. You can also use spray-based behavior-correcting sprays if you catch your pooch in the act.
Use a pet-proof trashcan. There are a variety of pet-proof trashcans on the market, which usually feature an automatically closing lid, which is difficult (if not impossible) for pets to lift. The simplehuman Trash Can is one of the best options available for bathroom use.
Bag used tampons before discarding them. If you place used hygiene products (and anything else that may attract your dog’s attention) in a zipper-style plastic bag, your dog is much less likely to smell it.
Do you have a tampon-tasting dog? Have you figured out any way to discourage his habit?
Tell us all about your stories and experiences below!