What to Do When Your Dog Eats a Plastic Bag (Urgent Action Needed)

Call or take your dog to the vet RIGHT NOW. There are many things that can go wrong when a dog accidentally eats a plastic bag. It doesn’t matter if your dog ate the plastic bag as a whole or in torn pieces. The faster you take the dog to the vet, the lesser the chances of complications.

What Happens if a Dog Eats a Plastic Bag?

Not every dog-eating-plastic-bag situation can be classed as an immediate emergency but you don’t want to leave it to chance. A number of things can happen when a dog eats a plastic bag.

In the best-case scenario, the plastic bag is small enough to pass through the dog’s digestive tract and eventually come out the other end. In the worst-case scenario, the plastic bag will cause a partial or full blockage of the dog’s digestive system.

The medical treatment required for a plastic bag blockage may differ based on a number of factors such as the location of the blockage. The vet may conduct a number of examinations (e.g. X-Ray, endoscopy, ultrasound) on your dog to identify the location of the obstruction.

One potential treatment that may be required is an intestinal blockage surgery. This surgery is major in the sense that the dog will need to go under anesthesia and be hospitalized for a few days post-surgery. Unfortunately, this surgery is expensive and will most likely cost a few thousands dollar.

Another immediate solution is to try and have your dog throw up the plastic bag. We, however, strongly discourage you from doing this unless the vet gives you the green light to do so. Trying to get your dog to throw up the plastic bag may actually lead to more harm than good.

Symptoms of Blockage in a Dog’s Stomach

What if the dog ate the plastic bag while you weren’t looking? Common symptoms to look out for that may indicate a blockage in the dog’s stomach include vomiting, inability to poop, lethargic movements, diarrhea and loose stools, and signs of abdominal pain. If your dog starts to show any of the above symptoms then we highly recommend giving the vet a call to receive guidance on what to do next.

How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Digest Plastic?

Dogs can’t digest plastic but if the plastic bag is small enough then it may very well pass on and appear when the dog defecates. According to American Kennel Club, it should take under ten hours in normal circumstances for food to transit from the mouth to the large intestines. With plastic bags, it will potentially take longer since it is an indigestible object.

Why do Dogs Eat Plastic Bags?

There’s no definite answer as to why dogs eat plastic bags or foreign objects in general. What we do know is that dogs are very curious animals and their curiosity can get the best of them at times.

Another possible reason might have to do with pica, an eating disorder which involves a dog eating something that isn’t typically thought of as food. According to PetMD, one possible cause for pica is nutritional deficiency. If you haven’t been feeding your dog a well-balanced diet then here’s a chance to change that so that the dog no longer has the urge to consume foreign objects to satisfy his appetite.

Is there a Cure for Pica in Dogs?

Unfortunately, treating pica isn’t as straightforward as giving the dog medication. If the eating disorder arises due to behavioral issues then your dog may need a lifestyle change in order for pica to go away. For example, one recommendation a vet may offer is to increase the amount of physical activities your dog gets.

There are far too many stressed dogs out there that don’t get the amount of physical (and mental) exercise needed to lead a healthy lifestyle. Making sure your dog gets the appropriate amount of exercise can help resolve many behavioral issues, such as pica and excessive barking.

Pica may also arise due to an underlying medical condition or disease. In this case, you will need to consult with the vet to determine a treatment (and dietary) plan that is appropriate for your pet.

Stories from Dog Owners

Here are some stories shared by fellow dog owners who went through the same stressful experience of seeing their dog eat plastic bags.

Story #1 – Rescue Loves Plastic Bag

I brought home a rescue dog a few months ago. She is an eight years old German Shepherd. I absolutely adore her and she is a good girl. There is just

one behavior that isn’t so great though. She recently took a liking to plastic bags and love to tear down into pieces before eating a few as if they were snacks. How can I stop her from doing this without punishing her?

Story #2 – Puppy Ate Plastic Bag

I have a five months old puppy that ate a small piece (about 20cm by 5cm) of plastic bag. She just slurped it up before I could stop her from eating it. It happened yesterday night. This morning, she threw up a little but none of the plastic bag content came out. Should I check in with the vet?

Story #3 – Dog Ate Ziploc Bag

My silly Labrador managed to not just gobble up the cookies but the Ziploc bag that came with them. He was acting normal and had regular bowel movement. I checked with the vet the same day and he asked me to monitor my dog for a while to make sure nothing concerning happened. Fortunately, my dog threw up parts of the Ziploc bag the next morning. Dog owners, be careful with where you keep those plastic bags!

Disclaimer: The content on MyPetChild.com is for informational purpose only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian when in doubt.

Comments

  • Candy W | 02/09/2019

    My catahoula Leopard Dog ate a plastic Walmart bag with some chicken bones. She threw up this morning and this evening. She had had loose bowels too, this evening there was a point when she went out and seem to not do a thing. The she went went out after her dinner and it wasn’t. She is still eating good but she is a at-large dog can she pass this object?

  • Dylan Peterson | 23/09/2019

    It’s good to know that you shouldn’t leave anything to chance if your dog eats a plastic bag. My dog recently ate a plastic bag, and he seems fine, but I want to be sure. I’ll be sure to take him to the vet to make sure that he’s okay.

  • Kirsten | 26/12/2019

    My brother’s husky ate/swallowed a quart sized siding Ziploc bag from the trash on Christmas day. That for sure would not pass through his system and dogs cannot digest plastic. We brought him to our emergency vet immediately. In case you didn’t know, waiting a few hours to see if the dog pukes it up on his own is not advisable because that is when the object will enter the small intestine and require surgery in most cases. We were able to get his stomach pumped. Not an experience I ever want again. The process starts by the vet laying down paper on the floor, giving you a door bell, and you putting an opiate drop in each of the dog’s eyes, waiting ten minutes as you Heimlich maneuver the dog’s stomach as its in a standing position. While that is happening, someone should hold the leash to prevent the dog from moving. As soon as the dog vomits, you ring the door bell. If not vomiting within 10 minutes, you ring the door bell and the entire process is repeated until successful. I think it can be repeated only about 3 times before the dog requires a endoscopy to view the stomach contents. Then it will be determined if the object can be pulled out at that time or if surgery is required to remove it from the intestines. Stomach pumping is ~$179.00. Endoscopy is ~$2,500.00. Surgery of course is much more expensive. We got lucky and the plastic bag came up within the first +/- 7 minutes of pumping his stomach. It came out rolled up in a tube shape and thus it would have been very easy for it to have gotten wedged in his intestines creating a blockage if we had waited a few hours.

  • Christopher | 15/10/2020

    I think this is precisely what is happening to my dog. It ate plastic. I noticed it in itz poo. Itz loosing appetite. I notice it is backing more at night. It seems to loose weight! I admit I haven’t been walking it too often.

  • Shyam Prasad S | 01/12/2020

    My dog eat plastic bag it was white egg piece was there so

  • Kesh | 21/06/2021

    Hi All. Just wanted to post my recent experience with my 1.5 year old Dacshund male. He ate an entire plastic sandwich bag (200mm×100mm). He ate the plastic bag early in the morning and was okay for most part of the evening and night but he started eating a lot of grass. Day 2 was constant nausea and vomiting. We took him to the vet who treated him for the symptoms as they didn’t want to do invasive surgery straight away as the x-rays and scans showed no blockage or gas build up. They treated him with pain killers and antibiotics to prevent infections. Day 3 was similar, another vet follow up visit along with more injections. He did start eating food during the evening. Day 4 he ate normally although a much reduced portion as recommended by our vet. Day 5 he pooped out the plastic with our help. I guess this is a success story as there was no blockages and he didn’t require surgery. Thank you all for sharing your stories and opinions!

  • Jimmy Diesel | 24/10/2021

    My puppy ate a plastic bag that the cornerstore packages the fresh cheese in. I didn’t know until it came out the other end only partially and I had to pull out the rest. She is a small puppy and the bag was at least 1 liter size. No problem except that it was a long stringy situation. I have had the same problem with my daughter’s hair, which is very long.

  • A | 13/02/2022

    My beagle ate a piece of plastic bag that was about the size of an indies finger. How worried should I be?

  • Kim | 27/02/2022

    My 60 pound mix ate a sandwich size plastic bag and I tried to get to her to stop it, but it was too late. I was online reading trying to gain information as what to do and my neighbor said to read as much as you can and then call the ER Vet. Most everything I read said the ER vets would most likely check to see where the blockage was and would most likely involve surgery. At this point a friend just happened to call and said “How long has it been since she ate the baggie?” I said a half hour to 45 minutes. He said “Okay, you have a window of time so here’s what you do. Get some hydrogen pyroxide and pour 1/2 cup and continue until she vomits.” I hung up and that is exactly what I did and she vomited and the first thing I saw was the whole baggie. He most likely saved her life as well as a huge ER vet bill if I had waited any longer. Most grateful.

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