My Dog Ate Q-tips What Should I Do?

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 02/02/24 •  4 min read
Dog Moderate Toxicity Level
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Does your dog enjoy eating things that he shouldn’t? If so, then he’s not alone. Dogs love to ingest things that aren’t even food, which is called dietary indiscretion. Your canine companion may go after anything from those yummy bits in the kitchen waste basket, a dead bird or mouse, or even a Q-tip!

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Why dogs eat various non-food items is anyone’s guess. Sometimes they’re exploring their environment, and decide to mouth, smell and eat something. Other times they may be drawn by the pungent (gross to us) odor of a dirty diaper or other smelly garbage.

What Could Happen if My Dog Eats a Q-tip?

Q-tips are made of two separate parts: an applicator made from plastic or paper and two cotton buds on either end of the applicator. The cotton buds will be digested and will pass on through your dog’s digestive system.

A problem can develop from the applicator; it may become lodged in a dog’s intestines or even puncture the intestines. Either issue can lead to serious complications such as a perforation in the intestines or a bowel obstruction. Both of these can be serious, life-threatening health emergencies.

It is strongly recommended to contact a Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian.

Another issue is what was on the Q-tip—if there was a toxic substance on one of the buds, this could cause a problem. Some medications can be toxic to dogs, for instance.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Q-tip

If your fur baby eats a Q-tip, don’t panic and don’t induce vomiting. Only induce vomiting if directed to do so by your veterinarian. This is because the Q-tip could become caught in your dog’s throat.

Next, if your dog’s eaten one Q-tip, then it will be important to monitor his behavior for the next 2-3 days. Watch for any signs or symptoms that he could be having difficulties. Symptoms can include:

If your fur baby shows any of the signs above, then you can feed your dog canned pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie, as this contains ingredients that are harmful to dogs), white rice, boiled meat (such as chicken). The food will work to encapsulate the Q-tip and help your dog expel it via bowel movements.

If your fur baby’s still showing symptoms after 2-3 days, then be sure to call your vet right away. They will do an exam and possibly take images of your fur baby’s digestive tract to see where the Q-tip is and if it has caused any problems.

Why Not Induce Vomiting?

Most of us believe that when our dog eats something they shouldn’t, then it’s time to induce vomiting. That is usually not the case. Veterinarians say that Q-tips may be made of paper or plastic. Each of these can become lodged in the dog’s esophagus or anywhere within his digestive tract. In addition, these can be sharp and cause bleeding or tears in the dog’s digestive tract.

Can a Dog Pass a Q-Tip?

The answer depends on whether your dog chewed the Q-tip into small pieces or not. It also depends on your dog’s size. Sometimes a dog can pass something like a Q-tip, but other times, this item will become lodged in the dog’s digestive system. What’s more, if the ends of the Q-tip were sharp, these could cause tears and damage to the dog’s system. In this case, a dog could develop internal bleeding and other problems that can be life-threatening.

So, Q-tips can be pretty dangerous if your dog eats one or more. However, the most dangerous Q-tips are those made from plastic. These cannot be digested and may come out on their own. But it’s also possible they will cause some issues in your dog’s digestive system.

Treatment will depend on the symptoms and their severity, and the underlying cause of the symptoms. In some cases, a vet may be able to do an endoscopic procedure to remove the Q-tip. However, if the cotton swab has gone into your fur baby’s intestines, the vet may need to perform surgery. The surgery is done to safely remove the Q-tip and repair any damage it may have caused.

If your canine companion has swallowed a Q-tip and you’re worried, then please call the vet right away. They will have the best advice for your fur baby every time. With early treatment, your dog should be just fine.

It’s essential to keep all Q-tips (paper and plastic) out of your dog’s reach to keep your fur baby happy and healthy!

We wish you both all the best!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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