Dogs Eating Stuffing: (Why, how to stop it, and what to do if it happens)
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Have you caught your dog eating the stuffing out of one of their toys? Is it dangerous, you might be asking? Can dogs eat polyester stuffing? What if they are coughing, vomiting, or having diarrhea? Does that mean stuffing is toxic for dogs? Let’s dive deeper into the questions and explore the dangers of stuffing, what to do if your dog eats it, and alternatives to stuffing.
Dogs should not ingest fluff or stuffing from their toys or other household items, such as cushions. This is particularly true of polyester fluff, which contains toxins remaining from the production process.
Even non-toxic, natural polymers present a serious risk if ingested. For example, bowel obstruction is a condition where your dog’s digestive system gets clogged up by a foreign body. That causes several serious additional problems and can be fatal if left untreated.
If your dog is a serial chewer and tears up anything soft, it’s best to limit their access to anything that contains stuffing.
There is the additional risk of stuffing becoming a choking hazard. This can also occur when your dog is vomiting up the stuffing they have swallowed.
Consult your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog has ingested stuffing.
Do dogs pass the stuffing?
It is plausible that a dog could pass a small amount of polyester stuffing, but it isn’t worth taking the risk.
If the stuffing does clog up your dog’s digestive system, the result can be fatal. It only takes a couple of days for the damage to be so severe that your dog might be unable to recover.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten stuffing, the best thing to do is visit your vet immediately. They will be able to tell you what the best treatment is and assess whether your dog might pass the stuffing.
It’s vital that all dog owners supervise toy time with stuffed toys.
How long does it take to pass the stuffing?
It usually takes between 10 and 24 hours for a foreign object to pass through a dog’s digestive system. That said, some objects can take much longer.
In the case of fluff, it depends on a couple of factors, such as whether your dog ate right before they ingested the fluff and how much water they drink.
Simply put, bowel obstruction means that something has gotten stuck in your dog’s digestive system, blocking food from being digested and excreted. There are a couple of potential causes, but the most common cause is ingesting ‘foreign objects.’
When we say ‘foreign objects,’ we mean anything inedible, including any kind of furniture, linen, or toy stuffing. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to gauge whether a dog has ingested enough stuffing to cause obstruction.
The first bit of advice you will find in an online search is to induce vomiting. There are cases where this could solve the problem, but not for polyester stuffing.
Rather, vomiting could cause the stuffing to come back up and get lodged in the esophagus, leading to choking-related asphyxiation.
One of the top searches relating to treating dogs that have ingested polyester stuffing asks ‘how long can a dog live with bowel obstruction?’
The answer is pretty straightforward. A dog will die within a couple of days if they have a full obstruction. If the blockage is partial, they might have a bit longer.
For this reason, you must consult your vet immediately if you suspect an obstruction in your dog’s bowel due to ingesting stuffing.
Your vet will most likely recommend that you bring your dog in for a couple of tests and an x-ray to see what exactly they have going on in their digestive system. The way forward could be as simple as laxatives, or surgery in severe cases.
Toxicity of dog toy stuffing
It is never okay for a dog to eat polyester stuffing or the typical fluff in toys. A very small amount of stuffing might not cause a problem, but it isn’t always easy to guess how much of the fluff a dog has swallowed. So let us briefly go over the manufacturing process for polyester to understand why toxicity is a real concern:
Crude oil in stuffing
The main component of polyester is crude oil. There are different chemicals in crude oil that one can extract. These extracts have a wide range of industrial applications.
One such chemical is called ethylene. The glycol part tells you it falls into the wider organic alcohol family.
Ethylene glycol is antifreeze. So what is it doing in your couch cushion? It is a versatile compound that can keep your motor from freezing, but it can also overheat. That is because it can also bind into threads of linked organic molecules.
To make fibers that can fluff.
Fibers are similar to little strings made up of lots of single molecules bound together. In polyester, manufacturers use ethylene as the mono–single—molecules and chemically bind them using a kind of acid.
It’s very safe, though, right?
If you do a quick search for polyester safety, you will likely come across endless results from producers waxing lyrical about the safety of synthetic polymers. After all, they are non-reactive, which roughly means that they don’t cause any chemical reactions.
When these manufacturers say this, they are not lying. Polymers are so unreactive that your dog should not be at the slightest risk of exposure to toxins if they swallow something like polyester.
What was it we said polymers are made of again? These ethylene particles aren’t’ polymers.’ They are single molecules, or ‘monomers.’ The thing about these specific monomers is that they are incredibly reactive.
It is the reason they are used to make polymers like polyester, and it also makes them incredibly toxic on their own. Polyester producers’ omission is that there is no way to convert 100% of the monomers into polymers.
In other words, there will always be a percentage of toxic, raw ethylene glycol strapped in the threads of polyester products. The process of turning polyester into threads for clothing helps decrease the risk of exposure, but polyfill takes no precautions.
Is fluff from toys and beds dangerous?
No, fluff from toys and beds are not dangerous to dogs. But, there are different types of stuffing used in toys and beds, and some of them are more dangerous than others. In the end, there is certainly no stuffing that is particularly safe for consumption.
We know that polyester also contains harmful monomers, but what about cotton or wool stuffing? They aren’t polymers, are they?
Well, strictly speaking, they are. However, natural polymers are mostly water-based and don’t contain too many things that are toxic. So, wool or cotton stuffing is generally safer for your dog to be around.
Keep in mind that even natural polymers used for stuffing can still cause choking and bowel obstruction if your dog eats it.
The best alternative to stuffed toys
Stuffing free dog toys
These Frisco Forest Friends are the perfect soft toy, without the hazardous stuffing! They do have dog squeakers though, so supervision is still required.
There are a couple of options for anyone looking for stuffing-free dog toys. The most popular option is squeaky toys. We cover the safety of squeaky toys here.
Subpar squeaky toys are a choking hazard, but trusted brands make several durable, high-quality options. They also come in various sizes, catering to every size breed.
The biggest problem with squeaky toys, a problem to which we can attest, is that they make an extraordinary amount of noise, especially in the paws of a particularly enthusiastic pup.
The KONG SqueakStix is one of our all-time favorites. It is durable enough to withstand even aggressive chewers, and will continue to squeak if punctured.
There is nothing innovative about the classic rubber ball, but it is a classic for a reason. A durable, good-quality rubber ball designed for dogs will give your pup hours and hours of entertainment, with a very limited threat of accidentally swallowing it.
If your puppy is teething, the last thing you want is for them to have access to a stuffed toy. Fortunately, there are some great toys designed specifically with teething in mind.
Our favorite teething toy resembles similar products that one finds for human babies. The Nylabone Puppy Chew Toys are practical, durable, and easy to clean.
The best alternative to stuffed beds
Before we start, it’s important to note that we have looked at many so-called indestructible dog beds and have yet to come across one that is genuinely indestructible. That said, the following options should withstand the effort of all but the most vicious chewers.
The Dog’s Balls’ Waterproof Durable Dog Bed
That’s not a typo. This waterproof dog bed is brought to you by The Dog’s Balls. The ultra-durable waterproof bed promises everything you need in a premium bed at a comparatively premium price.
Veehoo Chew Proof Elevated Dog Bed
Are you looking for something a little less pricey that still offers great quality and durability? The Veehoo Chew Proof Elevated Dog Bed comes with the added benefit of having no stuffing of any kind, eliminating the risk, even if your dog does manage to rip it up.
Tamsin has worked extensively in dog behavior problems and in rescue. She has worked with trainers who specialize in Shutzhund and protection training. Nowadays, her focus is on canine nutrition.
Tamsin is pictured here with her much loved boy, Hudson. She is a true dog lover with a wealth of knowledge on dogs, and we're grateful to have her on the HoundGames team.