As a dog owner, you may ask your furry friend to show what is inside its mouth. With all their curiosity, dogs can try to lick and eat the most random objects.
They could also eat foreign objects because they are hungry, bored, or suffering from a disorder like Pica. This can cause worry as the object could present a choking hazard, bowel obstruction, and make the pet uncomfortable. In addition, if it is a sharp object, there is an additional risk of internal injury.
One such foreign object we will be discussing today is a cotton ball. When we say cotton ball, you might think of a soft, fluffy, white cloud-like object that is gentle on your skin. It may seem harmless, but it is not something your dog should eat.
If your dog ate a cotton ball, it is not a cause for worry. The natural cotton may, to some extent, break down in the dog’s stomach and pass out through poop. But if the dog has gobbled down a packet of cotton balls, that could lead to health concerns.
The article will examine whether cotton balls harm dogs and what you can do if your dog eats them.
What Are Cotton Balls Made From?
A cotton ball can be made from 100% pure, high-quality cotton fiber. The fiber comes from cotton plants; it grows on the outer layer of the plant’s seeds.
These cotton balls derive their fluffiness from the fact that most of their structure is filled with air. They are widely used in the medical and cosmetic fields. For example, a doctor can use cotton balls to clean a wound. Or it could be used to remove nail polish.
You can also find synthetic cotton balls in the market. Synthetic cotton is made using polyester, bleach, and other chemicals. Synthetic cotton is popularly used in the textile industry owing to its durability and quick-drying properties.
Can Dogs Digest Cotton Balls?
Yes and no. There is a lot of debate around this question, with contrasting views from vets. Some experts believe natural cotton may be digestible, while others do not.
An opinion that most vets agree on is that as cotton is a natural fiber, a dog’s stomach acids can break it down to some extent, if not entirely. But this may only be true for natural cotton fiber.
The dog cannot digest synthetic cotton balls. As we have seen above, polyester is one of the materials used in production. These fibers are not digestible.
Apart from the material, quantity is also a factor to be considered. For example, a couple of natural fiber cotton balls may be somewhat digested by the dog. Still, a packet containing anywhere from 10 to 100 pieces can pose health risks.
Also Read: My Dog Ate Chalk! Should He Be Checked Out?
My Dog Ate A Cotton Ball: Should I Be Worried?
The answer depends on cotton ball type, quantity, dog breed, gut health, and age.
For example, if the dog eats a few cotton balls made from natural cotton, it should not cause panic. According to vet opinion, the object should pass as a part of the dog’s poop. You could give the dog a quarter or half a cup of milk to help pass poop. The milk can work as a mild laxative.
As you already know, synthetic cotton cannot be digested. Still, the soft and airy object should pass through the dog’s system if it has eaten only a couple of cotton balls.
If the dog empties half of the cotton ball packet, that could be an issue. This is where your dog’s breed, age, and gut health come into the picture.
For example, if a healthy large-sized dog eats 10 to 15 pieces of cotton balls, it may pass through its system. But the same quantity eaten by a small or a toy breed dog could cause obstruction. Also, if your dog has a sensitive stomach or is a senior dog with a slowed-down metabolism, these cotton balls could cause indigestion and bloat.
If the dog eats several cotton balls, it can partially or entirely block its intestine. This means water and food cannot pass through the dog’s digestive tract as normal. The condition is known as a gastrointestinal blockage.
In severe cases, the dog can become dehydrated as its body cannot absorb water and other nutrients. It may decrease blood flow and affect the dog’s pooping ability. Feeding the dog could further elevate the issue.
This is a condition that requires vet attention. If left untreated, it can lead to fluid loss and pain. In rare cases, the intestine could rupture, and the condition could be fatal.
What Symptoms Can a Dog Show that has Eaten Cotton Balls ?
If you catch the dog in the act of eating cotton balls, you can proactively monitor its condition and accordingly take it to the vet. But if you do not know what the dog has eaten, these symptoms could help you identify if something is wrong with the pet.
A dog with a gastrointestinal blockage can show signs like:
- Excessively vomiting
- Refusal to eat
- Diarrhea/ Difficulty to poop – depending on the blockage
- Stomach pain
There could also be cases wherein the cotton ball or a part of it could get stuck along the dog’s throat. If the dog is choking, it could show signs like:
- Pawing at its face
If you suddenly see your dog showing these signs, please contact the vet immediately.
What To Do Next IF your Dog Has Eaten Cotton Balls?
So your dog ate a cotton ball, and you caught it in the act. Here is what you should do next.
1. Command the Dog to Drop It
This is one of the reasons obedience training is a must for all dogs. If the dog puts itself in a dangerous position, like eating a foreign object, you can command it to drop, leave, or spit it out.
That exactly means what you will do. Command the dog to sit and drop the cotton ball. Then, get the packet away from the dog, so it does not do any more damage.
2. Remove the Cotton Balls from its Mouth
If you can clearly see cotton balls in the dog’s mouth, you can command it to spit it out. If it does not, try to open its mouth and remove the foreign object. If the dog is stubborn, you will need another person to help you.
One person should hold the dog’s mouth from behind. The dog’s lips should cover its teeth so no one gets hurt or bitten. You can then use your hands to remove the cotton or tweezers if the cotton balls are near the throat area.
As cotton balls are soft, they will not hurt or cause injury to the dog’s mouth or throat. But they best be removed.
3. Determine the Missing Quantity
You must examine the packet and determine how many cotton balls the dog may have ingested. If you think the dog has eaten only a few, you can monitor its symptoms. As we have seen above, cotton can pass through the dog’s system without causing any harm, so the wait-and-watch method should work.
But, if half the packet is missing, it is best to contact the vet and follow their instructions.
4. Monitor the Pet
Regardless of the type and quantity of cotton, you should actively monitor your pet for any clinical signs. Depending on size, age, and health, a dog’s pooping cycle can be around 6 to 12 hours. So, if your dog eats and poops as normal for 24 to 48 hours, it would be safe to assume the cotton ball has passed through its system.
But if the dog starts showing the signs mentioned above, you should contact the vet.
Also Read: 11 Household Items That Can Poison Your Dog
5. Vet Visit
At the vet’s clinic, you will have to provide information about your dog’s condition, symptoms, age, health, and medical history. It would be best if you carry a cotton ball sample to show the vet what your dog has eaten exactly.
What Treatment Will the Vet Provide?
If you immediately reach the clinic after your dog ate a packet of cotton balls, the vet may try to induce vomiting. This is usually done in a 30-minute to 2-hour window after consumption.
Vomiting helps to get the foreign object out of the dog’s body before it can cause intestinal blockage. This should be done by experts only. Do not try to get your dog to vomit at home.
If the vet thinks the cotton balls will pass through the dog’s poop, they will provide supportive care to ease the symptoms and relieve the dog.
If the vet suspects the cotton balls have caused an obstruction, they will start with a physical exam and conduct tests like ultrasounds and radiographs. These results will tell the vet if there is a blockage, size, and location of the foreign object.
If the obstruction is the right size, the vet may be able to remove it with an endoscopy. However, if the blockage is severe, then surgery will be necessary.
Once the dog is out of the hospital, you must take it easy for a few days. This means the dog will be on a bland and easy-to-digest diet. Exercise and play will have to be minimal and low impact.
Why Do Dogs Eat Things Like Cotton Balls?
Dogs are explorers; they are curious about new smells, textures, and tastes. Unfortunately, this trait often drives them to bite into or ingest foreign objects. Apart from their curiosity, here are some reasons your dog could eat things like cotton balls.
The food you are feeding the dog is not enough, or it is not nutritious. Your dog is hungry. It may try to sneak food off your plate or start licking or biting into inanimate objects.
A hungry dog can show signs like excessive lip licking, walking from one room to another looking for food sources, staring at your plate of food, persistent whining or barking, and weakness.
This is a condition in which dogs try to eat non-food objects. Some may have an affinity to specific objects, whereas others may eat anything they find in sight. For example, some dogs may want to especially eat cotton balls, while others may try to eat everything from toys and books to socks.
The causes of Pica could be nutritional deficiencies, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances, to behavioral problems.
Also Read: My Dog Ate LEGO Pieces! LEt’s GO To The Vet?
Your dog could be trying to feast on inanimate objects because it has nothing better to do. Dogs with no outlet to spend their energy will often resort to undesirable behaviors.
For example, a bored dog may excessively chew. The dog may chew your books, shoes, or even furniture. Similarly, it may start eating non-food items to keep itself occupied.
How to Prevent Dogs From Eating Cotton Balls?
If you do not want your dog eating cotton balls or other non-food items, here are some tips that may help.
Pet-Proof the House
Keep medications, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and other items that can be potentially toxic to dogs away from their reach. Place them in cabinets, and if required, use child-proof latches.
Keep your garbage bins closed. Toilet lids should be down, and use seat locks if necessary. If your dog is in the training phase or gets into rooms it is not allowed, block its access with child gates.
Feed the Dog
If hunger and nutritional deficiencies are the reasons your dog eats things like cotton balls, go over its diet. The quality and quantity of food may not be good enough for your dog. Food-related issues are also the cause of conditions like Pica.
Consult the vet; they can help you develop a customized diet plan. When your dog is well-fed, it will not go around looking for food. Of course, it may occasionally try to lick or eat something new, owing to its nature, but the chances of it hurting itself will be significantly less.
Exercise and Play
This can be the solution to many pet problems. Dogs can be energetic and intelligent, some more than others. They need productive outlets to spend this energy on.
Giving your dog enough exercise according to its breed, health, and age can keep it physically and mentally fit. In addition, ensure it has toys and interactive puzzles to play with and keep itself engaged.
Also, spend some quality time with the dog. A dog that has its exercise, diet, mental stimulation, and attention needs met is unlikely to indulge in destructive behaviors.
My dog ate a cotton ball. If you find yourself in this situation, assess how much cotton the dog has eaten. If it is a couple of cotton balls, they will likely pass through the dog’s system without any issues.
If the dog has eaten too many cotton balls for its size, it could lead to partial or complete intestinal blockage. There are also chances of the cotton getting stuck in the dog’s throat.
In such scenarios, a dog can show signs like vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, abdominal pain, weakness, and loss of appetite. If you notice these signs, please visit the vet for further treatment.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.