After waking up in the middle of the night for *ahem* nocturnal emissions, you leave your trusty foam earplugs on the bedside table.
While your husband snores away, oblivious to everything in his slumber short of the world ending (typical), your loyal pooch notices your movements and sees the treat-shaped objects left well within paw’s reach.
Out of curiosity, it decides to have a taste- and promptly swallows the earplugs whole. (Mmm… Waxy!)
Upon returning to your bedroom to the sight of your pup sitting ever-so-sweetly by your drawer, you realize with escalating dread, “My dog ate ear plugs!”
First of all: Relax!
In most cases earplug-ingestion-by-canine, there is nothing to worry about at all. This is due to the fact that earplugs are usually pretty tiny, and as such will come out quite readily when the dog relieves itself over the next day or two.
Regardless of whether your puppy or dog ate a silicone earplug, or if it ate one made of rubber or foam, it should not have any notable toxic effects.
The only problems that you could possibly encounter when a dog eats ear plugs is either choking or internal blockage.
This is much more of a possibility in smaller dogs or toy breeds. The probability of these issues also escalates if your dog swallows multiple sets of earplugs at once.
Contacting your vet is often the best option for peace of mind when this happens. Again, in the majority of cases your dog should be completely fine.
Of course, this all just means that you will now have the unfortunate task of monitoring your best friend’s poop for earplugs in the ensuing days. What fun!
Earplugs are generally non-toxic and are also not digestible. Therefore, earplugs that have been swallowed should simply pass through a dog’s digestive system.
Earplugs are usually excreted in a dog’s feces within a few hours, though this timeframe may stretch to up to a few days depending on the regularity of your pup’s bowel movements.
Regardless of whether the earplugs were made from silicone, foam or rubber, they should all end up the same way: In your dog’s droppings.
Though many earplugs are designed to expand in the ear canal after being squeezed, they typically will not enlarge beyond their original size as they move through your dog’s digestive tract.
If your dog is moving around normally, and eating and drinking as usual, then these are positive signs indicating no internal obstruction or other conditions present.
Although most dogs will be fine after swallowing earplugs, some dogs (especially smaller breeds) could plausibly choke or develop an intestinal blockage.
Earplugs are more likely to be stuck in smaller dogs’ digestive tract due to narrower pathways, and if the embedded earplug is left unresolved for several days it can lead to various potentially serious issues.
In addition, if your dog had eaten an earplug with a string attachment, it would require immediate attention as the string can coil together to form a ball– making it more difficult for it to pass through their intestines.
Strings or cords also have the potential to become entwined within the intestines, thereby becoming a risk to proper blood circulation and movement.
In cases of intestinal obstruction, your dog may show signs including:
- Lack of appetite
Another problem owners may encounter when a dog has swallowed ear plugs is choking. When your dog is choking, they may:
- Drool excessively
- Paw at their mouth
- Gag or retch
- Breathe laboriously
Some dogs may also make weird mouth movements in an attempt to remove the lodged earplug.
Again, given the small size of most earplugs, it’s not very likely for a dog to choke on them unless they are a very small breed.
We really shouldn’t be surprised at this point since dogs will pretty much eat anything they can reach (like Airborne tablets or even deodorant), but canines ingesting earplugs happens more often than you might expect.
That’s why it’s extremely important to remove anything that might be dangerous to your pup in order to prevent potentially severe negative consequences.
If your dog ate the earplug within the last few minutes, firstly check to see if the earplugs are still in its mouth. If they are still there, simply remove them!
The next problem to check for is choking. If your dog is having breathing difficulties, coughing, or behaving frantically, they could be choking.
If your pooch does appear to be choking, it’s vital to remove the offending object as quickly as you can. You can do so by either trying to locate the earplug with your fingers, or by performing the Heimlich Maneuver.
If your dog is not choking and has ingested the earplugs within the last 30 minutes, consult with your vet immediately. They may advise you to bring the dog to the vet clinic to induce vomiting through the use of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
(Keep in mind that you should not make your dog vomit without veterinary recommendation, as it can make matters worse.)
The next potential issue to watch out for is intestinal obstruction. In rare cases, the earplug could get stuck within the digestive tract- which as discussed above can very well be a life-threatening problem.
Generally, most owners will be advised to simply observe their dog’s poop for the next 72 hours for any signs of the swallowed earplug. Truthfully, there isn’t too much to be stressed about as most dogs naturally eliminate the plug through their feces in due time.
To promote elimination of feces, you can provide a slice of whole wheat bread or two tablespoons of canned pumpkin with every meal until the earplug appears in your dog’s excrement.
These foods help to bulk up digested materials within the intestinal tract so that they become easier to excrete.
Signs of an emergency warranting a visit to the vet include:
- Bloated or tense belly
- Excessive panting
- Lack of appetite
- Severe or bloody diarrhea
- Vomiting or retching
You will also need to visit the vet if your dog does not have bowel movements for up to two days, or if it appears to be straining to poop.
Your vet may examine your dog using an X-ray, endoscopy or other scans to determine where the foreign object is located in your dog’s body.
Rest assured that it’s very rare for surgery to be required in the case of small objects such as ear plugs.
Dogs, especially puppies, are curious creatures that will have a bite of anything and everything to get a taste. Many dogs will often also just chomp onto something to see if it is edible!
Some canines- with their amazingly sharp noses– can be attracted to the scent given off by the ear plugs and decide that they want to have them as their next treat.
Occasionally, some dogs will have developed a condition called pica where they will try to eat everything- regardless of whether it is edible or inedible.
An explanation of how to treat the condition pica can be found in our guide by clicking HERE.
To prevent dogs from eating earplugs, you should never leave them anywhere they can easily be reached.
Leaving the earplugs in a drawer or cupboard which cannot be easily opened by our four-legged friends- instead of on top of your bedside drawer– is an example of an effective solution.
You could also have room restrictions within the house to prevent free access to objects that your dog may readily swallow. This is as easily achieved as simply closing a few doors!
Additionally, ensure that the earplugs are not touched by hands contaminated with the scent of food or treats as this will make the earplugs appear more appetizing to your dog.
In extreme cases of reckless eating, a basket muzzle may be required. These muzzles prevent dogs from consuming everything in their sight, while still allowing them to breathe, drink water, and eat small treats as normal.
If you discover that your dog ate ear plugs, try not to worry too much!
It is a relatively common sight to see dogs eating small objects, and in the majority of cases these will simply pass through their body into their feces.
Although there are no notable toxic effects from consuming ear plugs, dogs can be at a slight risk of choking and internal blockage.
Small dogs and/or dogs who have swallowed multiple sets of earplugs are more likely to choke or experience intestinal obstruction.
If either of these situations occur, the earplug can be quickly and effectively removed through induced vomiting, elimination or surgery if required. If at any time you are not sure about what to do, don’t hesitate to consult your vet for help!
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.