Our cute little furry friends can be curious by nature. This can be a good trait for learning but sometimes can get them in trouble.
Dogs may try to chew, eat and swallow some of the most bizarre objects. You could attribute such behavior to their nature, boredom, high chewing drive, or disorders like Pica. These objects could be harmless or dangerous. Some could be toxic, while others may cause bodily harm to the pets.
Talking about bizarre objects, one such object we will be exploring today is a pencil. A pencil is a common stationary item found in households. If your dog eats one, the pencil may not be toxic, but it is capable of causing physical harm.
The outer casing of wood can puncture the dog’s throat or organs through the digestive tract. They could cause intestinal blockages.
If your dog ate a pencil, the article will help you identify the symptoms and what you should do next. We will also examine why pencils could be dangerous and how the vet may handle the situation.
What Are Pencils Typically Made From?
Traditionally we have known pencils as ‘lead pencils.’ But they are not made from lead. Let us look at the material used to construct a typical pencil.
- Graphite: The pencil’s core, which leaves behind black marks, is not lead but graphite. It is a relatively soft mineral which makes it easier to write.
- Wood: The pencil’s graphite core is covered in a wood casing, making it easier to hold and use the pencil. The wood is typically softwood sourced from trees like pine and cedar.
- Rubber: Most pencils have an eraser at the top. The rubber material is typically sourced from tropical plants.
- Aluminum: The shiny silver casing you find at the top of the pencil is made from aluminum. It holds the wood and rubber together.
- Paint: Pencils have a paint coating on the outside of the wood. The colors could be bright yellow or brand-specific. Non-toxic paints are usually used in the production of pencils.
Can Pencils be Toxic to Dogs?
No, pencils are not toxic to dogs.
Now that we know what materials are used in pencil manufacturing, let us see how they can affect your dog.
As mentioned above, there is no lead involved in pencils. So you do not have to worry about lead poisoning. In addition, the graphite core of the pencil is a non-toxic substance. So your pet should be ok if it consumes some of the graphite.
You should note that the paint used could have traces of lead if the pencils are not made in the US. This is not always the case, and the trace amounts may not harm the dog, but worth mentioning at the vet’s office.
Coming to the wood part of the pencil, let us take the example of cedar. The cedar tree, in general, is harmless to dogs. In some dogs, it can lead to allergic reactions when continually exposed to cedar, but this is rare. The softwood used is not toxic but poses other risks, which we will explore below.
Erasers can be made from natural materials, synthetic rubber, plastic, or vinyl. These materials are not toxic for dogs. The erasers at the top of the pencil are small and may pass through the dog’s poop.
Aluminum is a toxic substance. But the amount of aluminum found at the top of the pencil is unlikely to cause aluminum toxicity in dogs. It can get stuck somewhere around in the dog’s digestive tract and cause other problems but not toxicity.
Pencils are a common stationery item used by all, but largely by children. Thus, no toxic substances are used in its production.
What Can Happen If a Dog Eats a Pencil?
You must be wondering, ‘my dog ate a pencil, and the article says pencil is non-toxic for dogs, so everything is good.’ No, that is not the case.
Eating a pencil can be physically harmful to your dog. There are two reasons for this. First, if the dog swallows a big pencil piece, the wooden casing can get stuck in the dog’s throat or somewhere in its intestines. Wood is not a digestible material.
The blockage could be partial or complete. As a result, water and food will not pass through the dog’s system effectively, which can lead to complications. In addition, the condition can be painful for the dog. In severe and untreated cases, it could also be fatal.
Secondly, if the dog chews on the pencil, the wooden casing can break into small pieces or splinters. These pieces can cause lacerations and punctures in the dog’s mouth and other digestive tract areas. The foreign body can lodge in the dog’s body and cause infections.
Apart from the wood, the eraser and aluminum used could also cause obstruction and cuts, especially in smaller dogs.
There are treatments available for blockages, lacerations, and punctures. But these conditions often require surgery. If the piece of wood is stuck in the dog’s stomach, the surgery can be invasive with a long recovery period.
What Symptoms Can Be Shown if My Dog has Eaten a Pencil ?
When your dog eats a pencil, the reaction may or may not be immediate, depending on the extent of the injury caused.
For example, a dog with a GI obstruction can show signs like:
- Frequent vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Straining or unable to poop
- Stomach ache
If a splinter has lodged itself in the dog’s mouth or throat, it can show signs like:
- Blood in saliva
- Head shyness behavior
If you caught the dog in the act and could get most of the pencil out of its mouth, you should monitor the pet for the above signs and contact the vet.
If your dog suddenly starts showing the signs mentioned above, it would be safe to assume it has eaten something it should not have.
My Dog Ate a Pencil – Is it a Cause for Concern?
There is no sure-shot way to predict how your dog’s body will react after eating a pencil. If the dog eats a small piece and the wood does not splinter, it may pass through the dog’s system without any issues. The same goes for the eraser.
While this can be true for medium and large dogs, the same cannot be said for smaller dogs. For example, eating a small piece of wood can lead to bowel obstruction in a toy breed like a Chihuahua. So, yes, it is a cause for concern.
If the dog has swallowed a sharp piece, it can hurt its mouth and throat, leading to immediate bleeding. This is a cause for concern. According to PetMD, you should not try to remove sharp objects from your dog’s mouth alone.
In some cases, the pencil may pass through your dog’s digestive system without any issues. In contrast, in other cases, it could lead to serious complications. In either case, you should involve the experts and monitor your pet’s condition.
What Should You Do Next?
If you think your dog has swallowed a piece of the pencil, contact the vet immediately. If the dog is bleeding from the mouth, gagging, or you can see a piece stuck in its throat, the vet can ask you to visit emergency care.
If your pet is seemingly doing fine and is going around its routine as normal, then the vet may ask you to monitor its health and report any symptoms. The vet may also ask you to monitor its poop for the next few days to ensure the foreign object is out of its system.
If you catch the dog chewing on a pencil, step in and command it to drop the object. Ensure you remove any harmful objects like other pieces of stationery out of its reach. Check the pencil to see if it is whole or if the dog may have swallowed a piece.
It would help if you were extra careful with toy and small-breed dogs. For example, if these dogs try to eat a pencil, there are chances of the pencil piece being a choking hazard.
If you think your dog is choking, you cannot see any foreign object. The pet has become unconscious, showing signs of respiratory distress, or its mucous membranes are turning blue. PetMD suggests performing the Heimlich maneuver.
There is a possibility of the pet getting injured. Still, if the choking is left untreated, the dog can collapse, and the condition can be fatal.
If you think your dog has swallowed a foreign object, it is always best to take an expert opinion.
What Can the Vet do When a Dog Eats a Pencil?
Once at the vet’s clinic, provide as much information as possible about the dog’s condition, symptoms, age, and medical history. It would also be helpful if you carried the chewed-up or unchewed pencil to help the vet understand the type of foreign object swallowed.
The vet will proceed with a physical examination. If needed, x-rays and ultrasounds may be used to find the location of the foreign object.
The treatment will depend upon the dog’s symptoms, the size of the pencil swallowed, and the time passed since ingestion. For example, if you reached the clinic immediately after the dog ate a pencil, the vet may try to induce vomiting as the pencil may not have traveled much down the digestive tract.
This is a step that should be left to the experts. It would help if you did not try to induce vomiting at home. If the wood has splintered, vomiting can hurt the dog’s esophagus and mouth.
Feeding the dog soft and wet food is another option available. This is done so the presence of food can help create a protective layer around the pencil piece, protect the digestive tract, and help the pencil pass the dog’s system safely.
If the vet suspects blockages or any internal organs are lacerated or punctured, then surgery may be the only option. Your dog will have to be hospitalized and undergo surgery under anesthesia.
The same goes for cuts in the mouth or throat. Again, the dog must be anesthetized so the vet can treat the wounds.
How to Prevent Dogs From Eating Pencils?
The best way to prevent the dog from eating pencils is to keep such objects away from its reach. So, once you use your pencils, pens, crayons, or staplers, always make it a habit of picking them up and keeping them at a height, safe in a drawer, or a cabinet where the dog cannot reach them.
If you have children, monitor that they do not leave their stationery items around the house. You can limit your dog’s access to the room where your children generally study, draw or play.
Start obedience training your pet at an early age. It should be able to respond to basic commands like ‘stop‘ or ‘drop it.’ So even if the dog chews on a pencil, you can command it to stop and prevent further damage.
Another aspect you should check into is why your dog is chewing on pencils. Is it hungry, has Pica, is it bored, or is it a breed-inherited trait?
You need to identify and address the dog’s chewing behavior. For example, if your dog is bored, ensure it gets enough exercise and playtime. On the other hand, if the dog has a high chewing drive, invest in high-quality chew toys and treats.
Addressing the issue is important as a pencil can be non-toxic. Still, the next time the dog may chew on toxic items like a battery or a cosmetic product.
If you ever find yourself in a ‘my dog ate a pencil‘ situation, contacting the vet should be the first order of business. Depending on your dog’s signs, the vet may wait and watch or ask you to visit the clinic.
A pencil is non-toxic for dogs. And in most cases, if a dog swallows a piece, it may pass through its system without any issues. But sometimes, the swallowed pencil can injure the dog’s organs or cause blockages.
The wood casing around the pencil core can splinter, and small pieces can get stuck in the dog’s system leading to cuts and infections.
The dog can show signs like vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and pain. If you notice these signs, please contact 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.