Dogs have a way of getting into things they shouldn’t, and one thing many pups seem to love playing with is paper. Used tissues, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper—countless pet parents have come home to find these products shredded all over the floor.
It often comes down to odor, says Scott Sheaffer, a certified animal behavior consultant and owner of USA Dog Behavior in Dallas, Texas.
“If you’ve used it to wipe your mouth or even wipe your nose or your hands, there’s a scent on it that’s appealing to them,” he says.
Boredom or anxiety could also drive dogs to rip up paper products, if they don’t have enough other enrichment available. Or, if dogs are actually ingesting the paper, it could be a sign of pica, a medical condition that drives animals to eat non-food items (humans can also suffer from pica).
“It can become a compulsion, where they obsessively and compulsively eat paper products,” Sheaffer says. “That’s much more of a behavioral issue than…appetite driven.”
More often, though, dogs shred tissues and towels simply because it’s fun, says Erin Jones, a certified dog behaviorist and owner of Merit Professional Dog Training in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“The number one reason is probably just because they enjoy the sensation of ripping stuff up,” she says.
Puppies and adult dogs are equally likely to enjoy playing with paper, Jones says, and it’s a common behavior regardless of breed.
Paper Towels vs. Kleenex vs. Toilet Tissue
Most Kleenex or tissue paper that people use on their noses are of a similar density and weight as toilet tissue used in the bathroom. Paper towels can be thicker, larger, and denser. All three are usually made using very similar ingredients. Usually, when consumed, any of the three will be shredded before ingestion.
Because paper towels have a thicker density, they may be more harmful to dogs. It really depends on if the paper was shredded, how much was consumed, and how big your dog is. Larger dogs have bigger intestinal tracts and can pass things differently. This means a Mastiff may have an easier time passing toilet paper than a Chihuahua. Paper towels can pose a slightly higher risk for obstruction depending on the density of the paper towel ingested.
Regardless of which type of paper product your dog consumed, you’ll need to follow the same steps. Paper Towels are more well known for causing bowel obstructions than other paper products, but all three warrant an immediate call to the vet.
My Dog Just Ate Paper. What’s Next?
Let’s start off by stating the obvious. If your pup consumed any type of paper product, you need to contact your veterinarian immediately. Foreign objects of any kind can cause bowel obstructions, especially when the object is not something your dog can digest.
If you are worried and wondering what you should do, follow the steps below, in an effort to make sure that there’s no long term damage to your canine companion.
Step 1: Gather Facts
Firstly, try to estimate how much tissue might have been eaten. This is difficult when the paper consumed was shredded. You should also check whether anything was on the tissue that could be dangerous.