My Dog Ate a Tampon! Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

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Why would a dog eat a tampon? Dogs love to eat strange things as they often chew new objects as a way of interacting with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes means they can swallow items of feminine hygiene, which are often soft and novel for them. Without meaning to sound disgusting, if ‘used’ these items can seem even more intriguing to a dog’s nose! Both used and unused tampons can present a danger to dogs, so treat them equally. In this article, we will discuss what can happen if your dog swallows a tampon, and what to do about it.

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Will my dog be ok if he ate a tampon?

Tampons are designed to withstand being inside the body for a long time and are usually made of cotton or plastics. Applicators are usually plastic too, although some are made from cardboard. This means both tampons and tampon applicators aren’t able to be digested by the gut. They’ll need to come out, one way or another, in pretty much the same condition they went in in. Tampons are even worse than other foreign objects, as unused tampons will swell in the stomach, making them larger and more difficult to pass.

If these objects pass out of the stomach and into the gut, they may scrape alone the lining of the guts, causing pain and bloody diarrhea. At certain sections of the gut, often when it narrows or turns a corner, the tampon can become stuck. This is known as a blockage or bowel obstruction, which can rapidly become life-threatening.

How can I tell if my dog has a bowel obstruction?

Bowel obstructions will typically cause vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, and diarrhea within 24 to 72 hours of eating the object. Dogs quickly become dehydrated and aren’t able to keep down food or water. Because tampons are so absorbent, they can dry out the gut wall when they’re stuck. This will cause damage to the gut wall. It can stretch very thin over the blockage, and even die or burst and spill its contents, leading to peritonitis – an infection that can easily become fatal.

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Image credit: Spiritze, Pixabay

Can a dog pass a foreign object?

In some very lucky dogs, the tampon may be vomited back up again immediately, or be passed through the gut successfully and exit at the other end (after about two to five days), but there is always a risk of complications developing. Lucky cases usually depend on the size, type, and number of tampons or applicators, and the size of the dog, but there are never any guarantees! In general, unused tampons are typically smaller but may swell up a lot inside, whereas used tampons are larger to start with, but should not swell much more.

What do I do if my dog ate a tampon?

The consequences of a foreign object like a tampon can be life-threatening, but don’t panic. There are lots of chances to intervene and prevent this dangerous progression of events happening. It is vital to involve your veterinarian at the earliest opportunity, to ensure you get tailored advice to your situation and get sorted before problems arise. The longer this problem is left, the more extreme the consequences are likely to be.

My dog ate a tampon – what should I do?

  • Prevent your dog from eating more tampons. If you’ve come in to find the bathroom trash on the floor, take a moment to make sure your dog can’t get into any more trouble. Either clear up the spill, or simply close the door to prevent your dog from entering whilst you assess the situation.
  • Work out how many tampons have been eaten, the number that have been eaten, and when they were likely eaten. If you’re not sure when they were eaten, make sure you know how long your dog was left unattended for – this is vital information for your veterinarian.
  • Contact your veterinarian for advice. A quick phone call will let you discuss the risks with your vet. Don’t be embarrassed – you’d be surprised how common this is! They’ll need to know how big your dog is and the details collected in step 2 so they can give you the best advice.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s advice. This may be to come down to the clinic for an assessment and treatment, or your veterinarian may be happy to monitor the situation at home under close supervision.

My dog ate a tampon, how do I induce vomiting?

If the tampon was eaten within the last four hours, then your veterinarian may be able to give an injection to induce strong, reliable vomiting to remove the objects from the stomach. This will prevent them from going any further into the bowels where they may cause more severe problems.

There are circulating stories of inducing vomiting at home without the veterinary injection, such as feeding your dog hydrogen peroxide or salt and butter. These home remedies are not reliable, and these products can be extremely dangerous for your dog – the home remedy can sometimes make the dog sicker than the original problem! The veterinary injection is safe and reliable, so it is the best option and you can get the right professional veterinary advice at the same time. You should never induce vomiting at home unless your vet deems it’s worth the risk.

What treatment will my dog need after eating the tampon?

If the tampon was eaten more than four hours beforehand, vomiting is no longer an option. Your veterinarian may recommend monitoring the situation depending on the size of your dog and the likely size of the tampon(s), and any symptoms your dog is showing. This is only a decision a veterinarian can make safely. Feel free to discuss the risks of leaving the tampon with your vet – they’ll be happy to explain why they recommend what they do. Your dog may need some help with it at the other end! If your veterinarian is worried about the potential for a blockage, or if your dog is showing symptoms of illness (especially vomiting and pain), then further investigation of the problem is likely to be needed.

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Image credit: BUMIPUTRA, Pixabay

The next logical step is usually to take images of the inside of the gut, to look for the foreign object or the effects of the object such as bowel obstruction. This can be done by X-rays, which give an overall picture of your dog’s abdomen and may show suspicious patterns of gut that suggest a blockage. Tampons and some other foreign objects do not show up on X-rays. This means that sometimes interpreting these images is not straightforward, especially in the early stages of an obstruction. Veterinarians may also use ultrasound to look for problems, which gives a smaller picture but can be more accurate in detecting objects. Tampons do show up on ultrasound but might be hard to find!

Following these investigations, the veterinarian may again decide that monitoring the situation with supportive care (intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, and pain relief, for example) is best. If the veterinarian feels that a blockage is likely or is happening, then urgent surgery to remove the tampon may be required. This is important to do quickly before the gut loses blood supply, tears, or dies around the obstruction.

What happens in gut blockage surgery?

To remove a bowel obstruction, your veterinary surgeon will need to put your dog under a general anesthetic. They’ll make a cut in your dog’s tummy and locate the tampon. They’ll then cut over the tampon, pull it out, and sow the gut back up again. They’ll then check the stomach and intestines for any further damage or blockages – sometimes a second tampon will be found, or even something else you didn’t know your dog had eaten! If the bowel is badly damaged through stretching or tearing over the tampon, parts of it may need to be removed.

Most dogs after a simple retrieval surgery will be able to go home within a day or two and will be up to their usual mischief within a week or two. If your surgeon had to remove bowel due to a severe blockage, the risk is higher, and they’ll do less well – although most should be fine. However, dogs can still die from the complications of bowel obstruction even if surgery is undertaken. This is why it’s essential that you get your dog seen as soon as you suspect a problem – the more damaged the gut is, the more complex the surgery – which means it’ll carry higher risks. It’ll also be more expensive than a simpler surgery!

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To sum up…

Dogs are often tempted to eat foreign objects like tampons, and if not treated properly and promptly this can have life-threatening complications. It is important to seek professional veterinary advice from your local clinic at the earliest possible stage to give your dog, your veterinarian, and your wallet the best chance of a good outcome!

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Featured Image Credit: Stas Malyarevsky, Shutterstock