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My Dog Ate Q Tips: Should I Be Worried? (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Marti Dudley DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Dogster Team

Close up of Cotton Buds

My Dog Ate Q Tips: Should I Be Worried? (Vet Answer)

VET APPROVED

Dr. Marti Dudley Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Marti Dudley

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs tend to be drawn to garbage, especially stinky bathroom garbage. Items in the trash may pose a health risk to your beloved pet. The possibilities are endless—from floss to tissues to feminine products. What about Q-tips? Is it safe for Fido to ingest Q-tips? Unfortunately, if your dog ingests Q-tips, they could be problematic. Continue reading to learn more about this possibility.

Q-Tip Construction

Q-tips are a type of personal hygiene item often used for cleaning ears and makeup application. The stick structure between the two cotton ends is typically made of either plastic or paper. If the Q-tip ingested is made from paper, it stands a chance of being digested with stomach acid and could pass through the gastrointestinal tract without much concern. However, stomach acid will not be able to break down the stick if made from plastic, which leads to a higher risk of problems for the patient.

The cotton found at the ends of the stick is unlikely to cause a problem unless a chemical has been applied to the Q-tip prior to ingestion. Cotton will likely be passed in the stool without being broken down.

close up of q tips
Image Credit: ang intaravichian, Shutterstock

Risk to the Intestines

As a foreign object passes through the gastrointestinal tract, there is a risk of gastrointestinal damage. The intestinal tract may become punctured, allowing intestinal contents to leak out into the abdomen, leading to significant illness and infection. Alternatively, some foreign objects can cause an obstruction, which prevents normal gastrointestinal contents from traveling through the intestines. Both a puncture and an obstruction can cause extreme discomfort and require surgery.

Dog’s Size and Quantity of Q-Tips Ingested Matters

The risk of complications from Q-tip ingestion is higher for small dogs. A larger breed dog has an easier time passing foreign material than their toy-sized counterparts. As expected, the diameter of the intestines is larger in a Rottweiler than in a Chihuahua. Additionally, the ingestion of a single Q-tip is less likely to cause problems than the ingestion of several.

Signs of Concern

After your pet has consumed something foreign, close monitoring is necessary. If any of the signs listed below are noted, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Signs of concern include:
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal discomfort

Reach Out to Your Veterinarian

If you know that your dog ingested Q-tips, it is important to contact your veterinarian and monitor your pet closely. Your veterinarian may or may not recommend the induction of vomiting due to the risk of the Q-tip getting stuck within the esophagus. If other foreign materials are ingested and the risk of complications is high, your veterinarian may recommend endoscopy or surgery to help remove the foreign items from the gastrointestinal tract. In many cases of Q-tip ingestion, a wait-and-see approach with close monitoring is likely to be recommended.

Depending on the size of your dog and the number of Q-tips ingested, your veterinarian may recommend feeding your dog food to help facilitate the passage of foreign material through the gastrointestinal tract. White bread and other foods high in fiber, like pumpkin, can help encase the foreign material and ease the transit through the intestines.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog sick with vet
Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

Diagnostics

If your pet is experiencing clinical signs or if your veterinarian is concerned about complications, diagnostics may be recommended. Blood work is likely to be done in addition to radiographs. Radiographs are used to visualize the gas patterns and ingesta within the gastrointestinal tract. A series of films may be done to visualize changes to the gastrointestinal tract over time.

Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

Knowing that pets are drawn to garbage means precautions need to be taken to set them up for success, although accidents still can happen. Ensuring garbage is out of reach is a good first step. This can be achieved by having garbage cans with a lid, shutting the door to the bathroom, or placing the garbage can in a cabinet. Some dogs who are prone to mischief should be kept confined when not under direct supervision.

garbage can behind fence
Image Credit: SeeDesign_Shutterstock

Conclusion

It is nearly impossible to keep our dogs from ingesting something foreign within their lifetime, despite our best efforts. Unfortunately, Q-tips can cause problems when consumed, especially if they have plastic parts. If Q-tips have been consumed, reach out to your local veterinarian for recommendations on how best to care for your pet and quickly seek care if they show signs of illness.


Featured Image Credit: C.Aphirak, Shutterstock

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