We all know that dogs love to eat, but what happens if they accidentally chow down on something they shouldn’t? A pencil certainly fits into this category! And while this may seem like a strange and unusual occurrence, they are the kind of everyday household object that your dog may start to chew like a dog bone, bite off bits, and potentially swallow them.
Thankfully, most modern pencils are specially made to be non-toxic in terms of the chemicals that make them, but it is the wood of the pencils which can end up getting lodged in your pooch’s digestive tract. So, let’s go into more detail about the subject of my dog ate a pencil right here in this blog post.
Are Pencils Toxic to Dogs?
So, your dog ate pencil lead? While you may think of pencils being made of lead, the vast majority of them actually haven’t been made of this substance for a couple of hundred years. Instead, they are made of a form of carbon known as graphite, so you don’t have to worry about your dog getting lead poisoning in the majority of cases. However, there are a few which as lead-based or ones with toxic paint inside. In the past, the yellow paint was made of chromate, which is toxic, but this has stopped being used on the most part in the US.
You may now be wondering whether other special varieties of pencil are toxic. For example, we have charcoal pencils, but these are generally made from charred vines, which aren’t a major health risk. Also, there are colored pencils that contain the dyes to match the color, but these are in amounts that are so small that they are unlikely to pose a threat to your hound’s health. This is also true of crayons. It is the blockages to your dog’s system that are likely to be more dangerous, and these are what we will talk about in the following section.
Dangers of Consuming Wood
The made health risk if your dog eats pencil comes from the wood around the graphite or charcoal. Since this is non-digestible, it is not going to be broken down by your dog’s system, which is also true of many other manmade substances like plastic. The major problem with wood is that it can splinter off into pieces, and these sharp bits can cause damage to your dog’s digestive tract, intestines, and stomach. Internal bleeding is a potential risk. Also, there is the chance that larger parts can cause blockages, so your pooch is no longer able to properly digest their food.
Symptoms to Watch Out for
If you suspect or know that your dog has eaten a pencil, there are a couple of main symptoms to watch out for that tell you that all is not well in their digestive system. First, you may see vomiting caused by obstructions higher up in the digestive tract. These will prevent food from passing through your dog’s body. So, after your dog has eaten the pencil, they will vomit up what they eat afterward.
The other common issue is that your pooch will not be able to go to the bathroom normally. If you notice that your dog is straining or seeming in pain or anxiety, this may be a sign of a blockage. Blood may also be present in their stool.
Other problems to look out for include lingering signs of pain, tiredness, anxiety or depression. It could also be that your dog no longer has their usual excitement about eating, and they may not be able to eat at all.
Now, we come onto what you should do if your dog has eaten a pencil.
My Dog Ate a Pencil. Will He Be Ok?
Your first action should be to get in contact with your vet. In most cases, pencils will pass through your dog’s digestive tract with no issues, but you can’t be entirely sure how your dog’s body will react. You may get some information based on their previous medical record, but your vet will be better placed to tell you about this. Also, they can give you more details about any worrying symptoms that you should be wary of.
It is likely to just be a case of observation to see how the pencil passes through your dog’s body. Always remember that they are the expert in the best position to give you advice. You should avoid trying to induce your dog into vomiting as the wood fibers could damage your dog’s esophagus as they come up.
After your vet has performed a physical evaluation of your pooch, they are likely to ask you further questions to determine if there could be issues. For example, they may ask the amount of the pencil was consumed, whether it was broken up into smaller pieces, how long ago it happened, whether your dog has eaten, and if there are any symptoms that they should be made aware of. Giving as much information as possible is the best way of helping your vet do their job properly.
After evaluation, if your vet thinks that there is an obstruction, they may order some X-rays. While wood won’t show up directly, there will be other signs that they are looking out for. If there is a serious obstruction of your dog’s system, surgery may be required.
On some occasions, your vet might recommend giving your dog food to envelop the wood fibers, reducing the risk of punctures and cuts to your pooch’s innards. Generally, this is bulky food which can push the fibers through effectively.
If your dog has eaten a pencil, it is important that you don’t panic. In most cases, they will pass it through without further issues. Take your dog to the vet if you are worried and observe them for signs that all is not well on the inside. Prevent this from becoming an issue by not leaving pencils lying around where your dog can get them.
- Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed Something They Shouldn’t Have, PetMD
- Nancy Kerns, What Did My Dog Swallow?, Whole Dog Journal