If your dog ate glass, you shouldn't be surprised. From baby diapers and cat poop to batteries and socks – when it comes to dogs eating inedible and weird things, only the sky is the limit.
But what happens if a dog eats glass? What to do and what to expect?
Dogs eating glass is a far more common scenario than you might think. Luckily, in most cases, it is also far less dangerous than expected.
As unusual as it sounds, dogs are capable of passing the glass without experiencing any issues. However, depending on the circumstances, sometimes complications are possible.
In this article, we will talk about dogs eating glass. We will cover the dangers of dogs eating glass and possible complications. Then we will give tips on what to do as first aid and go through the treatment options and what happens at the vet's office.
Why Do Dogs Eat Glass?
Dogs eat glass (and other weird, inedible things) because they are somehow attracted to them. Whether it is their smell, shine, color, overall look – there is no way of knowing.
The interesting part is that dogs rarely eat glass on purpose. Namely, they can be attracted to a glass object and start eating, but as soon as they feel the sharp edges in the mouth, they are likely to spit the object out.
Most ingestion cases are, therefore, accidents and happen if the dog fails to spit the glass entirely and some shards end up being swallowed.
What Happens if a Dog Eats Glass?
What happens after a dog eats glass depends on various factors. There are no rules on what will happen, but as a responsible dog owner, you need to be familiar with the potential scenarios. Here is a review of the possible outcomes.
1: Mouth and Tongue Cuts
This is the best-case scenario. Mouth and tongue cuts seem scary because they bleed a lot. However, they are rarely serious.
In case your dog ate very tiny shards, you might consider seeing the vet to make sure all shards are removed. The cuts heal on themselves (stitching oral wounds is rare).
If a glass shard ends up in the wrong pipe, it may cause choking. Choking is a life-threatening situation and requires immediate help. Luckily, it is rare – as most dogs are capable of coughing up the problem-causing object.
A glass shard may even embed itself in the throat causing constant coughing and gagging. If this is the case, a vet will have to remove the shard.
Basically, any foreign body can cause gastroenteritis regardless of its shape, size, and material.
The inflammation is the GI tract’s reaction to its presence and usually manifests with vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, dehydration, and lethargy.
4: Bowel Perforation
Worst-case scenario, a glass shard will get embedded into the lining of the GI tract and cause perforation.
A perforated bowel in dogs is a medical emergency because if the intestinal integrity is compromised, gut juices and bacteria will infect the abdomen. A perforated bowel needs to be surgically corrected.
In such a case, there are two sub-scenarios:
Gastrointestinal resection and anastomosis: the vet will remove the part of the intestines that is perforated and damaged by local infection. Then, they will reattach the remaining sections together. Leakage from the connection spot is an uncommon but possible complication.
Short bowel syndrome: occurs if a very large portion of the intestine needs to be removed. Then, because the length of the digestive tract is shorter, the dog will have trouble assimilating nutrients.
In the long run, this can lead to malnourishment and nutritional deficiencies.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Glass?
No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen, and your dog can end up eating glass. In such a case, you need to be prepared and know what to do. Here is a short walkthrough on how to act.
1: Contain the Damage
By containing the damage, we mean separating the dog from the glass. As mentioned, most dogs will stop eating, but some might continue. Therefore, either pick up the glass or take your dog to another room.
2: Assess the Dog
Take a close and thorough look at your dog. Open its mouth and see if there are bleeding injuries (mouth and tongue cuts tend to bleed a lot and often seem worse than they actually are).
Also, check the paws – if the dog stepped on the glass, there could be embedded shards between the toes.
3: Cushion the Glass
Next, you should give your dog bread. The concept behind feeding your dog bread is fairly simple – the bread will form a cocoon around the glass shards, thus preventing their sharp edges from injuring the digestive tract.
Instead of bread, you can also use mashed potatoes or pumpkin puree. However, bread is usually more practical as it is more readily available.
Tip: If going for the pumpkin option, make sure you are feeding plain pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, which has spices and may even contain xylitol (an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs).
4: Call the Veterinarian
Finally, you need to call the vet and explain what happened. Try to provide as much information as possible while remaining calm.
Based on the info, the vet will give instructions on what to do next. Stick to the provided guidelines and do not attempt to self-treat your dog at home.
What You Should Never Do If Your Dog Ate Glass
Knowing what not to do is perhaps even more important than knowing what to do. In the case of dogs eating glass, you must never induce vomiting.
Vomiting induction is counteractive when dogs eat sharp things, and the explanation is quite simple. Namely, vomiting requires force and pressure within the digestive tract.
It is possible for the glass to pass through the esophagus and stomach without causing any harm because, under normal circumstances, the pressure in these parts of the GI tract is very low.
However, if you induce vomiting, the pressure increases, and it may force the glass to cause injuries.
Signs a Dog Ingested Glass
How do I know my dog swallowed something sharp like glass? The telltale signs of eating glass in dogs include the following:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Constant gagging or coughing
- Lip licking
- Refusal to eat
- Distended and painful belly
- Inability to poop
If your dog is showing one or more of these signs, you need to seek immediate veterinary attention.
How Long After Eating Glass Do Dogs Get Sick?
It is difficult to predict how long after eating glass a dog will get sick. The exact answer depends on several variables, including the dog's size, the type of glass (whole or shards), and the amount of glass.
Namely, dogs may get sick soon after or a couple of days later.
How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Pass Glass?
Usually, dogs need between ten and 24 hours to pass ingested things – that is how long the journey through the digestive tract lasts.
However, in the case of foreign objects, the passage may last longer (as the irritation caused by the object is likely to slow down intestinal motility).
Can a Dog Survive Eating Glass?
Yes, it is possible for dogs to survive eating glass. In fact, inducing vomiting poses a more life-threatening situation than giving your dog bread or other similarly textured food to help the passage of the glass through the digestive system.
Preventing Your Dog From Eating Glass
Prevention is worth a pound of cure! Dogs can eat glass on several occasions, and most accidents are related to glass ornaments, Christmas trees, and broken bottles and jars. To prevent such accidents:
Do not keep glass ornaments within your dog's reach. Also, be mindful about the extent of your dog's reach (dogs can jump high if motivated and can put their tongues and paws on hard-to-get places).
Pick up the glass shards immediately. If your happen to drop glass and it breaks in many shards, it is best to confine your dog to its crate or another room while cleaning (even stepping on glass can be hazardous).
Careful with Christmas ornaments! Consider the Christmas tree issue as dogs are amazed by them and their ornaments. Either put the Christmas tree somewhere your dog cannot access it or choose non-glass ornaments.
A dog eating glass – whole or shards is a potentially dangerous situation. The emphasis is on the work potentially, meaning some dogs can go with nothing, but a minor mouth cut while others may end up needing a life-saving surgical procedure due to perforated bowels.
As unusual as it sounds, the first scenario is much more likely than the second one. In most cases, the low-pressure environment in the dog's digestive system allows the glass shard to pass without causing harm.
The bottom line, if your dog eats glass, you need to seek veterinary help. In the meanwhile, give your dog bread to cushion the glass shards and contain their damage.
After that, follow your vet's instructions, and in the future, try keeping the dog away from any glass objects.