Unfortunately, some dogs can display destructive behaviors, particularly if feeling upset about being left on their own in the house. Dogs have been known to chew their way through walls or doors if they are very distressed. You may be wondering how dangerous it is if your dog ends up chewing and consuming any drywall at home.
Drywall, otherwise known as plasterboard, is a material used in construction to finish internal walls and ceilings. It is usually a flat whiteboard made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) compressed between sheets of thick paper.
It is also sometimes used for building decorative features in homes such as arches or molded feature shapes. You will now find drywall in many modern homes as it is cheap and easy to install. Because dogs are inquisitive creatures, it’s bound to happen that dogs end up consuming something they shouldn’t, which includes drywall. Find out your next steps below, and when it’s time to worry.
Is Drywall Toxic For Dogs?
In the majority of cases, drywall doesn’t pose a specific toxic threat in dogs. Additionally, some dogs don’t actually consume the drywall when they are destroying it. They are simply tearing at it and breaking it up into pieces. The gypsum used in it is a completely non-toxic compound.
However, if your pup does consume a large quantity of drywall then it could potentially act as a foreign body. This circumstance can cause an obstruction in your dog’s stomach or intestines. A blockage if left untreated could be potentially fatal. So, if you notice that your pet is unwell in any way following a destructive episode, then you should contact your veterinarian right away.
In rare cases, a dog may be allergic to the ingredients of the drywall, or dust inhalation could occur. Both of these issues may cause issues like respiratory tract irritation.
The other thing to note is that if your house contains Chinese drywall, then this is a more potentially dangerous type of building material. This defective plasterboard was used in some houses built between 2001-2009. Chinese drywall contains pyrites. Dogs that chew and ingest even small amounts of this can go on to show symptoms such as abdominal swelling and vomiting.
Chinese drywall has been said to cause respiratory issues. It can also cause headaches, and sinus problems in homeowners, due to the gasses it gives off. You can pay to have your house tested for Chinese drywall if you have concerns that this material was used in its construction.
The other thing you should consider is whether your home might contain any asbestos that the drywall boards could be adjacent to. Asbestos was used in older homes, and can negatively impact your pet’s health if they are exposed to it. Since it was identified as a health hazard, it is no longer used in residential construction.
While Chinese drywall has concerns, you will find that in the majority of cases where a dog eats drywall, it’s non-toxic. It’s unlikely to cause any significant concerns outside of bowel obstruction.
My Just Ate Drywall: What Now?
Step 1: Try and stop your dog from eating any more material. This may mean moving them to another room or shutting them outside.
Step 2: Look over your pup. Are they wound up, panting, or distressed? Are they showing any signs of abdominal discomfort, vomiting, or diarrhea? Are they coughing?
Step 3: Call your veterinarian. Give them a call if you are concerned Fido has eaten a large amount of the drywall or plasterboard, or if they are unwell in any way.
Step 4: Follow your veterinarian’s instructions. If they want to perform an examination, you should bring them down to the clinic as soon as you can.
Step 5: Try and prevent it from happening again. You may need to consider behavioral training programs if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, and/or keeping them in a different area of the house or yard when you aren’t home.
What Happens When Dogs Eat Drywall?
If your pup eats small amounts of standard drywall then it should pass through them without issue. Many dogs consume very little of the actual material in the destruction process.
If a large amount of drywall has been eaten, it can cause a physical obstruction. The gypsum inside the consumed drywall can become stuck together when wet and form a large mass. If your dog has gypsum stuck in his stomach or small intestine, it causes a blockage and prevents food and water from passing through. This blockage and the irritation around it will cause food to be vomited back up again. Blockages can happen when dogs ingests any foreign body, including birds, or man-made items.
Your dog may also stop being able to pass feces. Alternatively, your pup may have diarrhea or blood in his stool due to the inflammation in his gastrointestinal tract. You may notice small pieces of chewed drywall in the vomit or stools.
Dog’s with blockages are usually off-color and won’t want to eat or drink much. They will also become lethargic. Some dogs might even collapse completely. Abdominal discomfort may be seen, your pup might be looking at his stomach more often than normal.
Your pup may adopt a different way of positioning himself to try and get more comfortable. This is often known as ‘prayer positioning’, where he has his front legs/chest lying on the ground and his rear end up in the air, to try and alleviate his discomfort. He may also be whining, whimpering, or crying.
You must call your veterinarian for advice immediately if your pet shows any of these signs after eating drywall:
- Abdominal discomfort
What Will My Veterinarian Do?
If your veterinarian has concerns about your pet, they will ask you to bring them into the clinic for examination. Your vet may decide after a check-over that the risk on this occasion is low. In most cases, your vet will ask you to monitor your pup carefully at home. If this is the case, continue to monitor, and look for changes in appetite or any of the signs listed above.
Your vet may need to do tests. Tests such as X-rays will help see where the drywall is, and if it is likely to cause a blockage. Other diagnostics can be performed such as ultrasound, which is a non-invasive way of scanning your dog’s organs. Another possibility is an endoscopy where a long flexible camera is passed into your dog’s stomach.
It may be possible to use medication to induce vomiting if the foreign material is still located in the stomach and is deemed safe enough for them to safely bring back up again. However, you should not induce vomiting at home. There are lots of risks to inducing vomiting including aspiration of the vomit and choking as the object is brought back up again.
Surgery may be indicated if the item has already moved further down into the small intestine before becoming stuck. Abdominal surgery allows the veterinarian to examine the organs for damage and obstruction and remove the drywall material. The success of this procedure depends on how much damage has occurred. If caught early enough then your dog’s prognosis is usually good. If things have been left untreated for a while, then the damage to your dog’s organs may be more severe.
Depending on the nature of the treatment required, your dog may need to stay in the hospital following his procedure. This will allow the veterinarian to monitor them closely for any signs of infection or wound breakdown. Your dog may also be hospitalized if their symptoms become severe, as dogs that are vomiting can quickly become dehydrated.
Will My Dog Be OK?
The majority of dogs will be absolutely fine and will probably not need any medical intervention. Small amounts of drywall are unlikely to cause an issue, as most types of drywall are non-toxic. However, if you know that your house contains Chinese drywall or there is any asbestos nearby, then seek urgent advice. Similarly, you should ask for advice if you notice there is a lot of drywall missing that suggests your dog may have consumed a large amount.
Preventing Canine Drywall Consumption
Dogs that show destructive tendencies usually do so out of mental frustration such as boredom or separation anxiety. You should see if there is anything obvious you can improve for your pet at home. Activities such as taking them out for more exercise, engaging in plenty of play, and spending time grooming them may help.
You should also work on any underlying separation anxiety. Dogs that don’t like being left at home on their own can become distressed and destructive. Similarly, dogs that become very scared by specific events such as firework displays or thunder may try to chew through walls to escape and hide.
You may wish to speak to your veterinarian for general advice on these issues. But ultimately a canine behaviorist may be needed to help you work through your dog’s issues in more detail and implement a training program to give you the best long-term outcome. We recommend looking at crate training your dog, as it can help them feel more secure in their home, and prevent them from consuming foreign bodies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Remember to stay calm if your dog has destroyed and possibly consumed any drywall. Call your veterinarian immediately if you think they have eaten a large volume or if they are showing signs of ill health. Consider seeking advice for help with behavioral training if your pup is showing regular destructive tendencies as this will help you both in the longer term.