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Yikes! My Dog Just Ate Tin Foil! What Should I Do Now?

If your dog ate some tin foil while trying to get after something inside it, you are likely quite worried about your pup. Tin foil doesn't come across as the most edible item. In this article, Veterinarian Ellen Marcinkiewicz looks at what happens when dogs eat tin foil, as well as when it's time to contact your local veterinarian.

Last Updated: July 3, 2021 | 7 min read

Dog That Ate Tin Foil Near Trashcan

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate tin foil and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Did your dog eat some leftovers off the counter while you weren’t looking? It’s not uncommon for dogs to go after our food, even when it’s wrapped in tin foil. Usually, aluminum foil consumption happens because of leftover foods. Unfortunately, our pups just can’t resist the delicious leftovers wrapped inside!

When this happens, it can have serious consequences. Particularly if large amounts are eaten or if the food inside wasn’t doggy-safe. Tin foil is considered a foreign body. That means it’s going to be difficult for dogs to digest.

So if you’ve come home to find your pup wolfing down a leftover slice of cake and its tinfoil wrapping, there are going to be some steps you’ll need to take. Let’s jump in and look at your next steps, and when to worry.

Will Aluminum Foil Harm My Dog?

Dog Laying Near Chocolate Wrapped in Aluminum Foil
Aluminum Foil can cause health issues in dogs, but so can the food contents inside.

Little pieces of foil will usually pass through your dog’s gut without causing any major issues. However, large pieces could become stuck within the gut, causing a blockage (intestinal obstruction).

Smaller breed dogs and puppies, in particular, are more likely to develop a blockage. This is because their gut is narrower than that of a large breed dog. Though uncommon, foil is also a choking risk for dogs.

Is It Toxic?

But is the foil itself toxic to dogs? Aluminum foil and tin foil are different names for the same product. All of these products are made from thin sheets of aluminum metal. Thankfully, your dog is very unlikely to receive a toxic dose of aluminum by eating foil but it’s still always better to be safe than sorry.

What Are The Dangers?

Dogs usually eat aluminum foil because there is (or was) something tasty inside. Unfortunately, not all human foods are safe for dogs and some of our favorites like onion, avocado, coffee, grapes, and chocolate are highly toxic. Foods that contain high levels of fat are also high-risk. This is because they can cause a serious illness known as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Cooked chicken bones, steak bones, pork bones, and skewers are also extremely dangerous. Their sharp ends can pierce the walls of the gut leading to a life-threatening infection known as septic peritonitis. Even foods that aren’t toxic may still cause signs of an upset tummy such as vomiting or diarrhea.

My Dog Ate Tin Foil: What Now?

Dog Eating From Trash
If your canine companion just ate some tin foil, there’s some steps you’ll want to take.

If you came home to a huge mess and can see that Fido helped himself to some food wrapped in foil, there are some steps you’ll want to take. Follow the steps below, and always call your vet if you have questions.

Step 1: Check For Signs of Distress

If see any of the following signs, take them immediately to your nearest emergency veterinarian:

  • Struggling to breathe or breathing very rapidly
  • Blue-tinged or pale gums
  • Collapsed or weak
  • Pain or distress

If there is more than one person present to help you, they can call the clinic to let them know you’re on the way. If your pup is comfortable, breathing normally, and seems bright and interactive there is no need to rush immediately to a veterinarian and you should proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Clean Up

To make sure your dog and other pets don’t eat any more aluminum foil it’s best to remove all traces. This includes any food scraps. If your dog raided the bin make sure it’s now completely empty or out of reach. If there is a lot of mess and your pets are trying to help with the clean-up process, confine them temporarily to another room while you tidy up.

Step 3: Gather Information

See if you can figure out roughly how much foil has been eaten. Also, figure out when they might have eaten it. Though it might seem gross, you may need to go through the trash with gloves to see if any other trash or food items have been eaten. Flatten out remaining pieces of foil or food wrappers and try and figure out how much may be missing.

Step 4: Call Your Veterinarian

Even if your dog has only eaten a small amount of foil, it’s still best to call your veterinarian for advice. Let them know the amount of foil and any other food items that might have eaten.

It’s also useful to tell your vet their weight, breed, any current health issues they might have. Also, identify any signs they might be showing such as vomiting or diarrhea. Your vet will use this information to decide if your dog needs to be seen at the clinic. Your vet may tell you that you are safe to just keep a close eye on them at home.

If monitoring at home, make sure to follow your vet’s instructions closely. Make sure to update them on any changes. Pieces of foil may be visible in your pup’s feces over the next few days.

What Happens After Consumption?

If your dog ate only a small amount of aluminum foil and no toxic foods, you will hopefully see very few symptoms. Typically the foil will pass through the gut. Some dogs may experience an upset tummy and mild diarrhea that resolves on its own.

Unfortunately, tin foil doesn’t always pass through the gut easily. Especially, when larger amounts are eaten. Puppies and small breed dogs are especially vulnerable to developing serious complications such as choking or a blockage (intestinal obstruction). But, this can also happen to dogs of any size. If your dog is showing any of the following signs it’s best to seek urgent veterinary attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Signs of pain or distress
  • Straining to pass feces (constipation)
  • Changes in normal breathing or coughing/retching

What Will My Veterinarian Do?

Dog on Table at Veterinarian
Your veterinarian will likely run a series of tests before determining the proper treatment.

Your veterinarian may recommend bringing your dog to the clinic for an examination and treatment after eating aluminum foil. They will start by taking a history and getting as much information from you as possible to determine the level of risk.

This is where your detective work at home will be extremely helpful. The more information you can give your vet, the better. If you aren’t sure how much foil was ingested, or if any other food or garbage was missing that’s also OK. Just be sure to tell your vet this so they can diagnose and treat your dog appropriately.

If the foil was eaten very recently and your vet feels it is safe to do so, they may make your dog vomit to remove the foil from the stomach. This is also useful for toxic foods like onions!

Though this is an important part of treatment under the right circumstances, you should never make your pup vomit at home. Always leave this to a veterinary professional. Large pieces of foil could become stuck in the throat and sharp items like bones or skewers could cause even more damage coming back up!

If your vet is concerned about a possible blockage they will perform diagnostic tests such as x-rays or an ultrasound. If the foil is causing a blockage it will need to be removed surgically, or in some cases, removal may also be possible using an endoscope (an instrument with a camera).

Will My Dog Be OK?

Dog Healing at Home
Recovery time will depend on the amount of foil eaten, and the treatment that was given.

If your dog has eaten a small amount of aluminum foil and your veterinarian thinks complications are unlikely, then the prognosis is considered good. Most dogs will recover with few symptoms. They should pass pieces of tin foil in their feces over the next 24 to 48 hours. It’s still important to monitor them closely. You need to make sure you don’t see them develop any additional symptoms and follow your vet’s instructions carefully.

If larger amounts of aluminum foil were consumed, they are more likely to develop complications such as a blockage (intestinal obstruction). If left untreated, this is life-threatening. The sooner your veterinarian can perform surgery to remove the blockage, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Most dogs recover well after intestinal surgery. However, there are possible complications, including infection. If your dog’s gut (intestine) has been pierced by a sharp object like bone, the leakage of gut contents causes a serious infection, known as septic peritonitis. This can be fatal and requires urgent treatment.

If your pup has eaten toxic foods like chocolate or grapes along with the foil, this will also affect the prognosis. These foods are often more deadly than the foil itself! Your vet will try to eliminate as much toxin from the system as possible (decontamination), place your pup on an IV drip, and monitor them closely if they have eaten dangerous amounts.

Aluminum Foil Ingestion Prevention

As eating tin foil can cause serious complications, your pup should always keep their paws off so we can prevent problems from occurring! Dogs are typically drawn to foil that contains or smells like delicious food. This means the trash can is an easy target. Make sure yours is pet-safe or hidden away securely where none of your pets can get to it.

Young children may also drop food or wrappers so it’s always best to keep your pup away from kids when they’re eating or supervise them closely. Foil cupcake wrappers are a notorious culprit for many canines. You should also avoid leaving food out on countertops or the dining table as many larger breed dogs can reach these areas easily.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take my dog to pass a foreign body?

    This will vary depending on the item swallowed but usually somewhere between 24 and 72 hours. Certain items will not be able to pass through the gut and may become stuck or cause a blockage (intestinal obstruction). This includes items that are too large, attached to a long string, or with sharp surfaces.

  • Does aluminum dissolve in stomach acid?

    No. Aluminum foil will not dissolve in your dog’s stomach and will either pass through the gut naturally, exiting the body within the feces, or will need to be removed surgically by a veterinarian if it becomes stuck and causes a blockage.

  • Is aluminum poisonous to dogs if they eat it?

    Aluminum is toxic to both dogs and humans in high levels, but unless extremely large amounts of aluminum foil are swallowed, your canine companion is very unlikely to receive a toxic dose this way.

Final Thoughts

Though eating small amounts of foil is unlikely to seriously harm your dog, larger amounts can cause severe consequences including a gut blockage or choking. Dogs are usually attracted to foil because it’s wrapped around delicious foods.

If this food is toxic or harmful to dogs, like chocolate, onion, or grapes, this can cause even more serious problems than the foil itself! This is why it’s always best to speak to a veterinary professional if your dog has eaten aluminum foil.

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