Ask the Vet: My Dog Ate Crayons
Dr. Ivana Crnec
Dogs are voracious little creatures willing to eat anything they can put their teeth on. More often than not, they even eat non-edible items. Some of those non-edible items are relatively harmless, while others can trigger serious complications. On the bright side, most types of crayons are designed for children and, therefore, they are non-toxic. This is because children, just like dogs, are incredibly likely to mouth and even eat crayons even if left unsupervised for just a few seconds.
Are Crayons Toxic to Dogs?
As already mentioned, crayons are on the list of non-edible items dogs are willing to eat if given a chance.
Fortunately though, commercially-available crayons are purposely crafted for children and therefore formulated to be relatively safe. In fact, most governments mandate that crayons should be made of non-toxic materials.
Most types of crayons are made of paraffin wax and coloring pigment. Both the paraffin wax and the coloring pigment are considered non-toxic, and their ingestion does not trigger toxic consequences.
However, just because something is not toxic, it does not mean it is safe for eating. The paraffin wax and the coloring pigment are hard, if not impossible, to digest and likely to cause an upset stomach.
The Dangers of Crayons in Dogs
The biggest concern regarding crayons is the risk of obstruction and choking. Obstruction can occur if the dog eats a more considerable amount of crayons, which may get stuck in the intestines.
Choking can occur if the dog swallows a piece of crayon that is proportionally big to its size and the piece becomes lodged in the dog's throat.
The risks of developing both intestinal obstruction and choking are based mainly on whether the dog is prone to swallowing or chewing up the ingested items.
Signs of Trouble to Watch For
Finding a half-eaten crayon is not a reason to start panicking. Before starting to worry, you need to assess the situation. If your dog is acting fine, has a normal appetite, and passes stools usually, there is no need for concern.
However, if your dog starts manifesting some of the below-listed signs and symptoms, it is advisable to call your vet:
Vomiting (may be weirdly colored – based on the ingested crayon's color)
Diarrhea (can also be weirdly colored)
·Excessive salivation (licking lips a lot, drooling)
·Loss of appetite (eating less than usual)
·Abdominal pain (moaning, assuming prayer position)
·Constipation (reduced or lack of bowel movements)
·Flatulence (emission of gas)
·Lethargy ( sleeping/laying around more, less interested in surroundings )
The main problem is that both digestive discomfort and intestinal obstruction clinically manifest in similar ways. While digestive discomfort is a relatively benign condition, intestinal obstruction is a potentially life-threatening medical issue that warrants immediate veterinary attention. Therefore, if you notice some of the above-listed signs and symptoms, call your vet as soon as possible.
It may be helpful to know that digestive discomfort usually develops shortly after the crayon eating accident, while intestinal blockage signs may take up to 2 to 3 days to develop.
Help, My Dog Ate Crayons, What Should I Do?
If your dog ate crayons, the first thing you should do is check the crayons box for a non-toxic label. If you do not have the box or there is nothing specific stated, try calling the manufacturer.
Then, it would be useful to figure out how many crayons did the dog eat. This is not always possible. However, in most cases, you can determine how many crayons or crayon parts are missing. Once you have all the facts. It is time to call your trusted vet.
At the Vet's Office
If the dog ate the crayons shortly before visiting the vet, the vet would induce vomiting. If the dog ate the crayons several hours before and is already showing signs of digestive upset, the vet will treat the symptoms.
The dog will most likely be given intravenous fluids and symptomatic therapy based on the exact extent of manifesting symptoms.
If the vet suspects intestinal obstruction, abdominal x-rays and ultrasound will be performed. Sadly, most cases of intestinal obstruction require surgical management.
On the bright side, your dog will be in the clear once the surgical procedure is performed. The recovery period is relatively smooth and fast, especially if you adhere to the vet's recommendations.
Now That You Know...
As seen, crayons can be a problem, especially when your dog gulps them down without chewing and in large quantities. When you are a responsible dog parent, being on the safe side is always advisable. Therefore, we recommend investing some time and money in dog-proofing your home. To prevent your dog from eating your art supplies:
- Keep the crayons out of your dog's reach – this means no crayons on the floor and no crayons on the counters. Anything a dog can reach, a dog can eat. The safest option would be to keep the crayons on high counters, in cupboards, or high-set drawers and as far back as possible.
- Do not leave crayons in the bin – going through the garbage bin may be disgusting for you, but it is definitely tempting for your dog. Dogs enjoy snacking on trash items. Therefore, never throw wasted crayons in the trash can. Alternatively, you can use trash cans with tight-fitting or locking lids.
- Put a baby gate between your dog and your crayons – dogs are very artistic and imaginative when finding ways to reach things. To put your mind at ease, it would be wise to separate your dog from potentially harmful items by placing a baby gate in between. Today, there are many differently designed baby gates, and the market definitely offers one that will fit your needs and your house's design perfectly.
Did you know? As weird as it may sound, since crayons tend to pass through the digestive system without being absorbed, sometimes vets suggest feeding dogs differently colored crayon shavings. Passing on differently colored poop is quite useful in differentiating the poop of different dogs in multiple-dog households when there may be a possible health issue at play.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.