Help! My dog ate a toothpick!

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My dog ate a toothpick

Today, I want to talk about a serious matter with you guys – the ingestion of objects.
Let’s be honest with each other, even the most cautious and watchful owner will probably at some point run into such a situation: Doggie has swallowed something it shouldn’t have.
If we are lucky, it is a small, blunt object that is likely to pass the stomach and intestines without causing any harm or even better it is digestible and not poisonous.


But most of the time – that’s just Murphy’s law – it will be something that raises concern, meaning we are talking about something that is either sharp/pointy or big or both of it (worst combination) with a potential of internal harm.

The “toothpick scare”: When my dog ate a toothpick

The situations we can run into are so manifold that it is impossible to speak about the matter as a whole, which is why I just want to share what I have learned from what I now call “our recent toothpick scare”.
Generally speaking – well, here IS something general indeed – the outcome of a wrongful ingestion of indigestible objects largely depends on its shape as well as the ratio between the size of the swallowed object and the body size it is then going to have to pass through.

Big dog + small object = better chances of being lucky. Small dog + bigger object = 🙁

The outcome of a wrongful ingestion of indigestible objects largely depends on the object’s shape and the ratio between the size of the swallowed object and the body size it needs to pass through.

Here’s what happened during our toothpick scare

I have learned another valuable lesson: Whenever you are sure that you have stashed away things that your dog should not eat or that can even become dangerous for it in a safe place – think again and make sure of it!

Owning a Bull Terrier is basically like living with a toddler that never grows up. And the measures to be taken for that individual’s safety are the same – kid or dog, it doesn’t matter. We always need to be aware that they just do stupid things and some of them so stupid we can’t even imagine. So, at least we can try and take precaution for the things we CAN foresee.
Well, on that particular day my foreseeing eye must have been blind because Mila managed to steal the rest of a sandwich I had taken home from a restaurant.
It was bold – and a little unusual for her – to steal the boxed food stacked away in a seemingly safe place. I would probably had answered it with a short scold and then close the case.
However, the sandwich parts had been held together by a pair of those wooden toothpick-like small pointy sticks. And that made a whole world of a difference.

The sandwich parts had been held together by a pair of those wooden toothpick-like small pointy sticks.

My dog had swallowed the toothpicks

I caught her in the act, but much of the sandwich and, of course, the toothpicks were already eaten. Absolutely scared I searched the entire area around for pieces to be sure, and found nothing, which confirmed my worst fears: she had eaten the toothpicks.
My initial impulse was wanting to reach into her mouth and just plug the toothpicks out. But there was no point in doing that because, of course, they were already out of reach.

Think twice before making your dog vomit

I quickly contemplated inducing vomiting to bring everything back up again. Luckily, I did NOT do that, because I read later that it is NOT a good idea to make the dog vomit. The swallowed pieces can severely damage the oesophagus during their way back up and cause even more harm while taking THIS way out. Also, bigger objects could get stuck in the oesophagus during their way back up and block your dog’s airways, leading to suffocation.
So different from some situations of poisoning, for example, if wrongful ingestion of a solid object happens to your dog, it is probably for the best to resist the urge to induce vomiting.

If your dog ate a toothpick, it is probably NOT a good idea to induce vomiting.

The incident happened while we were on the road, rushing to an ER would have been complicated.
So, I first started searching the internet on my phone for information on first aid.

Feverish assessment and investigation

My greatest fear, of course, was that the toothpicks could puncture her intestines and cause internal bleeding. I hoped that she had eaten slow enough to at least crack the picks into pieces so they would not be big enough anymore to puncture anything.

Hubby suggested to put another toothpick (we still had one) into a bottle with juice to see if the pick would soften and how fast that would be. Juice contains acid, which is by far not as strong as the stomach acid. So, if something happened there that would have been a very comforting sign.
To make this part of the long story short: The result was not comforting for me at all because the wood barely softened at all over two days in the bottle.

Common signs that a dog is suffering after the ingestion of an indigestible object

After reading a lot around on the internet I knew that the signs I had to watch out for were
– weakness
– lack of appetite
– walking in a crouched posture, which would point to stomach aches
and sleeping more than usual.

Toothpicks do not dissolve in stomach acid.

I read that some people had faced amused reactions and felt ridiculed when taking their dog to a vet after it had eaten a toothpick. Others described really serious scenarios. Some stated that stomach acid will resolve those small wooden pieces. Well, we had already busted that myth.

Did somebody say “Sauerkraut”?

I really wanted to do something right now and stumbled over … Sauerkraut.
Originally from Germany I am no stranger to Sauerkraut. I don’t like it very much but I know it well. The sources suggested to feed 1-2 Tablespoons full of sauerkraut with each meal and provide plenty of water. For dogs who did not take the sauerkraut as it is there were several suggestions to make it more tasty, such as adding beef broth, for example.

The reason for feeding sauerkraut over a few days is that the chopped strings of kraut are assumed to wrap the indigestible object, buffering pointy ends and stimulating digestion. The goal is to bring the foreign object through the digestive system as quickly as possible without doing harm.

Tension grows as the days pass by

I bought a glass of sauerkraut at the next grocery store we could reach and only an hour after ingestion Mila had her first sauerkraut meal.
During the next three days Mila ate 2 tablespoons full of sauerkraut with each of three meals a day.
I watched her poop like a surgeon. Luckily, I am used to pick up after her. So, feeling the soft mass through the potty bag was somewhat bearable.

I watched my dog’s poop like a surgeon.

Then, on the third day after she had eaten the sandwich, finally!!!!

I felt the sticks!
There were two smaller and two larger pieces indicating that she had crushed them. They were still hard and felt in no way softened by her stomach acid (Busted the 2nd).
But I did not notice any blood and Mila was happy as ever.
She had just been very lucky.

Cautionary tales

I noticed that she is more interested in things on the ground lately when we go outside and had to stop her from picking something up more than once. In the past she had been merely interested in anything on the street.
I have never thrown treats or anything edible on the street for her to grab it. Always tried to teach her that things are not being picked up from the ground outside. And for the longest time this has worked well for us.
Well, her interest in those things still that seems to have changed. So, I am double alert now when we go outside.
In addition, after our toothpick scare, I now think twice when storing away things she is not supposed to get. And, well yeah, I remove ANY toothpicks from sandwiches now before I take the first bite. NO toothpick in a sandwich will ever enter our car or home again! 

My conclusion

In the best interest of our dogs we should never fully trust them because they WILL do stupid things, most likely exactly when we are not watching closely. They do want to be good dogs but we still have to be concerned for their safety all the time. Curiosity killed the cat. Isn’t that what they say? Oftentimes it is likely just that, the lack of risk awareness in the dog, which makes it our job as owners to keep them safe through our own awareness.

I hope that this story is in some ways helpful for you guys to see what can happen and what could help.
Of course, every case is different!
And the message of this post is NOT to spare the vet and just use sauerkraut – please don’t.
In any case of doubt in such a situation I would ALWAYS recommend to see a vet with the dog, if possible, no matter if they laugh.
You can always use or discuss measures like the sauerkraut with the vet. I think this was a pretty serious situation and my dog was VERY lucky!!!
Best thing, of course, is to not let it happen in the first place. But dogs are dogs and, well, we’re only human, right?

As always: If you are interested in the products mentioned in this post and want to support our blog at the same time, feel free to use the Amazon product links from this article. Mila and I thank you for the recognition of our work on this blog!

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5 years ago

Thank you so much for your help

S Brown
4 years ago

My Doberman did the same thing 2 days ago. I immediately called the vet who said do not make her throw up as it could cause damage. She said to feed her a lot of bread and dry dog food which I did. Now just waiting… and praying it passes without causing damage. She is drinking a LOT of water but doesn’t seem to have any pain. This is so stressful!!

Anthony Jones
4 years ago

On Thursday Morning 11:30 my Labradoodle Archie swallowed a 7.5cm wooden satay stick. I had foolishly held out the stick expecting to to take the chicken off, but he snatched the whole stick, I screamed at him no, no, but to know avail it was gone.
I started feeding him on a lot of wet food to try and make him sick, that didn’t work.
I then fed him with as much buttered bread as I could get him to eat.
The next morning at 5am he had me up, wanting to do his business on the back garden, but walking round in circles as if distressed. He eventually did some pooing and I was expecting to find the stick but no I was disappointed.
Archie was showing no unusual signs through the day so I continued my poop watch, but nothing Friday or Saturday and Archie still as lively as ever. My wife took him out Friday evening but failed to check his poop
Today, Sunday, at around 10:00, fantastic news. On checking his poop! Which was a quite a solid effort about 20mm x 100mm there it was completely intact

Nicole Lange
3 years ago

My dog just ate a tooth pick, maybe a little over 2 inches big. Hes a cane corso, I luckily found this page(thank you so much for writing this). I gave him sauerkraut and two got dogs rolls. Now I just pray everything comes out alright.

3 years ago

Our Chihuahua Pug mix (bigger than a pug) swallowed a 1 inch by 1/2 inch thin, wooden craft piece shaped like a turtle. She did this almost 48 hours ago. Still no evidence of it in her poop. She is acting fine but I’m on pins and needles ever hour! The vet said do not induce vomiting and just to wait and see if she expels it. It had two small turtle legs that curved out of it so I’m so afraid they will cause it to lodge. She has pooped 3 times since swallowing it.

Mary Hanson
3 years ago

My 7mos old Almost 100lb English mastiff puppy just nabbed 4 bacon wrapped shrimp With water soaked tooth picks off the counter so fast my neck hurts from trying to stop him. The ER said to try and induce vomiting but Everything I’m reading says not to induce vomiting. I’m trying the kraut. I’m absolutely panicked right now. 4 tablespoons kraut can of soft food half cup of kibble and I’m waiting. 😢

3 years ago

My 26 pond Maltipoo just ate a half of a chicken salad wrap with a tooth pick holding it together. My lunch is gone and now I just gave a 3 tablespoon “treat” , I set the timer for 20 minutes and will repeat all day?!

Janabeth Brown
3 years ago

my large Pitt bull terrier swallowed a tooth pick and I’m worried it will cause problems abt 30 min after the toothpick was invested he threw up the food but no toothpick he has not been acting great since this happened so I was wondering is it too late to try sauerkraut? Help!

3 years ago

JUST NOW I noticed my pup chewing on something and got it out of his mouth, it was a sharded toothpick! I searched all around in his mouth for more of it, all around him…but i think the rest was swallowed, AGH! At least what I got out of him was softened by his chewing already. I thought to rush him to the vet but am thinking of the CONSTANT sharp twigs I am getting out of his mouth from outside even tho he has tons of safe chew toys…hard decision. Good to know vomiting is NOT advised, and that some vets laugh? about it, so I’m thinking to pray and try to get him to eat as much food and water as I can. And be SURE there is never a toothpic around! AGH! Please pray for my little guy Nov 30, 2020

3 years ago

Thank you for this. I have been letting my dog do her Steps in the house because of coyotes. She ate something crunchy in the dining room and only after she vomited an hour later did I realize she ingested a toothpick, one half of the actual size. She’s 16 years old… If the vet does an x-ray, I really cannot chance her going under anesthesia to remove. Just praying now.

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