Dog Ate String From a Rope Toy [What You Should Do]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

During my time as a vet tech, I have seen a number of cases where a dog ate string from a rope toy, and I wanted to share how you can deal with it and give you a few suggestions for making playtime safe for everyone.

If a dog ingests string from a rope toy, there is a risk of gastrointestinal obstruction or a linear foreign body, which can cause serious complications. Symptoms may include vomiting, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel movements. If you see this happening, you need to consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Many a time, dog parents get one of those rope toys for their pets thinking that it would make a fun game of tug-of-war.

The thing is when your dog starts tearing it apart into smaller pieces, it can inadvertently cause danger to its life.

Read on for more details.

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Why Does My Dog Eat String?

Dogs may eat string and other non-food items for a variety of reasons:

  1. Curiosity: Dogs, especially puppies, are naturally curious and may chew or eat unfamiliar items as a way of exploring their environment.
  2. Play: A dog eating threads from toys may be a case of them tearing it apart, and unknowingly swallowing pieces of the toy.
  3. Taste and Smell: If the string has the residue of food or other enticing scents, it might be more appealing for the dog to chew or ingest.
  4. Boredom: Dogs left alone without enough stimulation might resort to destructive behaviors, including chewing on and potentially swallowing inappropriate items.
  5. Dietary Deficiencies: On rare occasions, certain nutritional deficiencies might lead a dog to eat non-food items.
  6. Pica: This is a behavioral condition where animals eat non-food items. The cause can be medical, nutritional, or behavioral, and if it’s a recurrent behavior, it should be addressed with a veterinarian.
  7. Attention-Seeking: Sometimes, dogs learn that if they engage in certain behaviors (like eating strange items), they get attention from their owners, even if it’s negative attention.
  8. Gastrointestinal Issues: Some dogs with digestive troubles might eat non-food items in an attempt to induce vomiting.

What Happens If a Dog Eats String From a Rope Toy?

What Happens When Dog Eats String from a Rope Toy
Dog eating rope toy?

There are a few things that can happen if this situation occurs to your dog, and you should treat this in a similar way as when your dog swallows any foreign objects (just like wine corks or bologna casings).

The major risk involved here is blockage and obstruction in your dog’s digestive tract. This includes the esophagus, intestines, and colon.

And in each of these spots, there are different types of hazards and discomfort for your dog.

Assuming the string is lodged in its esophagus, your dog will feel as though something is stuck and will be unable to swallow anything, which will make it extremely uncomfortable.

If the string is large or thick, it may cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.

Sepsis, an infection that spreads throughout your body and becomes life-threatening, can result from colon obstruction.

If left untreated, intestinal obstruction can also be fatal because it results in severe electrolyte imbalances and extreme dehydration, which can result in kidney failure or shock.

You need to keep a close eye to see if your dog manages to vomit or pass it out.

I personally don’t use such toys anymore. Instead, check out one of my favorites here.

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Spraying Dogs With Water as Training? Does it Work?

How Do You Tell if a Dog Has a Blockage From Eating the String From a Rope Toy? Dog Ate String Symptoms

How Do You Tell if a Dog Has a Blockage From Eating the String From a Rope Toy?

Anything that becomes lodged in a dog’s stomach, including bones, toys, and food scraps they have chewed up, might cause a blockage.

An esophageal obstruction occurs when your dog consumes anything that becomes lodged in its esophagus or throat.

Gastrointestinal obstruction is what is experienced when a foreign object becomes lodged lower down in the intestines.

Keep an eye out for these typical blockage signals.

Dog Ate String Symptoms infographics

Loss of appetite

Your dog might not want to eat if he has an obstruction.

It can hurt him to swallow if the object is lodged in his throat or esophagus.

Food won’t simply go down when he is having difficulty swallowing, and he will quit eating altogether.

Vomiting

It’s not always a sign that your dog has an obstruction if he only throws up once or twice.

But you should take him to the vet immediately if the vomiting continues, especially if there is bile or blood in it.

One method he might be attempting to get rid of anything lodged in his throat or esophagus is through vomiting.

The obstruction won’t be removed by vomiting, though, if it enters any deeper into his digestive system.

Instead, you’ll notice symptoms like fatigue and loss of appetite.

Doggy says, consider reading this too: Dog ate Band Aid/Elastoplast? [Solved]

Excessive licking of gum and lips

Your dog may have a throat injury if you notice him frequently licking his lips or gums.

He continues to chew even if there is nothing there to chew on because the discomfort of the obstruction.

Drooling

If your dog is drooling excessively for no apparent reason, it’s likely that his esophagus is obstructed.

If you’ve just given him food or water, you might notice that he is producing even more saliva than usual.

Straining to defecate

When your dog tries to poop but is unsuccessful, that may be another sign of obstruction.

He will be squatting and attempting to poop, but nothing will come out.

Another indication that he might have a problem with something in his digestive tract is soft or moist feces or diarrhea.

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Unable to pass gas

Gas cannot travel through the digestive tract normally due to a blockage, which leads to painful gas buildup in your dog’s body.

Your dog won’t fart as frequently during this period, which may indicate a digestive or constipation issue.

Lethargy

A dog with a blockage will feel weak, exhausted, and lethargic.

He might sleep more than usual, or he might find it difficult to carry out his regular activities.

This is because his body is under a lot of stress from the additional effort required to pass the obstruction.

Painful abdomen

Canines may experience extreme discomfort and possibly even pain as a result of the pressure of the gas in their stomach.

Depending on how severe the obstruction is, this may be highly evident or barely noticeable.

Licking his lips, rubbing his stomach on your furniture, or weeping and moaning when you touch the area are a few indications of pain.

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Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.

What should you do if your dog ate glitter?

Can a Dog Pass a String From a Rope Toy?

Yes, a dog can pass a string but this is not a certainty.

The concern here is that the string can easily be tangled up inside its digestive tract, causing it long-term damage.

If your dog has not thrown it up or pooped it out (you have to check it) in a day or two, it’s time to seek the vet’s advice.

Although less serious, you need to be on alert too if your dog ate thread or anything similar.

How long for a string to pass through a dog?

The time it takes for a string to pass through a dog can vary, but typically, if it moves through without complications, it can take between 24 to 48 hours. You need to monitor your dog for any signs of distress and consult a veterinarian if concerned.

If more time has elapsed, you should bring your dog to the vet for a check-up quickly.

The longer the string is inside your dog’s digestive system, the greater the chance of it becoming knotted or wrapping around the system.

What if your dog ate makeup wipes?

What to Do if Your Dog Ate a String From a Rope Toy?

What to do if your dog ate a string from a rope toy?

Assess the situation and wait

Ask yourself a few basic questions before panicking.

How much of the string did your dog eat?

You will need to exercise your own judgment on this. A small amount is very unlikely to cause any harm. On the other hand, a long and thick string can easily be a choking hazard.

What is the size of your dog?

Needless to say, small dogs have much smaller intestinal tracts and will be affected by what they swallow more so than bigger dogs.

Has it shown any signs of discomfort?

If not, then continue observing your dog and check its poop to see if the string has been passed out. If you see signs that it is sick or unwell, you should send it to the vet right away.

Put it on a high-fiber diet

Put your dog on a high-fiber diet (canned pumpkin, cottage cheese, high-fiber bread, mashed potatoes) and encourage it to have more exercise if it is having difficulties going potty.

This will make it more likely that the casing will emerge naturally and without incident.

The fiber will soften the poop and make it simpler for it to exit their system.

To aid with digestion, you might also give it a probiotic dietary supplement.

Do not attempt to remove the obstruction

Inducing vomiting or trying to remove the obstruction with a tweezer (or anything similar) can be risky and result in further damage, so don’t try it!

Unless you are a trained professional, you do not have the right knowledge to attempt this.

Take your dog to the vet to perform an x-ray

While some blockages will pass on their own, others need to be operated on and treated right away.

Bring your dog in right away if an obstruction is making them throw up or have trouble breathing.

After your pet has been sedated (to ensure their comfort), a veterinarian will take an x-ray of their stomach and work with you to decide the best course of therapy.

How Soon Will a Dog Show Signs of a Blockage?

It’s really hard to say, and much of it depends on your dog.

Some dogs may develop symptoms of a blockage as soon as 3 hours after eating, while others might not until 24 hours later.

Just make sure to keep a close eye on them throughout the course of the following day or two and look out for the symptoms mentioned above.

What Can I Give My Dog to Help Him Pass an Obstruction?

First off, you might think about doing the Heimlich maneuver on your dog if it is choking (best to have this knowledge beforehand).

Even though you might be in a panic, I would suggest that you spend the extra few seconds to focus on the video and carefully follow the instructions to avoid hurting your dog.

Beyond that, the only thing you can do if you’re considering keeping your dog at home is to keep a watchful eye on it and look for signs that the string was passed.

You can also try feeding it high-fiber food and keeping it hydrated to help it along.

Don’t forget to monitor and see if there is rope in your dog’s poop – a sign it’s passing through properly!

How Much Does It Cost to Clear an Intestinal Blockage in Dogs?

An operation to clear the intestinal blockage is considered a major operation and the cost reflects that.

The cost of such a surgery will differ from country to country and even state to state here in the US, but it should range from $700 to $7,000.

This huge deviation is down to how complicated the surgery is, the medication required, and other inpatient costs.

How to Reduce the Risk of Your Dog Swallowing Foreign Objects?

Dogs are notorious for eating just about anything.

If you’ve ever given your dog a toy, you know that there’s always a risk that they might swallow it.

But what can you do to reduce that risk?

First, make sure your dog doesn’t have access to toys when they’re unattended.

If you’re gone for long periods of time and don’t want to leave your dog alone, consider getting a sitter so they have someone to play with and keep busy, or simply keep the toys (that present a choking risk) away.

Next, make sure you choose toys carefully.

If your dog is still teething or has a habit of chewing on things, avoid toys that are too soft or pose a choking hazard if swallowed whole (like rope toys).

Also, avoid any dog chew toys with small parts that could be swallowed—this includes squeaky toys (squeakers)!

Finally, monitor your dog when playing with its new toy.

If they chew on it too much or start swallowing large chunks, take it away immediately!

Are Rope Toys for Dogs Dangerous?

Are Rope Toys for Dogs Dangerous

Yes, rope toys for dogs are dangerous, especially if a dog owner does not keep a closer eye on the condition of the toy. Although they are used widely (even by dog trainers), I personally don’t use rope toys and prefer alternatives instead.

Unfortunately, I would say that most dogs tend to have a destructive streak in them when it comes to toys.

That also means it can break one up and swallow parts of it.

Although in most cases it can pass the foreign object out without issue, what’s worrying are those that can’t.

If your dog swallowed string from the toy, the thin rope strands can be extremely deadly.

In fact, rope is essentially the most harmful material your dog can swallow, according to experts, who classify it as a “linear foreign body“.

When it passes through the body, one end of a long piece of rope toy can still be caught in the stomach, and the other half enters the intestines, effectively tying the two organs together.

In this situation, it can be life-threatening to your dog and will require surgery to remove the strands.

What Alternatives Are There to Rope Toys for Dogs?

I can probably list a hundred other alternatives here, but instead, I will recommend a few that I feel safe giving to my dogs. You could also consider getting interactive toys that can stimulate the brain, making for a great activity!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

My dog ate string and is throwing up. What to do?

If your dog has ingested string and is vomiting more than once, you should seek immediate veterinary attention. A string can cause serious complications like intestinal blockages, which can be life-threatening. Do not induce vomiting or attempt to remove the string yourself, as it may worsen the situation.

What if my dog ate the rope toy?

A rope toy is a pretty big object for a dog to swallow, and if it does happen, you must contact your vet. You will likely need to bring your dog in for a comprehensive check and possibly go through surgery to remove the object.

Can dogs eat string?

No, dogs should not eat string because it can lead to gastrointestinal complications like linear foreign bodies. When a dog swallows string, one end can become anchored in place (e.g., under the tongue or in the stomach) while the rest of the string continues to move through the intestines. This can cause the intestines to bunch up on the string, leading to obstruction, potential perforation, and serious damage to the intestinal tract.

In Conclusion: Dog Ate String From a Rope Toy

If your dog eats string from a rope toy, it can develop into something serious fast.

You really need to be on your toes during the first one to two days and monitor its behavior and poop closely.

I suggest getting rid of rope toys altogether and investing in a good alternative instead.

Be sure to browse around our site for more dog care tips such as why is puppy shivering after a bath, does pine sol kill fleas, how to keep a dog beard from smelling, and many more!

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

2 Comments

  1. Not 100% related but my dog ate some rope she found in the garage. It’s a bigger chuck of rope than those in toys and I’m quite worried she will have trouble pooping it out. It’s the braided kind (if this info helps).

    • Hey Becky, I really think that your number one priority now is to bring your dog to the emergency vet for a thorough checkup where they can conduct tests. A rope or string caught in a dog’s intestinal tract can be fatal, and immediate action must be take. In the meantime, you should not try to remove the object on your own nor induce vomiting. Keep all dangerous objects well kept to prevent any further accidents!

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