Although it is always good to recycle, scrap paper or paper towels becoming your dog’s dinner is probably not the kind of recycling you had in mind! With paper being a common item found around the house, dogs eating paper is more common than you might think.
But that doesn’t make it any less worrying, particularly when your dog is eating paper all of a sudden, with no previous form for doing so.
In this guide, I’ve put together some helpful notes which will explain why dogs eat paper, what it means when it suddenly starts, why it could be bad, and what you need to do to make it stop.
5 reasons why dogs eat paper and paper towels
Given that eating paper has the potential to cause your dog harm (more about why it’s bad for dogs to eat paper further down the page), you might question what drives them to even eat it in the first place.
Of course, dogs don’t have the same level of self-awareness of humans (despite being incredibly intelligent), so it goes without saying that they aren’t likely to consider the potential health implications. However, seeing dogs eating paper towels can still be a cause for concern.
The medical term for dogs eating non-food items is ‘pica’ (read the DogTime.com definition). Whilst pica is mostly associated with compulsive behavioural patterns and anxiety in dogs, that is not necessarily the only reason why they’d want to eat paper.
So, your dog eating paper could either be a compulsive habit, or something different. But here’s a list of all possible reasons you might want to consider:
1. Anxiety and stress
When dogs are anxious or stressed, they can quickly form destructive habits, sometimes to get attention or due to boredom. This can manifest itself with things like paper shredding, and then eating the paper itself.
By eating paper, it can have a calming effect on your dog, as the texture in their mouth can be soothing, as can the act of shredding before eating too.
2. Deficiencies in nutrition
According to Wag.com, dogs will often resort to eating paper and paper towels if they have nutritional deficiencies. They say:
“If your dog has nutritional deficiencies, he may crave non-food items, such as paper. The depletion of specific minerals, such as iron, can leave your dog craving paper or paper-like substances. If your dog is lacking iron in the blood, known as anemia, he may seek out this object to consume.”
3. The paper smells like you
If you find that your dog is more likely to eat papers you’d been studying with or a well-thumbed newspaper than brand new paper towels, you can assume their paper-eating is an unusual way of feeling close to you.
Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, so if they sense your scent on something, they may well feel an urge to devour it as a way to feel close to you. So, if anything, it’s a compliment!
4. They are just hungry
This might be quite an obvious one, but this is probably more likely to be the case if your dog is bigger, as this will mean that they have a larger appetite that is not quite satisfied by their current portion size.
Your dog might be craving more calories, and only satisfy that craving by eating paper towels and newspaper found around the house.
Alternatively, if your dog is fussy and doesn’t like the brand of kibble you give them, you might find them trying to find different food sources from elsewhere.
Because dogs are descendants of wolves, many breeds still have fairly strong hunting instincts, so when they eat paper that might be their own way of ‘hunting’.
Their hunger could also be a sign of illness, as conditions such as diabetes and high blood sugar levels make your dog want to eat more. When their body can’t produce insulin, they will tend to want to chew on other things such as paper towels and also drink more.
5. They find it fun!
Dogs are playful animals, and with paper being a fairly malleable materials with its ability to shred, they might be inclined to chew and consume paper because they see it as a new fun toy!
There’s also the element of “hunting” instincts. When dogs tear apart paper and then chew it, it harks back to the ancestors doing exactly the same thing to their prey!
Why is my dog eating paper all of a sudden?
Some dog owners report that paper eating suddenly comes out of nowhere with no previous habit for doing so. In cases such as this, it often points to a more serious issue rather than a fun or playful habit.
Your dog can eat paper all of a sudden due to some of the issues listed above relating to pica, but including in total possibilities such as:
- Stress and anxiety.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Nutritional deficiencies.
- Change in environment.
- Illnesses including diabetes.
- Possible mental health conditions.
It’s very hard to diagnose why dogs eat paper, but often there will be an underlying issue that vets can get to the bottom of.
Is it bad for dogs to eat paper?
Whether it’s safe or harmful for dogs to eat paper is a matter of degrees, volume, and context. Whilst a small amount of paper will lead to an upset stomach at most, large amounts of paper, especially in smaller breeds, can be bad for dogs.
So, when it comes to the question of whether it is bad for dogs to eat paper, the simple answer is that size matters as does the regularity.
Examples of why it’s not always safe for dogs to eat paper
Whether or not it is ‘bad’ for your dog to eat paper depends on a few specific factors. For example, the size of your dog can play a huge role in whether the amount of paper they consume is harmful.
Because some breeds, such as French Bulldogs, have smaller body and organ sizes, eating a dozen paper towels or napkins is more serious for them than it is for a Labrador or Golden Retriever, who have comparatively larger bodies, organs and digestive systems.
Whether or not your dog consuming paper is harmful can also depend on the type of paper consumed, although one common problem found amongst all paper-types consumed is the potential for blockage.
Will eating a paper towel hurt my dog?
Eating newspaper or paper towels, for example, can be bad because as well as causing a huge blockage, it can absorb a lot of bodily fluid and dehydrate them. The blockage can also lead to constipation, and the ink in newspapers is also known to cause health issues.
Meanwhile, magazines can be problematic because its heavier, glossy nature means that it has sharper edges that can cut your dog’s oesophagus or stomach.
So, in some situations, it can actually be quite dangerous if your dog eats a lot of paper, so if you suspect this has happened, it is important to take them to the emergency vets immediately.
However, in most cases, your dog will probably be fine, and providing it’s in small amounts, the paper towel should pass through your dog in 24 hours.
Side effects of eating paper for dogs
If you aren’t sure whether your dog has eaten paper or if the amount, they’ve eaten is harmful enough to warrant a visit to the vets, here are some common signs to look out for:
- A lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- A severe sensitivity around the stomach area
- A rapid decline in health
- Throwing up
Of course, eating paper is not the only reason for these kinds of symptoms to appear in dogs, but they are all indicative of intestinal blockage, which is a medical emergency for dogs.
If in doubt, go to your vet urgently.
How do I stop my dog from eating paper towels?
If you have a dog obsessed with chewing paper towels and such like, then many of the reasons listed earlier can be solved through making small changes like adapting diets, devoting more time to your dog or giving them more exercise and toys to play with.
If your dog’s paper eating has developed into an unfortunate habit, there are several steps you can take to stop them from eating paper altogether.
1. Check for underlying deficiencies
As mentioned, one reason dogs might be inclined to eat paper is because they’re still hungry, and one reason why that might be the case is if they are unable to absorb the nutrients from their food properly, as this will lead to them seeking these nutrients elsewhere.
To solve this problem, your vet will be able to run a number of tests to find these deficiencies and deal with them appropriately.
2. Make your home a paper-free zone
Make sure to keep all papers locked away or too high for your dog to reach. Lock doors to the bathroom and toilet so they can’t play with toilet paper. If they have no means of accessing paper, or they find it too difficult, they will give up.
3. Invest in chew toys
If your dog chews the morning paper because they just love chewing, or are still teething as a puppy, it is a good idea to give them some chew toys so that they can focus their attention on these much healthier outlets.
I found that my own dog loves to chew on Nylabone (view on Amazon). This dog chew takes his mind of anything and everything and will last for 12 months or possibly more – even with the biggest chewers!
I do not recommend disciplining your dog with shouting and punishment when they eat paper, because this may lead to them eating it more in order to attract your attention.
It is much better to gently redirect their attention with a toy, treat or activity so that they can quickly lose interest in the tasty paper.
Whilst researching this topic, I spoke to dog owners who had the following questions which deserved further investigation.
Is it bad for dogs to eat parchment paper?
Some parchment paper will be lined with silicone, which sounds like it would be bad for a dog but should still be relatively digestible in small amounts.
One vet that answered this question online suggested that the dog owner feed their dog some bread as this will help to get the paper to pass through the dog’s system quicker.
Is it bad for dogs to eat wax paper?
If your dog eats a small amount of waxed paper it is likely to pass through with their stools just fine so keep an eye on the poop for a couple of days.
Even waxed paper is relatively biodegradable and will break down a lot in the stomach, making it easier to pass through.
Unless your dog appears to be constipated after eating paper, you probably don’t need to worry too much if it was a one-off incident. I’ve heard of some people even using the Miralax laxative on their dog, but it’s not something I’ve personally done, and believe you should speak to a vet before doing anything like this.
Whilst your dog chewing paper occasionally doesn’t necessarily need to be life-threatening, it can be if the paper is consumed in large amounts.
For this reason, your dog chewing paper is not a behaviour to take lightly, especially since it can also be indicative of a behavioural or nutritional issue.
If none of the suggestions listed above work to resolve the problem, it is worth talking to your vet, a dog trainer or a dog behaviourist.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not offering veterinary guidance here, but simply offering my opinions as a dog owner and lover based on personal experience and what I’ve also read online.
You might also like…
I will often write about the weird things that dogs eat and the response for it. For example, you might be quite shocked at the following: