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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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Are cotton balls safe for dogs to ingest as a method to help

Resolved Question:

Are cotton balls safe for dogs to ingest as a method to help "coat" a small bone or other non digestible foreign object?
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Hi there,

Welcome to Just Answer! I would be happy to help you with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

Is this a general interest question, or do you have a dog that has eaten a non-food item?

If you do have a dog, how old and what breed?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

I have a lab, about eighty lb's and six years, female. She is allowed marrow bones once a week or so..she usally doesn't try to eat the bone but she broke a piece off that was about an inch in lenght, by about a 0.5 inch width, which she swallowed. My Vet said it would proably pass and
to give her metamusil. However I was doing a web search and found seveal sites that indicated that 2-5 cotton balls would help to coat the object and help it pass safely, or atleast help prevent some tearing associated with bone fragments. None of these sites indicated they were VET supported so thats why i've written to check with a VET.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Ah... well, I'm a vet and would be happy to help!

How long ago did she eat the bone shards?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

about 8 hours ago
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Oh, that's quite a while now... and how does she seem?

Any vomiting?

Any lethargy?

Is she standing "hunched up" and reluctant to move?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
No none of the above, my VET told me to watch for those symptoms as well, ...but I really just wanted to know if the cotton balls were safe for ingestion because if they are not, there are a lot of people being mislead.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
I just wanted to make sure your girl was ok!

I would like to help you.

I will tell you right up front that the way this site works, I can chat with you back and forth at no charge, for as long as we both need to feel satisfied that I understand what is going on with your pet.

When I then take this information and go write up an "Answer" you will have to pay your offered deposit amount TO THE SITE (not to me personally) in order to read the answer. The answer is blocked from viewing by the system until you pay a deposit.

Then, if you are satisfied with the answer, you can "accept" it - at which point part of the deposit gets transferred to my credit. If you are not satisfied, you can:

1. Ask me for clarification by replying,
2. Reject my answer and ask for another expert to answer it, OR
3. Reject my answer and ask for a refund (which will be provided by the moderators, not by me personally as I do not hold the deposit).

Does that all make sense?

Do you want to proceed?

I would really like to help you, but wanted you to know how the site works.


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Ok, lets proceed
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

I need a few moments to write up a detailed answer regarding the pros and cons of cotton balls and what I recommend for dogs that eat bones (a very common problem).

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

Thanks for asking this interesting question about “The Cotton Ball Remedy.”

This is not something that I routinely recommend, though I *do* know veterinarians that I work with who do.

I have had owners phone to report fish hooks, earrings and needles being passed embedded in the cotton balls, so it seems to work quite well for small objects.

However, I also know one case where a woman thought the dog ate a needle and went ahead and gave 10 cotton balls soaked in olive oil to the dog. The dog was seen 2 days later and went to surgery to remove the cotton balls which had wadded together in the stomach and would not pass! There was no sign of the needle.

Thus, because of the concern that the cotton balls themselves might not pass, I don’t generally recommend this.

Also, it is worth mentioning that I would definitely NOT make a dog who ate a bone shard vomit due to concerns about a sharp sliver perforating the esophagus. The esophagus is much more fragile than the intestines, and I would be far more worried about it lacerating the esophagus if it came up than I would be about damage to the intestines with it going down.

I always suggest feeding the dog something to make a "pillow" around the bone. Suggestions would be 3 or 4 slices of high fibre bread, or 1 cup canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not pie filling), or 1-2 cups brown rice. Metamucil would be another good option.

The goal is to make a cushion around the bone so that it doesn't scrape the intestines as it goes through.

It may well come through without any problems whatsoever - it's amazing what I have seen come out of dogs! However, it is worthwhile for you to know what signs to look for in case it gets stuck:

- loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain (a hunched appearance, or prayer position with her front end down and back end up in the air), fever and lethargy would all be cause for concern

Here's a link with more information:

Most things make their way through the intestines in about 24 hours. Do check all her stools until you see it! If it has not appeared within 3 days, or if she shows any signs of illness, then see your veterinarian promptly.

If this has been helpful, please hit the green "Accept" button and leave feedback.

If you need more information, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.

Best wishes,


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