Why Does My Dog Eat Tissue Paper?

Dogs who eat nonfood items, which include tissues and tissue paper, have a condition called pica. Dogs can develop pica from not receiving enough nutrients from their regular diet, from boredom or because their odd eating habit turned into a compulsion, notes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

White box with napkins
A box of tissues on a wood surface.
credit: Laboko/iStock/Getty Images

If your dog simply tears up the tissue paper or chews it without swallowing, your dog doesn't have pica. Still, your dog might accidentally swallow some pieces by chewing or tearing the tissue.

A Medical Condition

Pica sometimes signals a medical condition. Your dog might have a digestive or metabolic disorder, or she might have a parasite. Take your pet to a veterinarian to determine whether there is a medical condition before you work on trying to change your dog's behavior.

Clean Vs. Soiled

Some dogs eat clean tissues or tissue paper, some eat soiled, and some eat both. If dogs get the tissues from the wastebasket, they're likely to be soiled. Many dogs who eat soiled tissue don't discriminate: they'll also eat soiled sanitary napkins or tampons, dental floss and used bandages, says emergency veterinarian Jeff Nichol, who practices in New Mexico.

Possible Problems

Paper products, particularly sanitary napkins and paper towels, can lodge in a dog's intestines. These require surgery to remove, says Colorado emergency veterinarian Jon Geller, writing for DogChannel.com.You must keep your dog away from the tissue paper or other paper products by keeping the bathroom door closed, assuming that's where your dog gets the tissue paper, or by putting your dog in a crate when you're not home.

How to Break the Habit

If your dog doesn't already know commands, teach the basics of sit, come and stay. You can then add commands that have to do with the tissue eating, such as give and leave it. When you catch your dog with tissue in his mouth, put your open hand under his mouth, and say, "give." He should then release the paper. If you see your dog heading for the paper, say, "leave it." That means he should ignore it.

It helps to increase the exercise you give your dog. If he's tired or has an outlet for pent-up energy, he's less likely to eat tissue paper, the American Kennel Club advises.