The natural curiosity of pets often leads to them eating materials that aren’t meant to be eaten. Dogs and small animals like rodents are known to chew up just about anything, but pets like cats and birds can often exhibit the same behavior. Even the best-trained pets may inevitably chew on or eat items around your house, because chewing releases endorphins. The responsible thing to do is to keep a close eye on your pets, and be aware of what it is that they’ve chewed on. That’s why the questions we’re asking today are important: is foam safe for pets? What should you do if your pets eat different types of foam?
Foam is made of the same chemicals as plastic, which we all know generally should not be eaten by humans or animals. However, chewing on or eating foam will not always severely harm your pets. The most common types of household foam are made of three primary materials: Polyethylene, Polyurethane, and Polystyrene. Foam can be found all over your house and yard, including in your mattresses, couch cushions, pillows, pet beds, pet toys, children’s toys, craft supplies, shoes, disposable paper products, custom foam packaging, and insulation. So, if your pet has found something new to chew on, there’s a good chance that it could be made of foam.
What to Do if Your Pet Eats Foam
The general recommendation is to call your vet immediately if your pet has ingested foam of any kind, but sometimes the risk will vary depending on the type of foam and the amount eaten. Here is a guide to the most common types of foam you can find in your house, and some things to keep in mind if your pet has eaten foam:
Polyurethane foam is the most common foam found in household objects, and it’s the most common type of foam that pets chew on or eat. It’s often used for cushion and comfort, so your mattresses, memory foam mattress toppers , couch cushions, pet beds, and shoes likely all contain or are made of polyurethane foam. If you’ve found that your pet has eaten this kind of foam, start by calling your vet. Try to determine how much foam has been consumed. If it was a small amount in proportion to their body, then you may be told to monitor your pet until it passes through their system. If it is a larger amount, then your pet will need medical assistance to either clear or remove the foam from their digestive tract.
Polyethylene foam is a denser type of foam and is usually used for insulation or other heavy duty projects. Some areas of your home may be insulated with polyethylene foam sheets instead of the traditional fiberglass “fluff.” This kind of foam can also be found in car seats and less-cushioned parts of your furniture, like the armrests. Because this foam is denser than polyurethane foam, it’s more likely to cause a blockage if ingested by an animal. Call your vet to alert them of what was eaten and how much. More than likely, it will be recommended that you bring your animal in for medical attention.
Polystyrene is also a common material to find in your home. This material is used as an insulator for food, as cheap material for disposable plates and cups, and as a shock absorber in packaging. The danger of consuming Styrofoam is that the small particles that make up the material can line the throat and even the airway if the particles are inhaled, restricting airflow. If your pet has eaten Polystyrene, try to figure out how much was eaten and communicate that to your vet as soon as possible. It might pass through their system naturally if it was a very small amount. But if it was a large amount, or you notice that your pet’s breathing pattern has changed, then take them to your vet to receive immediate care.
How to Prevent Your Pet from Eating Foam
The best way to prevent your pets from chewing on and ingesting foam is to pet-proof your house. Think of it like baby-proofing your house when you become new parents. You want to remove any dangerous or harmful objects from the space so your baby never has the chance to encounter them. You should also do the same thing for your pets. A cat or a dog may not need protection from an electrical outlet or the sharp corner of a coffee table, but they do need protection from harmful objects or chemicals they could ingest or inhale. So, if you plan to get a new pet, start by pet-proofing your house. Keep tantalizing foam items like packing peanuts and shoes out of reach of your pets. And if you already have pets, it’s never too late to start pet-proofing. Be conscious of what your pets may be interested in, and do your best to keep it out of reach.
Training your pets is the second-best way to protect them from eating foam. Now, this doesn’t apply to all pets, and even the best-trained pet can be tempted. Rabbits, hamsters, and rats can be challenging to train. They have a much stronger urge to burrow and nest in soft material, but cats and dogs can be trained not to eat or chew on things they shouldn’t. Training is a little more time-consuming and takes a lot of patience and consistency. Still, it is possible to train your pets out of bad behavior, further protecting them from injury. If you’re unsure where to start training, many resources are available to you online and locally.
Finally, educating yourself on potential dangers posed to your pets is a great way to keep them safe. If you never knew that eating foam was bad for your pet, you wouldn’t know when to get them medical attention. Ignorance in pet owners is a big risk to the animal’s safety. Learning to keep them safe will give them a better chance of staying safe while in your care. We love our pets dearly, so it’s important to do everything we can to keep them safe. Working hard to prevent illness or injury can greatly extend the lifespan of our favorite furry friends. With all this information in mind, be diligent, and do your best to be a responsible pet owner.