Is Eating Polystyrene Dangerous To Your Dog?

PET CHECK UK - Dog walking - Dog and owner by the sea edge

\\\ Dog-Friendly Safe Beaches

\\\ updated 1 October 2021

Keeping UK Beaches Clean And Dog-Friendly


Toxic Beach Dog Walks

The UK has fabulous hidden hideaways and long flat sandy beaches which are superb for a special day out dog walking with your best friend.

If you live around coastal areas, you’ll be aware of the growing problems of polystyrene reaching our shorelines, particularly left after high tides, depositing vast amounts of this white plastic which is harmful to visiting pets and wildlife.

You may be one of the many coastal volunteers that take a bag with you and whilst your dog is running around enjoying the freedom of the beach, you can be seen picking up litter left behind by visitors and high tides. Visitors and holidaymakers may not realise the dedication of local volunteers to keep beaches clean and the increasing problems of toxic waste being washed up every hour on our shores.

It was welcome news to hear that Westward Ho! a very popular family holiday destination in North Devon was to ban the sale of very cheap polystyrene surf boards from 2021 from its local shops.

An online referendum had been held in the village which polled overwhelmingly for a ban on the cheap bodyboards, replacing them with a hire service of better quality boards, hoping to cut down on plastic waste reaching shorelines and disintegrating into the tiny particles that wildlife and pets can easily digest.

The problem of visitors discarding polystyrene boards was at an epidemic level, simply after one use on the beach. The boards start breaking up in the environment and water, into tiny pieces, cause animals who feed on this waste to think they have eaten substantially, only to actually starve themselves of food and die.

The below image provides you with evidence of the boards discarded by beachgoers left behind after use, just on one North Devon beach, that disintegrates and causes havoc for our wildlife – and our dogs – if they eat broken down pieces when scavenging during walks. (Picture by Neil Hembrow/Devon Live).


The Ocean Recovery Project (part of the Keep Britain Tidy) group backed the local Devon campaign who work to recycle materials and to find solutions to the huge growing ocean plastic problems, estimate 16,000 boards are left on UK beaches after just a single-use.

Every day, there appears to be news of polystyrene plastic arriving in unsightly scenes somewhere on our shorelines, for example, The Isle Of Thanet News, Ramsgate, Margate, Broadstairs, Kent. The white lump, described as “about half the size of a car” was washed in from Sandwich Bay on the high tide and southwest winds). These are often from discarded large floating polystyrene pontoons used in marinas which can break in storms and general sea use and float in on high tides.

Google Map Not Showing ? – Where is Sandwich Bay? – Click here

Images below show “the lump” and how polystyrene breaks down into tiny specs of plastic on the beach with a cleanup operation by dedicated volunteer locals.

Just a few weeks later, reports in the local press at Brighton, East Sussex reported on ‘thousands of polystyrene balls wash up on Brighton beach’ suspected to have been part of the floating pontoon reported at Sandwich Bay.

How Accidents Can Occur

Polystyrene doesn’t have to be confined to beach walks, it can be discarded anywhere, being used for numerous household and commercial items including packaging materials for home deliveries such as electrical goods and popular food takeaway containers. These items can not be put into your recycling bins and have to be sent to a landfill.

PET CHECK UK The dangers of polystyrene fillings

The tiny white particles of polystyrene photographs were taken by a house sitter, entrusted to look after two dogs, whilst the owners were out for the day, who were romping around the home, only to accidentally break a bean bag cushion! Thousands of particles spilled entirely over the conservatory floor.

Fortunately, the mature dogs are quite lazy, and weren’t interested in tasting these white baubles, but they did have them secreted in their paws and hair within seconds when trying to move out of the way.

The conservatory was out of bounds for the rest of the day and the house sitter took about an hour to remove all the baubles by hand, that had found their way within seconds clinging onto the dog’s long haired coats and in between paws, even trying to blow dry them out of the coats with a hair dryer without much success.

This unfortunate accident demonstrates the problems and particularly if dogs were left on their own and ate unknown quantities of the toxic polystyrene.

Is Eating Polystyrene Dangerous To Your Dog?

Typical Symptoms – What To Do

If you see your dog scavenging whilst out walking, stop and pop your dog on a lead and move quickly in another direction.

Should you consider your dog has already scavenged and digested amounts whilst out walking on the beach and found similar plastic, or even in your home accidentally, then it’s advisable to contact your vet immediately.

Vets consider the toxicity threat may be moderate with the following signs –

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Bloated or enlarged abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased breathing rate

24/7 Vet Lines

If you are unsure you can always call a 24/7 vet such as Joii Pet Care, a dedicated and trusted Pet Check UK partner. Instantly speak to UK-trained vets & nurses via your smartphone, at a fraction of the price of traditional vet fees. Read more at Joii Pet Care online 24/7 access to qualified UK vets.


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