dog after getting into the garbage

The Dog Got into the Garbage? What You Should Know

Dr. Monica Sterk

Dec 29, 2023

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It happens all too often. You walk into the kitchen and…doggonit! There’s the garbage can and all of its contents sprawled out on the floor. Welp, it’s a proven fact that dogs are like trash-can ninjas. Usually the kitchen garbage is a pup’s treasure trove, because that’s where they’ll likely find pieces of discarded food. Yum! So, is it dangerous if your dog gets into the garbage? It depends…

Dogs Eating Garbage is Risky Business

A dog getting into the trash may be a serious concern for many reasons, including:


Often we throw away the scraps of food that are unwanted or unfinished. Dogs that eat scraps are often getting a much higher fat content than they would with a regular dog-food diet. Fat can cause the pancreas to go into overdrive, leading to a condition called pancreatitis, (inflammation of the pancreas). This causes vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and can cause serious dehydration. Pancreatitis can even be life threatening if not treated. 

Foreign Body Ingestion/Obstruction

Eating paper plates, cups, or foreign objects can lead to an obstruction (getting stuck in the gut). Pets with obstructions are often vomiting, lethargic, and not willing to eat. This can mean emergency endoscopy or surgery to remove the foreign material. 

Food Bloat

Most dogs know they’re not supposed to go into the garbage. So eating quickly and overeating (not aware of how much they’re eating) can lead to stretching of the stomach called “food bloat.” This is a very painful condition for a pet and calls for veterinary attention. 

Toxin Ingestion

Spoiled food or material can make dogs sick. Often, these types of illnesses cause GI upset like vomiting and diarrhea. 

How Can I Keep My Dog Out of the Garbage?

There are a few reasons your dog might be going into the garbage in the middle of the night, or when you’re not home or simply not looking in their direction. 


Your dog needs mental and physical stimulation and when they’re home alone for a while, they’ll look for ways to get it. That’s where the garbage tipping comes in! Try a routine of giving your dog lots of attention and activity before you leave.   


Sometimes your dog is craving interaction, even if it’s negative attention. Your reaction is going to set the tone for the next time…and the next. A firm “No!” is enough. As hard as it is, don’t keep scolding or talking to them while you’re cleaning up. The less yapping you do, the better in this situation!      


Dogs sniff out human food and know it’s probably tastier than what’s in their bowl. Avoid feeding your dog table scraps to lessen the curiosity and impulse to seek a meal other than dog food. Also, make sure your pooch is well fed before you leave the house.

Secure the Lid

Don’t make it easy for your dog to access garbage. A locking lid or hand-motion detecting lid on the garbage can will definitely help. 

So the next time your pet goes for a doggy dumpster dive, keep the above in mind. Not knowing what your dog ate means it could be something toxic or something that doesn’t easily pass through their digestive system. Check for symptoms of toxic ingestion or obstruction, which would require immediate attention. You should bring them in to VEG or your nearest emergency veterinarian even if your dog just seems “off” after getting into the garbage. 

VEG is open 24/7 for all pet emergencies and urgent care needs. To learn more about canine emergencies, safety tips, and more, check out our blog