common dangerous items for our pets

The Pet Dangers We Carry with Us Everyday

In Animal Health, cat behavior, cat cpr, cat first aid, Cats, Dog Behavior, Dog CPR, dog training, Dogs, pet care professional, pet cpr, Pet Death, Pet First Aid, Pet Industry, pet sitter, Travel with pets, Uncategorized by Cara Armour1 Comment

Many of us carry a bag throughout our day that holds important items like our wallet, car keys, and cell phone. Besides the basics, items like little chocolate or candy to help when starvation hits or when you need to stay awake while driving are pretty common. If you’re a bit clean-freakish like me, then you might be sporting some hand-sanitizer.  Pain medication for headaches or even anti-depressants are often schlepped around with us in case we are out when it’s time to take our meds and for those of us with asthma – our inhalers are paramount. These everyday items mean everyday dangers to our pets, particularly our pups who are curious critters and get into things. Items that smell good to eat to a dog or simply smell like us can lead your pup’s nose right into your bag and directly into trouble. Below I discuss each of these items’ potential dangers and why you should not only go through your bag RIGHT NOW – but you’ll want to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of when they have gotten into your bag of trouble.

dangerous items for our pets

Chocolate and Xylitol Are Bad for Our Pets

Sometimes we just need that little pick-me-up, that burst of sugar to help when we are crashing. Some companies have even added supplements to small bits of chocolate so we feel like we are doing good by our bodies. As tasty as they are to you, Fido enjoys the find as well. While that protein packed chocolate bar will stave off your hunger, it will have a very different affect on your pup.

I’ve mentioned in a few posts about chocolate. Chocolate is so bad for our pets because it contains theobromine – a stimulant that increases their heart rate and produces all the side effects you would expect to see with a rapid heart rate. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of the chemical compound. While dogs are the most common culprits of chocolate intoxication, your feline friend is at a greater danger – they are far more sensitive. Thankfully they are less curious and have a more discerning pallet.  If you’re going to carry chocolate in your bag, purse or briefcase, keep it up high, closed up and out of their reach.

Not a chocolate person but still have a sweet-tooth? Most gums and breath-savers today are packed with chemicals and loaded with xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alternative that can cause hypoglycemia, and if not treated immediately – organs will start to fail. Odd that the one thing made to replace sugar causes such a drop in blood sugar, but its not a sweet deal if your pets get into some.

My friend Aimee and her dog Kobe had a serious encounter with this chemical conundrum. While Aimee had no idea that her daughter’s friend had sugar-free gum in her bag and her dog got into it, she was lucky enough to figure out that her wobbling, vomiting, lethargic, dazed and confused Boxer had gotten into something. She went on the hunt and found the rummaged through bag and asked her daughter’s friend what was in it? When she found out there was gum in the bag she grabbed her 60lb dog and packed him in the car, off to the ER vet. By the time they arrived Kobe’s liver was failing. He remained in ICU for several days but luckily came home to make a full recovery.

This was her post on Facebook on that fateful day:

“Kobe needs your prayers right now. He helped himself to some gum yesterday afternoon and the gum contained an ingredient called xylitol. I was unfamiliar with it until this happened. It’s toxic to dogs and potentially fatal. He’s in the critical care unit right now and we are praying that he will come home to us. Please think positive thoughts for him.”

Xylitol and dogs

While xylitol is most certainly an ingredient in your sugar-free gum, candy or even the soda you have in your bag; its also made its way into peanut butter jars. Watch out for this nasty chemical and be ready to head to the ER vet if your pet shows any of the signs like Kobe did.

Hand-Sanitizer Is Not Good for Pets

A large percentage of the active ingredient in hand-sanitizers is alcohol. So basically if your pet gets into your cupcake scented Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gel, you’ve just exposed them to the equivalent of a mini vodka bottle. The flavors they come in like vanilla, strawberry and cookie dough make them irresistible to your pups.  Just as if you would expect to see had they got into alcohol, your pet may experience lack of coordination, a drop in body temperature, shallow breathing, coma and could die depending on their size and the amount ingested. Keep the cap on and your bag OUT OF THEIR REACH!

OTC Medicines and Prescription Pills Are Harmful to Pets and Often in Our Bags

While the pills in our purses don’t necessarily smell yummy like the previous items mentioned, they certainly do make an awesome sound to your pet. I carry Advil for headaches and just one of those suckers can cause serious kidneys failure.  Tylenol will end your cat’s life and shut down down your dog’s liver, certainly leaving it with permanent damage.  Human non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) affect our pets VERY differently. Regardless of letting them get to them by accident, you should never give them any intentionally. If you fear that your pet is in any pain – go to the vet! Trying to help your dog who has a limp by giving them an Advil will have a devastating affect.

If you carry your anti-depressants or any medication at all, even your pet’s own medication in your daily bag – please keep it out of their reach. Just because you were prescribed pills for Fluffy does not mean they can follow the dosage schedule if left to their own devices. Many animal NSAIDS are flavored and chewable – an over-dose waiting to happen hanging out in your handbag.

The Double Threat of an Asthma Inhaler

Inhalers are almost ALWAYS found in purses, backpacks and cars. We need them readily available for when an attack strikes. Having this medicine handy can also mean it’s more likely to cause harm to our fur-friends.

The inhaler itself generally has a hard plastic shell with a metal gas-filled canister inserted. The plastic makes a great chew toy and the noise it makes when depressed can be alarming and fun for your pet. However, the active ingredient albuterol that’s in the canister and made to help stop your asthma attack, can cause serious issues for your pet – it also happens to inconveniently smell appealing to them.

If your pet ingests albuterol you can expect to see muscle spasms and a huge increase in their heart rate. A large drop in potassium causes the muscle spasms and a spike in his heart rate (since it is made of muscle). While albuterol inhalers are sometimes prescribed for pets with asthma, they would be safely administered in small doses, not all at once which is what your pup is likely to do to himself when he destroys the one from your purse.

Keep What Your Carry Safely Stored

Obviously we need many of these items, especially an inhaler but we also need to keep our pets safe. Keep your purse latched, your backpack zippered and your briefcase locked. Have a place up high and out of reach to set your stuff down when you get home or travel in your car. These hazards can be deadly to your loved ones.

For more information about other common household dangers, how to recognize signs and symptoms of exposure and to know what to do – take our online, veterinarian instructed pet first aid & CPR course. You might regret not making sure your child’s friend put their bag with sugar-free gum in the hallway closet but you certainly wont regret knowing what to when you notice Bella got into it.





  1. Wow I had no idea about all these hazards, except chocolate. What a great insightful and informative post. This is good information for pet parents that want to keep their fur babies safe and healthy. I’ll keep these tips in mind when I adopt again in the future.

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