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Is the People Stuff in Your Purse or Pocket Poisonous to Your Pup?


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You come home after an outing, and throw your purse on a chair or drop it with your jacket or jeans in a heap on the floor. What's the problem? Well, many of the day-to-day products that people keep in their pockets, purses, or backpacks can be harmful to our pets, and we often don't think about our dogs accessing these harmful personal items in our bags or clothes. Read on for more information on which personal products can poison your pup!

Canine Contraband

Dogs may be quite happy to entertain themselves rooting through your clothes or handbag, either because they are bored, curious, or smell something good in there. Because there are some personal items that could harm your pet, you should be aware of what is in your purse or pockets that could be toxic to your dog. Products that are frequently found in our purses, or even our pockets, that can harm a dog include:

■ Sugarless gum or breath mints containing xylitol: this sweetener causes severe hypoglycemia in dogs and can be fatal.
■ Cigarettes: nicotine is toxic to dogs. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include elevated heart rate and respiratory distress.
■ Smoking cessation products: gum or liquid nicotine cartridges containing nicotine are poisonous to dogs.
■ Alcohol: contained in hand sanitizers or other products like hand wipes, alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar and nervous system depression in your dog.
■ Ibuprofen, painkillers, prescription medications: these, and other “human” medications can cause digestive distress or organ failure, including liver and kidney damage, in pets.
■ Asthma inhalers: dogs can chew on inhalers and ingest multiple doses of medication when the canister is compromised. Inhalers contain albuterol or fluticasone, which in large doses can cause heart arrhythmia and other symptoms. Inhaling or ingesting a large amount can be life-threatening to your dog--seek veterinary treatment ASAP!
■ Chocolate, candy, or raisin snacks: ingredients in these sweets are dangerous to dogs. Chocolate, in particular, can be fatal if ingested.
■ Products that contain zinc: recently minted pennies, diaper rash cream, or sunscreen are toxic to dogs.
■ Bug sprays: mosquito repellent with DEET is toxic to pets.

Signs of Trouble

The amount ingested and the size of your pet will have an impact on whether your dog experiences a life-threatening condition or whether they just become sick. Signs of toxicity often involve neurological symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, loss of coordination, tremors, seizures, collapse, and coma.

If your dog ingests a toxic product from your personal effects, get to a veterinarian quickly. Efforts to remove the substance from your dog's system by inducing vomiting, performing gastric lavage, or administering activated charcoal may be performed if the timeline permits it. Your veterinarian can then monitor your pet's vital signs and organ functioning, provide supportive care with intravenous fluids, and administer any medication to counteract toxic substances. Additional medication to support organs, facilitate pulmonary function, and regulate heart rate may be provided if necessary.

Practical Prevention

The best thing to do to prevent poisoning your dog with personal items in your handbag is to ensure that your purse, backpack, and other personal luggage is kept closed, zipped up, and out of your dog's reach. Pockets should be emptied before hanging your jacket on the back of a chair, or dropping your jeans on the floor. 

If your dog ingests an object that may be toxic, contact your veterinarian or the pet poison hotline immediately for directions. Prompt medical treatment when your dog has been exposed to a toxic substance is critical to successful treatment and recovery, so an immediate trip to the veterinarian is usually advised if you know something toxic has been ingested. Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Keep your personal items out of your pup’s reach!

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