“On my back I carry all my treasures…..crayons, ruler, scissors too. And yes, a little Elmer’s glue…pencils, paper, and sometimes Mom adds a note and a chocolate bar…. Yup, on my back a pack.., I carry in it, all my treasures.” The “back to school” season presents specific risks for pets, so it is important to keep back packs and school supplies out of reach of our curious four-footed friends. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many of common school supplies have the potential for GI upset or even a blockage.

PetMD compiled a list of the l0 most commonly used school supplies that present a potential choking hazard to pets:

  • Erasers
  • Glue sticks/bottled glue
  • Coins
  • Action figures/small toys, especially those with batteries
  • Small bouncy balls
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Pencils (even small splinters can get lodged in the mouth and esophagus)
  • Pens and especially pen caps
  • Paper clips

The biggest danger if your pet eats a school supply item is the possibility of an intestinal blockage that can prevent your dog from digesting his food. If it’s large enough, it can actually cause the intestine to burst, resulting in a serious bacterial infection known as sepsis. If you know or suspect he has ingested a foreign object, it’s important to see your veterinarian or emergency animal center.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) reported just this year that there are still school supplies on store shelves containing dangerous chemicals. Phthalates were banned in toys in the United States in 2008, but remain in some other items that fill children’s everyday lives, posing a threat not only to our dogs, but to our children. CHEJ sampled products including backpacks, binders, raincoats, and rain boots and found that many of them contained phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, ADHD, asthma and other chronic health problems in children, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that there are effects of phthalates, which are used to soften vinyl plastics, but the health effects of phthalate exposure are far from proven. Phthalates were banned from children’s toys and teething rings in 2009 because of their potential to leach out from plastic that’s chewed or sucked., but some experts say that theories about phthalate exposure from school supplies and rain gear don’t hold water.

Dr. Marcel Casavant, chief of pharmacology and toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio asserts that “Presuming kids are not eating, sucking, licking or chewing on these products, I imagine the risk is pretty small.” However, dogs do eat, suck, lick and chew on just about anything, so keep the vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks and other supplies out of reach of curious pets.

A few general recommendations for safe school supplies….safe for both the two-legs and four-legs … offered by Branchbasics.com include:

  • Avoid PVC, phthalates, and vinyl school supplies. Avoid backpacks with the word PVC or “vinyl” on the label. Choose natural fiber or synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester.
  • Avoid solvent based, alcohol based and fragranced markers, as dogs seem to be attracted to them. Choose water based, unscented markers with an “AP” label.
  • Avoid plastic lunch boxes and water bottles which may contain the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA. Dogs love to chew on plastic boxes and water bottles!
  • Avoid colored paper clips –they are coated with PVC plastic, and keep ALL paper clips out of paws’ reach.

We have resources today that allow us to make informed choices for our children and our pets. Consumer awareness may result in some minor changes in your buying habits, but it is worth it for the welfare of your family.