Did you know that your purse or briefcase is a reservoir for items toxic to your four-legged friends?

The source of the top five pet poisons is actually often found in your handbag.

  • Human medications account for almost half the yearly calls to the Pet Poison Helpline because someone’s pet has ingested a medication found in a purse, duffel bag , or book bag. Human pills come in bottles and the sound of a rattling pill bottle is similar to the noise many dog toys make. Common painkillers like Advil, Motrin, and Tylenol, as well as prescription drugs for depression such as Prozac can be toxic to dogs. NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve can cause GI ulcers and kidney failure, and just one Tylenol can cause liver failure in a dog. Antidepressants can cause loss of coordination, agitation, tremors, and seizures.
  • Asthma inhalers are commonly stored in purses for emergency use, and if your dog bites into an asthma inhaler, it can cause life-threatening poisoning. These inhalers contain highly concentrated doses of drugs like albuterol and fluticasone, and exposure to just a single does of this powerful drug can lead to vomiting, heart arrhythmia, collapse, and ultimately, death.
  • Cigarettes are not only bad for the health of humans; they are equally bad for your pets. Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even stop- smoking gum contains nicotine, and nicotine poisoning causes serious problems, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs of elevated heart and respiratory rates, loss of bladder or bowel control, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death are often the result of accidental ingestion of nicotine.
  • Sugarless chewing gum and breath mints usually contain xylitol, and xylitol and dogs don’t mix. Most sugarless gums, including some Orbit, Trident, and Ice Breaker brands contain this sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Sugarless mints, toothpastes, flavored multivitamins, and mouthwashes may also contain xylitol that, when ingested, can result in hypoglycemia, a life-threatening and rapid drop in blood sugar. Larger amounts can cause liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include, weakness, difficulty walking, collapse, tremors, seizures and vomiting.
  • In our germ-conscious society, small bottles of hand sanitizer have become common place in purses, briefcases, and backpacks. and most of these products, which are used to kill germs, contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol.) If a dog chews a small bottle of hand sanitizer, it is about the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor, which could cause a serious drop in blood sugar, loss of coordination, nervous system depression, coma, and even death.

If you look around, you can probably find a handbag or other carryall bag within the reach of your pet right now. It is important to designate a common “safe place” as the ‘bag drop-off area, a spot that is out of reach of curious pets. Inquisitive pets are eager to explore the contents of just about anything, and unfortunately will eat just about anything. If you put your human medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container up out of reach of your pet, and never store human medications near your pet’s medications…pet poison hot lines receive regular calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to pets.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something that may be toxic, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. If your vet is not available, call Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison center at 800-213-6680. You will be charged a small fee, but it could well save your dog’s life.