5 Pet Poisons Hiding in Your Purse, Backpack or Work Bag


A purse or backpack, or any similar bag you might carry your essentials in can prove to be a very enticing item for a curious pet and potentially poisonous. Many items we carry with us everyday pose potential threats to our beloved companions.

Here are 5 of the most common items that are potentially poisonous to pets, but can be found in most everyone’s possession.

1.   Human medications

Most medication is kept in bottles, and the rattling of pills within the bottle can be seen as a toy for some pets. Don’t be mistaken, just because the medication is secured in a bottle does not make it safe. An especially curious pet will find a way to get at what’s inside. Not to mention, some over-the-counter medications come in thin plastic packaging with a paper backing.

Common painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) sold under brand names such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Tylenol can cause GI Ulcers and kidney failure, especially to our feline friends. Just one acetaminophen can be potentially fatal to cats, and larger doses carry the potential to cause liver failure in our canine companions.

If you suspect your pet has ingested one of your mediation be sure to look for warning signs such as:

  • Sedation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Agitation
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

As always, if any or all of these signs are reported it is best to contact your veterinarian immediately.

2.   Asthma Inhalers

Asthma inhalers contain highly-concentrated doses of drugs such like albuterol or fluticasone that stimulate the heart and lungs. The packaging for inhalers is made of plastic and pliable aluminum that is easily punctured. If a dog punctures an inhaler by biting or gnawing it, they can receive a massive dose of the medicine contained within.  The concentrated albuterol will be rapidly be absorbed from the mouth, resulting in toxic symptoms within seconds to minutes. If you suspect a inhaler has been punctured or ingested by a dog look for these symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • agitation
  • a racing heart rate
  • red gums
  • panting excessively
  • weakness
  • collapse
  • seizures
  • shock
  • acute death

An immediate trip to the veterinarian or emergency veterinarian is imperative if these or any unusual symptoms are observed in your pooch!

3.   Artificially sweetened gum, mints and candy

Many “sugarless” gums and mints contain a sugar substitute, that is highly toxic to dogs, called xylitol. Even in small amounts, xylitol is extremely dangerous in dogs, causing a blood sugar crash. If large amounts are ingested by your pet the toxicity can lead to liver failure. Even a small amount of xylitol can result in a dangerous blood sugar crash in canines, and larger amounts can lead to liver failure or even death. Xylitol isn’t confined to sugarless candies, it can also be found in chewable vitamins, prescription drugs, dental products and even some baked goods.

Symptoms of xylitol toxicity develop rapidly, typically within 15-30 minutes of ingestion. Signs of hypoglycemia may include any or all of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination or difficulty walking or standing (walking like drunk)
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect that your pet has eaten a xylitol-containing product, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

4.   Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other products containing nicotine

Ingesting cigarettes can be fatal for both cats and dogs, no matter the brand. Other products like chewing tobacco, vapor cigarette cartridges, nicotine gum and any other nicotine product.

Signs of nicotine poisoning come on quickly and include:

  • Elevated heart
  • Elevated respiratory rates
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Loss of bladder &/or bowel control
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Death

Pets will show signs of nicotine poisoning within 1 hour of ingestion. If your pet shows any symptoms contact your veterinarian.

5. Hand sanitizer

Small convenient size bottles of hand sanitizer have become a staple in purses, bags and backpacks. The primary ingredient is alcohol which serves as the germ-killing agent in hand sanitizing gels and liquids.

Due to the amount of ethanol in these products and a pets increased alcohol sensitivity, ingestion by a pet would be similar to drinking liquor. Symptoms of alcohol ingestion include:

  • loss of coordination
  • loss of body temperature
  • depression of nervous system
  • coma
  • in advanced cases, death.

If you suspect your pet of getting into something they shouldn’t have, in your bag or anywhere else be mindful of their behavior for up to 24 hours following the incident and contact your veterinarian or pet emergency facilities as soon as symptoms are observed.

Prevention is key! Keep purses, bags and backpacks out of reach of curious pets. Items throughout your house are just as potentially dangerous to a pet, for Goodnewsforpets list of potential hazards in the house go here.




Feature photo by Deborah, used under a creative commons license. No changes have been made.


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