It’s something you may not think about until it’s too late – but your dog can suffocate, just like a child. And, they can do it with ordinary, everyday items you have lying around the house.
It also happens within minutes, according to the Prevent Pet Suffocation, a group started by Bonnie Harlan. Learning about these dangers first-hand, she tragically lost her dog, Blue, when he suffocated inside a Cheetos bag on December 15, 2011.
There are images of almost 200 dogs on her site who have lost their lives from suffocation, and many of her 11,000+ Facebook fans have similar stories. You can follow the group on Facebook and check out their website for ways to help bring awareness to the dangers of pet suffocation.
Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Petryk provided the below list of common ways your dog may suffocate, so you can avoid a tragedy, yourself.
#1 – Food Bags
“The main way I have seen this happen is with some sort of food bag, whether that be a dog food bag, chip bag, or other bag that had some kind of food in it,” says Dr. Petryk. “Dogs will stick their head in a bag to lick the last bits of food, panic, breathe hard, and if they can’t remove the bag they can suffocate.”
This is exactly what happened to Blue, the dog mentioned above. Prevent Pet Suffocation has a petition started to get food companies to put warnings on their bags. To sign it, click here.
#2 – Tight Spaces
“Next would be suffocation by getting themselves stuck in something like a cooler or other tight space—if a lid closes once they crawl in to investigate and they become trapped, they could suffocate,” Dr. Petryk explains. “Camping coolers with heavy lids, old refrigerators, and clothes dryers are some examples.”
#3 – Collars
Something your dog probably has on him 80 – 100% of the time–his own collar–can be a killer.
“Another way a dog could suffocate is if a collar becomes tightened around their neck,” Dr. Petryk says. “Dangling tags or the collar itself can become stuck on a number of objects and if your pet panics and twists to try to get away, it could lead to suffocation.”
If your dog is microchipped and you are fairly certain they will not bolt out the door, it’s best to have them be “naked” in the house, especially if you are not there to watch them or if there are other dogs around that may engage in play. You can also consider getting a breakaway collar, which is designed to pop open with tension. (Note: Do not attach a leash to these types of collars then go for a walk – the buckle may release!)
Learn more about the surprising dangers of dog collars.
#4 – Small Items
“Also be aware of small items your pet could choke on,” Dr. Petryk says. “If they get a small ball, fabric, or chew toy stuck in their throat, it can cut off air flow and suffocate them.”
This is why it’s so important to get toys and chews that are the appropriate size for your dog.
#5 – Garbage Bags
Like chip bags, these can also be a cause for suffocation, according to Dr. Petryk. If you have a pup that gets into the trashcan while you’re away, make sure to get one with a secure lid, or put it out of reach – like in a shut closet – so it’s no longer a risk to your dog.
Luckily, there are many simple steps to prevent a tragedy from happening. Dr. Petryk advises the following:
- Cut open discarded chip bags
- Keep an eye on your pet
- Avoiding dangling tags and invest in an embroidered breakaway collar or harness
The Prevent Pet Suffocation group adds the following:
- Keep all trash can lids tightly fastened, locked, or behind a cabinet, especially in the kitchen.
- Keep kitchen pantry door closed.
- Learn CPR for pets.
- Do not allow your pets to roam freely in the house while you are away.
- Alert all your friends and family about the suffocation dangers of bags.
- Lobby to companies like Frito Lay and other snack, cereal, and dog food manufacturers to put warning labels on their bags.