Suffocation Risks in Dogs

By: Tyler Foreman, DVM

TVMA Member
Rowlett, TX

Published June 2019

Many common household products can pose a risk to your dog’s health. Common household items that pose an unusual but serious risk are plastic or mylar-type bags and food packaging.

How Bags and Packaging Suffocate Dogs

When dogs (and sometimes cats) find a package or plastic bag that once contained salty, sugary or fatty snack food or any other item of interest, they may stick their head in the package to further investigate, causing the space to drastically reduce in size. With a now substantially reduced space for the dog to breathe, every breath rapidly increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the immediate environment. The dog may eventually succumb to carbon dioxide poisoning, which is often fatal if not detected and treated immediately.

Among household packaging that poses the aforementioned risks, chip or snack bags are by far the most common source, followed by pet food containers, especially those made of mylar-like materials, and other types of bags such as cereal bags (Burns 2018). Small chip bags can quickly form a seal around a dog’s muzzle, leading to the rapid increase in carbon dioxide mentioned earlier.

All dogs, no matter their size, are predisposed to the suffocation risk of bags and containers around the house. More than 55 percent of suffocation incidents reported occurred in dogs weighing greater than 30 pounds (Burns 2018).

Reducing the Risks

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce this risk to your dog. First, ensure all of your garbage is secured and your counters are free from any open bags of food. Both are typical areas where dogs will get into trouble given the alluring scents.

If you have a stubborn, relentless dog that is prone to getting into the garbage or other areas where food is kept despite your best efforts, cut the packaging before it is trashed or remove the food from the packaging and store it in a sealable container. One example is removing cereal from the packaging, storing the product in plastic containers and cutting the bag down the sides before disposal.

Finally, as with any risk to your dog, consult your veterinarian with questions. During your dog’s routine checkup, discuss with your veterinarian if your dog has any garbage-diving or counter-surfing tendencies or if you have ever witnessed your dog with her nose stuck in a bag. Veterinarians often have a variety of ideas and resources to help prevent or minimize exposure to common household dangers.


References:

Burns, Katie. “Snack Bags Pose Suffocation Risk to Pets”. JAVMA News. April 25, 2018.

Tyler Foreman, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Foreman practices at Rowlett Veterinary Clinic in Rowlett.

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