The Dangers Lurking in Backpacks: How to Keep Your Pet Safe

September 8, 2017

a boy and a dog

Each fall, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) sees an increase in pets getting into specific foods and medications. One of the most common issues involves dogs (and sometimes curious cats) getting into kids’ backpacks and lunchboxes during the school year. Fortunately, these incidents are fairly easy to prevent when pet parents know what to watch out for. Here are a few safety tips from APCC experts to keep your pets safe this back-to-school season:

Beware of Backpacks

After a long school day, many kids throw their backpacks on the floor or toss them, unzipped, onto their beds as soon as they arrive home. This can be problematic, as many pets cannot resist investigating an interesting new item lying around. In addition, some dogs are very good at unzipping backpacks and helping themselves to the contents.

If possible, designate an out-of-reach area in your home for backpacks. This may be a wall hook where you pets can’t reach it, or a closet behind a closed door. However, if you have young kids who aren't able to reliably place their backpacks in a secure area, or if you have very crafty pets, the next best thing is to be very careful about what is packed in your child’s backpack.

Many backpack favorites you’ll want to be wary of when it comes to your pets include:

  • Sugar-free gum containing the sweetener xylitol
  • Homemade slime
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications

APCC commonly receives calls related to ADHD medications (which often contain amphetamines), albuterol inhalers and over-the-counter pain medications—all of which can cause life-threatening toxicity in dogs and cats. So be on high alert to ensure that your pet can’t accidentally consume any of these potentially dangerous substances.

Look After Your Lunchboxes

Kids often leave leftover food in their lunchboxes. APCC has received reports of pets becoming very ill after getting into lunchboxes containing toxic foods such as grapes, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts and moldy foods. Make sure to keep lunchboxes out of paws’ reach, and stay up-to-date on all of the people foods to avoid feeding your pet in case your pet consumes a leftover lunch without your consent.

Staying aware and prepared is always best when it comes to your pet’s safety, and as autumn begins, we hope that your family enjoys a productive and safe school year.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances, contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 immediately.