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Back to School Pet Toxins and Hazards

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It’s time for a new school year! Whether your student is returning to in-person classes or continuing at-home learning options, remember that many school supplies, as well as common items found in backpacks and lunchboxes, can be toxic or hazardous to our pets. Please carefully review this list of potential pet toxins and dangers to be extra cautious of this school year!  

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1. Lunchboxes

Whether lunches are being packed in the morning or cleaned out at the end of the day, there are multiple lunchbox dangers to consider when it comes to your pet’s safety: 

  • Forgotten food that sits in a lunchbox may grow mold, which is highly toxic if eaten by pets.  
  • Snack packaging, fruit pits or seeds, and processed or fatty, salty, and sugary foods are also hazardous to pets. 
  • Lunch favorites like grapes/raisinschocolate, certain types of snack nuts, trail mixes, puddings and other sugar-free treats or baked goods with xylitol, as well as many other foods, are toxic to pets. 

2. Gum and Mints

Speaking of xylitol, many kids keep gum and breath mints in their backpacks. These items also contain xylitol, a sugarless sweetener that can be fatal to dogs because it causes dangerously low blood sugar.  

3. Glue

Standard elementary school glues are not considered as dangerous as Gorilla Glue or wood glue. However, the bigger concern with school glue is the risk of a pet (or small child) getting in eyes or stuck on sensitive mucous membranes like lips.

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4. Pencils

If your pet chews on wooden pencils, sharp points and splinters can get lodged in the mouth, throat, and intestines.

5. Art Supplies

Have an artist? If yes – note that any products with the CL (Cautionary Labeling) Seal are toxic to pets. (This seal is typically only on a very select few adult art materials and never found on children’s art supplies.) Paints, clays, and glazes may also be dangerous if inhaled, eaten, or exposed to a pet’s fur and skin.  

6. PVC Supplies

Some school supplies such as three-ring binders, planners, notebooks with colored plastic, colored paper clips, backpacks, etc. are still made with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which is a toxic material to both humans and pets. While shopping, research these items – often advertised as “vinyl” – and look for options that do not contain PVC whenever possible!   

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7. Homemade Playdough/Slime

Whether for fun or a school project, parents should be aware that homemade playdough and slime are very toxic to pets if eaten. They contain extremely high amounts of salt, as well as other ingredients, that are toxic to pets.  

8. Electronics

Whether remote learning or not, most students need access to a computer, printer, and other electronic devices for homework. This often means more electrical cords throughout the house. Pets who like to chew often go for cords, which can cause electrical injuries. Another danger? Alkaline batteries! If your pet bites into your scientific calculator, or another battery-operated device, and punctures the battery, the acidic material can cause severe burns to the mouth, throat, and esophagus.  

9. Small Items

Many smallersized school supplies (erasers, writing utensils, pen caps, paper clips, rubber bands, glue sticks, etc.), as well as any toys your kid keeps in their backpack like fidgets, can become choking hazards for curious pets. If swallowed, these items may cause a blockage in your pet’s stomach or intestines. 

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10. Hand Sanitizer

A lot more students will have hand sanitizer attached to or inside their backpacks this year. This is great for the humans, but be careful where hand sanitizer bottles are being placed! Hand sanitizer contains a lot of alcohol (ethanol) to kill all those germs, and if your pet consumes even a small bottle, it can cause alcohol poisoning.  

11. Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers, ADHD medication, and other medications can be very dangerous if petget into them. This includes inhalers if punctured or chewed on. Various medications cause different health issues in pets – many of these cases are very severe and sometimes fatal. Know which of your medications could be a problem for your pets, and keep all medications out of reach!

12. Separation Anxiety

While not exactly a school supply, separation anxiety in pets is still important to address this time of year. Separation anxiety is a distress that manifests in a pet when it’s separated from its owner. Symptoms and severity vary, but many pets are more likely to experience separation anxiety when the kids return to school in fall. Separation anxiety can be hard to treat, so we recommend helping your pet prepare for these longer days spent at home aloneIf you have any questions or concerns about separation anxiety, consult with your family veterinarian.  

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We hope students have a safe school year, and that pets stay out of trouble! The best way to prevent your pet from getting into these school items is for your family to establish a firm routine of placing school supplies, backpacks, and lunchboxes out of your pet’s reach. If your pet does sneak into a backpack or finds one of these other hazardous items, seek immediate veterinary care from your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital.   

 


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