Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Lunchbox Pet Toxins

If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ingested a toxic food, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.

It’s that time of year again: back-to-school! We know parents are excited to get their kids back in school after a long summer, but we also want to remind parents of a few pet dangers that come

with the school year. During the fall, our ER sees an increase in pet emergency cases that involve food and other lunchbox dangers.

Here are a few lunchbox concerns that could result in a pet emergency:

1. Xylitol Products 
Xylitol is a sugarless sweetener that is often found in gum, sugar-free candy, baked goods, some brands of peanut butter, etc… While perfectly safe for humans, xylitol can be fatal to dogs. It causes severely low blood sugar which can lead to liver damage and failure.

 2. Grapes or Raisins

Grapes and raisins are often a lunchbox staple for many kids, but these healthy snacks can cause irreversible, life-threatening kidney damage in dogs.

3. Chocolate
Chocolate contains methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine) which are toxic to dogs. Different types of chocolate have different amounts of methylxanthines. The general rule is “the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is”, but the amount of chocolate and your dog’s weight also play important factors in determining if your dog ate a toxic amount.

4. Macadamia Nuts
Your kid may love trail mix containing macadamia nuts, granola bars with macadamia nuts, or baked goods with macadamia nuts. However; macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs! Dogs who eat even a small amount could experience weakness, typically in their hind legs.

5. Fruits with Pits or Seeds
If eaten, seeds from fruit can cause digestive issues and could potentially block your dog’s intestines. Not only do peach and plum pits cause these same issues, but they also contain cyanide which is toxic to people and dogs.

6. Processed or Fatty Foods
Sugary snacks and drinks, salty snacks, dairy products, and fatty foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs. This is when a dog’s pancreas (an organ that helps digest food and control blood sugar) becomes inflamed.

7. Moldy Foods
Parents, remind kids to always throw away any trash from their lunchboxes and every school day, check for any leftover food that needs to be put away or thrown out. If your pet eats moldy food, he or she may experience muscle tremors, seizures, or difficulty walking.

8. Packaging
Pets typically don’t unwrap food when chowing down on lunchbox snacks. The plastic, foil, and other packaging can get stuck or tangled up inside your pet’s stomach or intestines.

9.  Medications
Over-the-counter pain relievers, ADHD medication, and other medications can be very dangerous if your pet eats them. This also includes inhalers if punctured or chewed on. Various medications cause different health issues in pets, but many of these cases are severe, sometimes fatal.

10.    Hand Sanitizers
Hand sanitizers contain a lot of alcohol (ethanol) to kill all of those germs! If your pet consumes even a small container of hand sanitizer, it can cause alcohol poisoning.

If your pet does get into any of these lunchbox toxins, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital right away to discuss the best course of action. For many of these toxins, immediate treatment will be necessary.  We hope your kids have a fantastic school year, and we hope your pet stays away from those tempting lunchboxes and other back-to-school dangers!


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet


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