Handbag Toxicities

Surprisingly our pets sometimes help themselves into things they shouldn’t and the handbag can contain a few nasty compounds which you may not be aware of.

Let’s have a look at three of the possible things that could be a danger to our pets.

Most of us will carry a supply of ibuprofen, maybe for those minor aches and pains that we have from day to day.

Unfortunately ibuprofen is quite toxic to dogs and will routinely cause ulceration of the stomach even at relatively minor doses that would be quite safe for human beings.

This may cause your dog to start vomiting which progresses to vomiting blood (haematemesis), and in some cases can cause perforation of the stomach leading to peritonitis and a risk of death. If vomiting blood, your pet would be extremely sick and require intensive care, and likely surgery to fix the problem

In cats, ibuprofen is more likely to cause kidney damage which could also be fatal but usually cats are a bit cleverer than dogs and won’t necessarily ingest the product in the first place

So the safety message here is to keep ibuprofen well out of harms way. Although it’s a relatively safe compound in humans, it could have disastrous consequences in our pets.

The second problem that can arise from access to the handbag would be in ingestion of the similar compound, paracetamol.

Now this may have less concern in dogs and has been used as a pain medication for dogs, albeit a pretty weak analgesic (but it can cause liver failure& gastric ulceration at higher doses). However in cats, paracetamol causes a problem known as methaemoglobinaemia. This is where the red blood cells are damaged such that they can no longer carry oxygen. The cat will become lethargic and easily fatigue to have difficulty breathing and when examined will appear to have chocolate coloured gums. This is due to the changes caused by the oxidative injury to the haemoglobin by the paracetamol.

Again the message here is keep paracetamol out of harms way and you’ll never have to worry about this problem.

The third unlikely toxicity we may see when a pet gets into a handbag is xylitol ingestion

Xylitol is a compound found in chewing gums and it’s recently discovered toxicity leads to problems with glucose metabolism and subsequently neurological damage. Xylitol stimulates insulin release which causes a drop in glucose and a resulting injury to the neurological system as glucose is the preferred energy substrate for the brain. They can also develop acute liver failure, about two days after ingestion of xylitol.

Unfortunately there is no antidote for xylitol toxicity known at this time, and treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms and supportive care.

Our households carry a number of risks and it is wise to be aware of these and prepared for any possible injuries. If you suspect your pet has ingested one of these compounds or something similar, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible, as early treatment gives the best chance of success.


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