Chip bags and food bags are a suffocation risk to pets

I love My Girl, but if left to her own devices I’m pretty sure she would eat herself into oblivion. The kid acts like she’s never had a complete meal in her life. Meanwhile I’m ready to blow a gasket with each person who asks if she’s expecting, after they get a glimpse of her paunch. Don’t people know you’re never supposed to ask a lady if she’s pregnant?!! (Did I mention My Girl is a chihuahua-dachshund rescue and not a human child?) Anyway, I’ve been focused so much on her eating food ad nauseam that I hadn’t stopped to consider the dangers of what the food may be in. Turns out I’m not alone. Bonnie Harlan founded the nonprofit Prevent Pet Suffocation after her four-year-old pup, Blue, suffocated in a Frito Lay Cheetos chip bag. Harlan had never thought of chip or food bags as hazardous, but since losing Blue twelve years ago she’s been on a mission to raise awareness. Fox 8 recently spoke to Harlan and others about spreading the word on pet suffocation:

“Watching movies, fell asleep, left the chips there and woke up and there’s Kita laying on the floor,” said Kameron Cordes, whose puppy died this past year.

Kita had suffocated on the chip bag.

It sounds like a freak accident but is far more common than people realize, says Bonnie Harlan, who founded the non-profit “Prevent Pet Suffocation” after her own dog Blue died on a chip bag, after getting into the trash while she was running errands.

“Pet Suffocation is actually very common, the problem is most people have never heard about it until it happens to them,” said Harlan.

Bonnie shared her story with Fox 8 News and says thousands of other heartbroken pet owners have shared their ordeals with her on a Facebook page.

“I typically hear from 3-4 devastated pet owners per week,” she said, “My vet said I could have warned you about 100 things, but a chip bag would not have been on the list,” said Harlan.

Kameron’s veterinarian was also unfamiliar with pet suffocation.

Both dog owners have been trying to warn as many people as possible including vets.

“It might save somebody’s life,” said Cordes.

Some owners were just in the shower or even the next room when their dog or cat got a hold of a chip bag or pet food bag. Veterinarian Dr. Randy Hutchison … explains why it’s impossible for the pet to remove the bag once it’s on their head.

“It’s the length of their muzzle that causes the bag to go along the length of their head and as they’re breathing in, the moisture they create makes the bag even stickier and it sticks to their head at that point,” said Dr. Hutchison, “And the harder they breathe the tighter it gets.”

[From Fox 8]

Losing a pet is not like losing a member of your family, it is losing a member of your family. “Death by Cheetos bag” may sound like an SNL skit in the abstract, but the reality is absolutely horrific. The article went on to include a list of safety precautions, one of which was to learn Pet CPR, something I’m ashamed to say I don’t know — yet! But most of the tips basically boiled down to keeping food (or anything you don’t want your pet getting at) in secure containers. It also helps if you treat your pet as if they’re a wanton vandal and protect your home accordingly. I love My Girl very much. I just don’t trust her, on her own.

Photos credit: Prevent Pet Suffocation, Camilo Ospina, Magda Ehlers, Arkay and Галина Ласаева on Pexels

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17 Responses to “Chip bags and food bags are a suffocation risk to pets”

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  1. Andrea says:

    My dog turned 11 this weekend. And I am doing to do e v e r y t h i n g that will help me to celebrate his 21st birthday!

  2. K says:

    I am so glad to see this post. The dangers also exist for cats although in their case they love to eat plastic/stuff that crinkles. God knows why but my cat Dashiell ate a good bit of the bag his food came in…1200 dollars and 6 hrs later he was ok but now everything immediately comes out of the flimsy bags/ pouches and into tubs with safety locks.

  3. manda says:

    Wow, new fear unlocked. Holy sh!t!!!!!!! I’ve never heard of that, I don’t really understand the mechanism, but omg it sounds horrifying. Really upsetting to learn this first thing, but also, I’m glad that I now know. I wish we could move past these bags and packaging materials that are deadly and do not decompose! Our trash will be around for millennia!

  4. Lala11_7 says:

    I have 2 doggiebabies 🐕🥰😍 in my life that I ❤️❤️❤️ WITH ALL MY ❤️ & SOUL…& I could not IMAGINE 😭😥😢😱 how I would feel knowing they made their transition due to me leaving a potato chip bag around…a bag that one of my babies (because only ONE begs for food as if he has NEVA eaten in his LIFE) would have been asking me to give them chips from & knowing me…I probaby would have given them a couple.! I too have had SERIOUS anxiety regarding how to keep the doggie 🐕❤️ babies’ weight on point…because I KNOW that extra weight cuts into their life span & quality of life…but it is SO HARD TO RESIST THE BEGGING 🥺😣…so now I don’t eat around them…AT ALL…which also is good to keep ME from snacking❤️

  5. ML says:

    Andrea, Congratulations and happy birthday to your fur baby! Many happy returns 💕
    When I had canine family members, the food was stored in cabinets at counter height or in the fridge. No that I cohabit with felines, who live life more 3-dimensionally, and teenagers, we need to watch out more. Cats are sneakier.
    By the local garden centers, they have either (depending on which one) a list of plants that are poisonous to dogs and cats or a list of plants that are harmless to dogs and cats. Also pay attention to bouquets. My cats have a tendency to munch on leaves and flowers every now and then, and this is another way pets can be poisoned.

  6. Chaine says:

    It’s true, a friend lost her beloved dog to a ziplock bag that was left on a countertop with food remnants in it. Absolutely devastating.

    • ML says:

      That’s horrible! Thanks for the warning.

      I came to add: Watch out for chocolate! Pets and chocolate are a terrible combination.

  7. Yup, Me says:

    I have a friend whose big sweet dog died in this manner. He got his head down into a chip bag and suffocated. I used to be terrified of dogs and he was such a loveable derp (and insistently affectionate) that a few hours in his company helped me overcome 15 years of fear. I was incredibly sad to hear that he’d died.

  8. North of Boston says:

    I would have never thought of this. I watch some of the TV vet shows and imagined the pets were eating the bags and causing problems that way (because some pets will eat anything!)

    But the suffocation thing is so sad and terrifying. Cutting up plastic bags is now going to be like cutting up plastic 6 pack rings back in the day, after seeing pictures of strangled otters and ducks. Just something I do.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Exactly what I was thinking–add cutting up chip bags to cutting up those plastic rings (although, come to think of it, I haven’t bought anything that comes with those in a very long time).

  9. DancingCorgi says:

    I was warned by fellow corgi owners that our breed is especially at risk because their short legs don’t let them paw off stuff on their heads. I’ve also seen warnings that some peanut butter manufacturers are putting the toxic-to-dogs xylitol in as a sweetener which is criminal IMO. Sugarless gum has killed a lot of pups.

  10. Dee says:

    So timely!! A corgi I followed on X died last week because of a bag of chips while owners ran errands! It’s a thing! Thanks for sharing! Love our fur babies!

  11. Surly Gale says:

    The dog that lives at my house turns 18 on Saturday, according to his paperwork. I have only known him 3 or 4 years. He is literally the dog nobody wants. One of the rescues I work with called and asked if I could handle an emergency surrender (bullied their dog, bit the handyman and growled at granny) so I did, but the then rescue shut down and I’m stuck with a dog I didn’t choose, doesn’t suit me (eg: I love the rain, he hates it) and is blocking me from my next forever friend cause every dog I’m interested in is listed as “best to be the only dog” and I won’t abandon Jake. He is an absolute food pig, eats everything and anything. Has even tried to eat bird droppings off the sidewalk. He has horrible breath, bad teeth, a heart murmur and his back end recently gave out so now must be lifted onto couch, onto bed, into car, etc. I can totally see him getting himself into this situation. It’s one that has never occurred to me. I had no idea this could happen. I am very grateful for this story/post because though I’m ready for him to cross the rainbow bridge, I’m not ready for it to happen before his natural time. I’m a little shook, honestly, when I think to the number of times it could have happened already due to my ignorance. Not on my watch, Buddy. You go when you are ready, not a moment before. I don’t like him….but I love him!

  12. BeanieBean says:

    That info-graphic is an eye-opener. Thank you for the article & thank you to these crusaders, who unfortunately learned this stuff the hard way.

  13. maisie says:

    I’d add that bags with handles are also a major hazard. I’ve seen one of my cats nearly strangled when she was plating in one and got startled. cut the handles or remove them!

  14. SpankyB says:

    I’ve always been careful with plastics and bags around my cats, but I think that’s just a roll over from having a human child. If a child can suffocate so can an animal.

    But of course I have one cat that loves crinkly plastic and can find it anywhere. He refuses to play with crinkly cat toys though. And it’s usually 3am when he finds plastic and starts crinkling it. Being jarred awake from the crinkling then quickly jumping out of bed to take it away from him is not a fun way to wake in the wee hours.

  15. lolalola says:

    One time, I met a guy at the dog run who told me about his Saint Bernard who suffocated by sticking his head in the bathroom trash can that the guy had lined with a plastic supermarket bag. I was stunned! Never heard of such a thing. And I’ve never heard of this chip bag thing…but THANK YOU FOR POSTING! I’ve been careful about trash bag liners but never thought of chip bags. That just rips my heart out.