It’s back-to-school time for many areas of the country, a time of excitement, new schedules, and, of course, back-to-school shopping! It’s easy to assume that school supplies that were designed for use by children would also be safe for your pets.
However, before your child decides to dump their school bag on the living room floor, there are a few risks that you should be aware of. Here are the most dangerous school supplies for pets.
These items may not look dangerous at first glance, but if ingested, many of these items can be choking hazards or cause blockages or obstructions (which can be serious or even fatal). Other items on the list may even be toxic.
Don’t forget, our pets are often like toddlers. They are very curious and tend to put anything that they can get their paws on into their mouths.
Unfortunately, this means that something as innocent-looking as your child’s backpack or lunchbox can be highly dangerous. What is the secret to keeping your pet safe? As pet owners, we need to learn which items can cause harm to our pets so that we can prevent them from having access.
This is also a great opportunity for teaching our children about caring for pets. Explain which items need to be kept up and out of your pet’s reach and why. By teaching children from square one to prioritize pet safety, we help to establish a respect and love for animals that will continue forward for the rest of their lives.
Beware of These Potentially Dangerous School Supplies for Pets
Craft Glue and Glue Sticks
Most types of glue that your child will have access to for school will be non-toxic due to the risk of children ingesting the products. However, glue can carry other serious risks for pets. Glue that hardens in or around your pet’s mouth or nose may prevent them from being able to breathe properly.
Additionally, glue that is spilled can come in access with your pet’s eyes gluing their eyelids shut or causing a corneal ulcer. This is a condition in which the deepest layers of your pet’s cornea are damaged, causing pain, sensitivity to light, inflammation, cloudiness or even blindness.
A common craft supply used around the holiday season, salt dough is made of nothing more than flour, water, and salt. While this may seem harmless, the high levels of salt used in the creation of this dough can cause salt toxicosis, otherwise known as salt poisoning. Unfortunately, pets are often attracted to these creative ornaments and decorations.
This is a fast-moving condition that can quickly turn serious if not addressed. Within several hours of ingesting too much salt, your pet may start to show signs of weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle tremors, lethargy, or lack of coordination. If left to progress, this can cause a coma or even death.
Erasers and Other Choking Hazards
Often small in size, brightly colored, and potentially even scented, children’s erasers can look and smell like a tempting treat for our pets. While they are non-toxic, these bite-sized school supplies can be a serious choking hazard. If they do manage to swallow the eraser successfully, it can then travel to other areas of the digestive system causing a blockage.
Other items that carry a similar choking risk include:
- Pen Caps
- Bouncy Balls
If at any time you believe that your pet may have ingested a non-food item like those mentioned above, you should contact your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and the next best steps.
Pencils and Pencil Crayons
There was a time when the lead included in pencils was a concern. Lucky for us, modern pencils are not made with real lead. Instead, they contain graphite, which is non-toxic. While this has led to a safer option for children everywhere, it hasn’t eliminated the concerns entirely for our pets.
Pencils are one of the most common items for pets to chew on due to the wood texture. To our dogs, chewing on these items is similar to chewing on a branch. Unlike naturally occurring wood, the construction of a pencil often causes it to break off in small splinters which can become lodged in the mouth, gums, and esophagus.
This causes pain and discomfort that may prevent your pet from eating. They can also become infected, leading to more serious risks. If your dog does manage to swallow these small pieces, they can pierce or scratch your dog internally, leading to injuries and infections along the esophagus and/or digestive tract.
Shoelaces, Rubber Bands, and Other String-Like Items
There are few images as iconic as that of a cat rolling around with a ball of yarn. Cats are naturally attracted to string-like items as they trigger their natural hunting instincts. While this can be used positively to encourage much-needed exercise, they should only have access to string-like items during supervised play. This is because, if swallowed, long lengths of material can lead to serious and potentially fatal complications.
What happens is that the string can become wrapped around or lodged in the cat’s mouth or along some part of the digestive system. This will hold one end in place while the rest continues to move about in the digestive tract. It can then cause the intestines to bunch up around the string as they attempt to pass the foreign body (which obviously can’t move since the one end is anchored). If this remains unaddressed, it can cause a digestive blockage. It can even tear or cut into the lining of the intestinal tract, leading to a serious or life-threatening infection in the abdomen.
If your cat does swallow a shoelace, rubber band or any other string-like item, do NOT try to remove it. Doing so can cause even more damage than has already been done from swallowing it. Instead, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
While gum is not actually a school supply, it is an item that is often associated with school time. Many items that are labelled as ‘sugar-free’, including chewing gum, contain an ingredient called Xylitol. This naturally occurring alcohol substance that tastes sweet, making it a great sugar substitute. While it is safe for our consumption, xylitol is highly toxic for pets.
Chewing gum isn’t the only product that is known to contain xylitol. Other foods to be cautious of include:
- Breath mints
- Sugar-free candies and chocolate bars
- Mouthwash and toothpaste
- Some peanut butters and nut butters
- Sugar-free baked goods and desserts
- Over-the-counter medications
- Cough syrup
- Children’s and adult’s chewable vitamins
- Dietary supplements
The danger is so severe that the FDA warns, “If you think your dog or cat may have eaten a product containing xylitol, call your vet, emergency clinic, or animal poison control center right away.”
Time is of the essence when it comes to xylitol poisoning as it doesn’t take much, and it works quickly. In fact, your pet may start showing signs of poisoning as quickly as 10 minutes after ingestion. If left untreated, it can rapidly progress to a life-threatening situation.
Do you have a pet that likes to get into backpacks and cupboards to explore? If so, what steps do you take to protect your pet against these dangerous school supplies?