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Prevent Pet Suffocation

By Colleen Williams
June 25, 2018 • 2 min. read
prevent pet suffocation

Updated Oct. 26, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Pets suffocating on plastic bags is a common occurrence, yet most pet parents are not aware of the danger.
  • About half the time a pet has died from suffocation, the pet parent was home or only away for 15 minutes.
  • The best defense is to keep snack bags out of pet’s reach and cut the bottoms and sides off before disposing of them.

The possibility that a pet could suffocate in a plastic bag is a danger that many pet parents are not aware of, yet pets suffocate in chip and snack bags every day. It’s an easily preventable tragedy if pet parents take just a few precautions.

Preventive Vet has declared the week of Nov. 28-Dec. 15 National Pet Suffocation Week to raise awareness of the issue. According to the website, 87 percent of people who lost, or almost lost a pet to suffocation from a plastic bag were unaware of the danger.

Preventive Vet urges pet parents to serve snacks in bowls, cut the bottom and sides of bags before tossing, store food in containers a pet cannot fit their head into and share the “Journey of the Chip Bag” infographic so others know the hazards of these commonplace items. Cutting the bags before tossing can also protect wildlife, who also die of asphyxiation from human garbage.

Pet Suffocation Statistics to Know

  • It takes as few as 3–5 minutes for a dog or cat rummaging through a bag for crumbs to asphyxiate.
  • It can happen to any pet, regardless of their size, age, or strength; and it has happened even when the pet parents are in the same home, maybe even in the next room. In fact, 39 percent of people were home when their pet suffocated, and 18 percent had been gone less than 15 minutes.
  • The biggest suffocation hazards to pets are snack or chip bags (69%), cereal bags (6%), pet food bags (6%) and pet treat bags (5%). Other common suffocation hazards include bread bags, cheese bags, and hard plastic and cardboard containers.
  • Pets find these bags in or near home trash or recycling bins (23%), on a coffee or side table (22%), off a counter (15%), or outside (5%)

Tips to Prevent Pet Suffocation

  • Store food in plastic containers with an opening that your pet can’t stick their head into.
  • Serve snacks in a bowl; never out of a bag
  • Cut all bags twice – side and bottom
  • Share these tips with other pet parents – the vast majority are unaware of this hazard
Infographic about the dangers and prevention of pet suffocation, especially in plastic snack bags

Other resources:

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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