Australian pet owners are being warned of a common but little-known household hazard.
Plastic food packaging can pose a choking hazard for animals big and small, leading Australian veterinarians warn.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Urgent warning to pet owners about everyday household items.
For more pet news and videos, visit Pets >>
“Empty bags are attractive to dogs and cats because they retain the smell and taste of leftover food,” said Dr. Liz Arnott, RSPCA NSW Chief Veterinarian, told 7NEWS.com.au
“Once the animal’s head is in the bag, inhalation can cause the bag to seal around the nose and mouth, leading to choking.”
Experts say they’ve seen cases involving crisp or snack bags, cereal box liners and even bread bags.
“It makes sense that this would pose a choking hazard,” agreed Dr. Bronwyn Oke, Chief Veterinarian of the Victoria RSPCA.
“Especially when you have these little narrow snouts and you put them in things like bags of chips or anything that’s been opened.
“It’s a real danger.”
Oke added that when animals are caught, they respond with fight reactions.
“So there’s panic, and they’re not thinking… they’re not thinking logically about how to get the sack off their head.
“And they start breathing faster and faster, and they pull the plastic closer to their mouth, which absorbs all of the actual oxygen and that’s how they can suffocate.”
A veterinarian on TikTok has also voiced her concerns, saying she’s seen cases of it again and again.
“This is a conversation none of us ever want to have, but unfortunately it happens in the blink of an eye. you are distracted “They leave the room for a few minutes,” the TikTok account Bite-sized Vet Guides posted.
“That’s all it takes. Please do not leave any food unattended, especially packaged food. And break up those bags before throwing them in the trash.”
Many pet owners said they were unaware of the risks.
“I wish I knew this before because my grandmother’s dog always belonged in the dog food bag because it was so small,” one person said.
“This is so sad. I have a small horse sized dog and we have to lock up garbage and food,” added another.
How to safely store groceries at home
Curious pets can always find a way into food packages, Arnott warned.
“Most of the reported cases of choking have occurred from pets grabbing bags near trash, kitchen surfaces, coffee tables and counters,” she said.
“So making sure you always store packaging securely in pet-proof containers or in cupboards and drawers eliminates the risk.
“An additional precaution is to tie a knot or cut open a bag prior to disposal so that an animal’s head cannot become trapped.”
Anything that pet owners don’t want their pet to freely access must be stored carefully and securely, Arnott added.
“Don’t underestimate what a curious or hungry pet can get into,” she said.
“It’s important to keep food in cupboards or drawers and not on the counter.
“Spilling the food into a container with a secure lid can prevent access and keep the food fresh. But if you do, dispose of the bag carefully.”
Meanwhile, Oke says anyone who thinks their pet has gotten into something they shouldn’t be should search for leftovers and trash and contact the local vet immediately.
“There could be signs of tremors, vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures,” she said.
“But before any of these things begin, you should take your pet to the vet because they can induce vomiting and reduce the risk of your dog or cat having side effects.”
Oke also reminded owners that pet resuscitation and first aid is an option.
If you are unsure about what foods and treats are safe for your pup, you can RSPCA Knowledge Base More information on what to look out for can be found here.