Suffocation Hazards for Dogs

Pet care & safety

Dogs follow their noses and explore with their mouths. This headfirst way of investigating their world can lead dogs into suffocation hazards.

Small Pieces and Parts

Just like with human toddlers, small pieces of just about anything can lodge in a dog’s throat and cut off her air supply. How small? Assume anything smaller than a toilet paper tube is small enough to cause a choking hazard for most dogs.

Even if the item starts out big, hunks of dog toy, pieces of fabric, and the last bit of slippery dog chews can block a dog’s breathing.

Bags of Any Kind

Since plastic grocery bags and trash bags often harbor food smells, they can be especially attractive to dogs. I’m embarrassed to tell you that we nearly lost our Border Collie, Lilly, to suffocation twice as a youngster.

Trash bags: Lilly went head first into a big bag of kitchen trash while outside alone – somehow managing to get stuck inside the bag. I kid you not: She climbed all the way inside to get some food, and the trash bag cinched up behind her.

We hunted for her all over our three-acre property. Then I noticed the trash bag moved a little bit. And, there she was – freaked out, hot and panting, not making a sound, but okay.

Cereal bags: Another time, Lilly unzipped her training backpack to get a bag of cereal. Lilly opened the cereal bag enough for her whole head. Oh, she ate all the cereal, then she couldn’t get the bag off her head.

The waxed paper bags used for many cereals do not tear easily. Again, luckily, I happened to find her wandering around with the cereal bag stuck on her head. Others haven’t been as fortunate.

Grocery or other store bags: When I asked on Twitter if any of my followers had an example to share, it took less than 10 minutes before someone answered, saying that a friend’s dog got a grocery sack stuck on its head, suffocated, and died.

To prevent accidents like this, safeguard all plastic bags, wax paper bags, and even tyvek (tear-proof paper) bags in your house – especially when you are not home.

Blankets and Agility Tunnels

If your dog likes to burrow into piles of blankets or pillows, be really careful. It doesn’t take much for dogs to get wound up too tightly.

Online you’ll also find reports of agility dogs getting tangled in the fabric of the collapsed tunnel. Many dogs love agility so much that they spin coming out of the tunnel or chute. If the dog spins too soon, before clearing the end of the chute, he can become tangled and trapped.

To prevent accidents like this, always put away agility tunnels, especially chutes, when you are not actively training your dog.