5 On Your Side

Puppy suffocates in a potato chip bag: Common household items can be lethal to pets

A Raleigh woman told 5 On Your Side about how her 5-month-old puppy Cooper died when he found a potato chip bag on the kitchen table.

Posted Updated

Monica Laliberte
, WRAL executive producer/5 On Your Side reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — Tragedy can strike quickly when pet owners don't keep hidden dangers away from their beloved dogs – but many of these dangers come in unexpected places.

A Raleigh woman told 5 On Your Side about how her 5-month-old puppy Cooper died when he found a potato chip bag on the kitchen table.

Most dogs love to chew on everything – from toys to squeakers to bones.

But, just as often, dogs are able to get into things not meant for them – trash cans, peanut butter jars, and unsafe food scraps.

Donna Kast has owned three dogs, and she'd never heard of the potential danger of chip bags before.

Sadly, her puppy Cooper found hs way onto the kitchen table and into a potato chip bag. He was unable to free himself. Every inhale he tried to take formed a seal, keeping the bag tightly over his face.

Kast’s husband found Cooper.

"He found him on the floor, unresponsive with the bag over his head," said Kast.

When her husband tried to remove the bag, it didn't just slide off. It had formed a vacuum over Cooper's head.

"He tried CPR on him and couldn’t revive him," said Kast.

Sweet little Cooper, only a few months old, suffocated.

"I just was blown away because I had never, ever heard of it before," said Kast.

However, these tragedies are more common than most people realize.

Toys can cause intestinal blockages

Each week, two to three dogs suffocate when they get their heads caught in bags used for chips, pet food, even cereal, according to PreventiveVet.com.

"Most things are fixable, or don’t end in that degree of tragedy," said Dr. Theresa Lehnhardt, an emergency doctor at NC State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

She says squeakers are also a common find.

"If they get ingested, they get themselves lodged in the intestinal track, they need to come out surgically," said Lehnhardt.

Even the braided aspects of these toys can be a hazard, and the stuffing itself, similarly causing obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.

Monica Laliberte has experienced this danger firsthand. Her dog, Franko, needed surgery to remove a no-stuffing, no-squeaker plush toy that he swallowed.

Lehnhardt recalls someone bringing in their dog because they'd eaten the insert of a child's shoe.

"And we went in and there were actually six of them!" she said.

Some foods are also toxic for dogs

"A dog at a picnic just reached up and grabbed a chicken skewer, chicken still attached, just went right down the hatch, skewer and all," said Lehnhardt.

Her sewing box, she said, is also a plethora of hazards, revealing an x-ray showing a needle and thread swallowed by her own cat.

Another concern: Food containers like a peanut butter jar.

Pets get their head stuck trying to get at whatever’s left.

Most everyone knows chocolate can be lethal for a dog – but did you know you also have to watch our for grapes, onions, tomatoes, raisins, and anything with artificial sweetener in it?

Especially if you have children, prone to dropping food on the ground or feeding the family dog.

Signs of trouble

The first sign of possible trouble is when your dog throws up.

Also pay attention if they’re not eating or drinking, or if they aren't feeling as playful as usual.

"Pets are like toddlers. I can’t say it enough and treat them as such. They’re terrible decision makers. They don’t watch out for themselves," said Lehnhardt.

We have to watch our pets closely. When we can't: A crate is a safe way to go.

Kast had puppy-proofed her house for Cooper, but he still met with tragedy.

Now, she wants to make others aware of the risks of food bags.

"If it saves one other dog, I’ll be doing something," she said. "It’s definitely an empty house. We miss him, we miss him."

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