Handbags are often left open lying on the floor or on a low chair or bench within easy reach of an inquisitive dog or cat. They can contain numerous potential hazards to pets.  Here our top seven:


1. Chocolate

Many of us keep a little chocolate something in our handbags – just for emergencies.  Chocolate can cause increased heart rate, agitation and gastrointestinal upset in dogs. In severe cases the toxic compounds in chocolate can cause changes in the rhythm of the heart. They can be quite harmful for dogs depending on how much they eat and should be kept out of reach. For more information please check out our article on Chocolate here.

2. Chewing gum and sweets

Some of these contain the sweetener xylitol which can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs. Usually after an hour dogs will start to feel unwell and look down. For more information on the symptoms and effects of xylitol in dogs, please click here.

3. Oral contraceptives

Ingestion of birth control pills is generally not a concern in pets, although it may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset if a large number are ingested.  If an entire bitch eats oral contraceptives it may cause disruption to the next oestrus cycle which breeders should be aware of.  There are no long term consequences however.

4. Pain killers and cold and flu medicine

These are commonly carried in handbags and painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin can be toxic to pets. These painkillers are also found in many cold and flu products. Accidental ibuprofen ingestion is dogs is extremely common and can cause gastrointestinal upset, ulceration of the gut and kidney damage. Aspirin is also irritant to the gut. Paracetamol is particularly hazardous to cats and can cause facial swelling and breathing difficulties. In dogs, paracetamol can cause liver damage. For more information please click here.

5. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes

These contain nicotine which can cause vomiting and increased heart rate and potentially low blood pressure, breathing problems and potentially changes in heart rhythm.  However severe cases are very rare and sometimes treatment is not required at all – it depends on the amount of nicotine ingested.

6. Hand sanitizing gel

These gels contain alcohol but there is generally only a small volume in handbag-sized bottles and so the risk of alcohol intoxication is low. They may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset.

 7. Paper

Sometimes when a dog chews paper it can turn into a pulp and can glue the jaws together. This can be difficult to remove and can be distressing for your pet.


Animal PoisonLine’s Top tips on handbag hazards

1. Keep your handbag closed and out of sight and out of reach of pets

2. If you need to keep potentially hazardous substances in your handbag, keep them in a secure container

3. If you are concerned that your pet may have raided your handbag and items are missing, call Animal PoisonLine for advice and we will be able to tell you if a visit to the vet is necessary


If you are worried your pet has eaten anything they should not have, give Animal PoisonLine a call on 01202 509000 and one of our advisors will be able to assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vet.