10 Everyday Activities That Can Land Your Dog in the Vet or ER

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: March 7, 2018

Updated: February 23, 2021

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small white and tan dog on vet exam table

It’s been said that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, which is a silly thing to say, especially if you’re talking about your dog.

If you’ve read anything on Preventive Vet before, you’ll know that some of the biggest dangers to your dog are the things that you're not aware of yet. After all, you can't prevent what you're not aware of!

Sure, you keep your chocolate locked away, but what about the pack of xylitol gum, which is actually more toxic in smaller amounts? And what about sago palms, those beautiful plants that can be found indoors and out, but are also highly toxic to dogs! You probably cut plastic six-pack rings to protect wildlife, but did you know that cutting chip bags can save the lives of the animals right in your home?

Here are 10 common, but easily preventable situations and household items that frequently land dogs in the vet's office or Animal ER.

1) Leaving Out Chip and Other Snack Bags

Why It’s Dangerous: Suffocation when dogs rummage for crumbs and get their heads stuck inside.

How to Prevent It: Cut or tear all bags twice before throwing them away or recycling. It’s also a good idea to keep your trash and recycling behind a securely closed door, or with a lid to provide an extra barrier between your dog and any bags that you forgot to cut or that were thrown away without your knowledge. Check out our Pet Suffocation Awareness page for more tips and stories.

2) Putting Down Your Purse, Backpack, or Other Bag

Why It’s Dangerous: Many people drop their bag on the ground, sling it on the back of a chair, or toss it on the couch when they return home. Yet these places are still easily within reach for many dogs, and provide easy and dangerous access to any number of potential poisons and hazards that we often carry around in our bags: xylitol (sugarless gums, mints, and more), pain medications, birth control, marijuana, asthma inhalers, e-cigs and vaping liquid, and a whole bunch more. The same goes for jackets and clothes that are left lying around, which might have the same dangerous items left in the pockets.

How to Prevent It: Hang all bags — purses, gym bags, backpacks, etc. — on an elevated, sturdy wall hook, coat rack, or (preferably) in a closet. Do the same for jackets and other clothing that might have dangerous items left in the pockets. And make sure other people in your home, including visitors and guests, do the same.

3) Feeding Table Scraps

Why It’s Dangerous: Eating people food can lead to inflammation of your dog’s pancreas, stomach, and/or intestines, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

How to Prevent It: Don’t share your food with your dog, especially fatty or heavily seasoned foods. Yes, dogs look cute when they give you sad, puppy eyes, but their eyes will look even sadder if they have to be hospitalized with a bad case of pancreatitis or gastroenteritis. And you'll have to pay a pretty penny, too.

4) Throwing Sticks for Your Dog

Why It’s Dangerous: Chasing and/or chewing on sticks frequently result in mouth splinters, puncture wounds, and cracked teeth. These injuries can be quite serious, even fatal.

How to Prevent It: Dogs love sticks, but sticks don’t love dogs. There are far better chew and fetch toys available. Opt instead for appropriately sized, safe dog toys for fetch and chewing. Soft Frisbees and “stick-like” toys (such as the Kong® SafeStix™ or the Ruffwear® Lunker™ ) are safer options.

KONG Safestick Dog ToyKONG Safestick Dog Toy RUFFWEAR Lunker Durable Dog Toy
RUFFWEAR Lunker Dog Toy


The safest fetch toy for dogs

5) Giving Bones, Deer Antlers, Cow Hooves, or Ice Cubes as Chew Toys

Why It’s Dangerous: Hard chews can easily crack a dog’s teeth, which is extremely painful as well as costly to repair the tooth or remove it entirely.

How to Prevent It: Choose safe chew toys based on your dog’s size, age, and chewing personality. There are a ton of options when you're searching for the best dog chew. If you'd like help finding the best chews for different types of chewers, check out "3 Simple Steps to Choose the Best Chews for Your Dog." In the meantime, here are some our favorite options for safer dog chews and chew toys.

westpaw zogoflex qwizl interactive dog toyWESTPAW Qwizl Interactive Dog Toy kong extreme dog toy

KONG Interactive Dog Toy for Aggressive Chewers

Qchefs Power Series Puffed Cheese & Buckwheat Dental Dog Treat

QChefs Puffed Cracker Treats

C.E.T. VeggieDent Dog Chews

Virbac C.E.T. Veggiedent Dog Chews


6) DIY and Crafts Using Glue
Why It’s Dangerous: Gorilla Glue® and other polyurethane glues are attractive and tasty to dogs, but rapidly expand once in the stomach and quickly cause digestive obstructions that require costly surgery.

How to Prevent It: If you use polyurethane glues, keep them completely out of your dog’s reach. Keep your dog out of the area when you're using the glue and be sure to carefully clean any spills and leftover materials.

7) Keeping Your Dog’s Food Bag Out

Why It’s Dangerous: If a dog is able to help themselves to their food and gorge on an unguarded bag of kibble, it can lead to a condition called "food bloat." (This is different from GDV, a potentially fatal twisting and distension of the stomach, which is commonly referred to as "bloat.") Food bloat can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It's also quite painful and can actually lead to electrolyte imbalances and blood pressure problems that require veterinary treatment and hospitalization.

Read more about the difference between GDV and Food Bloat — and what to do if  your dog has eaten too much.

How to Prevent It: Store your dog’s food bag behind a securely closed closet or cabinet door, not out in the open in places like the kitchen, garage, laundry room, etc. Better yet, transfer their kibble to a secure and sturdy food storage container like the Vittles Vault by Gamma2, which can also help keep it fresher for longer.

Gamma Vittles Vault Stackable Treat Containers

8) Baking

Why It’s Dangerous: Brownies, cookies, and even bread dough are tempting to dogs, who will (often easily) grab them off the counter. And the results of their counter-surfing escapades can be very serious. Brownies and cookies often contain dog poisons, like chocolate, xylitol, raisins, and even THC (marijuana). Similarly, bread dough that contains yeast can cause stomach obstruction and alcohol poisoning when a dog gobbles it down. If you see your dog eat dough that contains yeast, immediately give them ice water to drink and contact your veterinarian or Animal ER for further advice. The warm, humid environment of your dog's stomach will quickly "activate" the yeast and begin the rising process, releasing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol into your dog's stomach and bloodstream. Ice water can help slow the activation process, buying you a some time to get your dog to the vet hospital for further treatment.

How to Prevent It: Keep your dog out of the kitchen when baking and never leave things to rise, sit, or cool on an unguarded kitchen counter. When letting baked goods cool, put them on a high shelf. And when letting yeast dough rise, put it safely in your oven with the door closed (and the oven turned off) or in the microwave.

9) Taking Your Medications and Supplements

Why It’s Dangerous: Dropped or spilled pills, tablets, and liquids can easily find their way into your dog’s mouth before you realize they’ve hit the ground. Many of our medications and supplements can be toxic to our pets; especially at the doses we take them. Unfortunately "medication poisoning" consistently tops the ASPCA's annual "Top Ten Pet Toxins" list. And even dog medications and supplements can be a danger when dropped or spilled, especially if several fall or if a smaller dog gets to them first.

How to Prevent It: Dispense all medications and supplements — whether yours or your dog’s — over a sink, bowl, tub, or toilet to better contain any spillage.

10) Giving Your Dog a Bath

Why It’s Dangerous: Ear infections from water getting in their ears.

How to Prevent It: Don’t dump or spray water over your dog’s head. Use a sponge to clean their head, then clean and dry the ears after their bath using a safe, effective cleaner.

Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution for Dogs and Cats

Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution for Dogs and Cats

Virbac Epi-Otic Ear Cleaner

Virbac Epi-Otic Ear Cleaner

DOUXO Micellar Solution

DOUXO Micellar Solution


You can't prevent everything, accidents will happen, but knowing these 10 things can certainly help you prevent an awful lot of problems and save you money, time, and grief, as well as needless pain and suffering for your dog.

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.

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