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The Hidden Pet Danger on Your Kitchen Counter


Pet owner Christina Young took to a Facebook post in hopes of preventing other pet owners from experiencing the same tragedy that claimed her beloved dog, Petey.

Home alone while his humans were at work, Petey got into a bag of chips on the kitchen counter. As he ate, the air in the bag depleted, causing it to seal closed around his head. When his owners returned from work, it was too late; the dog had suffocated.

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Beware of Pet Suffocation

Petey’s sad experience isn’t the first time a dog has had tragic consequences from seizing the chance to feast on a snack bag; after Bonnie Harlan’s four year old dog, Blue, suffocated from a Cheetos bag in 2011, she founded the organization Prevent Pet Suffocation to spread awareness and advocate for education.

Jumping up to, or even on top of, kitchen counters is a common pastime for many family dogs, always eager to snag a treat. But experts agree that such ‘counter surfing’ habits should be firmly discouraged. In addition to your dog’s safety, it can pose threats to your household; the American Kennel Club (AKC) reported on a home fire in Pennsylvania that was started by two family dogs’ efforts to reach cupcakes on the counter.

Preventative Safety Steps to Take

What’s an owner to do? Start by being vigilant about your food storage habits. Don’t leave any food out on the counter, especially when you are not at home. In addition to bags containing chips or snacks, many human foods pose a threat including chocolates, onions, bread dough left to rise, salty snacks and even some fruits.

Here are some good habits to adopt:

  • Keep all food-containing bags in a closed cupboard or cabinet.
  • Use a child lock on any low cabinets or pantry doors.
  • Don’t count on a chip clip or sealed package to deter your dog; the scent of something tasty will still draw his attention.
  • Don’t dismiss the danger once a food bag is empty; crumbs are just as tempting to a pup. Harlan suggests cutting up bags before discarding.
  • Be extra vigilant after late-ending dinner parties or holiday gatherings.

Good kitchen habits are one step in prevention, but equally important is to teach your dog proper behavior. Use a clicker (like this one), or practice reward-based training to discourage bad habits, such as counter surfing or exploring the trash. Teach your dog a “leave it” command, which can prove life-saving both in and out of the home. You can also enlist a trainer to get your efforts off on the right track.

Dogs are opportunists, so as a pet owner it’s important to remain one step ahead of their antics. Keep your dog safe by practicing good household habits and keeping up with training.


Debbie Swanson Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.

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