Keeping warm in the winter can be hard, so humans have many items to protect them from frigid weather. But sometimes, bundling in warm clothes still isn’t enough. One product that some people add when playing in the snow is hand warmers. These small packets can quickly warm up, helping our hands feel a little less chilly.
Hand warmers are a genius invention, but what many families don’t know is that they’re toxic to dogs. Of course, your dog shouldn’t consume anything that’s not food, but these objects will give them much more than a tummy ache. One family shared their story to warn other dog parents this winter.
New Puppy Faces Death
In 2020, Jaime Smith’s family brought home a new puppy named Buoy. The Smiths live in Anchorage, Alaska, where the weather gets cold quickly as the seasons change. So, in November of that year, they already brought out the hand warmers so their kids could play in the snow.
Smith gave hand warmers to the children and their neighbor friends on a chilly day. The kids briefly came inside to get help opening the hand warmers, and then they played outside with Buoy for a while. When they came inside, Buoy randomly threw up in a way that was far from normal.
“It looked like black tar, but we could see remnants of the hand warmer package paper,” said Smith.
Her kids showed her that they threw their hand warmers in the trash. However, when Smith talked to the neighbors, she found out that their kids left used hand warmers outside. Sure enough, Smith found remnants of the products in the yard.
A Warning to Other Pet Parents
As soon as Smith realized Buoy ate contents from the hand warmers, she called Pet Poison Helpline. They encouraged the family to take Buoy to the emergency vet due to the toxic iron levels in the product. Getting immediate medical care likely saved his life.
At the vet, tests revealed that Buoy still had lots of iron products in his stomach and both intestines. He spent the night at the clinic and went through treatment for a week before making a full recovery. He’s lucky his family did the right thing before it was too late.
“Buoy was very fortunate that the Smiths not only realized he had ingested the hand warmer contents, but that they knew enough to call our toxicology experts for advice,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “Hand warmers contain iron, and ingestion may result in vomiting, GI ulceration, shock, cardiovascular compromise, and liver injury. As soon as we identified the chemicals in the hand warmers they had used, we recommended they immediately take Buoy to the nearest emergency hospital.”
Families often use hand warmers without knowing their toxic effects on dogs. This winter, be sure to keep those products away from your furry friend at all times. And as always, if your dog ingests something they shouldn’t, call the Pet Poison Helpline for advice.