Experts Warn Dog Owners to Keep Chemical Hand Warmers Away from Pets After Puppy Is Sickened

Experts Warn Dog Owners to Keep Chemical Hand Warmers Away from Pets After Puppy Is Sickened

Experts are warning pet owners about the dangers that some chemical hand warmers pose to animals after a puppy in Alaska fell ill last year from consuming one of the products.

In November 2020, Jaime Smith’s two children and their neighborhood friends ventured outside to play in the backyard with Buoy the puppy, whom the family had recently brought home, according to the Pet Poison Hotline. The kids went back inside briefly to have their mother help them open their hand warmer packages.

Soon after the group finished playing together, Smith said, Buoy started to vomit. “It looked like black tar, but we could see remnants of the hand warmer package paper,” she said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“Our kids showed us their hand warmers in the trash can,” she added, “so we suspected one of the neighbors had left theirs.”

Smith’s fears were confirmed when the parent of a neighborhood child said their daughter had left two used hand warmers near the Smith home and when Smith found remnants of the product around her yard. 

“Apparently, Buoy had shredded them and ingested some of the contents,” the owner said in her statement. “As soon as we realized what had happened, we called Pet Poison Helpline.”

Buoy’s family took him to PET Emergency Treatment in Anchorage, where tests revealed “a large amount of iron product” remained in his GI tract, including in the stomach and both intestines.

After spending the night in the hospital and being treated for a week, Buoy ultimately recovered. 

“It was really touch-and-go for a while,” said Smith, “Given that they had no history with the dog because he was a puppy, they did an amazing job.”

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Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, believes Buoy “was very fortunate” that the Smiths took action when they did.

“Hand warmers contain iron and ingestion may result in vomiting, GI ulceration, shock, cardiovascular compromise, and liver injury,” Brutlag said in the statement. “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.”