We often go the extra mile to feed our dogs and cats healthy foods. Yet despite all of our efforts when it comes to dishing out the appropriate portion size or selecting quality food, a lot of our furry friends like to dumpster dive in search of forbidden treats. Whether they are acting out of boredom or are simply scavaging for extra morsels, kitchen and bathroom trash bins can prove to be very attractive to our pets.

Eating out of the trash bin can be more than an off-putting behavior—it can be downright dangerous for pets.

“While a dog’s stomach can usually handle overindulging on some simple leftovers directly off your plate, a more serious concern occurs when non-food items are ingested,” says Dr. Howard Small of Forest Lakes Animal Clinic in Sarasota, Florida. “Items such as raw meat, chicken bones, and oily or deep-fried scraps are particularly dangerous. Typical symptoms occur in the first few hours after ingestion, and may include protracted vomiting and diarrhea, with or without blood.”

“The most important thing that I stress to pet owners is that prevention is the best medicine,” says Dr. Adam Denish of Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. “If a toy or trash is on the ground or accessible, will your pet eat it? If so, be vigilant and clean up first. Second, try to find out what they actually ate. Was it the stuffing from the plush monkey, or the zipper and button from its coat?”

Here’s what pet owners should look out for when it comes to protecting their furry family members from trash bin dangers:

  1. Spoiled food
    The consumption of old or potentially spoiled food from the trash has a great potential to cause illness to an animal, says Small. Spoiled or raw foods have a higher chance of causing sickness from Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria. Symptoms of Salmonellosis include fever, shock, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and dehydration, which could end up with your pet in a vet’s care. Salmonella can also be transmitted from pets to people, so preventing infections in animals can help keep the whole family healthy.
  2. Paper products
    Eating paper products—such as napkins, towels, and toilet paper—probably won’t injure your pet, unless the amount consumed is excessive. Pet owners also need to consider what sort of substances cast-off napkins and paper towels might contain. If some paper towels were used to clean up raw or spoiled food, cleaning products, or some other chemical items, then gastric distress or actual poisoning could occur.
  3. Styrofoam and plastic
    While styrofoam and plastic themselves are not toxic to pets, says Denish, if too much is consumed, they can lead to a potential gastrointestinal obstruction. A small animal that eats a large amount could be asking for trouble. However, pets have a strong mechanism to vomit up non-food items from their stomachs, so chances are, any styrofoam or plastic your pet eats isn’t bound to stay down for too long. If, however, your pet becomes lethargic, appears uncomfortable, won’t eat, or continues to vomit, a trip to the veterinarian is necessary.
  4. Personal hygiene products and diapers
    Vets and animal behaviorists are divided on the reasons a pet might ingest any of these unsavory items. Dogs, by nature, are sniffers, lickers, and tasters. They use these senses in the way we use touch. Not only are dogs attracted to things that smell like people, but they are also enticed by the smell of blood, feces, or decay, as they often lead to food or even just things to play with. However, the ingestion of diapers, tampons, and related items can easily cause a blockage in your pet’s digestive tract.

“Most dog owners have experienced the embarrassment of their pet eating these objects,” says Small. “It can be a sign of separation anxiety if your pet chews the garbage after you depart for the day.” Or, he adds, it may just be pure curiosity or boredom.

How to prevent pet trash bin problems

“From a veterinary perspective, there is no good trash for a dog. I strongly recommend a covered trash can, preferably in a closet, anchored or elevated,” says Denish. “It is also very important to start training your dog from the beginning. That means minimizing your dog’s diet to no table food, don’t let them beg, and crate train them if possible. This way, you have some control over the dog’s behavior when you are not home.”

When it comes to keeping your pet safe from the hazards lurking in your trash bin, consider what you’re throwing in the garbage and take precautions to protect your pets. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us.