The Pet Poison Helpline has a new warning: A lot of the things we carry in our handbags, backpacks, and briefcases are toxic to animals. Here are the top 5 causes of what veterinarians call “purse poisoning”:

  • #1: Medications. They account for nearly half of the calls to the helpline. Of course, almost all prescription meds pose a risk to dogs and cats. But over-the-counter painkillers like Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, and Aleve can cause liver failure and other life-threatening problems.
  • The next medication is so dangerous it has its own spot on the list: Asthma inhalers. Most people think inhalers are pet-proof but dogs can easily chew through them. And if that happens, they can receive 200 human-sized doses at once.
  • The 3rd leading cause of purse poisonings: Sugarless mints and gum. The sugar substitute xylitol that’s found in mints, gum, vitamins and toothpaste is highly toxic to dogs.;
  • Then there’s cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and nicotine patches. A cat or small dog can die from eating just 3 cigarettes. So, if you suspect your pet has gotten into any nicotine-laced product, get them to the vet immediately.
  • The final purse-poisoner is a staple in most people’s bags: Hand sanitizer. A travel-sized bottle of sanitizer contains enough alcohol to put small animals into a coma.

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker says that your best defense against pet poisoning is to make sure your bags are always out of reach. And keep the number of the Pet Poison Helpline, 800.213.6880, handy-just in case.