ASHLAND COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – An urgent warning for all pet owners about a common item found in nearly every home that’s responsible for killing thousands of innocent pets.

“Watching movies, fell asleep, left the chips there and woke up and there’s Kita laying on the floor,” said Kameron Cordes, whose puppy died this past year.

Kita had suffocated on the chip bag.

It sounds like a freak accident but is far more common that people realize, says Bonnie Harlan, who founded the non-profit “Prevent Pet Suffocation” after her own dog Blue died on a chip bag, after getting into the trash while she was running errands.

“Pet Suffocation is actually very common, the problem is most people have never heard about it until it happens to them,” said Harlan.

Bonnie shared her story with Fox 8 News and says thousands of other heartbroken pet owners have shared their ordeals on her on a Facebook page.

“I typically hear from 3-4 devastated pet owners per week,” she said, “My vet said I could have warned you about 100 things, but a chip bag would not have been on the list,” said Harlan.

Kameron’s veterinarian was also unfamiliar with pet suffocation.

Both dog owners have been trying to warn as many people as possible including vets.

“It might save somebody’s life,” said Cordes.

Because it can happen so quickly and in a matter of minutes.

Some owners were just in the shower or even the next room when their dog or cat got a hold of a chip bag or pet food bag.

Veterinarian Dr. Randy Hutchison at Animal Clinic Northview in North Ridgeville explains why it’s impossible for the pet to remove the bag once it’s on their head.

“It’s the length of their muzzle that causes the bag to go along the length of their head and as they’re breathing in, the moisture they create makes the bag even stickier and it sticks to their head at that point,” said Dr. Hutchison, “And the harder they breathe the tighter it gets.”

He says animals have been saved if they receive oxygen quickly but that’s not usually the case, so prevention is critical yet simple to do. 

Here are the most important tips from Prevent Suffocation:

  • Keep all chip/snack/pet food bags safely stored away from your pet.
  • Tear or cut up all chip bags, food bags, and food packages after use.
  • Put lids back on jars and containers when disposing of them.
  • Store chips/snacks/pet food in resealable plastic containers.
  • Serve chips and snacks in glass bowls or containers instead of in food bags.
  • Keep all trash can lids tightly fastened, locked, or behind a cabinet.
  • Keep the kitchen pantry door closed.
  • Don’t store food bags on top of counters or appliances where a cat can easily reach by jumping.  
  • Don’t let your cats play with plastic bags or food cartons. 
  • Do not allow your pets to roam freely in the house while you are away.
  • Check the house before leaving for any pet suffocation risks.
  • Don’t store pet food bags in the garage.
  • Check your vehicles for chip/snack/food bags and drink cups. 
  • Don’t leave your dog in the car alone with fast food bags, snack bags, or food and drink containers.   
  • Learn CPR for pets.
  • Practice these guidelines whether you own a pet or not – it helps protect stray dogs, feral cats, and wildlife. 

“Just taking these steps at home,” said Harlan, “Goes a big way in protecting pets from suffocation.”

“And watch your dog’s tendencies for what they like and don’t like, because they’re usually repeat offenders,” added Dr. Hutchison.

And finally, they say spread the word so that everyone can help prevent pet suffocation.

Click here to learn more.