Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

Handbag and Coat Pocket Hazards

Cat in a bagWith the holiday season approaching, parties and festivities with family and friends are being planned! It’s important to keep in mind the hidden hazards that can be stashed away in guests’ handbags and coat pockets.

Many of the items we stick in our pockets or handbags can be toxic to our pets. We might not give those items a second thought, but a curious pet that smells something new and exciting might not stop pursuing that intriguing new smell.

Sugarless chewing gum, candies, and mints. Many of us carry chewing gum or mints around so that we don’t offend the people around us after we eat a garlic or onion filled meal. But many of these sugarless breath savers contain xylitol. Ingesting even the smallest amount of xylitol can cause life-threatening liver failure in dogs. Signs of xylitol poisoning include weakness, vomiting, muscle tremors, seizures, and coma. Gum and candies have strong scents and can easily attract dogs to root around in a handbag or coat pocket. In addition, gum wrappings and the tin or plastic containers that hold mints and candies can cause intestinal blockages if consumed. Even if they are empty they still carry the attracting scent of the gum or mints.

Medication. Many people carry over the counter or prescription medication in handbags and pockets. Of course we have to keep these at our fingertips, but if a dog or cat consumes pills that have spilled out of a container, tragedy may strike. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin, for example) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Kidney failure can result in both dogs and cats. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) ingestion can result in liver failure, and a small amount can be lethal in cats. Anti-depressants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, unpredictable reactions including sedation or agitation, and may also cause muscle tremors and seizures.

Asthma inhalers. Asthma inhalers are life savers to asthmatics – both pets and humans! However, if they are chewed on and punctured, they can deliver a large dose all at once and acute albuterol (the active ingredient in many inhalers) poisoning can occur. The signs of albuterol poisoning are elevated heart rate and blood pressure, incoordination, agitation, and vomiting. Your pet’s pupils may dilate giving him the “wide-eyed” look.

Cigarettes. Ingestion of nicotine can be toxic to dogs and cats, even in small quantities. Eating only a few cigarettes can cause serious illness in a small dog. Signs of nicotine poisoning include rapid heart rate, panting, muscle tremors, excessive excitement, and uncontrolled bodily functions (urination and defecation). In some instances, ingestion of nicotine can result in seizures, paralysis, and even death. Other sources of nicotine include chewing tobacco and nicotine gum and can cause the same signs.

Marijuana. With the advent of the legalization of marijuana in many areas, more people may have the drug with them. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Signs of marijuana toxicity include incoordination, involuntary eye movements, depression or excitement, agitation, hallucinations, vomiting, and heart arrhythmias.

Be sure to keep guest’s coats hung up in a closet away from prying little noses, or in a room where the door stays closed while the festivities are going on. Remind your guests to close up their handbags to avoid curious pets from rummaging through their belongings. The last thing anyone wants to be doing during the holidays is taking a sick pet to the veterinary hospital.


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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
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    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
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    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Treatment Team Lead

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
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    Practice Manager

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    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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    Grooming Manager

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    Kennel Care Team

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