We often think of our pets as one of the family, which is what they are. But they are not human. Foods that are safe for us may not be safe for our pets and could be toxic to our furry friends. They have allergies just like we do. We need to be aware of what foods to avoid giving to our pets. In general, we are told not to give human food to our cats, dogs, birds, and rodents. This means no table scraps, though most of us are guilty of saving a piece of meat or some potato chips for Tabitha or Fido. We are conditioned to look into those pleading eyes and give in.
In general, nature eliminates toxic foods before they can do harm by vomiting and diarrhea, before they can be absorbed and cause serious illness. If you suspect your pet has eaten any type of toxic food, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian. Below are my top ten foods not to give your pet.
Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine
You probably already know not to feed your dog chocolate, but it is worth mentioning anyway. Chocolate, caffeine, and coffee poisoning in dogs occurs because of a chemical called theobromine, a substance which dogs can overdose on by eating chocolate. If your pet ingests too much of these, they can have severe vomiting and diarrhea, panting excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death. The dark and baking chocolates contain more theobromine, so are more dangerous than the milk or white chocolates. The average American needs caffeine infused coffee to survive, but this is not true for dogs.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins were once thought to be a good treat for dogs—not anymore. Since grapes are such a common people snack, they pose a risk to dogs living in the home. Children munching down on handfuls of raisins may not know that they aren’t doing their pets a favor by sharing. Grapes can cause acute renal failure—a sudden failure of the kidneys—along with vomiting and diarrhea. Scientists still don’t quite know what makes grapes and raisins toxic to dogs.
Macadamia nuts are the most toxic of all the nuts in dogs and cats. These famous Hawaiian nuts are considered toxic to dogs because they tend to cause gastrointestinal upsets, lethargy, vomiting, and muscle tremors or stiffness. As few as six nuts can cause severe poisoning. Macadamia nuts and walnuts are toxic to dogs, and these can trigger pancreatitis.
It goes without saying to not give your pets alcohol. Some people actually get a kick out of getting their pets drunk. Even small amount of alcohol can be devastating to a pet. To do this intentional is animal abuse. Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors,, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
Onions and Garlic
Onions, garlic, scallions and shallots contain disulfide, a compound that can damage dogs’ red blood cells. When dogs eat raw onions or garlic, they risk developing hemolytic anemia, which occurs when destroyed red blood cells cannot be replaced. Eating powdered forms of onion or garlic in soups, dips, or sauces is also toxic. Signs or internal damage, such as weakness, orange-colored urine, tiring easily or resisting movement, may not appear for a few days. If you notice these symptoms, immediately take your dog to a veterinarian or emergency clinic where a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Uncooked break dough that contains yeast can be dangerous for any dog who ingests it. The stomach’s moist warm environment makes it perfect for the yeast in raw dough to rise, which can cause intense discomfort and lead to the dog’s stomach or bowel to rupture. The expanding stomach can press against the dog’s diaphragm, making breathing difficult. If your dog has eaten bread dough, she needs to be examined by a veterinarian immediately.
Avocados contain a chemical called Persin which is poisonous to birds and cattle and there have been some reports of dogs getting sick from avocados. It is included on my “thou shalt not” list, because it can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. The giant seed is also a choking hazard, so keep your dog our of the garbage or off the counter. If swallowed, it can block the digestive tract and require emergency surgery.
Xylitol is a sweetening agent used in sugar-free gum and candy, and as a sweetener added to sugar-free baked goods. Products containing xylitol should never be given to or within reach of dogs. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, erratic behavior, disorientation and seizures. Eating candy, gum or baked foods made with xylitol can cause a severe drop in blood-sugar levels, resulting in liver failure. As always, if you suspect that your pet has ingested xylitol, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Dogs are fond of meat and other high-fat foods, but cooked and uncooked meat table scraps and fat trimmed from meat can cause pancreatitis. Unfortunately, some people treat dogs with leftovers, and dogs sometimes treat themselves by stealing food. Pancreatitis in dogs often follows the consumption of a fatty meal or snack. Your dog may become very sick quickly, and if you notice symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, it should be examined immediately and receive intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.
Abdominal cramps and diarrhea are the usual symptoms and maybe severe. Adult dogs and cats are lactose-intolerant. They don’t have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. It isn’t even recommended to give cow’s milk to puppies and kittens.
This list is only a sampling of foods that can be toxic to your pet. But my best advice is that if you think that it could be bad, don’t feed it to your pet. And of course, contact me if you have any questions.