Foods That Are Toxic to Dogs
Many of us are used to sharing some "people food" with our dogs. It's best to remember that dogs aren't the same as humans, though, and some foods that are perfectly safe for us can have devastating effects on them. Here, we explore some of the human foods that you should never give to your dog. Some of them may be surprising.
Onion, garlic, and chives:
Any form of onion (including raw, cooked, powdered, and dehydrated) as well as garlic, chives, and shallots can cause GI upset in a dog. Of even more concern, they can damage your dog's red blood cells. Damaged red blood cells result in anemia and all of the problems that come with it, including weakness, lethargy, and collapse. Baby food and human jarred meats can be a hidden source of these dangerous ingredients.
It may surprise you to find out that most adult dogs are lactose intolerant. A small treat of dairy occasionally won't likely be a problem, but too much can cause GI upset and lots of diarrhea. It can also trigger food allergies in dogs, which cause skin problems.
Most of us know that chocolate can be toxic to dogs. This is because of the caffeine and theobromine that it contains. These are both members of the methylxanthine family of compounds that stimulate a dog's cardio and neuro systems. Chocolate can cause agitation, seizures, and death. Small amounts can cause pancreatitis, a painful and dangerous condition. Certain types of chocolate contain more toxic compounds than others and dark baker's chocolate contains the most.
Coffee, tea, and other sources of caffeine:
Caffeine is dangerous to dogs. It causes restlessness, increased heart rate, agitation, high blood pressure, seizures, and death. It is present in coffee, tea, chocolate, diet pills, energy drinks, and many other human products.
This is one case where your dog's body doesn't process the compound much differently than yours does. Alcohol affects a dog's brain and liver just like it does a human's. However, it takes much less alcohol to do serious damage to a dog. Alcohol causes vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death.
Avocado contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to birds, cows, and horses. It commonly causes diarrhea and stomach upset in dogs. Avocado pits are very dangerous if ingested by dogs, because they can cause intestinal obstructions that require surgery to relieve.
Grapes, Currants, and Raisins:
It isn't understood exactly why, but grapes and raisins have the potential to cause kidney failure and death in dogs. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, and lethargy. Dogs may develop severe kidney failure several days after the ingestion, and even very small amounts of grapes, raisins, or currants can cause death.
It isn't known how macadamia nuts cause toxicity in dogs, but they have a neurotoxic effect. The signs of toxicity vary with the amount ingested and range from muscle tremors to a dangerous increase in body temperature and hind leg paralysis. If dogs ingest baked goods containing macadamia nuts AND chocolate, the effects are worse and may include death.
Raw eggs present the same dangers to your dog as they do to you: bacterial infections such as Salmonella and E. coli. Your dog is not resistant to these bacteria and they can result in serious illness. Even if your dog does not contract a dangerous bacteria, raw eggs can cause trouble. Avidin, a protein in raw egg whites, blocks your dog's body from absorbing the B vitamin biotin. If raw eggs are fed over a long period of time, the avidin can result in skin and coat problems for your dog.
Raw Meat and Fish:
Raw meat and fish, like raw eggs, can contain bacteria that are harmful to dogs, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Dogs that eat raw fish from the pacific northwest of the United States are at risk of becoming infected with salmon poisoning. This is caused by a bacteria that is carried by a fluke in the fish. Salmon poisoning is extremely dangerous: it causes bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, seizures, and death in a large percentage of untreated dogs.
Fat trimmings, fatty foods, and bones:
Fat and fatty foods are not metabolized by dogs the same way they are by humans. They can trigger pancreatitis, a serious inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to severe vomiting, inappetance, dehydration, abdominal pain and, in serious cases, death. It can also lead to chronic pancreatitis, a low grade, ongoing form of pancreatitis that is quite bothersome for the dog. Though it may seem like dogs are made to eat bones, they are not, and bones are dangerous in a number of ways. Bones break dogs' teeth, cause choking, become stuck in or pierce the GI tract, and become stuck in the rectum.
Hops, a plant that is used for brewing beer, is poisonous to dogs both when it is fresh and after it has been cooked. Dogs that have been poisoned by hops may stagger and have tremors or seizures. They can develop a very high temperature that results in organ failure.
Rising bread dough (containing live yeast), when eaten by your dog, continues to rise in the warm, moist environment of the stomach. This can result in a bloated stomach and, eventually, a GDV, which is a twisted stomach. This is an emergency situation that usually requires surgery. Also, alcohol is produced secondary to the consumption of sugar by the yeast in the dough. This can result in alcohol toxicity when the dough is ingested by your dog, which can lead to seizures and death.
Star fruit contains soluble calcium oxalate. When a dog eats this substance and it is absorbed from the GI tract, it binds to the calcium in the body and leads to a sudden drop in the calcium that is available for use by the dog's systems. This can result in kidney failure.
Some types of mold produce a dangerous toxin called tremorgenic mycotoxin. This causes tremors or seizures in dogs and may even lead to death. Make sure to properly dispose of all rotten food (including fruit or nuts that drop from trees into your yard) in a container that your dog can't get into.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is common in many human candies, gums, and baked goods. It can hide in some unexpected places, like toothpaste, as well. Xylitol causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels in dogs that can result in seizures. High doses of xylitol can cause liver failure in dogs.
Persimmons, peaches, plums:
Persimmon seeds cause GI irritation when dogs eat them. These seeds, as well as peach and plum pits, can cause GI obstruction if they are swallowed. This will often require surgery. Peach and plum pits also contain cyanide, which can cause death in pets and people.
Eating large amounts of salt can lead to extreme thirst, and this can cause your dog to develop an electrolyte imbalance. Salt toxicity in dogs can lead to kidney damage, seizures, and death.
Baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg:
Many of the ingredients in your pantry are toxic when ingested in large amounts by your dog. Be sure to keep your pantry secured from your pet's prying paws.
Too many treats:
While not toxic, giving your dog too many treats will produce the same results as it does in humans: obesity. Obesity predisposes dogs to many other health concerns, such as joint problems, heart and respiratory problems, and diabetes mellitus. Receiving too many treats can also result in your dog eating less regular dog food, and this can cause dietary insufficiencies. Try breaking a large treat into several small pieces and making it last all day.
Some people who are vegetarian or vegan wish to provide their dogs with a similar diet. Dogs process certain nutrients differently than humans do and, therefore, a vegetarian diet can be dangerous. Consult your veterinarian before choosing a vegetarian diet for your dog.
Inappropriate life stage diet:
Dogs that are fed a commercial diet that is not appropriate for their life stage can develop associated problems. For example, puppies should not eat adult or senior diets because they do not provide the appropriate ratios of protein, minerals, and other things necessary for proper growth. Senior dogs do not need the same protein and fat levels as highly active adult dogs. Your veterinarian can advise you on the proper life stage diet for your dog's individual circumstances.
Certain wild mushrooms:
There are many wild mushrooms that range in toxicity from producing GI upset to resulting in death in dogs. Mushrooms can be very difficult to identify, so it should be assumed that all wild mushrooms are dangerous, and your dog should not be allowed to eat them.
Cat food itself is not toxic to dogs, but cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Cat food is much higher in protein and lower in fiber than what a dog requires. Cat food will often cause GI upset in dogs and, if it is the only food source, it can result in kidney and liver problems from the high protein levels.
A Few Dangerous Non-Food Items
Marijuana and tobacco:
Tobacco is toxic when ingested by dogs. It is present in cigarettes, cigars, nicotine gum, and other sources. Tobacco initially stimulates the nervous system, causing excitability, tremors, and seizures. At higher doses, it can cause depression, paralysis, and death. Marijuana can affect dogs when they are exposed to secondhand smoke or when they either eat it directly or eat baked goods containing it. The compound THC in marijuana causes depression of the neurologic, cardiac, and respiratory systems and can result in seizures, coma, and death.
A Few Dangerous Non-Food Items
Most plants, if eaten in large amounts by dogs, can cause GI irritation and vomiting. Some are toxic and can cause kidney, liver, and neurological damage. If you have houseplants, look them up on a toxic plant list before allowing your dog access to them.
A Few Dangerous Non-Food Items
Human medications are not always metabolized the same way by your dog's body as they are by yours. Many of these drugs can cause toxicity, organ failure, and death in canines. Keep your medications locked out of reach of your pets, and never give any medication to your dog without checking with your veterinarian first.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Something It Shouldn't:
If your dog ingests a food, medication, or plant that you know is unsafe or one that you aren't sure of, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline right away and follow their instructions.
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