Most of us have slipped a table scrap to our furry friend at least once (after all, it’s hard to resist their adorable begging eyes around dinner time!). You may have also experienced the convenience of your pet acting as a sweeper whenever you drop a crumb on the floor. While we enjoy treating our pet to human food, it is important to remember that many foods we enjoy can be dangerous to animals.
Sharing food with your pets may seem like a harmless act, but outside of encouraging bad begging behavior and contributing to weight gain, the human food you let your pet eat may actually be harming their overall health and putting their life at risk. It is best to stick to food made specifically for your pet and a diet recommended by the veterinarians here at Garver’s Animal Health Center.
While this post is not an exclusive list of all the foods poisonous to pets, it will help to shed light on some common household ingredients that you may not expect to be toxic to pets! Below are the top 11 foods toxic to pets, according to the ASPCA:
Alcoholic beverages, or food products containing alcohol, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death in animals. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact us immediately.
Be sure to keep birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, sheep and goats away from avocados. The fruit could cause cardiovascular damage and death in birds, and cause swelling of the head and neck of horses, donkey, sheep and goats.
Coffee and Other Caffeinated Beverages The products above all contain methylxanthines, found in cacao seeds, coffee beans and the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
- Grapes and Raisins
While the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure in animals. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.
- Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
- Milk and Dairy
Pets are lactose intolerant. Because animals do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause diarrhea or other digestive upsets.
- Onions, Garlic and Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and lab testing.
- Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Like we are advised as humans not to eat raw protein, pets are also susceptible to salmonella and E. coli found in uncooked meat, eggs and bones. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.
- Salt or Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. We encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels and salted popcorn to your pets.
Xylitol is a common sweetener used in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species which can lead to liver failure. The increase of insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.
- Yeast Dough
Lastly, yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life-threatening emergency. Yeast also produces ethanol as a by-product, and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (see alcohol section).
If your pet has recently eaten the food highlighted above, please call your veterinarian or the poison control center immediately.
Pets don’t come with instruction manuals. It is up to the owner to do research to learn more about what is safe to feed your pet. We recommend that instead of letting your pet eat table scraps, or feeding them human food as treats, you stick to food products created by pet food manufacturers specifically for your type of pet! This month, stop by any of or clinic locations for 10% off all food and treats.
If you have any further questions about what food is dangerous to your pet, do not hesitate to contact us!