Most dogs love food, and they’re especially attracted to what they see us eating. While sharing the occasional tidbit with your dog is fine, it’s important to be aware that some foods can be very dangerous to dogs. Take caution to make sure your dog never gets access to the foods below. Even if you don’t give him table scraps, your dog might eat something that’s hazardous to his health if he raids kitchen counters, cupboards and trash cans.
Avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark may contain a toxic principle known as persin. The Guatemalan variety, a common one found in stores, appears to be the most problematic. Other varieties of avocado can have different degrees of toxic potential.
Birds, rabbits, and some large animals, including horses, are especially sensitive to avocados, as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. While avocado is toxic to some animals, in dogs and cats, we do not expect to see serious signs of illness. In some dogs and cats, mild stomach upset may occur if the animal eats a significant amount of avocado flesh or peel. Ingestion of the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation requiring urgent veterinary care.
Avocado is sometimes included in pet foods for nutritional benefit. We would generally not expect avocado meal or oil present in commercial pet foods to pose a hazard to dogs and cats.
Raw bread dough made with live yeast can be hazardous if ingested by dogs. When raw dough is swallowed, the warm, moist environment of the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough in the stomach. Expansion of the stomach may be severe enough to decrease blood flow to the stomach wall, resulting in the death of tissue. Additionally, the expanding stomach may press on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulty. Perhaps more importantly, as the yeast multiplies, it produces alcohols that can be absorbed, resulting in alcohol intoxication. Affected dogs may have distended abdomens and show signs such as a lack of coordination, disorientation, stupor and vomiting (or attempts to vomit). In extreme cases, coma or seizures may occur and could lead to death from alcohol intoxication. Dogs showing mild signs should be closely monitored, and dogs with severe abdominal distention or dogs who are so inebriated that they can’t stand up should be monitored by a veterinarian until they recover.
Chocolate intoxication is most commonly seen around certain holidays—like Easter, Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day—but it can happen any time dogs have access to products that contain chocolate, such as chocolate candy, cookies, brownies, chocolate baking goods, cocoa powder and cocoa shell-based mulches. The compounds in chocolate that cause toxicosis are caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines. The rule of thumb with chocolate is “the darker it is, the more dangerous it is.” White chocolate has very few methylxanthines and is of low toxicity. Dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines, and plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, the signs seen can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Dogs showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
What IS NOT good for dogs are turkey skin, bones or turkey fat. Also, make sure that no onions have come in contact with the turkey since onions ARE toxic to dogs. To a slightly lesser extent, garlic isn’t great for dogs, either. Many foods and treats for dogs contain garlic, but many dogs cannot tolerate it and some can be fatally allergic to it.
Candy, gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and some diet foods are sweetened with xylitol. It can cause more insulin to circulate through your dog’s body. That can cause his blood sugar to drop and can also cause liver failure. Initial symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Eventually, he may have seizures. Liver failure can occur within just a few day
of poisoning include muscle tremors, weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters, vomiting, elevated body temperature, and rapid heart rate. Eating chocolate with the nuts will make symptoms worse, possibly leading to death.
Ethanol (Also Known as Ethyl Alcohol, Grain Alcohol or Drinking Alcohol)
Dogs are far more sensitive to ethanol than humans are. Even ingesting a small amount of a product containing alcohol can cause significant intoxication. Dogs may be exposed to alcohol through drinking alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine or mixed drinks (those with milk, like White Russians and “fortified” egg nog, are especially appealing to dogs), alcohol-containing elixirs and syrups, and raw yeast bread dough (please see the above section on bread dough). Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Dogs showing mild signs of alcohol intoxication should be closely monitored, and dogs who are so inebriated that they can’t stand up should be monitored by a veterinarian until they recover.
Grapes and raisins have recently been associated with the development of kidney failure in dogs. At this time, the exact cause of the kidney failure isn’t clear, nor is it clear why some dogs can eat these fruits without harm, while others develop life-threatening problems after eating even a few grapes or raisins. Some dogs eat these fruits and experience no ill effects—but then eat them later on and become very ill. Until the cause of the toxicosis is better identified, the safest course of action is to avoid feeding grapes or raisins to your dog. Dogs experiencing grape or raisin toxicosis usually develop vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As signs progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may show a transient increase in urination followed by decreased or absent urination in later stages. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication. Successful treatment requires prompt veterinary treatment to maintain good urine flow.
Cultivated hops used for brewing beer have been associated with potentially life-threatening signs in dogs who have ingested them. Both fresh and spent (cooked) hops have been implicated in poisoning dogs. Affected dogs develop an uncontrollably high body temperature (often greater than 108 degrees Fahrenheit), which results in damage to and failure of multiple organ systems. Dogs poisoned by hops become restless, pant excessively, and may have muscle tremors and seizures. Prompt veterinary intervention is necessary to prevent death in these dogs.
Although macadamia nut toxicosis is unlikely to be fatal in dogs, it can cause very uncomfortable symptoms that may persist for up to 48 hours. Affected dogs develop weakness in their rear legs, appear to be in pain, may have tremors and may develop a low grade fever. Fortunately, these signs will gradually subside over 48 hours, but dogs experiencing more than mild symptoms can benefit from veterinary care, which may include intravenous fluid therapy and pain control.
A wide variety of molds grow on food. Some produce toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can cause serious or even life-threatening problems if ingested by dogs. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to determine whether a particular mold is producing tremorgenic mycotoxins, so the safest rule of thumb is to avoid feeding dogs moldy food. In other words, if you wouldn’t eat it, neither should your dog. Promptly remove any trash or moldy debris (road-kill, fallen walnuts or fruit, etc.) from your dog’s environment to prevent him from eating it. The signs of tremorgenic mycotoxin poisoning generally begin as fine muscle tremors that progress to very coarse total-body tremors and, finally, convulsions that can lead to death in severe cases. Left untreated, these tremors can last for several weeks. Fortunately, they usually respond well to appropriate veterinary treatment.
Onions and Garlic
All close members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) contain compounds that can damage dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities. A rule of thumb is “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.” Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions, on an ounce-for-ounce basis. While it’s uncommon for dogs to eat enough raw onions and garlic to cause serious problems, exposure to concentrated forms of onion or garlic, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk of toxicosis. The damage to the red blood cells caused by onions and garlic generally doesn’t become apparent until three to five days after a dog eats these vegetables. Affected dogs may seem weak or reluctant to move, or they may appear to tire easily after mild exercise. Their urine may be orange-tinged to dark red in color. These dogs should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be needed.
Xylitol is a non-caloric sweetener that is widely used in sugar-free gum, as well as in sugar-free baked products. In humans, xylitol does not affect blood sugar levels, but in dogs, ingestion of xylitol can lead to a rapid and severe drop in blood sugar levels. Dogs may develop disorientation and seizures within 30 minutes of ingesting xylitol-containing products, or signs may be delayed for several hours. Some dogs who ingest large amounts of xylitol develop liver failure, which can be fatal. All dogs ingesting xylitol-containing products should be examined by a veterinarian immediately.
Coffee, Tea, and Other Caffeine
Caffeine in large enough quantities can be fatal. And there is no antidote. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, fits, and bleeding. In addition to tea and coffee — including beans and grounds — caffeine can be found in cocoa, chocolate, colas, and stimulant drinks such as Red Bull. It’s also in some cold medicines and pain killers.
Milk and Other Dairy Products
On a hot day, it may be tempting to share your ice cream cone with your dog. But if he could, he’d thank you for not doing so. Milk and milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset, as well as set up food allergies (which often show up as itchiness).
Fat Trimmings and Bones
Table scraps often contain meat fat that a human didn’t eat as well as bones. Both are dangerous for dogs. Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, can cause pancreatitis. And, although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, he can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system. It’s best to just forget about the doggie bag.
Persimmons, Peaches, and Plums
The problem with these fruits is the seeds or pits. The seeds from persimmons can cause inflammation of the small intestine in dogs. They can also cause intestinal obstruction. Obstruction is also a possibility if a dog eats the pit from a peach or plum. Plus, peach and plum pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to both humans and dogs. The difference is humans know not to eat them. Dogs don’t.
There are two problems with giving your dog raw eggs. The first is the possibility of food poisoning from bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. The second is that an enzyme in raw eggs interferes with the absorption of a particular B vitamin. This can cause skin problems as well as problems with your dog’s coat if she’s been eating them for a long time.
Raw Meat and Fish
Raw meat and raw fish, like raw eggs, can contain bacteria that causes food poisoning. In addition, certain kinds of fish such as salmon, trout, shad, or sturgeon can contain a parasite that causes “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning disease.” If not treated, the disease can be fatal within 2 weeks. The first signs of illness are vomiting, fever, and big lymph nodes. Thoroughly cooking the fish will kill the parasite and protect your dog.
It’s not a good idea to share salty foods like chips or pretzels with your dog. Eating too much salt can cause excessive thirst and urination and lead to sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of too much salt include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, and seizures. It may even cause death.
Sugary Foods and Drinks
Too much sugar can do the same thing to dogs that it does to humans. It can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly the onset of diabetes.
Reaction to a drug prescribed for humans is the most common cause of poisoning in dogs. Just as you would do for your children, keep all medicines out of your dog’s reach. And, never give your dog any over-the-counter medicine unless your vet tells you to. Ingredients such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often in pain relievers and cold medicine.
Many items found on kitchen shelves can harm your dog. For instance, baking powder and baking soda are both highly toxic. So are nutmeg and other spices. Keep food items high enough to be out of your dog’s reach and keep pantry doors closed to help protect your dog from serious food-related illness.
If Your Dog Eats What It Shouldn’t
Dogs explore with their mouth. And, no matter how cautious you are, it’s possible your dog can find and swallow what it shouldn’t. It’s a smart idea to always keep the numbers of your local vet, the closest emergency clinic, and the Animal Poison Control Center — where you know you can find them in an emergency. And, if you think your dog has gotten into something toxic, call for emergency help at once.
What Dogs Can Eat
Ask your vet to recommend a quality dog food to be sure your dog has a healthy, well-balanced diet. A well-designed food gives your dog all the nutrients it needs for an active and healthy life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes give your four-legged friend human food as a special treat — as long as you limit portions, and the foods are cooked, pure, and not fatty or heavily seasoned. The next few slides have some tasty suggestions. If you’re looking to human food as a meal replacement, talk to your vet about how much and how often.
Most dogs are fine eating lean cuts of meat that have been thoroughly cooked. Be sure to remove all visible fat — including the skin on poultry. Also be sure there are no bones in the meat before you give it to your dog.
Safe: Some Fresh Fruits
Slices of apples, oranges, bananas, and watermelon make tasty treats for your dog. Be sure to remove any seeds, stems, and leaves first, because they can cause serious problems.
Safe: Some Vegetables
Your dog can have a healthy snack of carrot sticks, green beans, cucumber slices, or zucchini slices. Even a plain baked potato is OK. But don’t let your dog eat any raw potatoes or any potato plants it might have access to in your garden.
Safe: Cooked White Rice and Pasta
Dogs may enjoy plain white rice or pasta after it’s cooked. A serving of plain white rice with some boiled chicken can also provide welcome relief from gastrointestinal upset.