10 Foods We Should Never Feed Our Pets

Poison Prevention Awareness Week

March 16-22nd, 2014
Keeping Our Des Moines Pets Safe
by Dr. Nancy Peterson Ingersoll Animal Hospital Des Moines, Iowa

We all know that our pets are healthier when they eat a well-balanced pet diet and when treats are low calorie and limited in number. But what about when those eyes are staring at us so hopefully when we are eating or you have that pet that finds her own food on the counter or in the garbage? What foods should be never be given to our pets?

  1. Avocado- Avocados may contain the toxin Persin in its leaves, seeds, fruit, and bark. The Guatemalan avocado commonly found in stores seems to be the most problematic. Very toxic to rabbits, birds and horses it is less toxic in dogs and cats. Eating significant amounts of the flesh can cause mild GI upset and eating the pit can of course cause GI obstruction.
  2. Bread dough- consuming bread dough with live yeast can be very hazardous to our pets. The yeast can multiply in the nice warm stomach and expand. The rising dough can expand enough to put significant pressure on the stomach and obstruct the blood vessels, leading to possible necrosis or damage to the stomach. The expanding stomach can also put pressure on the diaphragm causing breathing difficulties. The yeast will also release alcohol as it multiples that can be absorbed and cause alcohol intoxication – or even death – if enough is consumed.
  3. Chocolate- “The darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is.” The components in chocolate that cause toxicosis are caffeine and theobromine. Plain dry coco powder has the highest concentration along with dark bakers chocolate while white chocolate has very little. Clinical signs vary with the type of chocolate and the amount consumed ranging from GI signs, shaking, severe agitation, heart arrhythmia, collapse, seizures and death.
  4. Alcohol- pets are much more sensitive to drinking alcohol than people. They are a much smaller size and just a small amount can be toxic. Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Allowing pets to drink alcohol is not a cute party trick.
  5. Grapes, raisins, and currants- grapes, raisins, and currants have recently been associated with kidney failure in dogs. It is not known why some dogs are affected and others are not. Avoidance in all dogs is the safe path to take. The component in grapes and raisins causing the toxicity has also not been discovered. Dogs experiencing grape or raisin toxicosis usually develop vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. This can lead to chronic kidney damage or death. Immediate veterinary care is critical for survival.
  6. Hops- cultivated hops used in beer brewing has been associated with severe toxicosis in dogs (rarely cats). Fresh or cooked hops have both caused poisonings. The exact toxic principle of hops is unknown. Ingestion of hops will cause malignant hyperthermia that causes a severe elevation in body temperature, some over 108 degrees F with massive body organ shut down. Immediate veterinary care is critical for survival.
  7. Macadamia nuts- though unlikely to be fatal in dogs, a macadamia nut toxicity can cause your pet to very uncomfortable for up to 48 hours. Within 12 hours of ingestion dogs will become weak in their rear legs, appear to be in pain, and run a low grade fever. The high fat content in the nuts can also increase your pet’s risk of developing pancreatitis. Clinical signs from nut toxicity typically improve within 48 hours but your dog may benefit from IV fluids and pain medication.
  8. Moldy foods- Many different types of mold can grow on foods with some being much more toxic when consumed than others. Tremorgenic molds or mycotoxins can cause serious or life threatening problems if ingested by dogs, cats and even wildlife. It is difficult to know which molds are present so it is best to avoid giving moldy foods to your pets. Promptly remove any trash or moldy debris such as fallen fruit or road-kill from your pet’s area to prevent him from eating it. The signs of tremorgenic mycotoxin poisoning generally begin as fine muscle tremors that can progress to total-body tremors and, finally, convulsions that – in severe cases – can lead to death. Left untreated these tremors can last for several weeks. Fortunately, they usually respond well to veterinary treatment.
  9. Onions and garlic- “The stronger it is the more toxic it is,” all close members of the onion family (onions, shallots, garlic etc.) are toxic to dogs and cats with garlic being 5X more toxic than onions. They contain compounds that can damage the red blood cells of both dogs and cats, and cause GI upset. While it is uncommon for dogs or cats to eat enough raw garlic or onions to cause serious problems, concentrated forms such as dehydrated onions, garlic powder or onion soup mix increases the possibility of toxicity. The damage to the red blood cells caused by onions or garlic generally doesn’t become apparent until three to five days after consumption. 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 pets should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be needed.
  10. Xylitol- Xylitol is a sweetener substitute frequently used in gum, candy, baked goods, and now in many other products such as chewable vitamins. In people and cats xylitol does not affect the blood glucose levels, but in dogs it can cause a serious drop in blood sugar levels. Dogs may become disoriented or have seizures within 30 minutes of ingesting xylitol-containing products, or signs may be delayed for several hours. Some dogs that 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.