by Dr. Dana Koch published March 23, 2016.  Previously published by PetCoach.

Many pet owners love to share our favorite foods and meals with our beloved furry friends.  Our dogs and cats are usually willing participants in these meal time rituals.  As responsible pet owners we need to be aware of particular food items that can be harmful to our canine or feline companions.  Here is a list of some of the most common foods that are proven to cause illness in our animals at home:

  1. Chocolate – A favorite and irresistible treat amongst most humans, chocolate is considered toxic to dogs. In very small amounts it is usually not a huge issue, but with larger volumes and with darker chocolates pet owners should be concerned. Chocolate contains methylxanthine theobromine, which is similar to caffeine.  Chocolate ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, issues with normal heart beats, seizures and in some severe cases death.  It is best to keep your favorite chocolate treats in a good hiding spot and out of reach of your dog or cat.
  2. Grapes and raisins – Dogs should not consume grapes and raisins because of the risk of acute kidney failure. Most dogs experiencing grape or raisin toxicity will begin to have vomiting and/or diarrhea within 6-12 hours of ingestion. Other abnormal clinical signs include lethargy, abdominal pain, dehydration, and tremors.  Kidney failure develops within 24-72 hours of the initial ingestion. There are some dogs that do not experience these devastating side-effects and the reason for this has not been scientifically understood.   It is best to contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility if you believe your pet has ingested grapes or raisins.
  3. Garlic and onions – We often forget that our meals contain these two popular ingredients and will allow our furry companions a few bites or licks. Onion and garlic both can cause a type of poisoning that results in damage to red bloods making them more likely to rupture. They can also cause stomach upset and mouth irritation.  Be careful to observe for pale gums, increased breathing or drooling or any vomiting or diarrhea.  Our dogs and cats may not be offended by our garlic breath, but it is best to keep them from ingesting food with our some of our favorite seasonings.
  4. Bread dough – Carbohydrates are the enemy to many dieters and the same can be said for dogs and cats. Unbaked bread dough is considered poisonous to our pets. The bread dough when ingested expands in the stomach because of the warm and moist environment provided by the stomach.  This can lead to a bloated or even twisted stomach.  In addition often yeast is added to our baking products to help get bread to rise and when this yeast is fermented it produces both carbon dioxide and alcohol.  The alcohol produced can be absorbed into the bloodstream and causes dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature.   Common clinical signs include vomiting or retching, distension of the stomach, weakness and collapse.
  5. Moldly foods – We have all been known to reach into the back of our refrigerators and pull out a questionable item of food that has passed its expiration date by a few days, weeks or even months. Moldly food can put our pets at risk for getting very ill. Many dogs are garbage grazers or think of your trashcan as the secret treat holder.  Moldy food contains tremorgenic mycotoxins which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or mental confusion.   Make sure when you finding yourself ambitious enough to clean out the fridge you make sure your dog is not an active participant.
  6. Macademia nuts – Ingestion of these nuts are not proven to be fatal in dogs but can cause them to experience uncomfortable clinical sings, including fever, joint stiffness, vomiting, tremors and difficulty walking, especially in their hind legs. Often your pet will start to feel better after about 48 hours, but supportive veterinary care (such as pain medication) may help ease their discomfort faster.
  7. Xylitol – Avid gum chewers know the important benefits of preventing cavities by chewing after meals and keeping fresh breath all day long. The most common ingredient used in sugar-free gum is xylitol, which is a non-caloric sweetener. It is also found in some oral rinses, toothpastes and vitamins. Xylitol and dogs do not mix – it can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugars levels.  Dogs will often display signs of disorientation, black tarry stool, tremors and seizures. If severe enough some dogs have been reported to develop liver failure.  After consuming your garlic meal (by yourself) feel free to chew some gum, but keep it out of reach of your canine companion.
  8. Avocados – This fruit promotes many health benefits including healthy levels of potassium, fiber and vitamin K. Avocados are not actually poisonous to dogs or cats but as many veterinarians can tell you the avocado pits can cause a foreign body obstruction. Avocados contain persin, which is actually toxic to the majority of pet birds.  The abnormal clinical signs associated with avocado ingestion include, respiratory distress, inability to perch, liver and kidney failure and sudden death.   Although they are not considered toxic to dogs and cats all foods should be given in moderation because stomach upset is always a concern.

Go forth and enjoy your favorite foods, but keep in mind which foods you should avoid sharing with your furry family members.  Whenever in doubt please contact your veterinarian for healthy and safe food suggestions.


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