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Our pets get to walk with us, snuggle on the couch with us, ride in the car with us and play with us – so they’re going to assume that they can eat with us. Sometimes, it’s simply too hard to resist when your pet begs for food from the table. Imagine that you just picked up puppies from your trusted breeder and the pup looks up at you for a treat. It’s almost impossible to say no. Whether it’s a regular occurrence or simply a one-off treat, pets will find a way to make us give them human food.
If you’ve already opened your home and your heart to your pet, surely it can’t be too big a deal to give them some of your food, right? That’s not always the case. Some of the food we enjoy is incompatible with our pets’ diets and can wreak havoc on their digestive, circulatory, or nervous systems. In worst case scenarios, eating some of our food can make our pets seriously ill. Even human food that’s considered safe for pets can still have a detrimental effect on their health if you give them too much of it.
It’s best to have a plan for if your dog ingests food that is toxic to them, especially if you have kids who are less likely to be careful and can leave food lying around that your dog might accidentally eat. There are some phone numbers you should always have at hand: your veterinarian, an emergency pet medical center and your local animal poison control office, if you have one.
Learn the signs of food poisoning, which are common between both cats and dogs:
- Lack of muscle control
- Bloody stool
- Labored breathing
However, prevention is always going to be more effective than a cure. You also risk additional chores with stains and odors, cleaning up after your sick dog has made a mess! Your pets can’t get sick because of human food if you just don’t give it to them in the first place. Here are the human foods that are most harmful to dogs so that you can avoid giving them altogether.
1. Onions and garlic
Most pet owners already know not to feed these to their dogs. Most allium (onion) plants are toxic to both cats and dogs. The most common ones that end up getting fed to pets are garlic and onion, but any members of the onion family or plants that are closely related can cause health issues. These plants contain a compound called thiosulfate that damages the red blood cells of both cats and dogs.
It typically takes a lot of garlic or onion to cause serious damage, but concentrated forms of these (such as garlic powder) are commonly found in home kitchens. It’s also a good idea to check the ingredients of other processed foods, such as sausages, before giving them to your pets. These processed foods can contain garlic and onion in large quantities, but minced so finely as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the ingredients.
Toxic to dogs and harmful for cats. The main culprit for its dangerous reputation is a chemical called theobromine, which dogs and cats cannot metabolize effectively. This causes it to build up quickly in their systems, eventually leading to theobromine toxicity. Even relatively small amounts of chocolate can quickly become harmful.
Darker chocolates will have more theobromine, making them more dangerous. The effects of theobromine varies depending on the weight of the dog or cat, with larger animals being less affected. Owners of smaller breeds must be especially vigilant.
3. Grapes and raisins
This one is sort of a mystery. It’s not well understood what chemical causes grapes and raisins to be toxic to pets, but the effects are clear. Even small amounts can cause acute kidney failure in both cats and dogs, but the baffling thing is that there seems to be no consistency as to which cats and dogs are susceptible. Some pets can eat bunches of grapes with no problem, while others will immediately fall ill.
Hopefully more light will be shed on the cause. However, until experts have figured out the cause of the toxicity, it’s best to simply not feed your pet any grapes or raisins in case they end up having an adverse reaction.
We don’t think that any pet owner would knowingly give their pet a sip of their beer, but it’s not uncommon for alcohol to be spilled inadvertently. Our pets are curious by nature and will gladly lap up unknown liquids on the floor, much to our dismay. This can be incredibly dangerous in the case of alcohol. A cat or dog is going to be smaller and weigh less than a human, so any ingested alcohol is going to have a greater effect on them. Alcohol poisoning is possible if they drink enough of it, which can be a surprisingly small amount.
While humans are fine with this common artificial sweetener, it’s incredibly dangerous for our pets. Xylitol toxicity usually results in acute hypoglycemia and liver failure in both cats and dogs. As few as two pieces of gum containing Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia in a medium sized dog, and a pack of gum can cause liver failure. These effects can happen anywhere between ten minutes to twelve hours after ingesting Xylitol. Thankfully, outcomes are generally good with early intervention.
You may enjoy rhubarb pie, but keep these treats away from your pets. The leaves, even though generally not eaten, are toxic to both cats and dogs. The stalks also contain a compound called oxalic acid, which can cause kidney damage in cats and dogs, and, in severe cases, kidney failure. There isn’t enough to harm humans, but there’s definitely enough to harm your pet. Cooked rhubarb is somewhat safer since the cooking process will lessen the amount of oxalic acid, but the high fiber content would still be problematic for most pets.
7. Macadamia nuts
Ingesting Macadamia nuts can quickly cause swollen limbs, tremors, vomiting and diarrhea, especially in dogs. Experts still don’t understand why Macadamia nuts are so toxic to dogs. Cats aren’t affected quite as severely, but it’s still dangerous to give them any. While small amounts may not pose a serious problem, it’s best to monitor your pet’s condition closely and contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the symptoms of food poisoning.
8. Raw bread dough with yeast
The main culprit here is the yeast – breads that use no rising agent won’t be quite as harmful, though the raw flour may still contain salmonella. The yeast will continue to make the dough rise as it moves through your pet’s digestive system. This can cause an upset stomach and bloating, as well as a twisted stomach in the worst case scenario.
The yeast can also be absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream, producing ethanol which can result in alcohol poisoning. This can be compounded by the risen dough, as the pet may try to vomit but will be unable to expel anything because the dough is taking up all the space in their digestive tract.
All in all, it’s incredibly dangerous for pets of any kind to eat raw bread dough, so keep it well out of their reach.
9. Cooked bones
While some raw bones are safe enough for pets to munch on, any kind of cooked bone is a potential hazard. Cooked bones dry out and become brittle, resulting in sharp shards of bone once your pet chews on them. These bone fragments can then get stuck in your pet’s throat or stomach and will require surgery to be removed.
The worst case scenario is if the fragments reach the intestines and cause lacerations, which are very difficult to repair. If you’re going to give your pet a bone, stick to raw.
Cherry poisoning can happen in both dogs and cats when they consume any part of the plant that isn’t the ripe pulp. The cherry pit contains cyanide, which causes the body to stop transporting oxygen through the bloodstream. While we may know not to eat the pit, our pets don’t – and since the pit of the cherry is so small, it’s easy for them to munch on and swallow. A pit isn’t likely to do much damage if simply swallowed, but once the pit is broken up it is free to release cyanide into the pet’s digestive tract.
The symptoms of cherry poisoning include:
Tips to prevent accidental ingestion of toxic food
We said it before, and we’ll say it again – prevention is better than a cure.
While you may not willingly give your pets any of these foods, our pets can be crafty and clever, especially when it comes to treats, so it’s important to teach your pet boundaries and make sure your kids learn to be careful around them as well.
However, here are some additional tips to prevent them from getting at food they shouldn’t have:
- Store food in a safe location - a locked cabinet or cupboard is better than leaving things out on open shelves
- Keep your pets out of the kitchen when you’re cooking - while you’re distracted, they may try to sneak a nibble at some of your ingredients
- Cover any open containers when you’re not using them - this goes even for food that is generally safe for your pets to consume, as they may gorge themselves and get an upset stomach
Author: David Baquiran, freelance writer