Foods that are toxic to dogs

January 3, 2013

Have you ever considered the fact that you may be slowly poisoning your dog? We do so love our dogs. These furry creatures have been the loving, devoted and steadfast companion of man. The care we give to these animals is repaid with unconditional love and unwavering loyalty. Dogs have come a long way. From roaming the wild, dogs were domesticated and have accessed not only the barns and the homes but also the bedrooms of their masters. These pampered pets are treated pretty much the same way as humans. Dogs are made to wear jeweled collars and dressed designer clothes. Dogs share whatever the master eats. Unfortunately because of a different metabolism, some human foods may have dangerous effects to the dogs.

Dogs are usually fed dry and canned dog foods. However, it would not be unusual for a dog to beg food when the family is eating. Thus table scraps, fruits, nuts and anything that is being eaten by the family will be shared and tossed to the dog. A dog patiently waiting for its turn to have a go at the table scraps is quite amusing to see. I once had a Doberman Pincher that thinks it is human. Every time it sees me eating it would whine and open its mouth. That is a signal for me to toss the food. It became a game, me tossing the food and the dog trying to catch it with its mouth. Nuts, candies, raisin and even a chewing gum will be caught deftly by the dog.

The Animal Poison Control Center of ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has advised against feeding the pet a number of human foods because of their toxic effects on the animals.

Article overview
Signs of toxic poisoning

Foods that are toxic to dogs

What to do if you suspect the dog has been poisoned

Signs of toxic poisoning
Most dog owners are not aware that even ordinary human food can be poisonous to animals. Although some food poisoning would have instant fatal effects, in most cases symptoms of toxic food poisoning will not be noticed at once. As such more and more toxic food will be given to the dog. It is when toxins are accumulated in the system of the dog that signs of toxic poisoning will be manifested by the pet. Dogs, even well fed ones have the propensity to raid trash cans and feast on spoiled rotten food. For these animals smelly foods are yummy foods and in spite of strong stomachs dogs still get food poisoning. The very first obvious sign is vomiting. The vomiting is often accompanied by diarrhea. Belly aches will be difficult to determine but you will notice that the dog is lethargic, whimpering and curling into a ball. A sick dog will also be off its food. Toxic poisoning usually damages the liver resulting to a jaundiced eyes and pale gums. At times the toxicity of the food causes a change in the behavior of the dog. A dog that has ingested toxic food may show a hyperactive behavior.

In most cases food toxicity can have serious effects on the dog. The dog will be disoriented, will have seizures and collapse. Because of the diarrhea and vomiting the dog will be severely dehydrated and fell into coma.

Dogs are highly valued. They are considered members of the family. Food supplements are given to the pet and hundreds of dollars are spent by dog owners on dog food. Some human foods are also given as owners are unaware of the toxic effect it would have on the dog. Below are some of the human foods that can have detrimental effects on the health of the dog.

Alcohol
Alcohol and dogs is a very bad combination. Dogs don’t drink the way humans do but they would lap at alcohol mixed with soda. The taste of creamy liquors seems to be very yummy to dogs. A dog that has ingested an alcoholic drink will be intoxicated, become disoriented and behave in a manner that they do not usually do. The dog would behave pretty much the same as a drunk human. A “drunk” dog would be wobbly on the feet, be sluggish and would either be very exited or depressed. The dog would usually remain in this condition for a day or two. However, if the dog has ingested 4-8 ml alcohol per kg of body weight slow breathing can lead to coma and cardiac arrest. Signs of alcohol poisoning normally appears within 30-60 minutes of ingestion and include vomiting, diarrhea, ataxia, disorientation (inebriation), depression, tremors and dyspnea. Severe poisoning can result in coma, hypothermia, seizures, bradycardia and respiratory depression.

Avocado
The avocado fruit, the seed, bark and leaves contain Persin, an element that is potentially poisonous to a dog. Avocado ingestion will set off fluid accumulation in the chest, in the lungs and around the heart causing breathing difficulties that can lead to death due to oxygen deprivation.

Baby Food
Baby food is not a balanced diet for a dog and a dog that has baby food as a main diet can have nutritional deficiencies. Baby foods may contain onion powder. This is what makes baby food dangerous to dogs. Onions have a toxic ingredient known as thiosulphate that damages the dog’s red blood cells and cause hemolytic anemia.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents that are commonly found in the kitchen. Ingestion of large amounts of can result to electrolyte changes causing muscle spasms and in severe cases may suffer from congestive heart failure.

Bones from fish, poultry and other meat sources
Raw and cooked bones can cause broken teeth, mouth and tongue injuries, get looped around the dogs lower jaw, get stuck in esophagus, windpipe, stomach and intestines, cause constipation, bleeding from the rectum and peritonitis. Bones from chicken and fish are more likely to break into splinters and cause internal damage and bowel obstruction.

Broccoli
Broccoli is not actually poisonous. It does, however, contain isothiocyanate, a chemical that is proven to be a gastric irritant. Gastrointestinal upsets have been experienced in livestock whos diet consist of more than 10% brocolli. It is speculated that this is also true for dogs.

Cat Food
Cat food usually contains higher level of fat and protein than dog food. When consumed regularly it can cause nutritional imbalance. Vomiting and diarrhea cab also occur in dogs who regularly eat cat food.

Caffeine
Caffeine often found in coffee, coffee grounds, tea, chocolate and soft drinks. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning appear within 1-2 hours of ingestion and include hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), elevated blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, elevated body temperature (hyperthermia), seizures and collapse.

Citrus oil extract
Oranges, lemons, limes and other citrus fruit extracts has a laxative effect that would cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Citrus oil extracts that are found in shampoos, dips, insecticides and fragrances are metabolized in the liver causing liver damage. Apart from the strong citrus smell on the dog other symptoms of ingestion would be excessive drooling, trembling, hypothermia and low blood pressure that can result to the death of the dog.

Chocolate (Theobromine)
Chocolate is one of the main sources of theobromine. An alkaloid which dogs metabolize at a much slower rate than humans. The result is that in severe cases theobromine poisoning can persist for up to 72 hours. An overdose of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarreah and can, in severe cases, progress to seizures, heart attack and death. More information can be found in this article about chocolate poisoning.

Dairy products
Dogs, just like some humans are lactose intolerant. They do not have the sufficient amount of the enzyme lactase necessary to break down and digest milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter and other dairy products. Dairy product ingestion causes bloating and diarrhea.

Excessively Fatty Foods, Fat trimmings
Excessively fatty foods should not be given to dogs as it can set off a pancreatitis attack. The pancreas is an organ that produces an enzyme that aids in the digestion of food. The enzyme should be activated when it reaches the small intestines. However, when the pancreas is inflamed, the enzyme inside the pancreas is prematurely activated thereby digesting the pancreas. Pancreatitis is most common in obese dogs and in dogs that are fed excessively fatty foods. Diarrhea, vomiting and acute abdominal pain are the symptoms of pancreatitis.

Grapes, Raisins
The type of toxin that grapes and raisins have is not known but it is certain that these foods have harmful effects on the dog. Symptoms are visible within a few hours of ingestio and include weakness, not eating, increased drinking and abdominal pain.Acute renal failure can develop within 48 hours of ingestion.

Green part of tomatoes, green potatoes, rhubarb
Solanine which is found in green tomatoes, green potatoes and rhubarb can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness and confusion. Severe poisoning is uncommon as large amounts must be ingested of solanine must ingested to result in poisoning.

Hops
Hops, a plant used in making beer, can cause malignant hyperthermia. Ingestion of even small amounts of hops can cause panting, rapid heart beats, seizures and death. Some breeds, including Greyhounds, are very sensitive to hop toxicity.

Human vitamins
While veterinarians disagree on the health benefits of vitamins and supplements for dogs. It is agreed upon that an overdose can be harmful to dogs. To much calcium, vitamin A and D can cause bone problems (especially in larger breeds), dehydration, joint problems, harm the blood vessels, muscular atrophy and lack of appetite. Other vitamins and supplements may also be harmful to dogs if not administered with care.

Liver (large amounts)
Liver is actually good for the dog but feeding the dog large amounts of liver can result to vitamin A toxicity where muscles and bones of the dog is affected. Signs of toxicity are lethargy, weight loss, anorexia and constipation. Stiffness of limbs, limping and sensitivity of the neck and forelimbs will be noticed.

Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts, also known as Australia nut is toxic to dogs. The cause of toxicity is still undetermined but as few as six nuts can be very dangerous to the dog as it can cause severe poisoning and affect the muscles, the digestive system as well as the nervous system of the dog. Also the high phosphorous content of the nut can result to bladder stones.

Moldy or spoiled food
Dog owners may be very careful not to feed the dog spoiled food but dogs do have the propensity to raid trash cans and feast on spoiled and moldy foods. Some molds produce tremorgenic mycotoxins, a toxin which can cause serious and life-threatening effects in dogs. Diarrhea, vomiting and stomach upset are the most noticeable symptoms although other organs may also be affected.

Fruit pits and seeds
The fruit itself may be good for the dog but the seeds and the pits contain Cyanogenic Glycosides that when ingested will result to cyanide poisoning. Also, the pits can cause digestive tract obstruction.

Mushroom
While mushrooms available for purchase in stores are generally not considered a threat. Many mushrooms found in the yard, on walks and in nature contain toxins that severely affect the kidneys, digestive system and the central nervous system of the dog. Certain species like the Amanita phalloides have fatal effects. Ingestion often results to drooling, vomiting, seizure, coma and death.

Nutmeg
Nutmeg is a spice used as an ingredient in baked goods. Be careful with sharing your eggnog with the pet or feeding it with store bought pies and pastries as nutmeg can be an ingredient. Nutmeg ingestion causes tremors, seizures and damage to the central nervous system of the dog.

Nuts, Walnuts
Walnuts, macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs. Walnuts, especially the moldy ones cause excessive drooling, vomiting, jaundice and gastroenteritis. These toxic foods also trigger pancreatitis.

Onions and garlic
Allyl propyl disulfide and thiosulfate in onions and garlic is what makes these foods toxic to dogs. The enzyme in humans that digests these foods is not present in dogs. Thus regular ingestion of onion and garlic will weaken the red blood cells causing severe anemia called hemolytic anemia that can result to the death of the pet. For so long a time, garlic has been used on pets. In fact garlic capsules and supplements are commonly sold in pet stores as it is known to lower blood pressure and rid the dog of fleas. Studies however have proven that garlic along with onions is poisonous to dogs. Signs of damage to the red blood cells may not show until 3-5 days after ingestion. Signs of poisoning include weakness, reluctance to move, tiring easily, orange-tinged to dark red urine.

Persimmons
Seeds can cause intestinal obstruction, small intestine inflammation and gastroenteritis.

Raw Eggs
Avidin, an enzyme found in the whites of raw eggs decreases biotin (vitamin a) absorption thus causing skin and hair coat disorders. Moreover, raw eggs may also contain the Salmonella and E. coli. bacteria that causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. In general a dog would need to consume a fair amount of eggs on a regular basis to cause problems.

Raw fish
Raw fish generally is not a concern. However it is important to be aware that the intestines may contain parasites like tapeworms. Parasites can be avoided by freezing the fish before feeding. Also salmon can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. This parasite can in turn be infected by Neorickettsia helminthoeca, a micro-organism tha tcan cause salmon poisoning. Poisoning symptoms appear within 6 days of ingestion and include vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and dehydration. Left untreated death can occur within 14 days. Cooked salmon does not pose a risk.

Salt
Salt can result in salt poisoning. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, walking as if drunk, abnormal fluid accumulation within the body, abnormal thirst or urination, possible kidney injuries, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

Table Scraps (large amounts)
Table scraps can be given to the pet but it should not be the main diet. Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced for dogs. Table scraps often contain a variety of human foods, salt, spices, bones and more that may not be suitable for dogs.

Tobacco
Tobacco ingestion is fatal to pets. This includes, but is not limited to, second hand smoke and consumption of cigarettes, butts, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum and patches. The nicotine content affects the digestive system and the nervous system. Symptoms of poisoning will be apparent within 1 hour of ingestion and include Tremors, constricted pupils, drooling, auditory and visual hallucinations, excitement, vomiting, diarrhea, twitching, possible seizures, severely increased heart, increased blood pressure and circulatory collapse.

Xylitol, sugar free foods
Ingestion of large amounts of sugar free foods or products artificially sweetened by Xylitol can cause sudden drop in blood sugar of the dog. Depression, loss of coordination and seizures can develop less than 30 minutes after the product is ingested. Emergency treatment is necessary otherwise the dog can die.

Yeast Dough
Yeast dough can result intestinal obstruction and alcohol (ethanol) poisoning.
When ingested the warm moist environment in the dogs stomach will cause the dough to expand possibly resulting in decreased blood flow to the stomach wall and breathing difficulties. As the dough rises it may ferment producing alcohol possibly resulting in alcohol poisoning.

What to do if you suspect the dog has been poisoned
Symptoms of toxic food poisoning vary from dog to dog, from the food and from the amount of food ingested. Luckily, toxic food poisoning is not as fatal as ingestion of toxic chemicals where in a matter of minutes you can have the dog collapse and die at your feet. However, because the symptoms of toxic food poisoning are not readily seen the dog may be slowly dying while the owners remain unaware of the dangerous condition of the pet. The severity of the effects of the toxic food ingested varies. If you noticed your dog helping himself to one of the above mentioned toxic foods, try to determine the amount ingested. You may need to induce vomiting. Administer activated charcoal. If none is available, burned toast would do. Then take the pet to a veterinary facility at once.

Nothing beats prevention. Now that you know the common human foods that can have dangerous effects to a dog, be very careful not to leave these foods within reach of the dog.

Sources

ASPCA: People foods, hazardous foods, cat food, cheese treats
Merck’s Veterinary Manual: Alcohol, cyanide poisoning
Can I Give My Dog: baby food
FDA: No bones about it
About: Bones for dogs
Pet Poison Helpline: Caffeine poisoning, tomato, salt
Pet Education: Citrus oil toxicity, Foods to avoid feeding your dog
Wikipedia: Theobromine poisoning, Grape and raisin toxicity, Dog health, Nutmeg
NAMA: Mushroom poisoning
Pet Insurance: Nut dangers to dogs
Dogs Naturally Magazine: Feeding your dog raw eggs, raw fish and parasites
VetMed: Salmon poisoning
Dog First Aid 101: Toxic foods
Veterinary Partner: Nicotine poisoning in pets

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