Certain Foods are Dangerous to Dogs. But How and Why?
We always hear lists of certain human foods that are dangerous for our dogs but it’s helpful to know exactly why and how they are harmful. So instead of just listing a bunch, I thought I’d use this blog post to target a certain few and explore them further.
- Chocolate– There are 2 substances found in chocolate that are dangerous for dogs, caffeine and theobromine. What some people don’t realize, however, is that different kinds of chocolate have different amounts of these substances that may make our pets sick. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. We need to be especially careful to keep baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder away from our 4-legged friends. Common symptoms of chocolate toxicity include the following: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, increased reflex responses, muscle rigidity, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, and seizures. In severe cases, chocolate toxicity can lead to more advance signs like cardiac failure, coma, and even death. Check out the Chocolate Toxicity Meter at http://www.petmd.com/dog/chocolate-toxicity to see the amounts of chocolate that could be dangerous for your dog at home.
- Grapes and Raisins– Currently, it is unknown exactly why grapes and their dried counterparts can be toxic to dogs but it is known that they can cause initial gastrointestinal upset followed by acute renal (kidney) failure. And, the kind of grapes or raisins doesn’t matter, so all cases of ingestion should be considered potentially serious. Vomiting is usually the first clinical sign to appear and can occur within the first 2 hours. Other signs that may develop several hours later include diarrhea, lethargy, and excess drinking. Signs of kidney failure may then develop either within 24 hours or several days after exposure. These signs include anorexia, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
- Onions and Garlic- Members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) all contain compounds that can damage your dog’s red blood cells and cause anemia if ingested in large enough quantities. Dogs rarely eat enough of these raw veggies to be an issue, but in concentrated forms, like soup mix or powder, they may be harmful. The damage doesn’t become apparent until 3 to 5 days after the ingestion and can include signs such as weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance and dark orange or red urine- all from being anemic. In extreme cases, the affect dog may need a blood transfusion.
- 4. Macadamia Nuts- Like grapes and raisins, it’s unsure at this time exactly why macadamia nuts can be toxic to dogs. Luckily, it’s unlikely to be fatal, but can cause some unfavorable symptoms like a low grade fever, tremors, and pain and weakness in the rear legs. Dogs experiencing mild symptoms can usually be managed at home and will generally recover on their own over about 48 hours. Dogs experiencing more severe symptoms benefit from veterinary care, including intravenous fluids and pain medication.
- 5. Xylitol- This one is a bit scary. Xylitol is a non-caloric sweetener found in a lot of sugar-free gum and sugar-free baked goods, as well as some candies, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. In dogs, ingestion of xylitol can lead to a rapid and severe drop in blood glucose (blood sugar level) by causing a potent release of insulin from the pancreas. Symptoms usually develop rapidly (within 15-30 minutes of ingestion) and include vomiting, weakness, stumbling, tremors, and depression/lethargy. In severe cases, a dog can develop seizures, liver failure, or fall into a coma. If you suspect your dog has eaten anything containing xylitol, a call to your veterinarian immediately is critical.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are hotlines that can be consulted when our dogs eat something potentially harmful. Keep these numbers handy:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control 1-888-426-4435
Pet Poison Helpline 1-800-213-6680