PET FRIENDLY: Pet Owners Often Confused about Toxic Foods

| September 17, 2015 | 0 Comments | Pet Friendly


Take the quiz at the end of the article and you could win a prize from Pet Valu of Bristow!

Dr. Curtis Martin
Artemis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Services

Understanding pet toxins can be confusing as there are many toxins within every household including medications, foods, pesticides, plants and various chemicals that can be toxic to pets. Toxins can differ between humans and animals. In fact, many foods we eat every day are actually toxic to our pets. These include, but are not limited to, chocolate, garlic, onions, grapes, raisins and chewing gum.

On top of that, when a toxin is ingested, the remedy is not always the same. Whereas for some toxins the appropriate action would be to induce vomiting, in the case of other toxins, this would actually harm the pets further. (This, actually, holds true for humans as well.) For that reason, the first thing you should do if you suspect a toxin ingestion is to call your veterinarian or contact pet poison control (ASPCA Poison control or Pet Poison Hotline).

Many people know that dogs should not eat chocolate. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous foods that dogs can ingest. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which cause adverse reactions in canines. If your dog ingests chocolate, the first signs you may notice are vomiting and diarrhea. However, in more severe cases, the animal’s heart rate will increase which can cause arrhythmias and damage to the muscles of the heart. If enough is ingested, the dog may even develop seizures and go into a coma.

Garlic and onions are two more foods people should avoid feeding their dogs. For dogs, garlic and onions cause oxidative damage to their red blood cells. Red blood cells are extremely important because they carry oxygen to the rest of the body. The toxins in garlic and onions will destroy those cells and can make your pet anemic. They can also cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea. Note that processing or cooking the garlic and onions will not destroy the toxins and they are just as dangerous. This is why it is necessary to keep dogs to a special diet just for them. Not everything in the human diet is appropriate for a “doggie-bag.”

Grapes and raisins are common snack foods that may end up on the floor where dogs can easily lick them up. However, grapes and raisins, which are dried grapes, can cause acute kidney failure as well as vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia in dogs. And, unlike many toxins which are dependent on the pet’s weight and how much they ate, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in certain dogs even if they only eat one. Each pet reacts differently to eating grapes or raisins, so it is impossible to know which animal will develop kidney failure. For this reason, it is imperative to have all pets treated and tested if they get into them.

Leaving chewing gum around where dogs can get it is another household danger. One of the ingredients in many types of chewing gum is xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, but dogs are not able to process it correctly. This can cause major damage to their livers as well as dropping their blood sugar levels to dangerous levels. The first sign you will typically see is vomiting, then you may see signs of low blood sugar such as weakness, collapse, wobbly gait, tremors or seizures. Liver damage will occur hours to days later.

Peanut butter is a favorite treat that many dog owners permit their dogs to enjoy. However, Xylitol is now an ingredient in certain peanut butters, especially the sugar free kind, so dog owners ought to check the ingredients list before sharing this treat with their furry friends.

Also note, pets are just as susceptible to getting food poisoning from raw meats as we are, so cook all meat before giving it to them.

Many plants can be toxic to animals as well, and it is something pet owners should think about since dogs and cats may eat even inedible plants. Some plants which are toxic to cats and dogs include lilies, marijuana, sago palm, tulip/narcissus bulbs, rhododendron, azaleas, oleander, castor bean, cyclamen, kalanchoe, yew, mistletoe, amaryllis, autumn crocus, English ivy and chrysanthemum. Most of these plants will cause gastrointestinal problems, but some of them, like lilies (especially in cats), can cause severe damage to the kidneys (lilies damage the kidneys). Others like azaleas, rhododendron, tulips and marijuana will target the nervous system to cause neurologic signs. Dogs and cats are also much more sensitive to the effects of marijuana which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or coma.

Many household products are dangerous to pets, but one of the most toxic is ethylene glycol, a common ingredient in antifreeze. Only a few tablespoons or even teaspoons in smaller animals, is enough to cause severe kidney failure.

Human medications may help us, but even a small amount may be deadly to your pet. Things like ibuprofen (Advil, Midol, etc) and naproxen (Aleve, etc) can cause kidney failure, GI bleeding and neurologic signs. Acetaminphen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage. Aspirin is sometimes prescribed by veterinarians but only in certain situations and at a small dose!! Aspirin should never be given without direct and specific instruction from your veterinarian. If given in the wrong situation and/or at the wrong dose it can cause intestinal bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure and sometimes liver or neurologic damage.

There are many pesticides that can be dangerous to dogs. One of the more common toxins we see is rat bait. Most rat baits prevent coagulation but you will not see signs for 2-3 days after ingestion. Common signs are coughing, trouble breathing, exercise intolerance, or even bleeding from body orifices. Certain rat baits will target the nervous system instead and will cause signs like lethargy, abnormal behavior, tremors, seizures, coma.

The way to prevent dogs from ingesting toxins is to know the dangers and think ahead. Keep toxins away from pets, and research before feeding animals from your plate. If a dog or cat displays signs of illness, think of what the dog or cat could have eaten, and take the animal to a vet if you witness signs of a reaction.

Artemis Veterinary Emergency Hospital  is specifically designed and equipped to provide highest quality critical care for pets. Their staff is well-trained in emergency procedures. Whether a minor or major medical problem, we will provide pets with the best possible care. Artemis VESS is open 24/7 and never closes.

petquizlogoShow off your knowledge of pets! If you can answer the following questions, you could win a gift basket from Pet Valu in Bristow. We’ll randomly draw a winner from among those who have the most correct answers.

Email the answers, your name, your phone number and your city of residence to: for your chance to win! We’ll take entries until Midnight Friday, Sept. 25. The drawing will be held Monday, Sept. 28.

1. In some pets as few as ________ grapes/raisins can be toxic.

A. 10   B. 12   C. 5   D. 1

2. Garlic and onions in powdered form are less toxic then a fresh onion or garlic clove.

 A. True   B. False

3. The main concern when a pet eats chewing gum is

A.  They might choke on it   B. It will take ten years to digest   C. The amount of Xylitol in the gum   D. The mint flavoring

4. Raw chicken and beef is safe to give my dog.

 A. True   B. False

5. How much antifreeze does my pet need to ingest to seriously jeopardize its life?

 A. 1/2 cup   B. a few tablespoons   C. 1 gallon   D. 1 liter

6. Marijuana has medical uses so it is safe to give to my dog.

  A. True   B. False

7. The seeds of many fruits can be toxic to dogs and cats.

   A. True   B. False

8. You should give your cat aspirin if it looks like it is in pain.

  A. True   B. False

9. Some symptoms that your dog ingested rat posion are

 A. Blood in vomit   B. Weakness   C. Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing   D. All of the above

10. I should be worried if my pet eats mistletoe.

  A. True   B. False

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