Obesity is as much of a risk to the health of animals as it is to people, and just like overweight humans, overweight animals have an increased risk of disease. Therefore, table scraps, which are often high in calories, might be considered somewhat dangerous to dogs. Animals can also have food allergies which cause them to react unexpectedly to certain foods. This list, however, concentrates on foods that are part of the normal human diet but can present specific dangers to the canine population in general.
Because dogs have a different metabolism, some foods or medications which are appropriate for consumption by humans, and even other species of animals, can pose hazards to their health. Some may cause only mild digestive upsets, whereas, others can cause severe illness, and even death. This list identifies some common food, medication, and/or household items that should not be intentionally fed or unintentionally made available to dogs.
Caffeine, and a very similar chemical found in chocolate called theobromine, are toxic to dogs (and humans) if consumed in high enough doses. They increase the breathing and heart rate, sometimes causing irregular beating of the heart. They cause restlessness because of the changes of calcium and energy sources at the cellular level. Caffeine also directly stimulates the myocardium and central nervous system.
A dog's heart rate is normally higher than the typical human's. As dogs weigh less than humans caffeine or theobromine will affect them more in smaller doses. Finally, as dogs metabolize caffeine slower that humans do, the drug will remain in their system and overstimulate them for a longer period of time.
Mild symptoms occur with the ingestion of 9 mg per pound of body weight of either caffeine or theobromine. Severe signs occur around 20 mg/lb and seizures and possible death can occur after ingestion of 27 mg of theobromine or caffeine per pound of body weight.
Not all caffeine or theobromine sources present the same hazard level, though. For instance teas, coffees, and other beverages may vary significantly in their caffeine levels. It might only take about 20 ounces of milk chocolate to kill a 20-pound dog, but only 2 ounces of baker's chocolate or 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate. Usually the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the level of theobromine. Obviously smaller dogs are more sensitive than larger ones.
If your dog does get into the Easter basket or something like that, common symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, bloating, increased drinking, hyperactivity, restlessness, ataxia, muscle tremors, increased or decreased heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, and increased body temperature. These signs usually occur 6-12 hours after ingestion. Seizures, coma, or death may occur in cases where the toxicity is high enough. Less frequent symptoms include abdominal pain and blood in the urine.
If your dog consumes a questionable amount of chocolate or caffeine, please contact your veterinarian for advice.
Many dogs like raisins and grapes. They should only be given to them, however, in a very limited amount on an infrequent basis, and should not be left where a dog or cat can get to them on their own. The unknown toxin damages the kidneys.
The toxin is thought to be due to an unknown compound in the "fleshy" part of the grape. There have been no problems associated with grape seed extract. The exact toxic dose is unknown, but has been estimated as low as 1/3 ounce of grapes per pound of body weight, and 0.05 ounces of raisins per pound of body weight.
Signs are vomiting (within six hours of ingestion), diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, or abdominal pain. Kidney dysfunction is typical.
Exact toxic dose is unknown, but has been estimated as low as 1/3 ounce of grapes per pound of body weight, and 0.05 ounces of raisins per pound of body weight.
A dog that has ingested large quantities of raisins or grapes must usually be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids to decontaminate them. More aggressive treatment, including dialysis may be necessary if there is any evidence of renal failure.
When dogs eat Macadamia nuts they can get a toxic reaction with doses as low as 1 gram per pound of body weight. Within twelve hours of eating the nuts they may start to develop symptoms such as an inability to stand, ataxia (walking wobbly), depression, vomiting, muscle tremors, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), weakness, and an elevated heart rate.
The prognosis for complete recovery, however, is extremely good. Usually the symptoms go away within 24-48 hours. The danger is typically that the weakness, vomiting, and fear might lead to dangerous, and sometimes deadly, shock. If your dog also eats some chocolate with the nuts, however, then the combined effects can be much worse and more intense treatment may be warranted.
As bread dough contains yeast, it can expand many times its original size. When a dog swallows bread dough, it swells and starts to ferment producing alcohol which is toxic to dogs. Even ingesting small amounts of bread dough, therefore, can cause a dog pain, bloating and vomiting. It can also leave him feeling disoriented and listless. If he's eaten a lot, he may end up in the operating room requiring surgery to remove the mass. He may also need treatment for alcohol poisoning. If you are a bread maker, make sure to keep your dog away from the bread dough.
Liver contains high levels of vitamin A, which can damage your pet's bones if eaten in excess.
Excessive amounts of raw fish can cause a B vitamin deficiency.
Onions can cause a form of hemolytic anemia called Heinz body anemia, a condition that causes the destruction of red blood cells. Similar toxicity can result from garlic or chives.
Avocados contain persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Xylitol (artificial sweetener) can cause very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Moldy or rotten foods can cause many problems for your dog.
Disclaimer: The intent of this list is to promote general awareness of pet safety issues. The objective was in no manner to suggest or recommend any emergency, routine, or preventative treatments or remedies. Instead, the recommendation is to seek professional guidance that is tailored for your pet and circumstances.
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