Don’t Feed That To Your Dog

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on food for their pets, but despite the best pet food available, some dogs would rather eat human food. Rich and fatty people-foods are favorites of most dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the discarded scraps. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, which includes an acute onset of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. A dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy, so it is best to avoid giving in the next time your precious pooch adorably begs for table scraps. Dogs love to get into the trash, and a medical problem arises if the trash contains bones or moldy or spoiled food. Keep your garbage in inaccessible places!

Certain foods that are good for humans can be dangerous for canines, causing varying degrees of illness, or even death. This list of forbidden people food includes some especially toxic ones:

  • CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, AND CAFFEINE can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and in extreme cases, death. Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity, and chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, which are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than white chocolate, but both should be kept out of paws’ reach.
  • ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES contain ethanol, which can be toxic when ingested, and pets can be highly affected by small amounts of alcohol. Not just the drinks should be avoided. Steer clear of food made with alcohol. The bad effects range from vomiting and diarrhea to death.
  • APRICOTS, CHERRIES, PEACHES AND PLUMS contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include apprehension, dilated pupils, hyperventilation, difficulty breathing, and shock.
  • AVOCADOS contain a toxic component, persin, a fungicidal toxin, which is a fatty acid derivative. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic to animals. Do not feed your dog any component of the avocado.
  • MACADAMIA NUTS. Although the mechanism behind why these nuts are toxic is a mystery, it has been documented that as few as six nuts have caused severe toxic signs. Dogs develop weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and difficulty walking, but usually the symptoms dissipate In a couple days without causing permanent damage.
  • YEAST DOUGH. If your dog eats yeast dough before the yeast has fully risen, the dough will continue to rise in the dog’s stomach, and as it continues to rise, gas accumulates in the dog’s intestines, which can cause extreme distress or the stomach to rupture.
  • GRAPES AND RAISINS were once offered as treats but it has been determined that these fruits can cause kidney failure. Any dog that ingests more than a few grapes or raisins will need aggressive medical treatment. Without treatment, death is possible.
  • ONIONS. Dogs lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion are ingested, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. Severe anemia and even death can occur if the dog ingests lots of onions.
  • GUM, CANDY, BAKED GOODS (AND TOOTHPASTE!) Many of these contain a sweetener called xylitol, a sugar-alcohol sweetener, and dogs that eat this can develop a sudden drop in blood sugar, causing weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse and seizures. Ingestion of as little as .1 gram of xylitol per kilogram of body weight can be deadly for dogs, so if you suspect that your dog has ingested a food containing xylitol, seek veterinary care immediately.

Some favorite people food can certainly cause harm to our dogs, but not all is gloom and doom… there are many dog-friendly human foods to share with your furry friend. Next week’s Paw Prints will discuss some of these foods that are healthy for both two legs and four legs.


Toxins are Everywhere

Here a toxin…there a toxin…everywhere a toxin…or two…or more! We are continually bombarded by toxins even in our home environment, and children and pets are intensely curious, interested in exploring, discovering, and learning about their world.  That natural curiosity can get them into trouble. Dogs (and sometimes young children) use their mouths in place of hands, and so they pick up, chew, and end up exposing themselves to numerous toxins in and around the home.

The kitchen with its tantalizing tastes and smells is a favorite gathering place for humans, and usually the home of a dog’s food bowl. This room usually contains large quantities of household maintenance and cleaning chemicals, often in lower cabinets. Many dogs easily learn to open cabinets, and, intrigued by new scents, are likely to lap of a lethal dose of chemical cleaner or snack on a dirty sponge or scouring pad.  The solution? Childproof locks on the cabinets.  These locks are easy for an adult to open, and quickly become automatic, but are almost impossible for a child or pet to manage. A second solution is reconsidering your housecleaning strategies, and rather than use caustic and poisonous chemicals, choose natural or “green” cleaners that are safer and more ecologically sound than traditional cleaners.

The kitchen garbage pail is full of potential dangers. Even a cover cannot deter a clever canine. The greasy mess of wrappers and gnawed bones are unhealthy, but the molds, bacteria, and toxins are more hazardous. “People tend to underestimate the problems that eating garbage can cause,” emphasizes New Hampshire vet, Dr. Charles DeVinne. “Such common throwaways, such as apple cores (and seeds), potato skins, and moldy cheese can make dogs sick, with symptoms ranging from obvious pain to diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by lethargy, depression, or seizures. All of these symptoms require veterinary care.”

Other dangers lurk throughout your house. Dogs who eat even one penny minted after 1983 or metal game tokens like Monopoly pieces risk zinc toxicity. Small, sharp parts of toys can also cause internal blockages or even serious intestinal punctures. The range of items removed from the stomachs of dogs includes panty hose, bouncy balls, feminine hygiene products, and plastic bread bags.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline ( ) among the top poisons are:

  1. Foods, especially chocolate, the sweetener zylitol, grapes and raisins, onions, alcohol, and unbaked yeast dough.
  2. Insecticides, including sprays, bait stations, and some spot-on-flea and tick treatments.(Do NOT buy these over the counter…consult your veterinarian!)
  3. Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison)
  4. Human medications including
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for humans, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
    • Anti-depressant such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Effexor
    • Acetaminophens such as Tylenol and cold medications
    • Amphetamines such as Adderall and Concerta, medications that are used to treat attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • Cardiac meds (e.g. calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, etc.)
    • Vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D3, iron, etc).
    • Caffeine pills
  5. Household cleaners including MANY sprays, detergents and polishes.
  6. Fertilizers, including bone meal, blood meal, and iron-based products, cocoa mulch.
  7. Veterinary prescribed meds, especially pain relievers such as COX-2 inhibitors like Rimadyl, Dermaxx, and Previcox, can be toxic if not administered properly.

The best thing a pet caregiver can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you suspect your dog has ingested something questionable, consult your veterinarian or poison helpline immediately. Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is important and may save the life of your pet.

Pet Poisons in your Purse

Did you know that your purse or briefcase is a reservoir for items toxic to your four-legged friends?

The source of the top five pet poisons is actually often found in your handbag.

  • Human medications account for almost half the yearly calls to the Pet Poison Helpline because someone’s pet has ingested a medication found in a purse, duffel bag , or book bag. Human pills come in bottles and the sound of a rattling pill bottle is similar to the noise many dog toys make. Common painkillers like Advil, Motrin, and Tylenol, as well as prescription drugs for depression such as Prozac can be toxic to dogs. NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve can cause GI ulcers and kidney failure, and just one Tylenol can cause liver failure in a dog. Antidepressants can cause loss of coordination, agitation, tremors, and seizures.
  • Asthma inhalers are commonly stored in purses for emergency use, and if your dog bites into an asthma inhaler, it can cause life-threatening poisoning. These inhalers contain highly concentrated doses of drugs like albuterol and fluticasone, and exposure to just a single does of this powerful drug can lead to vomiting, heart arrhythmia, collapse, and ultimately, death.
  • Cigarettes are not only bad for the health of humans; they are equally bad for your pets. Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even stop- smoking gum contains nicotine, and nicotine poisoning causes serious problems, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs of elevated heart and respiratory rates, loss of bladder or bowel control, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death are often the result of accidental ingestion of nicotine.
  • Sugarless chewing gum and breath mints usually contain xylitol, and xylitol and dogs don’t mix. Most sugarless gums, including some Orbit, Trident, and Ice Breaker brands contain this sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Sugarless mints, toothpastes, flavored multivitamins, and mouthwashes may also contain xylitol that, when ingested, can result in hypoglycemia, a life-threatening and rapid drop in blood sugar. Larger amounts can cause liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include, weakness, difficulty walking, collapse, tremors, seizures and vomiting.
  • In our germ-conscious society, small bottles of hand sanitizer have become common place in purses, briefcases, and backpacks. and most of these products, which are used to kill germs, contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol.) If a dog chews a small bottle of hand sanitizer, it is about the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor, which could cause a serious drop in blood sugar, loss of coordination, nervous system depression, coma, and even death.

If you look around, you can probably find a handbag or other carryall bag within the reach of your pet right now. It is important to designate a common “safe place” as the ‘bag drop-off area, a spot that is out of reach of curious pets. Inquisitive pets are eager to explore the contents of just about anything, and unfortunately will eat just about anything. If you put your human medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container up out of reach of your pet, and never store human medications near your pet’s medications…pet poison hot lines receive regular calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to pets.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something that may be toxic, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. If your vet is not available, call Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison center at 800-213-6680. You will be charged a small fee, but it could well save your dog’s life.