Do you know which people foods can be toxic to your dog? Have you been inadvertently slipping toxic foods from your plate to give your dog a special treat? As a caring dog owner, it's important for you to know which foods can harm your dog. This way, you can offer healthy foods only and keep the toxic ones safely out of reach.
The kitchen can be a virtual playground for your dog's nose and taste buds. Most dogs love food and especially yearn for "people food." Dog experts routinely discourage the feeding of table scraps to dogs because of the potentials for toxicity, illness, obesity, and bad manners.
While healthy, well-balanced diets can be prepared for dogs using certain human foods, it is essential to feed the right foods. Know what foods to avoid so you can prevent toxin exposures and keep your dog healthy.
Be sure to seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic food.
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Grapes and Raisins
- Grapes and raisins can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, possibly resulting in death.
- Ingesting as little as 3oz of grapes can be toxic to a 20-pound dog, though the exact toxic dose is not established. Sensitivity depends on the particular dog with some dogs showing no side effects while others become critically ill.
- Signs of toxicity include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased thirst, decreased urine production, weakness, and shaking.
- The onset of signs typically occurs within 24 hours, and typically the first signs will be seen just a few hours after consumption.
- Your vet may start by inducing vomiting, and/or giving other treatments to absorb the toxins, such as activated charcoal. Ongoing treatment may involve aggressive supportive care—including fluid therapy, medications, and blood tests to monitor for any changes in the kidneys.
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- Onions can cause a form of hemolytic anemia called Heinz body anemia, a condition that causes the destruction of red blood cells. This can lead to other serious medical conditions including kidney damage.
- Toxicity may occur from similar foods such as garlic and chives.
- It is not known exactly what quantity of onions causes toxicity, but the effects can be cumulative, meaning if small amounts are eaten over multiple days it can cause illness. Poisoning can result from raw, cooked, and dehydrated forms of onions. Avoid feeding table scraps and any foods cooked with onions (including some baby foods that contain onion powder). Always check the ingredients before offering your pup a taste.
- Signs you can see secondary to anemia include pale gums, rapid heart rate, weakness, and lethargy. Other signs including vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody urine may also be seen.
- Treatment may consist of inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal to absorb additional toxins, supportive care, and blood transfusions and/or oxygen administration as well as close monitoring.
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- Chocolate and cacao contain chemicals called methylxanthines, which include theobromine and caffeine. These tend to cause stimulation, primarily affecting the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Chocolate with more cacao is more toxic, so dark chocolate and baking chocolate tend to be more concentrated while milk chocolate is more dilute and requires a larger quantity to cause harm. A 20-pound dog can get sick after consuming even 1/2 ounce of baking chocolate, but it would take nearly 3 ounces of milk chocolate to cause harm.
- Ingestion of cacao bean mulch used for gardening can also be toxic.
- Signs include excitement or hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate/rhythm, drunken gait, elevated body temperature, and coma.
- Lower doses of chocolate may cause gastrointestinal upset due to the fat content and acidity even if more serious signs are avoided.
- If your dog has ingested a toxic dose, your vet may induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to absorb the toxins. Treatment may also include aggressive supportive care with fluid therapy, medications to control symptoms, and careful monitoring.
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Continue to 5 of 10 below.
- Caffeine causes similar signs to chocolate toxicity as it is also a methylxanthine. It primarily effects the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Commons sources of toxicity include caffeine pills, coffee beans and coffee, large amounts of tea, or chocolate.
- Signs typically begin with restlessness and hyperactivity. These can be followed by vomiting, panting, weakness, drunken gait, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, and seizures.
- Your vet may induce vomiting and/or give activated charcoal to absorb the toxins. Treatment also includes supportive care with fluid therapy, medications to control symptoms, and careful monitoring.
05 of 10
- Macadamia nuts, while generally not considered fatal, can cause your dog to experience severe illness.
- The actual toxin is not known, nor is the mechanism of toxicity.
- Ingestion of just a handful of nuts can cause adverse effects in any dog.
- Signs include elevated body temperature, weakness, depression, tremors, and vomiting.
- The onset of signs typically occurs within six to 24 hours.
- Dogs are typically treated symptomatically and recover within 24 to 48 hours. In-hospital supportive care may be recommended for dogs that become very sick.
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- Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener most often found in chewing gum and candy but can also be found in many other sugar-free products including toothpaste, peanut butter, protein powders, and even cosmetics. In dogs, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Xylitol ingestion can also cause severe and permanent liver damage.
- Even 1 piece of gum can lead to hypoglycemia in a 20-pound dog. A pack of gum can cause liver damage but there is not an exact dose that will cause liver failure and it can very from one dog to another.
- Signs of toxicity related to low blood sugar can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion and include weakness, drunken gait, collapse, and seizures. Signs of liver failure can occur within 72 hours.
- Your vet may induce vomiting but in many cases, this is not helpful since signs can set in so quickly. Dogs with low blood sugar will need to be treated intravenously with dextrose (sugar) and monitored closely for one to two days. Many dogs improve with supportive care if treated early enough, though liver damage can be permanent and will require ongoing monitoring and care.
07 of 10
Alchohol and Yeast Dough
- Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, which is a toxic chemical compound that causes central nervous system, respiratory depression, and acidifies the blood.
- Even small amounts of ethanol can cause toxic effects. Uncooked yeast doughs can also release ethanol, causing similar symptoms.
- Signs include sedation, depression, lethargy, weakness, drunken gait, excessive thirst, excessive urination, seizures, and/or coma.
- Ethanol is rapidly absorbed into the system, so it is important to seek medical attention quickly. It is not usually helpful to induce vomiting. Treatment includes supportive care with fluid therapy and medications to control symptoms.
- In the case of uncooked dough, similar treatments are used for the symptoms of ethanol toxicosis. Additional treatments may be needed if the dough expands enough to cause severe pain or a blockage within the GI tract. In extreme cases, this may require surgical removal.
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Fruit Pits and Seeds
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
- Apple seeds, cherry pits, peach pits, and plum pits contain small amounts of the toxin cyanide.
- Signs of cyanide toxicity include drooling, muscle twitching, uncontrolled urination, diarrhea, seizures, and/or coma.
- Cyanide toxicity from the ingestion of fruit pits is very rare in dogs as they usually have to ingest a large amount, and have to break or crush the outer part of the pit to get exposure to the toxin. A more common problem is that dogs might swallow the pit whole, and it can cause a blockage within the intestines.
- In some cases, antidotes are available for cyanide toxicity. Other treatments include oxygen therapy, fluids, and supportive care. If an obstruction of the intestine occurs, surgery is required to remove the pit.
09 of 10
Rotten or Moldy Foods
Moldy or rotten foods can cause many problems for your dog, some more serious than others. Any food that seems "past its prime" should be kept out of reach. Be especially careful to keep your dog away from trash cans. Most often, getting into the trash will lead your dog to an upset stomach with vomiting and diarrhea at a minimum. In more severe cases, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can result, which may also cause severe belly pain, loss of appetite, and even more serious symptoms. Other more unusual risks include:
- Botulism, often from raw meat or decaying carcasses, can cause muscle weakness, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and progressive paralysis, . An antitoxin is effective only if poisoning is caught early enough but intensive supportive care may allow time for spontaneous recovery.
- Rotting fruit may produce ethanol, causing the same effects associated with alcohol or dough ingestion.
- Moldy foods may contain mycotoxins that cause muscle tremors, wobbly gait, and/or convulsions,
- Therapy depends on the specific toxin suspected and the signs present. A good history is very helpful so be sure to let your vet know what you suspect your dog ate. Supportive care and hospitalization with fluids and additional medications is often necessary.
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Other Foods to Avoid
Certain foods, while not considered toxic, can still be unhealthy for your dog.
- Avoid any foods that are very high in fat, sugar, or sodium. These foods can contribute to indigestion, pancreatitis, obesity, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and more.
- Dairy products may be difficult for dogs to digest.
- Corncobs can cause GI obstruction.
- Cooked bones may splinter and break easily, risking GI damage.
- Like people, too much junk food can lead to poor health and decreased energy.
- Many plants and stems can also be toxic so be sure to consult a reliable source, such as the ASPCA Poison control list of toxic plants, to see if your pup is at risk
Remember that your dog is smaller than you and has different needs than a human. What seems like "just a bite" for you may be more like a big serving for your dog, and foods that may be perfectly safe for you can be very toxic to your pup.
4 Household Foods Toxic To Dogs & Cats. Falls Village Vet Hospital, 2020
Toxic Foods For Dogs & Cats. Texvetpets, 2020
Cortinovis, Cristina, and Francesca Caloni. Household Food Items Toxic To Dogs And Cats. Frontiers In Veterinary Science, vol 3, 2016. Frontiers Media SA, doi:10.3389/fvets.2016.00026
Potentially Dangerous Items for Your Pet. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2020
Botulism In Dogs. Veterinary Manual, 2020