Dogs are natural scavengers, so we tend to assume that they can eat anything they want with no ill effects. We’ve all seen our dogs eat some very disgusting “floor candy” and still romp around happily afterwards. However, that doesn’t mean that all foods are safe for dogs to eat. There are many fruits, vegetables, and other substances which are toxic and even fatal to dogs.
If you’re the type of person who loves to feed their dogs kitchen scraps while you’re busy cooking, it’s important to know which foods are beneficial and which ones are harmful.
”There have been many studies done on food groups and their effects on canine health. By knowing which foods can cause health problems, you can save yourself an unnecessary trip to the vet.
Fruits that Dogs Cannot Eat
If you want to give your dog a sweet treat, watermelon, blueberries, and bananas (given in moderation) are all good fruits for dogs. Others like grapes can cause serious canine health problems.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins can cause severe renal failure in dogs, and the toxic effects on these fruits have been well-documented in dogs of all ages and breeds. Some dogs appear mostly unaffected by this toxic effect, while others require only a minimal dose to develop symptoms of kidney failure.
If your pooch has accidentally gotten into some raisins or grapes, they can develop the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours of ingestion. You may still be able to detect small amounts of undigested grapes or raisins.
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Lowered urine production (oliguria) or completely stopped urine production (anuria)
- Lethargy and weakness
If you suspect your dog has ingested grapes or raisins, you need to treat it as an emergency and head to the vet immediately. If you’ve seen your dog eating these fruits, you can try to induce vomiting, unless your dog is having trouble breathing or showing signs of shock. However, your vet will have many more treatment options available and will offer the best outcome for your dog, so plan on a trip even if the dog successfully purges the fruit.
In general, cherry flesh is safe for dogs to eat, though it can cause an upset stomach in certain dogs. However, the cherry pit, stem, and leaves contain the toxic compound cyanide. Cyanide prevents cells in the body from utilizing oxygen, which leads to cell death. It’s fatal because it tends to attack the brain and heart first, since these organs use a lot of oxygen.
Eating one or two cherries usually isn’t disastrous for dogs, and your pooch is more likely to have an upset stomach than suffer from cyanide poisoning. However, if your dog has eaten multiple cherries, you should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Labored breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Red gums
If you notice these symptoms, it’s time to call the emergency vet.
As with cherries, the main danger to your dog from avocado doesn’t come from eating the flesh; it comes from eating the pit or skin of the avocado fruit and the leaves or bark from the tree. The main danger of eating an avocado pit is the risk of intestinal blockage, which may need to be surgically removed.
Avocado leaves, skins, and bark contain a compound called persin, which is known to be a strong anti-fungal agent. Luckily, persin isn’t very toxic to dogs, and so far only a double case of dog fatalities suspected to be due to persin has been reported. Still, it’s been known to cause serious health problems in other animals, so it’s best to be safe and keep these parts of the avocado plant away from dogs.
Nightshade Family of Plants
Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc belong to the nightshade family of plants, which also contains the well-known poisonous plant called belladonna. Nightshades contain a compound called solanine that is usually found in the stem and leaves of these plants. This compound can cause a variety of symptoms:
- Respiratory depression
- Dilated pupils
Luckily, this compound tends to accumulate in the green parts of the plant and isn’t really present in the flesh. In fact, most canine solanine poisoning cases are a result of a dog eating leaves from a Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub instead of tomatoes, potatoes or eggplants.
Conclusion: It’s the green part of the plant which is toxic and the rest is healthy for the dogs to consume.
Vegetables that Dogs Cannot Eat
Dogs are largely carnivores, yes, but even wolves need small amounts of plant matter to get all the nutrients they need. Lots of veggies make excellent, healthy snacks for your pooch, but there are some you should know to avoid.
It’s important to remember that the term “mushroom” covers a huge variety of fungi, and there are many mushrooms that are also fatal to humans. There are many stories of people going foraging and accidentally eating a mushroom that leaves them in the hospital. Is the same true for dogs?
In general, yes. There’s nothing wrong with feeding your pooch some of your button or shiitake mushrooms, but if you’re out in the forest and your dog has snatched up a wild mushroom, you should immediately head to the vet.
Many common forest mushrooms, such as Amanita mushrooms, contain a wide variety of toxic compounds which can be fatal. Mushrooms of the Inocybe and Clitocybe genuses can cause neurological symptoms as well as increased urination and salivation.
Unless you’re an expert on forest mushrooms, it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet if you’ve seen them eat a wild mushroom. The vet will be able to help your dog by offering different treatment options depending on the type of mushroom and the symptoms your dog is showing. If possible, also take a sample of the mushroom to assist your vet with diagnosis.
Alliums such as Garlic, Onions, and Chives
Alliums are a family of vegetables that include garlic, onions, chives, leeks, and scallions. If you’ve ever done any cooking, you’ll know they’re an essential part of any kitchen. They’re also incredibly dangerous to your dog.
Allium toxicity results in the breakdown of red blood cells, which in turn causes anemia and eventually death. Since the compound that causes this breakdown, N-propyl disulfide, is found in all parts of the plant, no part of an allium is safe to give to a dog.
At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that very small quantities of these foods won’t be harmful. But it could vary from breed to breed and you should consult your vet about the quantity of garlic or onion you want to feed your dog.
Rhubarb is commonly used in pies and is actually considered a fruit in the United States. Rhubarb stems are non-toxic to dogs and, in fact, can have some beneficial qualities for constipated dogs. However, the leaves contain oxalic acid, which removes calcium from the bloodstream and eventually results in renal failure. Rhubarb toxicity has been reported in humans and large domestic animals including dogs.
Other Human Foods that are Toxic to Dogs
While macadamia nut toxicity has been reported in dogs, it’s still unknown what the toxic component is, since no other animal is similarly affected. It could be something in the nuts themselves or a mycotoxin that’s secreted by a fungus that grows on these nuts.
If treated, macadamia nut toxicity has a good prognosis, and dogs that are correctly treated are usually fine within 24 hours.
Chocolate is one of the most well-known toxic compounds that affect dogs, and most owners know to avoid giving chocolate to their pooches. Chocolate contains a methylxanthine known as theobromine which can cause cardiac arrest and seizures in dogs. The reason humans aren’t as affected is that we are able to break theobromine down more efficiently than dogs.
The tricky part about chocolate poisoning is that different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine, and larger dogs will have to consume more chocolate to show the same symptoms as smaller dogs. PetMD has a handy chocolate poisoning calculator that can help you determine whether you need to head to the vet straight away.
Caffeine is another methylxanthine that can cause the same type of symptoms as theobromine in dogs. In fact, caffeine breaks down into theobromine in the body, which makes caffeine a seriously toxic compound to dogs. Caffeine is also absorbed much more quickly than theobromine, which means that it can affect your pooch much more quickly as well.
What may seem like a harmless frosty treat can actually be pretty detrimental to your dog. Ice cream contains a number of different chemical compounds, some of which can be dangerous or harmful to your dog. Ice cream is usually made of dairy, and many dogs don’t have the enzymes to break down milk, leading to diarrhea and vomiting.
Ice cream also contains a ton of sugar, which is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. It can lead to unwanted weight gain, which in turn leads to severe canine health issues. If the ice cream is sugar-free, it likely contains one of many sugar substitutes. One of these substitutes, xylitol, is incredibly toxic to dogs and can lead to fatal consequences.
While you can technically get away with vanilla ice cream as a doggy treat, it’s usually not a good idea. At best, your dog may get an upset stomach; at worst you’ll have subjected your dog to potentially toxic compounds.
Alcohol, in particular ethanol, can be extremely toxic to dogs. While fatal ingestions are rare, alcohol can still cause a number of really unpleasant symptoms in your dog:
- Central nervous system depression
- Severe respiratory depression
Most ethanol ingestions occur by accident and can easily be treated by a vet with hemodialysis. Most dogs recover within a day and are none the worse for wear.
Xylitol is a very popular sugar alternative that is used in sugar-free chewing gum, baked goods, cereals, and even toothpaste. Xylitol doesn’t have much of an impact on insulin levels in humans, but it causes significantly increased levels of insulin in dogs, rabbits, and many other animals.
This increase in insulin leads to severe hypoglycemia, where there isn’t enough blood sugar to keep the brain functioning. Xylitol also affects the canine liver, increasing various liver enzymes and potentially causing necrosis.
Symptoms of xylitol ingestion include the following:
- Hypoglycemia (usually within an hour of ingestion)
- Liver failure
What’s worse is that it only requires a tiny dose (0.5 g/kg) of xylitol to cause liver failure and hypoglycemia. Also, since hypoglycemia happens so quickly, it’s vital that you get your dog to the vet immediately after you’ve noticed them eating even the smallest amount of xylitol.
Raw Yeast Dough
Raw yeast dough can actually affect your dog in two different ways. Firstly, bread dough tends to expand as it heats up due to the action of the yeast. This leads to a distended stomach, which is uncomfortable, though not in itself life-threatening. However, it can also lead to a fatal condition known as bloat, wherein the stomach actually twists on itself. Raw dough also contains ethanol due to the fermentation process, which can cause ethanol toxicity.
Nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which causes hallucinations, increased heart rate, and even seizures. Myristicin affects both humans and dogs in the same way, but thanks to our larger body weight, we can eat much more nutmeg before we start experiencing the same symptoms.
In general, there’s no reason to worry if your dog has ingested a relatively small dose, but keep an eye out for signs of myristicin toxicity.
Foods that Should Be Given in Limited Amounts to Dogs
Dairy products may be fine for your pooch, but it’s always a good idea to be careful. Dogs don’t have the ability to digest lactose, and they suffer the same consequences of lactose-intolerance that humans do. If you want to give your pooch a taste of dairy, try cheeses or yogurts that are fermented and have had most of the lactose removed.
Salt affects dogs in the same way as it does humans. If you feed your dog a salty pretzel, chances are they’ll be thirsty afterward. In fact, too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning, which can be fatal if left untreated.
Luckily, low doses of salt won’t hurt your pooch, but they don’t really need it either. You don’t need to freak out if your dog sneaks a salty snack off your plate, but you shouldn’t be consciously feeding your dog salt either.
Cashews are packed with tons of vitamins and minerals and can be good for your dog in limited quantities. As with most nuts, though, they are also packed with tons of fat, which can lead to unwanted weight gain if you go overboard on treating your pooch. You can stick to a couple of unsalted cashews per day as an alternative high-value treat.
Almonds aren’t toxic to dogs like other nuts are, but they’re still not something you should feed your dog on a daily basis. Almonds are a significant cause of bowel obstruction in dogs, especially in smaller breeds, which can be fatal if not surgically treated.
If you do give your dog almonds as a sometimes-treat, but sure to give them unsalted and unflavored almonds.
Unlike nutmeg, cinnamon isn’t toxic to dogs. It can, however, irritate your dog’s mouth which will leave them uncomfortable and unhappy. Powdered cinnamon is especially unpleasant, as it can cause choking and difficulty breathing. Luckily, an ordinary amount of cinnamon used in baking or cooking isn’t enough to cause any negative symptoms in your pooch.
Honey is safe for dogs to consume but it should be given in small quantities. Honey contains natural sugar along with small amounts of vitamins and minerals which can be beneficial. This means that while honey isn’t toxic to dogs, it can lead to similar problems as sugar intake like obesity and tooth decay, especially if you give your pooch honey on a regular basis.
Peanuts are safe for dogs to eat. They’re packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, but they also contain a large amount of fat. If you’re giving peanuts as a treat, try to stick to unsalted, unflavored peanuts to keep your dog’s sodium intake reasonable.
Dogs are well-known for loving peanut butter, and it’s a great way to give your dog a treat while still giving them something nutritious. Low-sodium peanut butter with no added sugar is the best option, and it’s vital that you make sure that the peanut butter doesn’t contain xylitol as a sugar substitute.
Harmful Ingredients in Dog Foods to Look Out For
In addition to being aware of certain toxic compounds found in human food, you should also be aware of several additives found in dog food that may be harmful to your pooch. Dog foods contain many additives to either extend their shelf life or to add flavor and texture to the food, and not all of them are healthy.
When choosing a dog food, it’s a good idea to check the label list and keep an eye out for certain harmful compounds. The ingredient label is also a good place to check whether the food is high-quality.
Most high-quality foods will list their protein and grain sources specifically and not simply as generic “animal by-product.” High-quality dog food is a great way to keep your dog healthy and ensure that they get all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients they need.
Ethoxyquin (EQ) is an antioxidant that’s used to protect polyunsaturated fatty acids from degrading and becoming rancid. Some products, like fish meal, are actually high enough in unsaturated fatty acids that they can catch fire if the fatty acids aren’t protected by an antioxidant.
There have been concerns about the safety of EQ since the early 1990s, and many EU countries do not allow this compound in food for human consumption. These restrictions are much more relaxed in animal feed, where levels of up to 150 mg/kg are allowed. To date, the safety of this compound hasn’t been established at all, despite its prevalent use in dog food and other types of animal feed.
Propylene glycol is a very versatile compound that is used in a wide array of industries for a number of different functions. In terms of food, it’s used in ice cream, soda, liquid sweeteners, and whipped dairy products to keep them stable. It’s also used as a vaporizer medium to deliver pharmaceutical compounds and is generally considered safe for use by the FDA.
A long term study of beagles found that even feeding propylene glycol directly to dogs didn’t adversely affect them. Even though this product is considered to be safe to ingest, it may have negative consequences for some dogs. It reduces the moisture content in food, which may lead to intestinal blockages in some breeds that don’t produce enough saliva.
Butylated-hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are antioxidant compounds that have been added to foods to prevent them from going rancid. These are approved for use by the FDA as long as they don’t make up more than 0.02% of the total fat or oil content.
However, studies in rats have shown that BHA produces tumors in the forestomach skin of rodents, but it was determined that it isn’t a carcinogen for humans based on the levels at which this compound appears in food. Despite this, California has declared the compound a carcinogen and advises consumers to be aware of products containing it.
Corn syrup is commonly used in the United States as a sweetener due to its low cost. Your dog’s food doesn’t need to be sweetened, and sugar of any kind is typically unhealthy for dogs. Avoid any dog products that contain corn syrup, since they don’t need extra sugar in their diet.
Corn itself is commonly used as a filler in dog foods since it’s cheap and easy to digest. The main danger from corn and many other grains is that they’re vulnerable to fungal growth while in storage. Many fungi produce mycotoxins that can induce liver failure in dogs and eventually result in death. Mycotoxin contamination is a huge issue in the dog food industry, which is why it’s a good idea to avoid dog food that contains large amounts of grain or corn.
Vitamin D Poisoning in Dogs
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. It assists in bone growth as well as nerve and muscle control. You might assume that since vitamins are good for you, exposure to a lot of vitamin D would be a good thing.
The truth is that because vitamin D is fat-soluble, excess vitamin D isn’t excreted in the urine and is actually stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. This can lead to elevated levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, which can be harmful or even fatal to your dog.
The leading cause of vitamin D toxicity in dogs is due to the ingestion of rodenticides which contain large amounts of vitamin D3. It can also be caused by overfeeding or over-supplementation of vitamin D, though this quite rare in dogs and more common in humans.
The following symptoms of vitamin D poisoning start to occur within 12 to 36 hours of ingestion of the rodenticide:
- Vomiting with blood in the vomit
- Loss of appetite
- Increased drinking
- Excessive drooling
- Feces containing blood
- Secondary bacterial infection
The first 72 hours after the excess vitamin D ingestion are critical to the survival of your dog. Typically treatment consists of IV hydration, which regulates the electrolyte balance in your dog’s blood and helps flush excess calcium out of the system. The treatment for vitamin D poisoning is usually quite lengthy and expensive, and your dog will need to be monitored for a long time after exposure to make sure their calcium and phosphorous levels are normal.
The best way to prevent vitamin D toxicity is to avoid leaving rodenticides and other pesticides in areas that your dog can access. Ideally, they should be in a locked cabinet, and if you’ve placed a rodenticide in your home to poison some rats, you’ll need to monitor your dog’s activity very carefully.
If you’re planning on starting some form of vitamin D supplementation for your pooch, be sure to consult with your vet in order to make sure that it’s a safe and necessary thing to do. If your vet recommended vitamin D supplementation, they will probably take regular blood tests to ensure your dog’s calcium and phosphorous levels are normal.
Is it Safe to Give Dogs Bones?
In the past, dogs were regularly given all sorts of bones, from pork bones from a Sunday roast to marrow bones to keep their teeth clean. Bones actually have many benefits for dogs: they provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, and they’re an entertaining way to satisfy your dog’s need to chew. However, not all bones are made equal, and some can be actively harmful to your pooch.
You should never, ever feed your dog cooked bones. Bones that have been cooked are more brittle, making them prone to splinter into shards. This can cut up your dog’s mouth and can cause serious damage to the rest of your dog’s digestive system, from throat all the way to the intestines.
Cooked bones include commercially-sold smoked or baked bone treats as well as any bones from your leftovers. No matter how pitifully your dog looks when you pull out the roast, don’t give in to temptation. The potential harm is definitely not worth the risk.
Raw bones are much more flexible than cooked bones and if you’re going to feed your dog bones, then they should always be raw. The current recommendation is to give your dog a bone the size of their head. This minimizes the chance of choking and allows your dog to gnaw without breaking off huge chunks of bone.
You should also try to avoid so-called marrow bones as they can cause serious issues. In addition to the risk of intestinal blockage, these bones can get stuck on your dog’s jaw and may require surgery to remove. Also avoid “round” bones, which are very hard and can cause tooth damage, mouth abscesses, and infections of the tooth root.
You can consider edible bones, which are typically the non-weight bearing bones of birds. These bones are really soft and can be crushed in a grinder. Their main benefit is that they provide a wide array of vitamins and minerals which are very useful in maintaining your dog’s health.
How to Feed Raw Bones Safely
You should never, ever leave your dog unattended when they’re playing and gnawing on a bone due to the health risks these bones pose. By following a few simple guidelines, you can ensure that your dog gets all the benefits of eating raw bones without many of the risks.
Keep an eye out for choking or blood on the bone or your dog’s mouth. Some dogs get very enthusiastic when chewing a bone and can either bite off a splinter or injure their mouth from over-exuberant gnawing.
Feed the bones in an area that you don’t mind getting dirty. Bones can become extremely gooey and gross during your dog’s chewing session, and you don’t want that goo getting into your carpet.
Knucklebones have a hard, brittle part that can splinter and injure your dog. Once your dog has chewed the bone down to this part, remove it and throw it out. Also don’t allow your dog to gnaw their bone down into a chunk small enough to swallow.
If your dog has a predisposition to pancreatitis, avoid giving marrow bones, since marrow contains a lot of fat and can trigger a flare-up. You can reduce the fat content of the bone by removing the marrow with a spoon before giving it to your dog.
If you’re unsure whether or not you want to risk the potential health complications associated with bones, there are still plenty of ways you can provide your dog with a similar experience. Edible dental bones are available at many vet shops, and they consist of high-quality materials that are easily digested while providing the same mechanical abrasion as a good bone. Be sure to avoid low-quality chew bones that contain unhealthy ingredients like corn, animal by-products, sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
Can Dogs Eat Nuts?
Nuts and seeds are a complex topic because while some nuts are safe, others are highly toxic to dogs. In general, you can feed your dog peanuts, almonds, and cashews, preferably unsalted and unflavored. If it’s your dog’s first time with nuts, be sure to go slowly to avoid gastric distress.
You should avoid macadamia nuts and black walnuts, which are both known to be extremely toxic to dogs. The cause of this toxicity is still unknown, and some dogs react much worse to these nuts than others. It’s best to be on the safe side and avoid them completely.
If you use peanut butter as a treat, make sure to stick to no-sugar-added, low-sodium varieties as they tend to be the healthiest. However, be on the lookout for xylitol, especially in sugar-free peanut butter, as it’s an incredibly toxic compound to dogs.
When it comes to seeds, the general consensus is that most fruit seeds are safe, as are sunflower seeds. Fruit pits are a no-go since they contain cyanide. Avoid giving your dog any stone fruit pits, such as peaches, cherries, and apricots.
Some dogs, especially those with conditions such as pancreatitis, should avoid nuts completely, as their high-fat content can make your dog seriously ill. Also, large nuts like pecans may not be toxic, but they can cause intestinal blockages due to their size and a dog’s propensity to inhale treats without chewing well.
Common Household Items that are Toxic to Dogs
Drugs that are designed for humans will not work the same on dogs, and it’s always a bad idea to give dogs human drugs. This applies both to medical drugs and recreational drugs. Remember that, even in the best-case scenario, most dogs don’t have the same body mass or metabolism that we do, and drugs will tend to affect them more severely. In the worst-case scenario, these drugs may be actively toxic to your dog.
Antifreeze contains a compound called ethylene glycol (not to be confused with propylene glycol) that reduces the freezing temperature of water so that it remains liquid at lower temperatures. Antifreeze poisoning affects the liver, kidneys, and brain and can be fatal. What’s worse is that you don’t need a large dose of antifreeze; just 6.6 ml/kg is enough to be lethal. Keep all bottles of antifreeze well out of your dog’s reach.
There are many common garden plants that can be toxic to dogs. These can include:
- Azaleas: ingesting a couple of leaves can cause irritation of the mouth and diarrhea, while severe poisoning can cause a drop in blood pressure, coma, and death.
- Daffodil: eating any part of the daffodil, including stems, flowers, and leaves can cause a significant drop in blood pressure and convulsions. The flower bulb is the most poisonous part of the plant and can cause heart arrhythmia and death.
- Oleander: the leaves and flowers contain glycosides, which are toxins that can cause muscle tremors, heart abnormalities, and bloody diarrhea and can be fatal in large doses.
Laundry or dishwashing detergent is harmful to humans and has a similar effect on dogs. Even ingesting a small amount is enough to cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset. Dishwashing and laundry detergents can contain anionic or cationic mixtures which can be toxic and even fatal to dogs.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between household and industrial bleach. Household bleach is much milder, and while it can cause irritation and gastrointestinal distress, chances are it won’t be fatal. Industrial bleach is usually very corrosive and has a pH of between 11 and 12. It can damage all parts of the canine digestive system, and these lesions can take months to heal, even if they’re caught early.
Pest Control Compounds
Rodenticides are specifically designed to poison and kill small animals, and they can do the same to your dog. Vitamin D poisoning is usually the result of a dog eating rodenticide or another pesticide.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Something Toxic
When it comes to helping your pooch out, the first few hours after ingestion are usually the most important. Knowing what to do if your dog eats something toxic can save their life.
Your first step should be to remove them from the source of the poison if you catch them eating it. Try to identify the poison and take some contents along with you to the vet. If your dog has vomited, gather a sample. This will help the vet make their diagnosis quicker and start treatment sooner (your dog insurance might cover the cost on this). Don’t induce vomiting unless the vet specifically instructs you to.
The sooner you can get your dog to a vet, the better. Make sure to have an emergency vet on speed-dial, just in the event of a poisoning emergency. While you’re on your way to the vet, you can also call the Pet Poison Hotline, which will relay any necessary information to the vet so that they can start treatment as soon as you arrive.
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SOURCE: Fuzzy Rescue, Author: Becky Roberts, Posted March, 2020.