Before you’re tempted to share a forbidden treat with your dog “just this once”, stop and consider the potentially fatal side effects.
Dogs often don’t metabolize things the same way humans do. Certain foods either fail to properly digest, causing dangerous build-up, or are simply immediately dangerous. Knowing what is poisonous to dogs is vital to keeping your dog happy and healthy!
Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and inappetance (lack of appetite) are the most obvious poisoning symptoms. Seizures, ataxia (a drunken gait), polydipsia (drinking excessively), polyuria (excessive urination) and fever (normal canine temperature is 101.5F) also frequently occur. If you think your dog has been poisoned, whether accidentally or purposefully, don’t delay; go to the vet. Just like people, some dogs are more susceptible than others, and it’s almost impossible to know until it’s too late.
At parties and barbecues, one of two things occurs: people leave their drinks down at a level the dog can reach, or they think it would be entertaining to get the dog drunk. Alcohol is more dangerous to your pet than you might think, and you cannot expect them to “sleep it off”. The ethanol in alcohol can cause difficulty breathing along with stereotypical drunkenness. In addition, alcohol toxicity is reached far faster in dogs than in people.
The oil-soluble toxin in the seeds, bark and leaves of an avocado is called persin. Although there’s some debate regarding just how bad persin is for dogs, there have been documented cases of poisonings caused by persin. Just like many other “gray area” foods, the danger of avocados varies from dog to dog and breed to breed. Better to err on the side of caution rather than find out yours is particularly sensitive.
Nearly everyone has heard that dogs can’t have chocolate, but the reality is that some forms are far worse than others. Theobromine, which is a form of methylxanthine, is a cardiac stimulant found in chocolate. Your dog’s system can’t secrete it like you can, and the half-life (the time it lingers in their system) of chocolate is about seventeen hours. Arrhythmia – irregular heartbeat – is one of the most dangerous side effects. Highly refined forms such as milk chocolate don’t have as much theobromine as dark chocolate, unsweetened baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder. Dark and baker’s chocolates are the most dangerous and should be handled very carefully around your dog.
You love your morning cup of coffee. And then there’s soda, tea, energy drinks and dietary supplements, among other caffeine sources. The chemical methylxanthine is found in caffeine, making it toxic to dogs. You might recognize methylxanthine as the relative of the fatal theobromine in chocolate. The highest concentrations are found in coffee grounds, tea bags and diet pills.
Grapes, raisins and currants
The reason grapes, raisins and currants are so dangerous is a bit of a medical mystery; still though, their danger is well-known. Just one raisin to certain sensitive dogs is fatal, and they’re toxic to all dogs in varying quantities. Early poisoning symptoms include lethargy and polydipsia. Renal (kidney) failure and anuria (lack of urine production) are the end result of toxicity.
Just like the currant family, the reason behind macadamia nut toxicity is unknown. Sensitivity varies, making it impossible to know if it would take one or ten to poison your dog. In addition, it can take as many as twelve hours for poisoning symptoms to develop. Unique symptoms include joint swelling, hind-end paralysis, arrythmia and hyperthermia (overheating).
Large amounts of nutmeg can cause hallucinations. As toxicity progresses, seizures may occur making it imperative to exercise caution whenever using nutmeg.
Onions and garlic
The chemicals allyl-propyl disulfide and n-propyl disulfide are found in onions and garlic. Heinz body anemia (hemolytic anemia) is a condition where red blood cells are destroyed, and it’s caused by onion and garlic consumption. Dark urine, caused by the presence of blood, is a sign that poisoning has advanced dangerously.
Salmon and all other fish that swim upstream to breed such as sturgeon and trout often have the parasite Nanophyetus salmincola which is often infected by Neorickettsia helminthoeca. If a dog eats raw fish, they can develop Salmon Poisoning Disease (SPD). Swollen lymph nodes are one symptom of SPD. Unfortunately, death can be prolonged, taking up to two weeks after ingestion to occur. If SPD is caught early, it is highly treatable. Dogs are the only species susceptible to SPD.
Tomato and rhubarb
Oxalates, which affect the central nervous system, are found in high quantities in the stems and leaves of these fruits. Also present is tomatine, a glycoalkaloid that affects the heart. Unripe green tomatoes and green leaves have the highest concentrations.
Xylitol is a commonly used sugar alcohol sweetener found in gums and toothpastes and naturally occurring in some fruits and vegetables. It is also often used in diet products. If your dog eats enough xylitol, their blood sugar crashes, creating hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia symptoms include seizures, ataxia and collapse.
This list includes only the most common toxic foods. Your dog’s susceptibility to toxic foods varies greatly based on breed, size, weight and age. And, just like people, some dogs have specific food and chemical allergies. If you believe your dog has been poisoned, contact poison control for dogs immediately or bring your dog to your veterinarian. Avoid accidental poisonings by feeding food made specifically for dogs and by providing high quality dog treats rather than people food or scraps.