You share so much with your pet—cuddles, the bed, your favorite couch spot—but sharing food with your pet can do more harm than good. Many foods that are safe for people can be toxic to pets. These toxic foods can cause your pet severe health issues and, in some cases, can lead to death. To help prevent your pet from being poisoned, learn which foods that people enjoy can be harmful to your furry friend. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller team discusses common foods you should avoid giving your pet.
Pet-toxic food #1: Chocolate
Chocolate is a staple for many people—especially those with a sweet tooth—but if your pet gets into your stash, this indulgent treat can have serious negative health consequences. Chocolate contains methylxanthines—caffeine and theobromine—which are pet-toxic chemical compounds. Theobromine is present in chocolate in a higher amount than caffeine, but the amount of these compounds combined determines a chocolate’s toxicity—the darker the chocolate, the more toxic. A pet’s toxicity level is dose-dependent, meaning small amounts are less toxic than large amounts.
While dogs are more likely than cats to consume large amounts of chocolate, both species are sensitive to this food’s stimulant ingredients, which can cause dangerous cardiac and nervous system effects. Because methylxanthines are poorly metabolized and often recirculate through the intestines and liver, pets may experience prolonged, life-threatening side effects up to 72 hours after ingesting chocolate. Chocolate toxicity signs may take 6 to 12 hours to appear, and may include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Fast heart rate
- Muscle tremors
Pet-toxic food #2: Sugar-free foods containing xylitol
Xylitol (i.e., birch sugar) is a common sugar substitute used in sugarless gum, toothpaste, some peanut butters, and many other foods and products. While humans reap xylitol’s low-calorie benefits, if your dog ingests a product that includes this natural sugar substitute, they can become dangerously ill. Dogs are especially sensitive to this sugar substitute, but because the research results are unclear regarding cats’ sensitivity, you should also prevent your feline friend from eating a xylitol-containing product. Pets metabolize xylitol differently than humans. If your pet ingests xylitol, this sugar substitute releases a large amount of insulin, causing your furry pal’s blood sugar levels to plummet. Signs typically occur about 30 minutes after ingestion and include:
Pet-toxic food #3: Onion, garlic, leeks, and chives
Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks may be the basis of many delicious meals, but they are hazardous to cats and dogs. These Alliums contain thiosulphates, which lead to the breakdown of your pet’s red blood cells, causing anemia. Initial signs include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea, but as your pet becomes more anemic, signs progress and may include:
- Pale mucous membranes
- Bloody urine
Pet-toxic food #4: Grapes and raisins
Raisins, which are used in many baked goods, can be extremely toxic to pets, and if they ingest only a few raisins or grapes, your furry pal can develop kidney failure. These treats’ exact toxin is unknown, but ensure your pet cannot get into any leftover dishes that contain raisins, or fruit bowls with grapes. Grape or raisin toxicity signs occur one to three hours after ingestion, and will almost always include vomiting.
Pet-toxic food #5: Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are often used in baked goods, and if your pet ingests only a small amount of a dish that includes these nuts as an ingredient, they can experience severe toxicity. Macadamia nuts’ high fat content can cause your pet pancreatitis—a painful inflammatory condition that requires hospitalization and can be life-threatening. In addition, if your pet consumes macadamia nuts, they may experience neurologic signs, including:
- Muscle tremors
- Inability to walk
Pet-toxic food #6: Alcohol
Many pets are attracted to alcohol’s sweet aroma, but are highly sensitive to its effects. Only a few sips from an unattended or spilled alcoholic drink can can poison your pet, and their signs may include:
- Low body temperature
- Respiratory distress
Rising bread dough produces ethanol (i.e., alcohol) and is also dangerous for pets. If your pet ingests rising dough, not only can they experience alcohol toxicity signs, but also significant abdominal pain and bloating, because the yeast will continue to expand in your pet’s warm stomach.
To avoid a potential veterinary emergency, learn all you can about pet toxins and store them safely away out of your furry pal’s reach. If you have additional pet safety questions or to schedule your furry pal’s wellness exam, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller team