We all know that certain things can be harmful for your dog if eaten. Toxic food (toxic to your dog) such as chocolate, onions, and grapes are the most common culprits. However, it is important to understand that there are many misconceptions about what is okay to feed your dog. Often times, things are okay as long they are in small quantities. Other items can be very serious if even a small amount is ingested. Here is a breakdown of the most common and significant household toxins for dogs.
Your dog ate what?!?
- Chocolate: This is by far the most common household toxin, but what many people don’t know is that many chocolates are okay if eaten in moderate quantities. The toxic ingredients are called methylxanthines, including caffeine and theobromide. These can cause gastrointestinal signs (vomiting/diarrhea), agitation, and dangerous changes in their heart rate. In general, milk chocolate is usually okay unless your dog is very small. Dark Chocolate, semi-sweet, and baking chocolate all have higher concentrations of methylxanthines, and are much more likely to lead to symptoms. If you have any questions, your veterinarian or poison control will be able help you determine the best path for treatment.
- Caffeine: As stated above, other common sources of caffeine can lead to unwanted symptoms. The other most common sources of caffeine are coffee (including grounds) and dietary supplements.
- Corn Cobs: These are the number one cause for intestinal obstruction. Even if chewed up into small pieces, your dog should not digest corn cobs. Especially at summer picnics, please keep these away from your furry friends.
- Onions/Chives/Garlic: All of these plants contain substances that can lead to hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells). However, for most of these a significant amount of onion has to be eaten. In general, small amounts of onion over a meal isn’t a concern. If your dog ate several large onions, this would be reason to contact your veterinarian. Be wary of anything with ground or powdered onion, these tend to be more concentrated and can be more toxic.
- Grapes/Raisins: Most dogs can eat these and never have a problem. However, a small percentage of dogs can have an idiopathic (unknown) reaction which can lead to kidney failure. Unfortunately, we do not know why this occurs. Some dogs appear much more susceptible, but we have no way of determining which ones. Luckily, there is a minimum dose of grapes that have been linked to illness. Therefore, if your dog ingests grapes please contact your veterinarian or poison control. If treated early with hospitalization and intravenous fluids, most dogs can recover with a good prognosis.
- Alcohol: This one’s a no brainer. Your dog is significantly smaller than you. They may also have a more difficult time metabolizing alcohol. If your dog consumes too much, they can become disoriented, sedated, and vomit. Just as in people, alcohol poisoning sometimes requires hospitalization.
- Mushrooms: The mushrooms that we cook and eat are not toxic to your dog. However, there are many wild growing mushrooms that can be dangerous to your dog. The most common toxins in these mushrooms can lead to liver failure. It’s difficult to determine which mushrooms are toxic, so if your dog is prone to eating them it would be best that you remove them from your yard.
- Nutmeg: As in humans, if a large amount of Nutmeg is ingested it can lead to hallucinations, disorientation, difficulty walking, and vomiting. Small amounts used in baking should be fine, but if your dog eats an entire bottle it would be best to contact your veterinarian.
- Sugar Free Candy and Gum: Many of these contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener. Even if dogs eat a small amount, it can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure. It you suspect your dog has been exposed to any of these please contact your veterinarian.
- Yeast/Rising Dough: If eaten, this will continue to expand and produce ethanol gas in your dog’s stomach. This can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, and obstruction. Best to keep this out of reach of your furry housemates.
- Salt (In Large Quantities): Your dog’s blood contains electrolytes including sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium. If your dog ingests a significant amount of salt, this can make your dog’s blood quickly more concentrated, which can cause fluid to leak out of other spaces/organs, leading to dysfunction. If your dog eats a significant amount of salt, starts vomiting, or becomes weak please contact your veterinarian. Paintballs are a common source of high salt ingestion.
- Ham: Ham is high in salt and fat. If a significant amount is eaten, the above complications can arise, or your dog can be at risk for pancreatitis.
- Seeds/Pits: Most of these are not easily digestible, and can become wedged in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Obviously, for many dogs a large amount of seeds (or large SIZED seeds) needs to be eaten to cause a problem. Peach Pits, chestnuts, and acorns are the most common to become problematic. If your dog is obstructed, they will become uncomfortable and vomit repeatedly.
- Macadamia Nuts: If a large amount of these are eaten, they can lead to mild symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Most patients have self- limiting symptoms, and can be treated at home.
- Spicy Foods: While not life threatening, eating very spicy foods can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are usually mild and resolve on their own.
- Avocado: While avocado can be toxic to birds and some ruminants, they are perfectly safe for dogs. However, if the large pits are eaten they can lead to an obstruction.
- Dairy: As with people, if your dog is not used to eating dairy, a sudden change in diet with milk or cheese can lead to diarrhea. This is usually self-limiting and will resolve on its own. If you wish to feed your dog milk, cheese, or yogurt, start with small quantities and slowly increase the meal size over time.
Not a food but still very toxic:
- Tobacco: The nicotine in tobacco can be quite toxic to your dog. It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, tremors and heart problems. Even a number of cigarette or cigar butts can be an issue. Keep your yard free of these to avoid problems.
And with the holidays approaching be sure to keep your dog safe from common holiday hazards.