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Common foods that pose dangers to your pet

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on March 18th, 2022

Do you own a counter surfer?

Many pets – both dogs and cats – are opportunists. They will take advantage of any chance to eat whatever they can get their paws on. But many foods in your kitchen are dangerous if ingested.

If you think chocolate is the only thing deadly for pets, you’ll be surprised to learn that there is a long list of toxic foods. March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month so it’s a good time to learn about or review what could be dangerous to your fur friend.

Here are some common foods that can turn your kitchen into a nightmare:

Onions/garlic -These allium vegetables, including their powdered forms, damage the red blood cells of dogs and cats when ingested. If too many red blood cells are damaged, life-threatening anemia can result. This group also includes chives, leeks, and shallots. Onions and garlic are particularly toxic to cats.

Grapes/raisins - Grapes and raisins are more dangerous for dogs than chocolate because ingesting only a small amount of these fruits can cause kidney failure that can lead to death.

Avocados – These can be risky for dogs, who may easily swallow the creamy fruit as well as the pit, which can obstruct the intestines. Foreign-body obstructions are life-threatening, and surgery is often required to remove the blockage.

Chocolate (especially dark) - Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, two chemicals called methylxanthines that are toxic to dogs and cause neurologic issues in high enough doses. The darker the chocolate, the greater the concern. Chocolate ingestion usually causes a mild gastric upset with vomiting or diarrhea.

Xylitol - This artificial sweetener can be found in sugar-free gum, candies, and snacks, including sugar-free peanut butter. In dogs, xylitol may cause dangerously low blood sugar and can also harm their liver. Some dogs will fully recover, while others may develop fatal, acute liver failure.

Caffeine: Poisoning can occur with ingestion of products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, certain drugs such as migraine medications, and caffeine or diet pills. Caffeine poisoning can cause restlessness, hyperactivity, vomiting, panting, an increased heart rate, weakness, and diarrhea. Fatality is common when dogs ingest caffeine pills.

Coffee -Coffee beans, grounds, and brewed coffee contain caffeine, a very dangerous and toxic chemical to cats and dogs. A moderate amount of coffee can easily cause death in small dogs or cats.

Cherry/apricot pits -Both of these pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous and potentially lethal if consumed in high enough quantities. Pits can also get lodged in a dog's digestive tract and cause intestinal blockages.

Macadamia nuts - Their high-fat content can cause pancreatic inflammation. Low doses - as little as half a nut per pound of dog - can cause neurologic issues such as weakness, difficulty walking, and tremors.

Salt- Ingestion of salt can cause sodium poisoning (hypernatremia) which is an increase of sodium concentrations in the blood. Common symptoms of salt toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking/thirst, difficulty walking, tremors, and seizures.

Unbaked yeast bread dough – If ingested, the dough will continue to rise in the pet’s warm stomach and cause not only significant abdominal pain and bloating, but also alcohol poisoning from the ethanol that dough produces.

Apple seeds - The seeds contain a small amount of cyanide which can harm dogs and cats in large doses. The tough apple core, and the stem, could also choke a dog.

Alcoholic beverages - Alcohol or ethanol toxicity can occur when an animal ingests alcoholic beverages, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, etc. Common symptoms include acting “drunk,” sedation, difficulty walking, low blood sugar and hypothermia (low temperature), gastrointestinal distress, respiratory depression, and coma.

Fatty scraps - Can cause stomach upset and is a risk for pancreatitis - where the pet’s pancreas becomes inflamed. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, lethargy, and diarrhea.

It’s not just food you need to keep an eye on. Ensure items such as essential oils (diffused and directly applied), human drugs and vitamins, rat poison, fertilizer, cleaning products, and candles not made from soy or beeswax are kept out of reach.

Poisoning symptoms

Call your vet or head to the nearest emergency clinic if your dog or cat displays any of these symptoms:

  • Agitation, tremors and/or convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low energy
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Pale gums

Besides keeping toxic foods out of reach, a good way to help avoid disaster is proper training. Here are some tips:

  • Teach your pet to stay out of the kitchen.
  • Give them a job to do, like the “Place” command when you’re preparing meals.
  • Supervise your pet at all times, especially if you’ve got a counter surfer. If you need to step out of the kitchen, put them somewhere safe like a crate.
  • Make sure to clean up all food remnants from the floor.
  • Purchase safe alternatives, when possible, like peanut butter without xylitol.
  • If your dog has a habit of picking things up outside, a basket muzzle – which allows proper panting – makes it difficult to grab potentially dangerous items.

A good idea is to teach your dog the “Leave it” or “out command,” which essentially means “drop whatever is in your mouth.” This could be a lifesaver when it comes to toxic foods or choking hazards.

That being said, we all know that despite precautions, accidents can happen. Toxic ingestion can cost between $500 and $2,000 to be treated. Pet insurance, such as PetPlusUs, can help you deal with it without expense being an overriding concern. It also offers other resources including the 24/7 Pet Poison Helplinethat can assist you if you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance. Get a quote for coverage here.

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