We all love tossing pets a treat every now and then, whether it’s scraps of dinner from the table or a taste of dessert, but there are some foods humans eat that can be dangerous for our pets.
The signs that an animal has eaten something toxic can vary, but according to veterinarian Danielle Lafave at the Deepwoods Veterinary Clinic in Centreville, some of the more obvious things to look out for are a decrease in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation and lip-licking. Other symptoms include increased or decreased thirst, more or less urination than usual and a general lack of energy. Some less common symptoms may be muscle tremors or dilated pupils, but none of these symptoms are exclusive to ingestion of a dangerous substance, so staying vigilant when it comes to what your pet consumes is the first line of defense.
The first thing that pet owners should do if they suspect that their pet has ingested something dangerous is to take the substance away to prevent the pet from consuming more of it. If the ingested material came from a package, it is best to save the packaging and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of the ingested material and the severity of the situation, it may also be necessary to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435.
Even some commercially available pet foods can contain ingredients that are unhealthy for pets, though they are usually not life-threatening. Pet foods with bright colors and artificial dyes such as Blue 2, Red 40 and Yellow 5 have been known to increase hypersensitivity and allergy-like reaction in humans, and caramel coloring contains 4-methylimidazole, which has been known to cause cancer in animals. Certain preservatives such as BHA and BHT are also best avoided, as they may have carcinogenic effects as well.
Some particularly toxic and potentially fatal items to keep away from dogs in particular are chocolate and grapes. Macadamia nuts are also dangerous to dogs and can cause weakness, depression, tremors and hyperthermia when eaten. Cats in particular should be kept away from any foods with onions, garlic and chives, which can cause irritation to the GI tract and red blood cell damage. Dogs are also susceptible to these foods in large enough quantities. Avocados are not good for horses, rabbits, dogs, donkeys and any ruminants, but they can cause cardiovascular damage and even death in birds. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can cause low blood sugar and liver toxicity in many species of animals, and alcohol is dangerous for all pets and can cause comas and, in extreme cases, death. While dairy products are usually nonfatal, most pets cannot properly digest lactose, and foods containing milk can cause diarrhea.
When in doubt about whether or not a food item is safe for pets, the best thing is to exercise caution, do some research and keep potentially dangerous food items in a place where pets cannot access them.
A list of most to least dangerous foods for pets:
• Grapes and raisins
• Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol and sorbitol
• Chives, onions and garlic
• Macadamia nuts
• Bread dough with active yeast
• Persimmon, peach and plum seeds
• Raw or undercooked meat and bones
• Fatty foods
• Other nuts
• Coconut products
• Raw eggs
• Dairy products