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Dogs are our constant adoring companions, and never more so than when we’re prepping food or eating. It’s nearly impossible to resist those yearning eyes that beg for just one teeny-tiny bite. But sharing people food with your dog can be dangerous, and there are many foods that are poisonous to dogs. “Every species has different needs, and animals don’t metabolize food the same way we do,” says Deborah Linder, DVM, MS, DACVIM, a board certified veterinary nutritionist at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “Foods that are okay for you may not be for dogs, even for healthy pets. Assume a food is not okay to give your dog unless you learn otherwise.”
Reactions to toxic foods to dogs vary depending on the type of food, the size of your dog, and how much was ingested. “Toxic substances can cause mild adverse reactions, such as stomach upset, to severe ones, such as death,” says Tina Wismer, senior director, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Sometimes one bite may make your dog sick, but ingesting a large amount could be fatal.
If you suspect your dog has chowed down on something he or she shouldn’t have—even if you’re not entirely sure— call your vet or a pet poison control hotline ASAP. “Time can be of essence and getting to the ER as quickly as possible, preferably before the food can leave the stomach, is best,” says Dr. Linder. Also, don’t induce vomiting at home unless directed to do so by a vet.
In the meantime, minimize risk around your house: keep garbage inaccessible, don’t leave backpacks or handbags on the floor, be careful about dropping foods while cooking, and never leave plates or glasses unattended where your pet can access them, even up on the counter, says Dr. Linder. Your dog is smarter and may be more motivated than you think to grab that plate of cookies. And if you have a new pet whose habits you don’t know yet, be even more careful.
If you do want to share people food, opt for foods that healthy dogs can enjoy safely such as baby carrots, green beans, or watermelon. And never overdo it: Too much of any food can cause GI upset or contribute to weight gain, says Dr. Linder.
Ahead, the most common foods toxic to dogs that you should never feed your dog:
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Chocolate, Coffee and Tea
“The Animal Poison Control Center receives more calls about chocolate than any other food,” says Wismer. “Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, types of methylxanthines.”
Methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and death. Darker chocolate tends to be more dangerous than milk chocolate, and baking chocolate contains the highest levels of methylxanthines. Coffee and tea also contain these substances and should never be given to dogs.
Onions, Chives, and Garlic
These foods can cause GI irritation and can lead to red blood cell damage and anemia due to the presence of N-propyl disulfide. “While garlic is sometimes an ingredient in pet foods and treats, its toxicity is dependent on dose,” says Dr. Linder. Garlic or onion powder, alone or in foods, also may be an issue if your pet ingests them in large enough quantities.
Grapes and Raisins
If ingested in large amounts, these foods can cause stomach upset, lethargy, and acute kidney injury. It’s not known exactly what the toxic component is, though a new theory indicates that tartaric acid may be the part of the grape which causes toxicity in dogs, says Dr. Linder. Interestingly, the amount of tartaric acid can vary by grape type, how they were grown, and ripeness level.
Ingesting any kind of nut, which contain high amounts of oils and fats, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Eating macadamia nuts is even more dangerous and can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia in dogs, says Wismer. Foods that contain large amounts of nuts also can be an issue.
Beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, and even death in dogs, says Wismer. Under no circumstances should your dog be given alcohol, so keep beverage glasses out of their reach while you’re enjoying them, and pick up any glasses with drink remnants off of end tables, for example.
The stems, leaves, peels, seeds, and fruit of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid. This is an essential oil that can cause irritation and even central nervous system depression in dogs if ingested in significant amounts, says Wismer.
This one might not be on your radar, but it’s an insidious food toxin most pet parents aren’t aware of. “The mold that grows on some foods, especially nuts, dairy products and some grains can contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which cause stomach upset and severe tremors and seizures in pets,” Wismer says.
While this isn’t a specific food, this common artificial sweetener is used in many different products and can be deadly to dogs, says Dr. Linder. It’s found in gum and candy, toothpaste, supplements, spreads such as peanut butter, baked goods, protein bars and shakes, and many different sugar-free products. Ingesting xylitol can lead to mild stomach upset and vomiting, and seizures, progressing to liver failure and death within a few days.
While it’s not food, but medications are the number one most common call to the ASPCA, making up a third of the total call volume, Wismer says. Both over-the-counter and prescription medicines are dangerous to dogs, including ibuprofen, vitamin D, herbal supplements, nicotine patches, antidepressants, heart medications and ADHD prescription medications. Even pet medications can be dangerous if overdose. Another substance that is toxic to dogs is marijuana in all its forms
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