The Vet Is In: Keep Pets Away from These Foods

Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway March 15, 2015 19:30

Garlic and onionsGarlic, onions, wine, chives, leeks, avocados, grapes, chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins, coffee.

For foodies, this reads like a shopping list for a gourmet feast. For pets, however, these foods are real hazards.

While our pantries, refrigerators and kitchen counters are full of things we love to eat, some of these can make our dogs and cats sick and even threaten their lives.

One such deadly toxin may be out of sight in your purse or pocket, but your always hungry and curious dog can sniff it out. It’s the artificial sweetener xylitol, a key ingredient in sugarless gum. It’s also found in pastries and candies.

Just one stick of chewing gum containing this sweetener can be toxic to a 20-pound dog. Within a half-hour, xylitol causes extremely low blood sugar that results in disorientation, tremors, seizures and – without immediate veterinary care – even death. At much higher doses, it destroys liver cells and can lead to irreversible liver failure.

Cats, in addition to being pickier about what goes into their mouths, are also better at resisting the toxic effects of xylitol.

Now back to the rest of the feast:

Chocolate This delicious treat found in most homes is highly dangerous for dogs and cats. The toxic components are theobromine and caffeine, and the darker the chocolate the more of these two toxins it contains.

A 20-pound dog would have to eat a full pound of milk chocolate before signs of toxicity occur. But it would take only six ounces of semisweet chocolate or as little as two ounces of baking chocolate to have the same effect. Because dogs and cats have difficulty metabolizing theobromine and caffeine, the quick buildup of these toxins can result in abnormal heart rhythm, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death.

Other caffeinated products such as coffee, coffee beans and large amounts of tea can also cause the same symptoms.

Macadamia nuts These high-fat nuts can give your dog a major upset stomach and can even cause pancreatitis. They also contain an unknown neurotoxin that can increase body temperature and cause lethargy, tremors, joint stiffness and inability to walk.

Grapes and raisins Never feed these to your pets. They can cause acute kidney failure in one to three days after ingestion by dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and seizures.

As toxicity progresses, the kidneys stop producing urine and death follows. As few as five grapes or raisins can be poisonous to a 20-pound dog.

As you might deduct, wine is also a no-no for pets. In fact no alcohol – be it wine, spirits, beer or any liquor added to food – is good for your pet. Alcohol has the same effect on a pet’s liver and brain as it has on a human’s, but it takes far less of it to cause damage.

Garlic, onions, chives and leeks These all contain thiosulfate, which is poisonous to both dogs and cats. Garlic contains five times more of this toxin than onions.

Once ingested, thiosulfate causes drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases, hemolytic anemia. Cats are much more sensitive to the toxic oxidative effects from these plants. If they ingest them, cats frequently become very anemic as their red blood cells are destroyed. Anemia usually occurs several days after ingestion, and a blood transfusion may be required to save the animal’s life.

Garlic, onions, chives and leeks may also be found in pizza, tomato sauce and Chinese food, as well as in baby foods that contain onion powder.

Avocados Pet birds, rodents and rabbits are all very sensitive to persin, a chemical found in avocados that can cause fatal buildup of fluid in the lungs and around the heart.

Depending on the amount ingested, avocados can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, and the large seed can cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Because cats don’t like avocados, they are not at risk.

The kitchen can be a very dangerous place for hook-bills and other pet birds.  All non-stick cooking surfaces emit toxic fumes if overheated, and birds with their highly developed respiratory systems are extremely sensitive to these toxins. Self-cleaning ovens can also emit fumes that cause lung injury and death in our feathered friends.

Raw eggs and meat Just as we shouldn’t eat raw or undercooked eggs and meat, neither should our furry family members. The risk? Harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and in some pets, even death.

These bacterial diseases can easily be transmitted to the people in close contact with these animals. Raw eggs also contain avidin, which can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B and lead to skin and coat problems. Commercial “raw diets” for pets can pose the same problem.

Among the most common kitchen toxins are animal fat, grease and poultry skins. These fats commonly cause vomiting and diarrhea, and depending on the size of the animal and the amount of fat ingested, may even result in life-threatening pancreatitis.

If you suspect your pet has eaten a toxin, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence, and prompt treatment may make the difference between life and death.

If your veterinarian is not available and you need information, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline for a fee ($39 per incident) at 1-800-213-6680.

Dr. Ordway owns and operates Twain Harte Veterinary Hospital.

Copyright © 2015 Friends and Neighbors Magazine
Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway March 15, 2015 19:30
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