The concept of giving pets human meals is certainly not a new one, as dogs and cats have been eating table scraps since time began. Many dogs and cats beg when they see their owners sitting down for a meal, and it can be tempting to give your pets some of your food as a treat. A home-cooked meal can also be a nice treat for a beloved pet: perhaps some rice mixed with chicken broth, or steamed veggies, like broccoli and spinach.
But did you know that many of the foods we eat can be toxic for your pets? Here’s a guide to foods you should make sure your dogs and cats stay away from:
Alcohol and drugs: Small quantities of alcohol consumed by pets can cause vomiting, incoordination, confusion and seizures. The same goes for marijuana and other street drugs. Dogs cannot assimilate these products as humans do. Small amounts can even be deadly to small dogs. Same goes for medicines — pets don’t have the same reaction to certain medications as humans.
Chocolate: Most pet owners know that chocolate can be deadly to a dog. Theobromine in chocolate can build up to toxic levels in dogs, as they can’t metabolize it as quickly as humans. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in higher doses can cause heartbeat abnormalities, tremors, and possibly seizures. The darker the chocolate the more toxic the contents may be. Baker’s chocolate is ten times more toxic to dogs than lighter chocolates found in most candies.
Caffeine: Caffeine in large quantities can make pets disorientated and sometimes cause seizure-like symptoms.
Anything with a pit: Pits present choking hazards to pets. Avocados and pitted fruits, such as cherries and apricots, are also best avoided. It’s also never a good idea to give whole corn on the cob to your dog. The cob can obstruct your dog’s intestines, which can be fatal.
Fats: Fat trimmings from meat cooking, as well as high fat foods such as nuts, should be kept far out of reach of the family pets. Fat, whether cooked or raw, can cause vomiting and diarrhea, possibly even pancreatitis.
Grapes and raisins: According to petMD, the exact substance in grapes and raisins that causes a toxic reaction is unknown. However, it’s important to be aware that grapes and raisins can be fatal to your pet, even leading to kidney failure. If you have children, make sure they’re also aware not to give these snacks to the family pet.
Meat bones: bone splinters can get lodged in your pet’s mouth, throat or intestines causing a digestive tract blockage. Poultry bones are brittle and can be especially dangerous or even fatal to animals.
Xylitol: This is an artificial sweetener, used in gums, candies, baked goods, and toothpaste. According to the ASPCA, it can cause insulin release, which can lead to hypoglycemia. It can cause vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, and even liver failure.
Milk and dairy products: Pets can’t tolerate lactose, even cats! This can cause animals diarrhea and stomach upset.
Onions, garlic, and chives: More susceptible to cats, these foods can cause gastrointestinal irritation, and possibly even lead to red blood cell damage, says the ASPCA.
If you think your pet has ingested something toxic, call the Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 289-0358; or the ASPCA Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435. Visit an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.
Contributions by Bruce W. Little, DVM