When your dog is a part of the family, sharing your food feels natural. However, many people are unaware that common foods we eat can be poisonous to dogs.
I recommend that people don’t feed their dogs leftovers for a couple of reasons. First, they might include foods that are toxic for your pet and second, they can contain a lot of fat or sugar, which is bad for dogs in terms of their weight -- as well as potentially damaging to their systems. Instead, feed your dog a nutritionally balanced, pet-food diet. You should also ensure your rubbish, both inside and outside, is secure from a dog raid.
Number one on the list would be chocolate: there’s so much of it available, people leave it around a lot -- and the smell is very attractive to dogs. Fortunately, more and more people are aware that chocolate is toxic for dogs, but we still see a lot of poisoning cases.
Chocolate poisoning is an overdose reaction to theobromine, a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic found in chocolate, as well as tea and cola beverages, which dogs can’t metabolise well. Cooking chocolate is the most toxic, due to its high cocoa content, followed by dark, milk and white chocolate.
The first signs of chocolate poisoning are hyperactivity, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and increased drinking and urination, which can progress to a rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and eventually death. And it doesn’t need to be that much chocolate -- 200g of dark chocolate can kill a small dog.
Onions and Garlic
Onions can cause severe anaemia, as can garlic to a lesser degree, as they both contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. Garlic is less toxic, and some people feed it to their dogs to help with fleas, but they have to be very careful they don’t overdo it.
Fatty, processed foods, like salami, cabanossi or fast food, can inflame the pancreas resulting in pancreatitis. How often do people cut off the fat from meat and think to feed it to their dog as a treat? It can take only a single fatty meal, with overweight dogs most at risk.
Avocado can cause fluid accumulation in the lungs as it contains persin, a fungicidal toxin. I’ve had very sick dogs come in who’ve eaten avocados that have fallen off trees and started to rot.
An artificial sweetener found in an increasing number of sugar-free foods like lollies and chewing gum, it can lead to dangerously low blood sugar in dogs along with liver damage -- and can be fatal. Xylitol has been approved by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand for human consumption and is referenced as food additive code number 967 on food labels.
Also Be Careful Of…
Some varieties of grapes and raisins are toxic and can cause renal failure, so it’s best not to share these treats with dogs.
You have to be careful of dairy products as, just like us, dogs can be lactose intolerant.
• Caffeine is not a good idea. If you leave your coffee out and your curious canine drinks it, it can have serious consequences resulting in damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and central nervous system.
• Alcohol should never be given to your dog, as it can make your pet seriously ill.
• Macadamia nuts can cause a drunken gait, muscle tremors and paralysis.
• Apple seeds, cherry pips, peach, apricot and plum stones contain the toxin cyanide and can result in cyanide poisoning.
Danger Growing in the Backyard
There is an extensive list of plants that can poison your dog – Google it and you’ll come up with pages and pages. However, I think it’s very worthwhile for dog owners to check out the full list, especially before planting, as it’s surprising how many plants are on there. Common ones include aloe vera, oleander, azaleas, tulips and daffodils.
Some breeds, like Labradors, beagles and Staffies, will just eat anything, so it’s best to keep these plants out of your garden, or to fence them off to prevent your dog getting at them.
The other thing to keep in mind is that dogs can walk in these plants and then lick their paws, with nasty results.
Certain varieties of mushrooms are poisonous to dogs as well as us -- it’s best to prevent your dog from eating wild mushrooms you come across on walks or growing in the backyard.
Compost heaps are also a concern -- dogs will be drawn to them because they smell so strongly, but spoiled, mouldy and rotting foods can be very dangerous to dogs.
Poisoning symptoms include pretty much any abnormal behaviour. When someone brings in a sick dog, it’s one of the first questions we ask -- “Could your dog have eaten anything?” But the major ones to look out for are:
• Gastric complaints such as vomiting, diarrhoea, inflamed mouth, increased urination
• Energy loss/lethargy
• Muscle shaking and tremors
Get Your Pet to the Vet
If you suspect your dog is suffering from poisoning, you should take her straight to a veterinarian.
If you can’t get your dog treatment immediately, the quicker you can get the poison out of their system and the less absorption, the better -- a safe way to try and make your dog vomit is by putting a heap of salt on the back of the tongue.