Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog

Poisons in our Pantries: Common household foods you didn’t know could harm your pet

Chart of poisons for dogs.

We all know that chocolate is toxic to our furry companions, but did you know that something as seemingly harmless as a raisin or even a stick of gum can be deadly? Read on to discover more household foods which, while are enjoyed by humans safely, may pose a real threat to our feline and canine companions.

Grapes & Raisins

The toxic principle in grapes and raisins is poorly understood, but it is known that the ingestion of even small amounts by dogs can cause kidney failure and death. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and changes in urine production. Not all dogs are affected, but for those that are, the consequences can be deadly. Prompt medical attention is vital to mitigating risks.

Onions and Garlic

Plants of the Allium species, including onions, leeks, chives, and garlic, contain a compound known as thiosulfate, which causes oxidative damage to the red blood cells of dogs and cats. This causes red blood cells to burst, leading to anemia. This susceptibility of our pets to the toxic effects of these foods is especially important to keep in mind if using large amounts of garlic to stave off flea infestation, a practice which is unreliable and potentially dangerous. Also be aware of common food items that may contain onions, including pizza, tomato sauces, Chinese food, and some baby foods.

Xylitol (Sugar substitute)

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many sugarless chewing gums, candy, and other food items. Ingestion of this substance can be lethal to dogs. It can cause massive insulin release, resulting in severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and subsequent seizures and brain damage. Liver failure can also occur. Other products that may contain xylitol include some oral care products, baked goods, chewable vitamins, and more recently, some peanut butters. Some children’s liquid medications may also contain xylitol, so it is important to carefully check the label before using these medications with your veterinarian’s directions.

Macadamia nuts

Dogs who ingest these delicious treats can develop vomiting, weakness, drunken gait, and tremors. Fortunately, these signs often resolve completely with prompt supportive care.

Human Pain Relievers

It is important to never give your pet over-the-counter pain pills commonly used by people, including Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc). Dogs, and especially cats, are very sensitive to the effects of these medications due to differences in metabolism when compared with humans. They have a higher likelihood of developing stomach ulcers (which can in turn lead to gastrointestinal bleeding and leakage of digestive juices and bacteria into the abdomen), kidney failure, or liver failure from these drugs. In addition, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver failure and anemia. Beware even of “dog aspirin” found many pet stores. Studies have found that even in small doses, aspirin often causes stomach bleeding in dogs. Giving these medications also interferes with the safer, more effective pain relievers specifically designed for pets that your veterinarian may want to prescribe.

Be sure to keep any potential toxins well out of reach so that exposure doesn’t occur. It is also best to limit table scraps offered to pets, as they can be both toxic and lead to excess weight gain. If your pet has ingested these or any other poisons, it is important to contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately. These professionals can advise you on decontamination procedures and let you know if your pet requires immediate veterinary care.

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