Hazardous foods for pets

Who doesn’t like to spoil his pet with a treat? We all do it, it’s so hard not to - you are eating and your pet is looking at you with its big yearning eyes and you just give in.  However, it is crucial to know that not all items consumed by humans  are safe for animals. Some foods on the list are considered super food for humans because they are so nutritious and healthy, but when it comes to your pet it is not the case. Here is the list of the most common food related hazards to pets.

One of the most common intoxications I get to treat, especially around Christmas time, is chocolate poisoning. Chocolate contains Theobromide which is toxic to the pet’s heart, lungs, kidney and central nervous system

Onion and garlic can cause destruction of the red blood cells, a process called Hemolytic anemia. Symptoms of hemolytic anemia are usually pale gums, rapid heart rate, weakness and lethargy. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody urine. Poisoning can result from raw, cooked and dehydrated forms of onion, garlic and chives.

Coffee or tea contain caffeine which is toxic for pets.  The caffeine effect on the body is pretty similar to the chocolate effect.  

Grapes/resins contain unknown toxins which can lead to kidney failure in pets.

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and affect the nervous system.

Sugar free gum and candy are dangerous to pets when they are sweetened with Xylitol.  This mimics the action of sugar in the body, causes release of Insulin from the pancreas which leads to a condition called Hypoglycemia- low blood sugar. This condition is manifested by weakness, drunken gait, collapse and seizures.

Another food to avoid is avocado. Avocado is dangerous for pets as it contains a toxic fatty acid called Persin. The symptoms of toxicity are usually of gastrointestinal irritation.

It is well known that pets should not be exposed to alcohol. Alcohol contains Ethanol, a seriously toxic chemical compound that causes central nervous system and respiratory depression. Uncooked yeast dough and rotten fruits also produce ethanol. Even small amounts of ethanol can cause toxic effects.

Please avoid giving bones to your pet, especially chicken and pork bones. These bones are very sharp and can cause damage and even perforation of the intestine. I would also recommend avoiding giving to pets any food items that can lodge and obstruct the gastrointestinal system, such as corn cobs or fruit pits.

Symptoms of intoxication depend on the organ affected. In general the symptoms are usually vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and loss of appetite and energy. When the kidneys are involved you might note lack of urine production. Toxins which affect the nervous system will lead to signs such as depression, wobbliness, and even seizures or coma.  

Remember that feeding your pet greasy food, or any food high in fat, can easily elicit pancreatitis. I know you want to share your turkey dinner with your furry friend, but the gravy for instance, will not be a good choice. Being aware and mindful about your pet’s feeding habits can spare you both a lot of grief.

If your pet was exposed to any toxic or harmful food item seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Early intervention is critical. Depending on how long it has been since the pet has ingested the poisonous food, the vet will attempt to prevent the poison absorption by inducing vomiting, performing stomach lavage (pumping the stomach) or by feeding active charcoal which absorbs some of the toxins.

Some toxins have an antidote - a chemical that reveres the toxin effect. The earlier the antidote is given the better chances of the pet to recover. Supportive treatment including intravenous fluids is also essential in many cases.

Pets are part of the family, they enjoy many family activities which obviously includes food. There is a large variety of pet commercial food and treats. If you wish to feed homemade food, seek advice from your vet to keep your pet healthy and safe.


Dr. Oz can be reached at www.KelownaVet.ca

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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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