Dangerous Foods For Dogs

Most dog owners are aware some “people foods” aren't good for dogs, but sometimes common foods get overlooked, which could lead to serious health consequences for your pet. It's a good idea to be aware of these dangerous foods and know what to do in case of accidental ingestion.

The following is a list of the top 6 dangerous foods for dogs:

1) Chocolate:

While many dog owners know chocolate is bad for dogs, they might be unaware of the potential seriousness of chocolate ingestion.

Chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, both of which are bad for dogs and can become toxic. The darker the chocolate, the worse the problem. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, high blood pressure, increased thirst, high heart rate, tremors and sometimes seizures. Severe toxicity can lead to respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

What to do: If your dog does eat chocolate, don't panic. Do call your veterinarian to determine if the amount of chocolate ingested is dangerous.

“Not every dose of chocolate ingestion is toxic,” said Dr. Randy Wetzel, medical director at Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital and Asheville Veterinary Specialists. “We have a chocolate calculator that considers the patient's weight, the type of chocolate and the amount ingested.”

If the amount of chocolate eaten is unknown, err on the safe side, and bring him to the veterinary clinic, where the vet  most likely induce vomiting and might want to treat further or monitor for other problems.

2) Alcohol:

Do not allow your dog to have any form of alcohol. The effect of alcohol on dogs is similar to its effect on people, but it takes much less alcohol to cause toxicity in dogs.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs include depression, low body temperature, vomiting, low blood pressure, and in severe instances, seizures and respiratory failure.

What to do: If your dog does eat or drink something containing alcohol, he or she might not need to visit the veterinarian.

Dr. Wetzel said in mild cases of alcohol ingestion, most dogs will be fine, and the decision on whether to take your pet to the vet or not can be made based on symptoms.

“They may only need to be seen if they become symptomatic, such as acting drunk or vomiting,” he said.

3) Onions and Garlic:

These foods are a little less well known for their danger to dogs, but any food containing onions or garlic can destroy red blood cells in dogs, leading to anemia.

Symptoms of anemia include weakness, vomiting, lack of interest in food, shortness of breath and lethargy.

“Many toxic foods are dose dependent. This is especially true for garlic and onions,” Dr. Wetzel said. “Low doses such as those found in many treats are usually not enough to cause clinical signs of illness, however, larger doses can cause damage to red blood cells.”

What to do: If your dog eats a large amount of these foods or is a small size, he or she should probably be seen by a veterinarian.

“Treatment, as with the other toxic agents here, begins with decontamination,” Dr. Wetzel said. “After decontamination is supportive care, monitoring the RBCs, and administering GI protectants. A blood transfusion is necessary in some of the more severe cases.”

4) Marijuana:

Although marijuana ingestion is rarely fatal and doesn't typically cause long-term health problems, it can cause severe anxiety, disorientation and lack of coordination. The dog might also drool, pant, be extremely lethargic, vomit, have diarrhea, tremble and experience sensitivity to sound. The experience can be frightening and might need medical intervention.

What to do: Don't be afraid to see a veterinarian. Although marijuana is still illegal in most states, the staff at the vet clinic are concerned with the health and safety of your dog and will not call the authorities. In most cases, dogs will recover within a few hours, but veterinarians recommend having dogs seen by a doctor in case the toxicity is more severe.

“Marijuana toxicities generally have a good outcome, but without appropriate treatment the outcome may not be favorable.”

5) Grapes and Raisins:

While the cause still remains unknown, grapes and raisins have been linked to kidney failure in dogs. At this time, it remains a mystery as to why some dogs can eat grapes or raisins with no negative effects and some can develop serious illness after ingesting only a few. Avoid feeding these fruits, or foods containing, them to your dog.

Symptoms of toxicity from these foods include vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea and may progress to increasing dehydration, refusal to eat, an increase in urination followed by decreased or no urination. Kidney failure can occur within 3-4 days if the problem continues and permanent kidney disease can result even after treatment.

What to do: Since the cause of grape and raisin toxicity is unknown, it is important to have your dog seen by a vet if they do ingest these foods. According to Dr. Wetzel, the toxicity level for these foods can be unpredictable, so it is important to have your pet treated.

“Treatment focuses on decontamination, if caught early enough, followed by fluids and other treatment to protect the kidneys,” he said. “Treatment is recommended before symptoms develop.”

6) Xylitol:

Xylitol is a non-caloric sweetener frequently found in sugar-free gum and many sugar-free food products. In dogs, xylitol ingestion can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar levels and potentially liver failure.

Signs of xylitol poisoning include onset of disorientation and seizures within 30 minutes to several hours.

What to do: You should get to a vet as soon as possible, where they will administer medication and keep a close watch on your pet.

“Close control of the blood glucose with a constant rate infusion (of fluids and medication) is our preferred means of keeping the glucose in a safe and constant range,” Dr. Wetzel explained. “Liver protectants are also used.”

Food toxicities can be frightening, but knowing what to do if they do occur can help you stay calm and could even save your dog's life.

Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital and Asheville Veterinary Specialists is a 24-hour veterinary emergency and specialty hospital at 677 Brevard Rd. in Asheville, NC. For information or pet emergencies, call 828-665-4399 or visit www.reachvet.com.reater the effect.