There are many foods that humans relish which cause illness and death if eaten by pets. Feeding pets “human food” can also be fatal.
Macadamia nuts, chocolate, garlic and onions are prime examples and the most common foods associated with serious illness and/or death in pets.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic.
When a dog is fed chocolate, it will likely become excited and hyperactive. Due to the diuretic effect, it may pass large volumes of urine and it will be unusually thirsty. This is the first sign that the dog is becoming dehydrated. Vomiting and diarrhea are most likely soon to follow. The effect of chocolate’s theobromine on the heart is the most dangerous effect. Theobromine will either increase the dog’s heart rate or may cause the heart to beat irregularly. Death is quite possible, especially with exercise, even a simple walk.
Even after a dog has eaten a large amount of chocolate, many pet owners will assume their pet is not affected. However; the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours. Death will most certainly follow within 24 hours.
Baking chocolate and cocoa powder are the most toxic forms. A 22 pound dog can be seriously affected if it eats a quarter of a packet of cocoa powder (such as hot chocolate mix) or one block of baker’s chocolate. These forms of chocolate contain ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate. A small bite of chocolate cake could be a real health risk for a small dog. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake can be fatal in small dogs.
Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next most dangerous forms, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous (but least dangerous doesn’t mean safe). A dog needs to eat more than 8 ounces of milk chocolate to be affected. However, even with the 8 ounce warning, obviously, the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat to pose health risks.
Onions and garlic are other dangerous food ingredients that cause sickness in cats, dogs and even farm animals. They contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate
Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop hemolytic anemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body.
At first, pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea. They will show no interest in food and will appear to be weak. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected animal’s urine and it carries with it a terrible smell. The smell occurs because red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number.
Poisoning usually occurs a few days after the animal has eaten an onion. All forms of the onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions table scraps containing cooked onions , pizza, Chinese food and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets can cause illness.
Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. A single meal of 21 ounces of raw onion can be deadly. Even feeding dogs small amounts of onion for several days will cause the dog the develop anemia.
While garlic also contains the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, garlic is less toxic and large amounts would need to be eaten to cause fatality.
Macadamia nuts are another concern. A recent paper written by Dr. Ross McKenzie, a Veterinary Pathologist with the Department of Primary Industries, points to the danger of raw and roasted macadamia nuts for pets.
The toxic compound is unknown but the affect of macadamia nuts is to cause locomotory difficulties. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are moved.
Dogs have been affected by eating as few as six macadamia nuts, while others had eaten approximately forty kernels.
It is important to be sure that your pets can’t get into your stash of chocolate, that food scraps are disposed of carefully to prevent onion and garlic toxicity and that your dog is prevented from picking up macadamia nuts if you live in an area such as Hawaii and macadamia trees are common.
Other potential dangerous foods:
*Avocado (all parts) - the toxic ingredient in avocado is called persin (toxic amount unknown).
Most documented cases of poisoning have been in dogs that have eaten all parts of the avocado and in large amounts. The toxin may be confined to the leaves, bark, skin or the large seed. The flesh of an avocado is poisonous to birds.
*Pears, plums, peaches and apricots, and apple seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides resulting in cyanide poisoning.
*Spoiled foods (keep garbage lid firmly on)
*Alcohol (while some pets owner’s think it is “cute” or “funny” to get a pet intoxicated, it can be deadly)
*Coffee grounds, beans & tea
*Hops (used in home beer brewing)
*Tomato leaves & stems
*Broccoli (in large amounts)
*Raisins and grapes
*Cigarettes, tobacco, cigars
*Xylitol (sweetener often found in sugar-free gum)
*Cooked bones - they can splinter and cause gut perforation, blockages in the intestine, tooth fractures. Even cooked and chopped bones can get stuck across the roof of the mouth causing similar health issues.
*Corn cobs - a common cause of intestinal blockage requiring surgical removal.