Top Toxic People Foods To Your Pet
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
It is not a good idea to feed your pet table scraps other than (most) fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables can be used as low calorie treats or a way to help them to feel full if they are on a diet, but there are a few that will be discussed due to the danger they can present to your pets. There are some people foods that are extremely toxic and should never be fed to pets and the following is a list of the top toxic people food to avoid feeding your pets. If you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 right away.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol.
Avocado is one of those dangerous vegetables that should never be fed to pets. It is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants (including sheep and goats), but is not advisable to be fed to dogs or cats either. The biggest concern is for cardiovascular (heart) damage and death in birds. Horses, donkeys and ruminants frequently get swollen, edematous head and neck.
Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
All of these products contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest. It is important to note what percentage of coco is in the chocolate ingested and the amount when calling poison control.
When it comes to citrus, you should not feed the stems, leaves, peels, and/or seeds of the citrus plants because they contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. When feeding the fruit of any citrus, you want to only feed small doses, in order to prevent issues. If your pet has a sensitive stomach, you may see some minor stomach upset in the form of vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Coconut and Coconut Oil
While coconut oil is all the rage right now for humans, there can be some issues when it comes to your pets. When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should never be given to your pet.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins are the other fruit that can be dangerous to your pets. Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to your pets.
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
Milk and Dairy
Contrary to the image many people have of giving a cat a saucer of milk, this is not a good idea. Pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset (including severe abdominal cramping and gas).
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets. In general, any food that is high in fats should be avoided due to the high chance of your pet developing pancreatitis (a potentially fatal disease). Some breeds are more pre-disposed to pancreatitis, such as Schnauzers and Poodles.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
While most vegetables are great to feed to your pets, anything in the onion family is a bad idea. These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and can lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. It is important to check labels to see if there is onion powder in foods before feeding them to your pet because it is a very common ingredient to be added for extra flavor – this included baby food, which some people will try to feed to pets to add flavor to their food or if they are not eating well. However, there are much more helpful and safer options that feeding baby food to your pets if you feel like they are not eating like they should be. Also, you want to be sure there is not a bigger medical issue causing your pets lack of interest in food, so it is best to have your pet examined and find out the best strategy from your veterinarian.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw diets are never recommended for pets. Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. There are no safe bones to feed your pet as they all have the potential to splinter and can result in severe, even fatal, results.
Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, do not feed salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. This is another ingredient that is finding its way into more and more products; some are even products available over the counters that are marketed specifically for pets so be sure to check all your labels!
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk and show signs discussed above under the “Alcohol” section.