A-Z potential household poisons to pets are many. Some excellent resources for emergency poison consultation (in addition to your veterinarian) are your local Poison Control, the National Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-426-4435, or visit www.petpoisonhelpline.com.
Alcohol: Do not give your dog sips of any alcoholic beverages! Ingestion may lead to injury, disorientation, sickness, urination problems or even coma or death from alcohol poisoning. Careful when leaving alcoholic drinks unattended, some dogs may be attracted to the beverage and want to take a drink.
Anti-freeze: Antifreeze is one of the most dangerous common substances. No it’s not a food, but it does have sweet flavor and tastes good to your dog. If your dog ingests any antifreeze call your vet or a poison control center immediately.
Avocado: Avocado’s oils are not easy digested because of its high fat content. This can trigger an upset stomach, vomiting or even pancreatitis. Also, avocado contains a toxic element called persin, which may damage heart, lung and other tissue in many animals. The seed pit is also toxic and if swallowed can become lodged in the intestinal tract where it may cause a severe blockage which will have to be removed surgically.
Baby Food: Feeding baby food in large amounts may result in nutritional deficiencies.
Bones (cooked): Bones become brittle when cooked which causes them to splinter when chewed and broken. The splinters have sharp edges that are known to become stuck in the teeth, causing choking when caught in the throat. The shards of bone may cause a rupture or puncture of the stomach lining or intestinal tract. Especially bad bones are turkey and chicken legs, ham, pork chop and veal.
Symptoms of choking are:
- Pale or blue gums
- Gasping Open-mouthed breathing
- Pawing at face
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Unconscious, with dilated pupils
Raw bones (uncooked in any way) like chicken necks or beef knucklebones are generally considered safe and help keep your dog’s teeth healthy by removing plaque. A caution – bones have a high calcium content and too many can cause severe constipation.
Bread Dough: When bread dough is ingested your dog’s body heat causes the dough to rise in the stomach. During the rising process alcohol is produced as the dough expands. Pets who have eaten bread dough may experience abdominal pain, bloat, vomiting, disorientation and depression. A pet needs to eat only a small amount to cause a problem, because bread dough can rise to many times its size.
Broccoli: The toxic ingredient in broccoli is isothiocynate. While it may cause stomach upset it probably won’t be very harmful unless the amount fed exceeds 10% of the dog’s total daily diet.
Caffeine: Beverages with caffeine (like soda, tea, coffee) acts as a stimulant and can accelerate your pet’s heartbeat to a dangerous level. Pets ingesting caffeine have been known to have seizures, some fatal.
Cat Food: Cat food is not formulated for canine consumption. It is generally too high in protein and fats and is not a balanced diet for a dog.
Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. When affected by an overdose of chocolate, a dog can become excited and hyperactive. Due to the diuretic effect, it may pass large volumes of urine and it will be unusually thirsty. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common. The effect of 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. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, hyperactivity, irregular heartbeat and seizures.
Larger quantities of chocolate can poison or even kill a medium or large dog. An ounce or two of chocolate may not seem like much but it can be lethal to a small dog that weighs 10 lbs. or less. After their dog has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours.
Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. These forms of chocolate contain ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake may make a dog sick. The next most dangerous forms are semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous. A dog needs to eat more than a 250gm block of milk chocolate, however the high amount of fat found in milk chocolate can lead to an attack of pancreatitis.
- 1 ounce per pound of body weight (2 ounces per kg of body weight) for milk chocolate
- 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight (1 ounce per 1.5 kg body weight) for semi-sweet chocolate.
- 1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight (1 ounce per 4 kg) for baker’s chocolate.
During many holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and Halloween, chocolate is often accessible to curious dogs, and in some cases, people unwittingly poison their dogs by offering them chocolate as a treat or letting them lick a frosting bowl.
Citrus Oil Extracts: Citrus oil extracts have been known to cause vomiting.
Corn Cobs: Many dogs have suffered and, in some cases, died after eating corn-on-the-cob, because the corncob caused a partial or complete intestinal obstruction. Never allow your dog access to corncobs.
Food Preparation Items: Dogs will try to get to food wherever they can. They will lick and chew cooking prep object and sometimes swallow pieces of none food items. These pieces may cause abdominal discomfort, intestinal blockage, internal bleeding, choking, suffocation, and in some cases death. Dispose of food preparation items in a manner that your dog cannot access them. Examples of such items.
- aluminum foil or pans
- candy wrappers
- paper plates and cups
- plastic forks, spoons, knives
- plastic beverage rings from six-packs
- roasting bags
- turkey skewers, lacing
- Plastic wrap
Fruit Seeds (Apple, Cherry, peaches, pears, Plums and Apricot): A small amount of the fruit is okay but the seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides which can result in cyanide poisoning.
Eggs (Raw): Raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which can deplete your dog of biotin, one of the B vitamins. Biotin is essential to your dog’s growth and coat health. Additionally, raw eggs are often contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella, and you could end up giving your dog food poisoning in addition to biotin deficiency. A small amount of organic raw egg once or twice a week is okay.
Symptoms of biotin depletion are hair loss, weakness, growth retardation and skeleton deformity. If your dog is suffering from these symptoms the situation is urgent, and veterinary treatment is needed. Cooked eggs are high in protein and make an excellent treat. It is only the regular feeding of raw eggs that should not be given to your dog.
Grapes or Raisins: Although the minimum lethal dosage is not known, grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs when ingested in large quantities. The symptoms are gastrointestinal signs including vomiting and diarrhea, and then signs of kidney failure with an onset of severe kidney signs starting about 24 hours after ingestion. The amount of grapes eaten varied between 9 oz. and 2 lbs., which worked out to be between 0.41 and 1.1 oz./kg of body weight. It has been reported that two dogs died directly from the toxicity, three were euthanized due to poor response to treatment and five dogs lived.
Due to the severity of the signs and the potential for death, the veterinarians at the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) advocate aggressive treatment for any dog believed to have ingested excessive amounts of grapes or raisins, including inducing vomiting, stomach pumping and administration of activated charcoal, followed by intravenous fluid therapy for at least 48 hours or as indicated based on the results of blood tests for kidney damage.
Macadamia Nuts: The toxic compound is unknown but eating as few as six nuts without the shell has been known to cause elevated body temperature, accelerated heartbeat, tremors in the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs have difficulty or are unable to rise, are distressed and usually panting. Some affected dogs have had swollen limbs and showed pain when the limb was manipulated. Dogs did recover from the muscle weakness and pain and it is not known if there have been any fatal cases. Macadamia butter is included in this warning.
Moldy or Spoiled Foods: The common mold found growing on many foods contain toxins such as Penicillium mold toxins or remorgenic mycotoxins. Symptoms of poisoning include severe tremors and seizures that can last for hours or even days. This is considered an emergency and medical treatment is needed to control the seizures and detoxify the dog.
Spoiled foods can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning are severe vomiting, diarrhea and shock. Prevention is the best course, don’t feed your dog moldy food left in the refrigerator and don’t allow him to raid your garbage cans or compost bin (or your neighbor’s).
Mushrooms: Mushroom poisoning can be fatal if certain species of mushrooms are eaten. The most commonly reported severely toxic species of mushroom in the US is Amanita phalloides, but other Amanita species are also toxic. They can cause severe liver disease and neurologic disorders. The recommendation is to induce vomiting when these mushrooms are ingested and to give activated charcoal, as well. Supportive treatment for liver disease may also be necessary. The therapeutic mushrooms, such as shitake, are okay when given according to instructions and for specific therapeutic purposes.
Nutmeg: Nutmeg is reported to be a hallucinogenic when ingested in large doses. Nutmeg has been known to cause tremors, seizures and in some cases, death.
Nuts: Nuts in general are not good for dogs as their high phosphorus content may lead to bladder stones.
Onions: Onions cause hemolytic anemia, which means that the red blood cells break down leaving the dog short of oxygen. Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. The condition generally improves once the dog is prevented from eating any further onion. The poisoning may occur a few days after the dog has eaten the onion. At first dogs affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea, weakness and show little or no interest in food. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected dog’s urine making it dark colored. The dog will experience shortness of breath because the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number. Other symptoms are elevated body temperature, confusion, and increased heart rate. Seek veterinary care immediately.
The quantity of onions, raw or cooked, required is high enough that dogs can generally tolerate small doses of onions without any problem and moderate amounts of onion without apparent signs of onion poisoning. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic.
While garlic also contains the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, it seems that garlic is less toxic and large amounts would need to be eaten to cause illness. Small amounts are okay.
Plants: Dogs can become extremely ill or even die from eating poisonous plants. Keep all unknown types of plants and any plants suspected of being poisonous out of reach of your pet. Especially be cautious around the holidays with poinsettias.
Play Dough: Home made play dough contains high levels of salt. When ingested this can cause salt poisoning which can be fatal.
Potatoes (green skins): Solanum alkaloids can be found in green sprouts and green potato skins, which occur when the tubers are exposed to sunlight during growth or after harvest. The relatively rare occurrence of actual poisoning is due to several factors: solanine is poorly absorbed; it is mostly hydrolyzed into less toxic solanidinel; and the metabolites are quickly eliminated. Cooked, mashed potatoes are fine for dogs, actually quite nutritious and digestible.
Rich Fatty Foods: Rich, fatty foods can be very dangerous to dogs susceptible to attacks of pancreatitis. Often you may not know that your dog is susceptible until he is very sick with his first attack. It is often the smaller, more energetic breeds like miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, and other small terrier-type dogs that seem particularly prone. However, any dog may have a problem. It is best to avoid these foods altogether. Some examples are:
- turkey skin
- bacon, sausages, hot dogs
- fruit cake, plum pudding
- anything deep-fried
Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting (sometimes with diarrhea) and abdominal pain, which may be evidenced as a hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.
Rhubarb (leaves): The leaves contain soluble oxalate crystals. When ingested in large enough quantities in small animals, it can result in poisoning.
Soluble calcium oxalates are present in varying degrees in all parts of the plant. When soluble oxalate salts are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, they bind with body’s calcium, resulting in a sudden drop in calcium. Rarely, acute renal failure can be seen from ingestion of plants or fruit containing these soluble oxalate crystals. Clinical signs of this type of poisoning include drooling, inappetance, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, tremors, bloody urine, and changes in thirst and urination. (source: www.petpoisonhelpline.com)
Salmon (Raw): Commonly called “Salmon Poisoning Disease” (SPD), this can be a problem for anyone who feeds their dog a raw meat diet that includes raw salmon, but it is mostly seen in the Pacific Northwest and California. The cause is infection by a rickettsia organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. The rickettsia organism does not directly infect the dog but is carried instead by a parasite (a flatworm or fluke) called Nanophyteus salmincola through two intermediate hosts – freshwater snails and salmon fish.
Nanophyteus salmincola are found to infect some species of freshwater snails. The salmon as part of the food chain ingests the infected snail. Neither the fluke nor the rickettsia organism are lethal to the fish. The dog is exposed only when it ingests the secondary host – an infected fish. After the dog ingests the fish, the encysted fluke larvae burst and embed in the dog’s intestinal tract and the rickettsia are introduced. The cycle continues when ova are excreted in dog feces to infect more snails.
A sudden onset of symptoms occurs 5-7 days after ingestion of fish. Initial symptoms include lethargy and anorexia. Peaking of temperature between 104-107 in the first two days and then slowly returns too normal, as well as persistent vomiting by the fourth day. There is bloody diarrhea within a few days of vomiting onset. The diarrhea is often bright yellow color. There are enlarged lymph nodes.
In the acute stages, gastrointestinal symptoms are quite similar to canine parvovirus. Nasal and ocular symptoms can resemble canine distemper. If left untreated, SPD has a mortality rate of up to 90%. SPD can be diagnosed with a fecal sample and is treatable if caught in time. Treatment may include supportive hydration, an antibiotic to kill the rickettsia organism, and a “wormer” to kill the parasite. Improvement may be seen in as little as two days.
Prevention is simple; cook all fish before feeding any to your dog. If you are outdoors hiking or camping or live near streams and rivers were salmon spawn, keep a close eye on your dog on don’t let your pet run free to insure that no fish carcasses are ingested. Please see your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested raw salmon.
Salt: Iodized salt and salty foods can cause stomach ailments and pancreatitis. Some dogs, especially large breeds, have been known to gulp too much water after eating salty foods and developed a life threatening condition called bloat during which the stomach fills with gas and twists, leading to a painful death unless emergency treatment is received immediately.
Table Scraps: Table scraps are not a nutritionally balanced diet for a dog. If fed at all scraps should never be more than 10% of the diet. Fat should be trimmed from meat and all cooked bones discarded. Also see “Rich, Fatty Foods” above.
Tobacco Products: Cigarettes and cigarette butts, cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and chewing tobacco can be fatal to dogs if ingested. Signs of nicotine poisoning can appear within an hour and include hyperactivity, salivation, panting, vomiting and diarrhea. Advanced signs include muscle weakness, twitching, collapse, coma, increased heart rate and cardiac arrest. If anyone who lives in or visits your home smokes, tell them to keep tobacco products out of reach of pets and to dispose of butts immediately. If you suspect your dog has ingested any of these seek veterinary treatment immediately.
Tomatoes and Tomato Plants: These contain atropine, which can cause dilated pupils, tremors and irregular heartbeat. The highest concentration of atropine is found in the leaves and stems of tomato plants, next is the unripe (green) tomatoes and then the ripe tomato.
Water: Yet another surprise to find on the Bad Foods List is water, but there are dangers lurking in water that you need to be aware of.
- Stagnant water in ponds, bogs, small lakes, canals, seasonal creeks and other places where water sets still may contain harmful bacteria (Leptospira interrogans) and parasites such as giardia.
- Toilet water with freshener or cleaners in the tank or bowl contains toxic chemicals.
Xylitol: Sugarless products containing xylitol has been recognized by the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) to be a risk to pets (first published July 2004). This compound can cause liver damage and death in some dogs. This information is recent and some vets may not be familiar with xylitol poisoning. If your dog has eaten sugarless candy you can contact the NAPCC by telephone.