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FOODS TOXIC FOR PETS
Many pet owners are not aware of some foods that can cause serious illness in our pets.
Chocolate can be deadly to our pets due to theobromine, a cardiac stimulant and diuretic in chocolate. The highest concentration of theobromine is found in baking chocolate. A 20-pound dog will be seriously affected if it consumes just one quarter of a 10-ounce packet of cocoa powder or one half of a block of cooking chocolate. Semi-sweet and dark chocolate contain less, but more than is found in milk chocolate. A dog would have to consume relatively large quantities of dark and milk chocolate to experience toxicity. The size of the pet greatly impacts the severity of the impact. One candy bar eaten by a 100-pound Rottweiler may not cause any signs of illness while the same consumed by a 4-pound Yorkshire terrier could potentially cause death.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include staggering, labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, fever, increased heart rate, seizures, and coma. Contact your veterinarian immediately. If the chocolate was eaten within three hours, it may be possible to induce the pet to vomit, to decrease toxicity.
Onion poisoning can occur after a single ingestion of a large quantity of onions (ie, 20 to 25 ounces of onion consumed by a 20-pound dog), or after repeated meals each containing small amounts of onion (5 ounces of onion fed to a 20-pound dog several days in a row). Garlic can also cause toxicity in pets, but must be consumed in very large quantities.
Pets affected by onion poisoning will develop hemolytic anemia. Symptoms include lethargy, labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and discolored urine. A visit to the veterinarian is warranted.
Grapes and raisins have been shown to cause acute kidney failure in pets. The exact dose of this food necessary to cause illness is unknown, though a small handful of grapes may be enough to cause toxicity in a 20-pound dog. Pets made ill by grape or raisin consumption are likely to begin vomiting, and you may notice grape skins in the material they bring up initially.
If you know your dog has consumed grapes, contact your veterinarian. Aggressive intravenous therapy may need to be initiated as soon as possible and continued for at least 72 hours. If the quantity consumed is large enough, and damage to the kidney is severe enough, even aggressive therapy may not save the pet.
Many types of nuts can be dangerous when consumed by pets. Even a small amount (one macadamia nut per pound of dog) can cause grave illness. Signs of this poisoning include fever, muscle tremors, weakness, and paralysis of the hind limbs. Some dogs may be unable to rise. Their limbs may be swollen and painful when manipulated. If treatment is sought quickly, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting before the nuts are absorbed.
Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). A biotin deficiency can cause skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may also contain salmonella, which can cause illness in pets. If you feel you must supplement your dog”s diet with eggs, cook the eggs before serving.
Feeding raw fish can lead to a deficiency of another B vitamin, thiamine. This can manifest as pain along the spine that seems to radiate out from the muscles. Regularly feeding raw fish treats can lead to loss of appetite, seizure, and in severe cases, death.
Feeding pets chicken bones can lead to severe gastrointestinal damage. When cooked, the hollow poultry bones splinter into sharp shards as a pet chews them. When swallowed, these shards can lacerate and even penetrate the gastrointestinal tract. Surgery is often required and is invasive, costly and avoidable.
It is important for pet owners to monitor the foods their pets are consuming. During the holiday season, it is important that everyone be informed about the dangers these festive foods may pose to our pets. Ideally, pets’ meals should be restricted to a complete, balanced, high quality, species-specific diet for a long, healthy life.
From an article by Gary L. Ailes, DVM, titled “Dietary Dangers for Our Pets,” VRP Newsletter, Oct. 2007