Foods that can poison pets

Veterinarian Tanya Karlecke explains that some staple foods are dangerous and potentially deadly for pets, including raisins and grapes, chocolate and even raw bread dough. Xylitol, a component of many household items such as sugar-free candies and human toothpaste, can also harm pets, writes Dr. Karlecke, who points out the importance of seeking immediate veterinary advice for pets that may have ingested a poisonous substance. The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)


There are several food items that are toxic to pets and should be avoided at all costs:

* Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia (elevated body temperature).

* Grapes and raisins can result in acute kidney failure, which may be fatal even with prompt medical treatment.

* Onions and onion powder can cause damage to red blood cells, which can lead to anemia in dogs and cats.

* There are several sugar-free products and candies that contain xylitol (a sugar-free substitute), which can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar. At high doses, xylitol toxicity can also result in acute liver failure. Xylitol is found in many products, one of which is human toothpaste. It is very important to always brush your dog or cat’s teeth using only pet toothpaste.

* Chocolate ingestion can lead to hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urination and lethargy. At high enough doses, although rare, chocolate toxicity can be fatal.

* Raw bread dough made with yeast can be hazardous. Upon ingestion, the dough is activated by the animal’s body heat, which causes it to rise in the stomach. During this process, alcohol is produced, leading to signs of abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, depression and ataxia (lack of coordination).

If your pet has ingested any of these items, it is imperative that you speak to a veterinary professional to determine what type of treatment is warranted, if any. If your veterinarian is unavailable or unfamiliar with a particular toxin, he/she will refer you to the animal poison control hotline (888-426-4435). A veterinary toxicologist will gather additional information from you (e.g., amount of toxin ingestion, the body weight of your pet, information on current clinical signs), and will advise as to what the next best course of action is.

Time is of the essence with any type of toxin ingestion, so it’s important to call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

— Tanya Karlecke, DVM

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