After work and dinner, couples might enjoy relaxing on the couch, watching a movie and sharing dessert. Dogs, eager to join in, might stare expectantly, awaiting an invitation to cuddle with their people and sample their treat. Unfortunately, some foods that are harmless to humans are toxic to dogs.
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Chocolate contains the chemical theobromide, which can cause serious problems if ingested by dogs. Consuming chocolate may damage a dog’s central nervous system, heart, lungs and kidneys. Baker’s chocolate, cocoa powder and dark chocolate are more toxic than milk chocolate, but all varieties are dangerous. Poisoning symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, overheating, seizures, tremors, irregular heart rate and internal bleeding. Within 12 to 36 hours, dogs may experience sensory sensitivity, stiffness, hallucinations, heart attack, coma and death.
Grapes and Raisins
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A single serving of raisins or grapes can cause serious illness or death in some dogs. Because the toxin accumulates internally, even a dog who has no negative reaction to these fruits may become extremely ill over time. Early symptoms of grape or raisin poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, followed by lethargy, dehydration, lack of appetite, decreased urination and kidney failure that can result in chronic kidney disease or death.
Onions and Garlic
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Onions, garlic, scallions and shallots contain disulfide, a compound that can damage dogs’ red blood cells. When dogs eat raw onions or garlic, they risk developing hemolytic anemia, which occurs when destroyed red blood cells cannot be replaced. Eating powdered forms of onion or garlic in soups, dips or sauces is also toxic. Signs of internal damage, such as weakness, orange-colored urine, tiring easily or resisting movement, may not appear for a few days. If you notice these symptoms, immediately take your dog to a veterinarian or emergency clinic where a blood transfusion may be necessary.
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Uncooked bread dough that contains yeast can be dangerous for any dog who ingests it. The stomach's moist warmth provides a perfect environment for the yeast in raw dough to rise, which can cause intense discomfort and lead to the dog's stomach or bowel to rupture. The expanding stomach can press against the dog's diaphragm, making breathing difficult. If your dog has eaten bread dough, she needs to be examined by a veterinarian immediately.
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Nuts are unhealthy for dogs because their high phosphorus content may lead to bladder stones. Walnuts are poisonous for dogs, as are macadamia nuts. Eating even a few macadamia nuts can be harmful, leading to vomiting, muscle pain, joint swelling and overall weakness. Dogs who have eaten macadamias may experience hypothermia, dizziness, coordination problems, tremors and a high fever. Consult your veterinarian immediately if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms.
Dogs are fond of meat and other high-fat foods, but cooked and uncooked meat table scraps and fat trimmed from meat can cause pancreatitis. Unfortunately, some people treat dogs with leftovers, and dogs sometimes treat themselves by stealing food. Pancreatitis in dogs often follows the consumption of a fatty meal or snack. Your dog may become very sick quickly, and if you notice symptoms such as sudden vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, she should be examined by a veterinarian and receive intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.
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The same nutmeg used in baking or sprinkled on eggnog can be very toxic to dogs, and the oil in nutmeg may cause central nervous system damage. Nutmeg toxicity can result in abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle spasms, irregular heart rate, dizziness, tremors, extreme sleepiness, personality changes, seizures and hallucinations. Your dog needs to be examined by a veterinarian immediately, because if treated too late or left untreated, nutmeg poisoning may be fatal.
Xylitol is a sweetening agent used in sugar-free gum and candy, and as a sweetener added to sugar-free baked goods. Products containing xylitol should never be given to or within reach of dogs. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, erratic behavior, disorientation and seizures. Eating candy, gum or baked foods made with xylitol can cause a severe drop in blood-sugar levels, resulting in liver failure. If you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol, she should be taken to a veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately.
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Avocado fruit, leaves, seeds and bark may be toxic to dogs and can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. The danger comes from persin, an oil-soluble toxin found in the avocado fruit and its skin. Another danger for dogs is the large avocado pit, which, if swallowed, can block the digestive tract and require emergency surgery.
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Feeding rawhide treats can bring about a range of problems. Some rawhide products have tested positive for toxic chemicals or for salmonella and E. coli bacterial contamination. If you give your dog rawhide, supervise her while she is chewing it, because it softens and becomes enlarged by dog saliva. Rawhide must be taken away prior to being swallowed, because it continues to expand in the stomach or intestines, causing a blockage that may require emergency surgery. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog’s symptoms include gagging, repetitive swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, signs of pain, lack of energy, loss of appetite or a fever.
- Healthy Pets: Top 4 Holiday Dangers for Your Pet
- Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine: Treats for Pets
- ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist: Foods That Are Hazardous to Dogs
- UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Protect Your Dog or Cat throughout the Holidays—and Year Round
- WebMD: Foods Your Dog Should Never Eat
- PetPlace.com: Dangerous Foods - Are They Harmful to Your Dog?
- ASPCA: Spices
- The Bark: Trick or Treat or Trip to the ER?
- WebMD: Rawhide: Good or Bad for Your Dog?
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.