How To Keep Fido Happy and Healthy This Holiday

With the upcoming holidays and your favorite pet being an important part of your family, there are certain foods that you should be aware are toxic to dogs at some levels.  Most people are aware of chocolate’s toxicity for dogs, but there are many other foods and plants that can ruin your holiday if your dog ingests them.

First, There Is Chocolate

There is so much of this around during the holidays (and personally,I think  that is a good thing!) Just for a review, here’s the scoop on chocolate and its effects on your dog.  Chocolate contains theobromine, which is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. Many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected if the dog doesn’t show signs of toxicity right away after eating chocolate. However, the signs of sickness may not appear for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours. Symptoms include staggering, labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, fever, heart rate increase, arrhythmia, seizures, coma, and death. The more concentrated the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be for your dog. Thus cooking chocolate is the most toxic with milk chocolate the least toxic, but still toxic given a sufficient level ingested. For example, a 20-25 pound dog can become ill from as little as 2 ounces of cocoa powder or 4 ounces of cooking chocolate. Milk chocolate requires 5- 10 times that amount to cause illness or death in the 20-25 pound dog.

And Then There Is…

Garlic and onion contain thiosulphate, with onions containing the higher level of the toxin. Thiosulphate can cause the dog’s red blood cells to burst, which leads to a form of anemia resulting in labored breathing, liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea, and discolored urine. Onions and garlic in any form, including foods cooked with them (e.g. pizza) can cause thiosulphate poisoning. The poisoning shows up a few days after the pet has eaten the onion. 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.

Other foods that are toxic to dogs are:

Mushrooms – certain varieties are fatal to dogs, primarily the Amanita phalloides, however, since these are also toxic for humans, it is unlikely for you to accidentally poison your dog with edible mushrooms.

Grapes and raisins – it only takes a handful of these little orbs to create distress for your dog and more than that can be deadly.

Almonds and macadamia nuts – these nuts and all other nuts, in general, can be toxic for your pet. Most nuts contain phosphorous that can lead to bladder stones. Macadamias are particularly heavy in phosphorous.

Apricots, peaches, mistletoe berries and avocado (leaves, seeds, stem, skin) can also be deadly to your dog.

Not Toxic But Not Good Either

Other foods, while not strictly toxic, that can cause problems for you best buddy are:

  • Raw eggs may contain Salmonella and they contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and coat problems.
  • Raw fish can result in a B vitamin deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death, especially if raw fish is fed regularly.
  • Baby food may contain onion powder, which, just like onions listed above can be toxic.
  • Yeast dough can expand and possibly rupture the stomach or intestines.
  • Cat food, while not toxic,  is typically too fatty and protein rich for dogs.
  • Alcohol can cause intoxication, coma, and death in dogs.
  • Tobacco contains nicotine which can result in rapid heart beat, coma and death.

Certain house plants can also be toxic to dogs. Inside your home, poinsettias can be somewhat toxic, although it requires ingesting somewhat large amounts to produce the ill effects.

Outside your home there are a number of flowers and other landscape plants that are toxic. Although not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the more dangerous things for a dog to ingest.

Azalea, Crocus, Rhododendron, American Bittersweet, Clematis, Daffodil, Foxglove, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus and Morning Glory.

When In Doubt

Lastly, and most importantly, if there is any question your dog may have ingested anything you fear is toxic, please call the ASPCA poison control line, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

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