Pet Poison Awareness-Food & Pets

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

To finish up on Pet Poison Awareness Month, I wanted to look at some common foods that are toxic to pets.  Dogs and cats are notorious for eating a variety of things that they shouldn’t.  While some are harmless, or cause little more than stomach upset (vomiting/diarrhea), some foods are dangerous.  Below are a few common foods found in many homes.

Alcohol:  Besides the obvious ‘don’t share your beer with your pets,’ alcohol is in other food items as well.  Don’t forget fruity jell-o shots, rum-soaked fruitcake, or unbaked bread dough.

Unbaked bread dough will expand in the stomach’s warm, moist environment and cause stomach bloat, which can lead to the stomach twisting on itself (gastric dilatation volvulus, or GDV), which is a life threatening condition.  Also, unbaked bread dough contains yeast, which when fermented, results in carbon dioxide (which causes bloat) and alcohol, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature.  Pets may also have seizures and respiratory failure.  Signs of bloat include drooling, vomiting/retching, distended stomach, increased heart rate, weakness, collapse, coma and death.

Caffeine: Many people start their day with some kind of caffeinated drink.  Caffeine is found in coffee and soda, as well as coffee grounds, tea, energy drinks, weightlifter supplements, and diet pills.  Symptoms of caffeine ingestion include hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, increased blood pressure, fever, seizures, collapse and death.


Chocolate: Most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic to pets.  Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate are the most threatening.  Milk chocolate is not as bad, but still can cause problems.  It also depends on the amount of chocolate ingested relative to the size of your pet.


Symptoms of chocolate ingestion include hyeperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, increased blood pressure, fever, seizures, collapse and death.


Garlic/Onions/Chives: All are poisonous to dogs and cats, although garlic is more potent than onions.  Akitas, Shiba Inus, and cats are more sensitive to garlic and onions.  Toxicity results in damage and rupture of red blood cells (anemia), as well as stomach upset or gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain).  Other symptoms include lethargy, pale gums, increased heart and respiratory rates, weakness, exercise intolerance, and collapse.


Grapes/Raisins/Currants: Even small amounts of grapes, raisins or currants can cause severe, acute kidney failure.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal water intake and urination, lethargy, decreased appetite, bad breath and dehydration.  Treatment includes activated charcoal to induce vomiting, aggressive supportive care with IV fluids, and careful monitoring of kidney function.


Macadamia Nuts: These are known to affect nerve function and cause tremors, joint stiffness, and inability to walk (usually in the back legs).  Other symptoms of toxicity include severe lethargy, fever, and vomiting.


Homemade Play-Dough: Typically made up of food coloring and salt, it’s the salt that causes the illness.  Symptoms of salt poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, walking drunk, increased thirst, increased urination, tremors, seizures, coma and death.  Abnormal fluid accumulation in the body may also be seen.  Treatment includes electrolyte monitoring, treatment for dehydration and brain swelling, and supportive care.


Xylitol: A sugar-free sweetner, Xylitol is found in many chewing gums, sugar-free candies and foods, mints, oral rinses and toothpastes.  Toxicity quickly sets in, causing dangerously low blood sugar weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremors, seizures, black tarry stool, jaundice, coma and death.  Xylitol affects blood sugar levels and the liver, and quick action and supportive care are necessary.


Use caution in the kitchen and anywhere food or drinks go.  Keep purses and backpacks out of reach, as these often contain gum and candies.  Lunch bags should always be emptied right away or kept out of reach.  Carefully watch pets who tend to get into the trash.  Also monitor food that’s dropped on the floor, especially by children.



If you suspect your pet may have ingested any type of medication, don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.  Both of these centers charge a small fee for calling, but have veterinary toxicologists on staff to best help you help your pet.  They will be able to tell you what to expect from your pet, and if you should seek emergency care.  When you call, have ready the packaging from the substance ingested, your pet’s current weight, and current medical conditions your pet may have, and a list of any medication your pet is on.


The above information brought to you courtesy of the ASPCA Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline.