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May 13, 2016

What NOT to Feed Your Dog

By: Hillary Brown

It can be oh-so-hard to resist those big brown eyes of your Labrador retriever when she gazes at you while you’re eating dinner, begging for a bite of what you seem to be enjoying so much. The aromas wafting around the room can even get her salivating. And she is so appreciative when you slip her a nibble. But it’s best to be quite careful sharing human food with pets. Even if you think you know the ins and outs of what your dog can and can’t eat, there are some surprises on the list of no-nos.

Understanding What Your Pet Can and Cannot Eat

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Most people know their dogs (and cats) shouldn’t have onions or garlic, which can cause anemia if eaten in large quantities or in small quantities regularly. But prepared foods can contain onion powder, which is a common seasoning in baby foods, and onions in any form can be toxic. So if you have a brand-new human flinging pureed mixed vegetables and beef here and there, make sure you keep Fido from eating too much of it, no matter how good a mop she makes.

Again, most pet owners know they shouldn’t give their animals grapes or raisins, but currants and grape juice can also cause kidney failure in dogs. And “theobromine” might mean “food of the gods,” but this ingredient found in all kinds of chocolate is extremely dangerous to dogs. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, so be especially careful with baking chocolate, dark chocolate and (outside of the kitchen) chocolate mulch, which includes pulverized cacao bean shells. Theobromine is also found in yerba mate and some other kinds of tea, açai berries and cola drinks. Four squares of baking chocolate can be enough to cause a severe reaction in a dog weighing 20 pounds or less.

Those are the basics and, again, most responsible pet owners know them. There are also plenty of common-sense restrictions and no-nos, like keeping your dogs away from prescription medications for humans (which cause most animal poisonings, not food) as well as from over- the-counter drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Dogs shouldn’t have alcohol or caffeine, and too much sugar and salt are more dangerous to animals than they are to humans. A large amount of salt can induce sodium ion poisoning in dogs and can be found in homemade play dough, some enemas and paintballs. Dairy products aren’t poisonous per se to dogs, but they aren’t good for your animals either. If your dog has a lactose intolerance, they can cause an upset stomach… and the need to clean up.

Why Can’t I Feed Human Food to My Dog?

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But what kinds of foods and other substances can be dangerous to your dog that you might not know about? Avocados in large amounts, including the entire avocado plant, can be dangerous because they contain a chemical called persin. A small percentage of humans are allergic to it, but it’s more toxic to dogs. Macadamia nuts are very poisonous to dogs, even in small quantities. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found most commonly in sugarless gum because it has dental-health benefits for humans, is dangerous in large amounts because it can cause hypoglycemia and even liver failure. It’s also found in candy, toothpaste and elsewhere, so read packaged-food labels carefully.

It may be tempting to give your dog the fat from your roast, but fat in high doses can trigger pancreatitis in dogs. Raw eggs and raw meat and fish can give your dog food poisoning from salmonella or E. coli just like they can give it to you, although it’s less likely in dogs than in humans and, of course, animals with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to bacteria, just like humans. Salmon Poisoning Disease is caused by a parasite in raw salmon caught in the Pacific Northwest and, if left untreated, is frequently fatal. Cooking salmon thoroughly destroys the parasite. Peach, apricot and plum pits contain cyanide in fairly high amounts, so keep them away from your dog. Make sure spices and baking ingredients are out of reach. Nutmeg and cinnamon are fine when included in foods but if eaten by themselves in large quantities can be dangerous. Unbaked bread dough will continue to rise in your dog’s stomach, which can cause pain as the stomach stretches. And calcium oxalate (present in rhubarb leaves, star fruit and shamrocks) can poison dogs in large enough amounts.

Our Atlanta Pet Sitters Know Quality Care

This list is not comprehensive, and there are plenty of other household items that can be toxic or fatal to your dog. If something seems to be causing a reaction (vomiting, disorientation, diarrhea, etc.), the best thing to do, always, is to call your vet or poison control and ask. Think carefully before you share your meal with your furry friends. They might be members of your family, but they process foods differently than you do! If you have a question for one of our Atlanta pet-sitters, let us know. Contact us at 404.973.2541 today if you have specific health concerns for your pet or want to know more about our pet-sitting services.