Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Foods that are TOXIC for Pets

It is most likely that anyone who owns a pet, considers them to be quite special, including them as part of the family. We treat them like our children, eager to please them, spend a lot of money on them; talk to them like they understand everything we say; some will dress their pets up; and purchase holiday and birthday gifts for them. For dog owners especially, we take them with us when we go out – even attending family gatherings.

As we do for our children, we also want to give our furry little family members treats as well, showing them how special they are to us.

I must confess, I am guilty on most counts. But, like our children, our pets need boundaries and limitations. While sharing an occasional morsel of food with your cat or dog is fine, it is important to be wary that some of the foods we consume can be dangerous and even toxic to our pets. Due to your pet's differing metabolism, some foods may cause mild digestive upsets, while others can cause severe illness, and death.

The following food items and substances should not be fed to dogs or cats – intentionally or unintentionally.

Alcohol - Beverages or foods containing alcohol (cooking products or fermented foods) should be off limits to pets regardless of alcohol content. Even small amounts of hard liquor can potentially kill a small dog or cat. Signs and symptoms of toxicity may be delayed, if a dog or cat has eaten before being exposed to alcohol.

If your dog or cat has any of the following symptoms, take them to a veterinarian or animal emergency center immediately. Most cases of alcohol poisoning in dogs and cats can be successfully treated if treatment is started early enough.

Some dental care products for dogs and cats actually contain 25% or more straight grain alcohol (ethyl alcohol), causing damage over time. It is good practice to read labels to ensure purchase of an all-natural oral care product (0% Grain [Ethyl] Alcohol).

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:
-lack of coordination
-lethargic / drowsiness
-slow breathing rate
-excessive urination

Avocado - Avocado leaves, bark, skin, and pit are known to be harmful to animals. The leaves contain a fungicidal toxin (persin), which can cause colic in horses in sufficient quantity and, without veterinary treatment, death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound. The Guatemalan variety, commonly found in stores, appears to be the most problematic, while other varieties can have different degrees of toxic potential.

Though avocado is toxic to some animals, in dogs and cats, mild stomach upset may occur if a significant amount of avocado flesh or peel is eaten. Ingesting the pit can lead to obstruction in the intestinal tract, which is a serious situation requiring urgent veterinary care.

Avocado meal or oil is sometimes included in pet foods for nutritional benefit, which is generally not expected to pose a hazard to dogs and cats.

Signs of poisoning include:
-gastrointestinal irritation
-respiratory distress
-fluid accumulation around heart tissues

Bones - It might seem natural to give a dog a bone. However, it could be a potentially dangerous choking hazard, or the bones could splinter and obstruct or lacerate the digestive system.

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain Salmonella and E. coli bacteria which is harmful to pets, and an enzyme in raw eggs called avidin decreases the absorption of vitamin B, which can lead to skin and coat problems. Cooked and uncooked fat trimmed from meat can cause pancreatitis.

Caffeine - There are plenty of caffeine products available in our homes, such as coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and diet supplements. Ingesting moderate amounts of caffeine can easily cause death in small dogs or cats.

Signs of poisoning include:
-elevated heart rate
-elevated blood pressure
-abnormal heart rhythms
-tremors / seizures
-elevated body temperature

Chocolate - Chocolate poisoning (also known as theobromine poisoning) is an overdose reaction to the theobromine levels found in chocolate, tea, cola beverages, as well as some other foods.

Serious poisoning happens more frequently in domestic animals, which metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans, and can easily consume enough chocolate to cause poisoning. If a large number of chocolate is consumed, another serious danger is posed by the fat and sugar, which can sometimes trigger life-threatening pancreatitis several days later. The toxic dose for cats is even lower than for dogs. However, cats are less prone to eating chocolate since they are unable to taste sweetness. The most common victims of theobromine poisoning are dogs, for which it can be fatal. In dogs, the biological half-life of theobromine is 17.5 hours; in severe cases, clinical symptoms of theobromine poisoning can persist for up to 72 hours.

One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs. For example, 0.4 ounces of baker's chocolate would be enough to produce mild symptoms in a 20-pound dog.

Signs of poisoning include:
-increased urination
-elevated heart rate
-epileptic seizures
-internal bleeding
-heart attacks

Dairy - While dairy products are not poisonous to dogs and cats, they are difficult to digest. Cow's milk has much more lactose and casein than many dogs and cats can digest. They don't possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). Lactose is a sugar, that draws water into the intestine, causing diarrhea and other digestive upset.

Fatty Foods (Fast Food) - Foods that are high in fat can cause diarrhea and digestive upset. Inflammation of the pancreas can develop after ingesting foods high in fat content. Certain smaller breeds tend to be more susceptible than other breeds.

Grapes/Raisins - Specifically for dogs, the consumption of grapes and raisins presents a potential health risk. Their toxicity can cause dogs to develop the sudden development of kidney failure with a lack of urine production that may be fatal.

Macadamia - Macadamias are toxic to dogs. Ingestion may result in macadamia toxicosis, which is marked by weakness and hind limb paralysis with the inability to stand, occurring within 12 hours of ingestion. Depending on the quantity ingested and size of the dog, symptoms may also include muscle tremors, joint pain and severe abdominal pain.

Medication - Pet poisonings caused by ingesting human medications (both over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal) are common, accounting for nearly 50% of calls received by pet poison hotlines, and can be very serious.

It is important to note that while some medications may be safe for children, they may not be safe for animals. Pets metabolize medications differently from people.

Medications should never be administered to a pet without consulting a veterinarian, and should always be kept safely out of reach and never stored near your pet’s medications.

Vitamins for humans are formulated to meet the requirements of the human body. Chances are, if you gave your dog or cat a human vitamin daily, you would be overdosing them. Some vitamins, like synthetic vitamin D, can be quite toxic in too large a dose. As well, some vitamins contain artificial sweeteners, that are also toxic to pets.

Commercial pet foods already have vitamins added, and companies are not required to list the amounts added to their foods. Therefore, any vitamin your pet ingests is extra and can cause toxicity (overload).

Mushrooms - Of the several thousand species of mushrooms, only a small percentage is considered toxic. Some may result in severe clinical signs (even death). Accurate mushroom identification can be difficult, with the assumption that all mushroom ingestions in pets should be considered toxic.

Signs of poisoning include:
-excess thirst or urination
-diarrhea / black-tarry stool
-abdominal pain
-lack of coordination
-tremors / seizures
-organ failure

Onions/Garlic - The small amount of garlic sometimes found in dog treats is unlikely to be harmful to dogs. However, if cats or dogs ingest onions, garlic, or leeks, of greater than 0.5% of their body weight (a 30 lb dog ingesting about 2.5 ounces of onion or garlic) it can be potentially toxic. Ingesting large numbers of garlic pills or powder may also cause poisoning, causing red blood cell destruction and result in anemia.

Walnuts - Walnuts can cause gastric intestinal upset or even an obstruction. Moldy walnuts can contain toxic chemical products produced by fungi, which can cause seizures or neurological symptoms.

Xylitol (Artificial Sweetener) - Xylitol a common sugar-substitute used in chewing gum, nicotine gum and breath mints, is a life-threatening toxin, causing a drop in blood sugar, as well as liver damage.

According to the ASPCA, the number of cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs has significantly increased since 2002.

Chewing gum and breath mints typically contain up to 1.0 gram (1,000 milligrams = 1 gram) of xylitol per piece of gum or mint. Animals that have ingested foods containing xylitol (greater than 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight) have shown to have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can be life-threatening, resulting in a loss of coordination, depression, collapse and seizures in as little as 30 minutes. Therefore, a 10 pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum.

Xylitol has plaque fighting properties which can be found in pet mouth wash and oral rinse, in non-toxic amounts.

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