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Human Treats, Poison to Pets
There are a number of things around your house that can be
deadly to your cats and dogs, some you may know, and some may be
surprising. Some are even in your kitchen cabinets and
refrigerator. Dr. Dorothy Black, clinical assistant professor at
the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences (CVM), shares some enlightening information
about common food items that may be toxic to your pet.
According to Dr. Black, the following foods can be particularly
dangerous to cats and dogs. "These foods may not necessarily cause
toxic reactions in every case of ingestion, but it's just a good
'rule of thumb' to keep these items off your kitchen counters and
under no circumstances feed these foods to your pet," Black
Grapes and raisins possess an unknown toxic substance that can
lead to renal failure by an unknown mechanism. Toxic doses have
been reported after ingesting just one to two grapes or raisins.
Not all animals suffer kidney failure after grape/raisin ingestion
and it appears to be an idiosyncratic reaction. Nevertheless, it is
best to avoid this food for your dogs and cats. There is no
known antidote, only supportive care and renal dialysis to support
"Grapes can be particularly tricky for dogs, because many
actually like to eat grapes, so you have to be especially aware,"
Black said. "Our pets are amazing creatures, but they can really
get into dangerous situations with human food very quickly."
Chocolate is commonly known to be bad for pets. It contains two
ingredients known to be toxic to dogs and cats, caffeine and
theobromine. Dark chocolate is particularly harmful because
it has a higher concentration of toxic metabolites than milk or
white chocolate. Clinical signs of distress seen after
chocolate ingestion include: anxiety/anxiousness, hyperactivity,
urination, elevated body temperature, seizures, and irregular heart
rhythms. There is no antidote, but supportive care is usually
successful for recovery.
Xylitol is a common sugar substitute now used in many home
kitchens. It is associated with a severe decline in blood sugar
levels and liver failure if ingested by pets. The exact
mechanism of the toxicity is unknown and there is no
antidote. Supportive care is typically successful for
treatment of hypoglycemia, however, liver failure may still occur
and prognosis is guarded.
"It is important to remember that if you cook or use xylitol in
your foods, that those foods should not be fed to pets," Black
said. "It is still toxic if used in cooking or baking."
Onions, garlic, and chives are also toxic to pets. They contain
the toxin allicin, which is released upon crushing or chewing the
plant. Allicin damages the hemoglobin in red blood cells
leading to anemia (such as Heinz body anemia and
methemoglobinemia). Cats are especially susceptible to this
toxin. There is no antidote, however, supportive care is
While cats are particularly affected by onions and garlic, dogs
are especially susceptible to macadamia nut toxicity. An unknown
toxin in the nut leads to difficulty walking, high body
temperatures, depression, and vomiting within one to two hours
after ingestion. While no deaths have been reported to date,
supportive care in the hospital is often required.
"Supportive care, which is the usual treatment for food
toxicity, often works to recover pets who ingest these foods,"
Black said. "But these supportive treatments to get pets back on
their feet are often very costly for the owner, and difficult for
the patient. In cases that require dialysis, pets have a difficult
road to recovery."
The foods mentioned here should be kept off countertops and out
of reach of pets, and under no circumstances fed to dogs and cats.
Preventing your pet from ingesting these items is the best way to
keep them safe. But if they do ingest these foods, Dr. Black
recommends contacting your veterinarian immediately.
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