5 Surprising Foods That Can Poison Pets

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Dogs are most commonly affected because of their indiscriminate eating habits. — iStock
En español | We know that you love your furry four-legged friends, but did you realize that some common household foods could make your pets extremely ill?
A recent review of studies published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science by two Italian researchers at the University of Milan found that several typical human foods were frequently involved in the inadvertent poisoning of pets, particularly dogs.
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The researchers, Cristina Cortinovis and Francesca Caloni, noted that cats can also be sickened, but “dogs are most commonly affected because of their indiscriminate eating habits.” (Translation: Dogs will eat anything; cats are more finicky.)
In general, the researchers wrote, “the poisoning episodes resulted from a lack of public knowledge of the health hazard to small animals that may be posed by these products.” Either owners fed their pets the foods, unaware of the danger, or the animals themselves accidentally got ahold of them.
While some foods, like chocolate, have been known for a while to be bad for cats and dogs, “others such as grapes had previously been considered unlikely to cause problems and have emerged as a potential concern only in the last few years,” the researchers said. The growing use of the artificial sweetener xylitol in several products has also posed a recent risk.
Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian at the Food and Drug Administration, recently warned pet owners about human foods that could sicken their dogs, including fried and fatty foods and too many salty snacks. “Our bodies may break down foods or other chemicals that a dog’s can’t tolerate,” she said in a statement.
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Here are the five common foods that cause the most pet deaths and illness:
Grapes and their dried products (raisins, sultanas and currants)
Grapes, both fresh and dried (raisins, sultanas and currants), can cause kidney failure in dogs, although some dogs are more susceptible than others, the review found.
For example, some dogs ate up to 2 pounds of raisins without any life-threatening effect, while others died after eating just a handful. Kidney failure was reported in a dog weighing about 18 pounds that ate only four to five grapes. Given this wide range of reactions, dogs that eat any amount of grapes or raisins should be taken quickly to a veterinarian.
Artificial sweetener xylitol
The artificial sweetener xylitol is used in sugar-free gum and other sweets and baked goods, as well as in a number of dental care products, because of its antibacterial properties.
As its use has spread, so have reports of severe, life-threatening problems in dogs that ate foods that contained the sweetener. Xylitol, the researchers explained, causes a “dramatic decrease in blood glucose levels” in dogs. It also has been associated with liver failure.
Symptoms of xylitol poisoning can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion, but they also may occur up to 12 hours later. Symptoms begin with vomiting and can worsen to lethargy, collapse and seizures.

A recent study reported 192 cases of xylitol poisoning in dogs from 2007 to 2012. All the dogs survived, thanks to prompt veterinary care, researchers noted.

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Onions and garlic
Onions, garlic, leeks and chives — all members of the genus Allium — can make dogs and cats very sick. The plants contain a compound that, when eaten, cause a pet’s red blood cells to break down. Even a small amount can cause this dangerous change, and the toxic effects will occur whether the onions or related foods are raw, dried or cooked.
According to the review, there were 69 cases of dog poisoning and four cases of cat poisoning between 1994 and 2008 from eating a wide range of Allium-containing foods — everything from baked garlic to onion soufflé to Chinese dumplings containing chives.

People should be aware that symptoms can occur a day or several days after the incident, depending on how much their pet ate.

Chocolate, caffeine and coffee
Chocolate may have health benefits for humans, but not so for animals. The sweet treat is among the 10 most common reasons for poisoning in dogs in recent years, according to reports from Animal Poisons Control Center and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, both compounds found in cocoa seeds, which can affect both the central nervous systemCc/ and heart muscles. Symptoms occur two to four hours after ingestion and can range from upset stomachs to seizures and death.
“Poisoning episodes frequently occur around holidays,” when there are more chocolate products in the home, the researchers wrote. Unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder contain the most theobromine; white chocolate contains the least.

Macadamia nuts

People love macadamia nuts for snacking or in baked goods or candy, but the nuts can be toxic for dogs. According to the review, it’s unclear how much a dog needs to eat to get sick, but some studies indicate that as little as a quarter of an ounce for every 2.2 pounds a dog weighs is enough to result in poisoning.

No deaths have been reported to date, and most dogs recovered within 24 to 48 hours with veterinary care, the analysis found, but pet owners should take care to keep these nuts (or cookies that contain them
) away from their pooches.


Dog Nutrition Tips

A balanced diet is critically important to your dog’s cell maintenance and growth and overall health. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies, or instructions from your vet, your pet should be able to get all the nutrients he or she needs from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are specially formulated with these standards in mind.
But dogs of different ages have different nutritional requirements. So, how much—or how little—should you be feeding your four-legged friend? Read on to learn what your pet’s body needs at the various stages of life.

Dog Nutrition Tips
Nutrients Your Dog Needs

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. There are the six essential classes of nutrients dogs need for optimum healthy living.
Weaning and Feeding Your Puppy
If you’re responsible caring for puppies in the first few months of their lives, you’ll need to be prepared to move them from a diet of mom’s milk to regular puppy food. This process of gradually reducing a puppy’s dependency on his mother’s milk, known as weaning, should generally begin between three and four weeks of age and is ideally completely by the time the puppy is seven to eight weeks.
Feeding Your Adult Dog
Adult dogs require sufficient nutrients to meet energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels may vary dramatically between pets, and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.
Feeding Your Senior Dog
Dogs begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to 12 years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes, too. Some of these may be unavoidable while others can be managed with diet. When feeding your older dog, the main objective should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow development of chronic disease and minimize diseases that may already be present.
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Overweight Dogs
One of the most common pitfalls dog parents should watch out for is overfeeding. Attempts to shower our dogs with love by means of big meals and lots of tasty treats are sweet, but misguided. In dogs, as with humans, extra weight can lead to health problems. Be sure to indulge your four-legged friend with affection, not food!
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Causes of Obesity in Dogs

Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, it can be detrimental to the health of a dog. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.
Obesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. This excess energy is then stored as fat. The majority of cases of obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise. Certain groups of dogs appear to be more prone to obesity than others. Specific breeds, such as Labrador retrievers and pugs, and older dogs are particularly susceptible.
How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight

There are a few ways easy ways to identify whether your pet has put on the pounds. You should be able to feel the backbone and touch the rubs in an animal of healthy weight. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat.
Also, you should see a noticeable waist between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. When viewed from the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy, meaning the abdomen should go up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs. Dogs who fail these simple tests may be overweight.
How to Help Manage Your Dog’s Weight

We have a few tips that can help your pet shed the extra padding. Please note, if your pup has put on weight, we recommend that you consult your pet’s vet before starting on a weight loss program.
Correct your pet’s diet. Overweight animals consume more calories than they require. Work with your veterinarian to select a more suitable food and determine your pet’s caloric requirements. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber and fat to prevent the skin and coat from suffering during weight loss.

Increase regular exercise. Increasing physical activity can be valuable to both weight loss and weight maintenance. Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes body composition and will increase your pet’s resting metabolic rate.

Modify your behavior. A successful weight management program means making changes in your behaviors that have contributed to your pet’s weight. For example, you may be giving your pet too many treats or not giving her enough opportunities to exercise.

Here are some ways you can commit to your pet’s weight loss:

Remove your pet from the room when the family eats

Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day

Reduce snacks and treats, and feed all meals and treats in your pet’s bowl only

Provide non-food related attention with lots of affection