Certain treats humans love can be dangerous to pets
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — With Halloween around the corner and more holidays on the horizons, it’s important to remember that some of the treats we love can be dangerous for our pets. We care about your pet staying safe and healthy through the holiday season, so here are some common substances around the house to be aware of.
Perhaps the most well-known treat to keep away from pets is chocolate. One of the most beloved treats of humans can quickly turn into an emergency situation for our furry friends. All types of chocolates have a different level of toxicity, with baking chocolate being the worst, followed by semi-sweet, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and then chocolate flavored foods. The toxicity comes from theobromine and caffeine which dogs and cats are unable to process like we do. Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, a racing heart rate, tremors or seizures, or even death. Depending on the size of the pet, and the type of chocolate, even a small amount can cause serious problems.
Another concern is xylitol/birch sugar, a sugar substitute that can be highly toxic to dogs. It is found in gum, candy, mouthwash, toothpaste and other sugar-free food products. Xylitol is safe for humans, but dogs are unable to digest it properly and it results in plummeting blood sugar and liver damage. In a small dog, as little as one stick of gum could be problematic.
Many people don’t realize that grapes and raisins can also be toxic to dogs, and until recently no one could say for sure why. Some recent studies have pointed to the toxicity being caused by potassium bitartrate, a substance better known as cream of tartar. This is an incredibly poisonous compound for dogs, but the level of tartaric acid varies in grapes due to type, growing condition and ripeness. This is why some dogs do fine after eating grapes, and others become critically ill after just a few.
Some other toxins in your kitchen include onions, garlic and chives, which can cause damage of red blood cells and kidney disease in both dogs and cats. Rhubarb stems and leaves can cause effects ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to kidney disease in cats and dogs. Citrus products, including stems, leaves, peels, seeds and fruits contain citric acid which can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs and cats. Macadamia nuts can cause neurologic signs or gastrointestinal upset in dogs. A variety of nuts can cause gastrointestinal upset due to their high fat level, and should be avoided. Coconut and coconut products can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea in dogs.
While these are some of the more common toxins that may be found in your home, it is not an exhaustive list. If you are in doubt, ask your veterinarian if a specific treat is ok to feed to your pet. If your pet does eat something that is potentially hazardous, you should contact your veterinarian right away. If you are unable to get ahold of your veterinarian, the Animal Poison Control Center is an excellent resource for any animal poison-related emergency. Their website, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control, has many free resources including a searchable database for toxic plants, household products, etc., and tips on poison prevention, and they even have an app you can download on your phone for a quick reference.
The Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility provides care to pets of active-duty service members and retirees. Call 573.596.0094 to schedule an appointment.