While dogs are omnivores like humans (cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require mostly meat), they still cannot digest or tolerate some of the ingredients in your every day dinner.
Some of the variety of foods we as people eat can sometimes be dangerous, even in moderation. Many foods may just cause some minor digestive upset to your pet, while others are toxic enough to cause organ failure and even death.
Here are some of the most commonly toxic foods to pets, and what you should do if Fido or Fluffy gets eats part of one!
Chocolate is probably one of the most well-known dangerous foods to pets, but the toxicity of chocolate can actually vary greatly from pet to pet and from the type of chocolate present.
The higher the dark chocolate content (actual cocoa) of the chocolate, the more likely it is to be dangerous. Larger dogs may require a larger dose to show symptoms than smaller dogs, however even a small amount can affect a particularly sensitive large pet.
Caffeine and Theobromine are the compounds inside chocolate that cause its dangerous effects, leading to digestive upset, abdominal pain, changes in heart rate, seizure and even death.
Grapes and Raisins round out number two on the list, and are another well-known cause of toxicity, especially in dogs.
While many people have claimed to get away with giving their dogs grapes as treats, just one grape is all it may take to cause a dangerous reaction!
Grapes have been known to lead to acute kidney failure in pets, however the mechanism by which this happens is still unknown.
Signs of grape toxicity can be as subtle as digestive upset including vomiting and diarrhea, or may lead to severe lethargy and kidney failure within days. If left untreated, the kidney failure can lead to death.
While gum isn't a food you think of as your dog or cat eating, counter surfers that grab a purse or a package of gum off the counter may be eating more than you think.
The gum itself isn't the entire culprit, instead, the problem lays within the use of artificial sugars to flavor the gum. These sugars, namely xylitol, can lead to rapid changes in blood sugar levels of your pet, leading to seizure, organ failure especially in the liver, and even death.
Xylitol is also in a number of other sugar-free foods, such as diabetic chocolates (a double whammy of toxins), and should be looked out for there too.
Onions and Garlic can pose a potential problem to your pet, and any member of the onion family including shallots and scallions can present a risk.
Luckily, these foods usually require a large quantity to be eaten before they cause serious issues of toxicity in your pet, and many people still use small amounts as a natural remedy for treating things such as fleas or illness.
Dehydrated versions of onions and garlic, such as with garlic salt or onion powder are more dangerous due to the concentrating of chemicals.
Ingesting high amounts of these foods, however, will lead to the destruction of red blood cells in the body, leading to lethargy, blood-tinged urine, and other signs of severe anemia which may require a blood transfusion if enough red blood cells are affected.
Avocado is a tricky toxin, as only parts of the Avocado are actually dangerous to your pet. In fact, some pet food companies even use the safe parts of avocado in commercial dog foods to help provide a boost to your pet's skin and coat!
The peel, pit and leaves are the most dangerous parts of the plant, however some pets may have digestive upset from eating the flesh as well.
In dogs that like to counter surf and get ahold of it, eating the pit may lead to a bowel obstruction due to its large size.
The real risk avocado poses is to other pets in the household such as birds, rabbits or even livestock like horses which can have respiratory failure as a reaction to eating avocado.
If your pet has eaten a toxic food from this list, or even another potentially toxic item such as a plant or food item, it is best to contact your local veterinarian, or even the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline in the US for information.
The ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline can be reached by calling (888) 426-4435 however it does require a small fee to use the service.
Some foods may best be treated by causing your pet to vomit up the remainder in the stomach, while others may need professional care or hospitalization to treat organ failure or additional symptoms from ingestion.
Always keep an eye on your pet when people food is within reach, and have your vet's or other ER veterinarian's phone number or a pet poison number handy in case ingestion does occur.
Prevention and quick early reactions are key to keeping your pet safe and healthy.
ASPCA. 2012. "Foods That Are Hazardous to Dogs." ASPCA: Pet Care. Accessed 30 June 2015. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/foods-are-hazardous-dogs