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What not to let your pet put in their mouths. Part 1

Just some more things to worry about!

What not to let your pet eat is a very long list and the following is far from exhaustive. There are so many things that your pets shouldn’t put in their mouths, it’s hard to know where to start. I thought I would try to share some of the more common no-no’s for dogs and cats. The good thing about a lot of these cases is they have happy endings. If caught early and treated aggressively, often we have success with treating dietary indiscretion. So if you see your dog eating anything below, call up your vet or the ASPCA poison control center at (888) 426-4435 (please note that there is a consultation fee) to see if your pet needs medical attention.

Everything below is specific for dogs and cats only. Other pets have additional things they should never eat.

Let’s start with the food category. My dogs think that all human food (except lettuce) is delicious (which is not surprising since they also eat poop… which is also on this list as that is also not an ideal snack) and they would eat everything in the fridge if they could open the door. Obviously, this is not a good idea as there are many things in my refrigerator, which could kill them.

First, keep your pets away from onions and garlic. They can cause damage to red blood cells, which are important because they bring oxygen to all the other cells of the body.

Second keep Fluffy and Fido away from the grapes, raisins, even the yogurt-covered ones and probably the wine too. There is an unknown toxin in grapes that causes renal (kidney) failure in some dogs. This is very bad as kidneys are one of those really important organs you can’t live without, so quick intervention is very important if your pet eats any grapes.

You probably already know that chocolate is bad for your pets. Aside from the potential for pancreatitis and big belly-ache from the fat and sugar, chocolate contains methylxanthines. (Caffeine and theobromines.) In animals, these chemicals can reach high levels where they activate the nervous system causing excitation, restlessness and a soaring heart rate. This can eventually lead to seizures and death if not treated. The danger depends not only on the size of the dog but the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate, Bakers chocolate, and cocoa are the most potent and therefore the most dangerous.

On that same note: Anything with caffeine is bad. Tobacco and alcohol are also very bad for your pets. Avoid. Something you might not think of is raw bread dough can cause ethynol toxicity. Bread dough that contains yeast will rise in the warm doggy belly. As part of their fermentation the yeast takes sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. This can lead to a drunk doggy with such a swollen belly that can be so severe it can even cause breathing problems.

Xylitol is another danger that a lot of people are unaware of. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is in lots of candy and gum. It doesn’t take much for this chemical to make your dog’s blood sugar (glucose) drop. The brain is very particular as to which energy source it likes to use, and if it doesn’t get the glucose it needs, well, it won’t be good for your doggy friend. This toxin can also cause liver failure. The liver is also one of those important organs, so we like to keep it happy and in good working condition.

Macadamia nuts can cause neurologic signs such as tremors, and weakness. I don’t know, but be sure to keep them from falling into the wrong mouth.

Avocados, (specifically the pit) and corn (specifically the cob) cause the same potential problem: A large non-digestible item that can get stuck in the gut. Underpants, socks, and towels all fall into this category too, but we are still talking about food. (On a side note, avocado’s are extremely toxic to birds.)

Bones can be somewhat controversial, as some people are very fond of feeding their dogs bones. Like the rest of this list, this is just my personal opinion: never feed your dog a cooked bone. It can cause damage to the intestinal tract. As far as uncooked bones go, sometimes they can cause fractured teeth, stomach upset, and internal foreign bodies, so I don’t recommend them.

Please give your compost bin the moldy food, not your pets. Moldy food might contain mycotoxins which can cause neurologic symptoms.

Fatty foods in general can cause pancreatitis, a life threatening condition, so don’t give your darling pooch the leftovers. This is especially a problem around holiday season.

And finally in the food category, too much of anything is not good.

One time, Funyon, my dog, went to the doggysitter’s house and when we picked him up, something was clearly wrong. His abdomen was completely distended and rock hard to the touch. He cried when picked up and didn’t want to eat a treat when offered so we knew something was really wrong. Fortunately his mom is a veterinarian and she immediately identified the problem: Funyon had clearly eaten about a weeks’ worth of food in one sitting, and now had an enormous belly ache. Food bloat is a very painful condition caused by eating too much. Some dogs will continue to eat no matter how much food is in their stomach. Fortunately for Funyon all he needed to do was poop. (Which he did all night long.) And then he felt much better.

Of course as you might be able to deduce on your own, non-food and non-edible items should probably not be swallowed either. We’ll discuss some of the most problematic non-food items in the next edition of what not to let your pets put in their mouths.

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