We just had a client come in to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital the other night with a common case of toxicity involving a seemingly harmless snack. The owner had been feeding her dog grapes when her friend (thankfully) walked in and informed her that grapes are, in fact, toxic to dogs. We also recently had a dog come in after getting into her owner’s chewing gum stash. Both dogs had to be hospitalized, but happily both are doing just fine now. In both instances the owners asked, “Why didn’t I know that this was toxic to dogs?” The reality is that quite a number of commonly used household items and foods are dangerous if ingested by your pets. So in the interest of public awareness, here’s a list of potentially dangerous items that you may have in your own home. Some of these you might already be aware of — but some will probably surprise you.
These toxins are relatively new toxin discoveries in the veterinary literature. They can cause kidney damage and failure, although the mechanism by which the damage occurs is still unknown at this point. They affect all dogs differently, so the lowest dose for toxicity has not yet been worked out. It’s best not to give your dogs or cats any of these!
Yeast dough can cause problems for your pet in two different ways. The stomach provides a warm environment for yeast to rise, and this kind of expansion in the stomach can cause a lot of discomfort. In extreme cases, the intestines can rupture. The other harmful effect of yeast is that as it ferments, it produces alcohol, which can actually cause alcohol poisoning — just as liquor would in your pet.
These toxins can cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten in small amounts. Larger amounts can cause damage to red blood cells, causing them to rupture and resulting in anemia, which can in some cases be severe.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is becoming more and more prevalent in the kitchen. Xylitol is often found in chewing gum and toothpaste and is now also showing up in some baked goods. Its toxicity is unknown in cats, but in dogs it causes low blood sugar in small doses, and liver failure in larger doses.
Signs of macadamia nut toxicity include weakness, depression, tremors, abdominal pain and an elevated temperature. The exact mechanism of toxicity is not fully understood.
Many people are aware that chocolate and coffee are toxic to pets. Patients with this kind of toxicity present with a really elevated heart rate and can, in severe cases, suffer a heart attack. While many people would not feed their pets coffee, we have had pets come in to Greenbrier with coffee toxicity from getting into coffee grounds in the household compost pile. And when it comes to chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.
All of the above can cause signs ranging from mild irritation and toxicity to more severe symptoms. It’s very important, if you suspect that your pet has gotten into any of the above, that you seek advice from your veterinarian or animal hospital to determine the optimal next steps for your pet. Many times, your vet will recommend that your dog be made to vomit and/or receive supportive care and further decontamination in a veterinary hospital. But the best treatment is prevention! Spread the word!
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