By Siun Griffin, Veterinary Physiotherapist and LCAO Community Manager
Dogs are beloved members of our families, but their dietary needs differ significantly from ours. Some foods that are safe for humans can be highly toxic to canines due to their unique metabolism. It's essential to be aware of these potential dangers to keep your canine companion safe. In this article, we'll explore 10 foods that are poisonous to dogs, explain why they are toxic, and provide information on the signs of toxicity and whether veterinary attention is required.
Toxic Ingredient: Theobromine and caffeine
Why It's Toxic: Chocolate contains theobromine (a type of methylxanthine) and caffeine, both stimulants that can affect a dog's heart and nervous system. The amount of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate with milk and white chocolate containing the least amount and unsweetened baker’s chocolate the most.
Signs of Toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, seizures, restlessness and, in severe cases, death. It can take several hours for symptoms to present.
Veterinary Attention: Always seek immediate veterinary care if your dog consumes chocolate.
2. Grapes and Raisins
Toxic Ingredient: Unknown
Why They're Toxic: The exact cause of grape and raisin toxicity in dogs remains unclear, but ingestion can lead to kidney failure starting at around 24 to 72 hours post ingestion which is fatal. Even one grape or raisin can be fatal.
Signs of Toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, loss of appetite, shivering, and abdominal pain. These can present from around 6 to 12 hours after ingestion.
Veterinary Attention: Consult a veterinarian if your dog consumes grapes or raisins immediately.
3. Onions and Garlic (including Chives & Leeks)
Toxic Ingredient: Thiosulfate
Why They're Toxic: Onions and garlic contain thiosulfate, which can damage a dog's red blood cells, leading to anaemia. They can also cause kidney damage and elevated respiratory rate. This includes any form of these plants, such as dried, cooked, fresh, and powdered.
Signs of Toxicity: Weakness, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and pale gums.
Veterinary Attention: Seek veterinary care if your dog ingests onions or garlic as it is potentially fatal.
Toxic Ingredient: Xylitol
Why It's Toxic: Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free gum, candies, and some peanut butter brands. It can cause a rapid release of insulin, leading to hypoglycemia and liver failure in dogs. It is very dangerous to dogs and it can be found in some non-food products that your dog could access, such as toothpaste.
Signs of Toxicity: Vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and collapse.
Veterinary Attention: Contact a veterinarian immediately if your dog ingests xylitol. Symptoms can appear from 30 minutes up to 12 hours. Immediate vet attention is necessary which can have a good prognosis if administered early.
Toxic Ingredient: Ethanol
Why It's Toxic: Alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in dogs, leading to depression of the central nervous system and potential organ damage.
Signs of Toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, tremors, and coma.
Veterinary Attention: Seek emergency veterinary care if your dog consumes alcohol.
6. Macadamia Nuts
Toxic Ingredient: Unknown
Why They're Toxic: The exact cause of macadamia nut toxicity in dogs is unclear, but ingestion can lead to weakness, tremors, and hyperthermia.
Signs of Toxicity: Weakness, vomiting, muscle tremors, and elevated body temperature. Signs can start from 3 hours after ingestion or longer.
Veterinary Attention: Contact a veterinarian if your dog eats macadamia nuts.
Toxic Ingredient: Persin (found in the pit, skin, and leaves)
Why It's Toxic: Persin in avocados can cause gastrointestinal upset, heart congestion, and fluid accumulation around the heart.
Signs of Toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhoea, and difficulty breathing.
Veterinary Attention: Consult a veterinarian if your dog consumes avocado.
Toxic Ingredient: Caffeine
Why It's Toxic: Like theobromine, caffeine is a stimulant that can affect a dog's heart and nervous system.
Signs of Toxicity: Restlessness, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, seizures, and death in severe cases.
Veterinary Attention: Seek immediate veterinary care if your dog ingests caffeine.
Toxic Ingredient: Various harmful compounds
Why They're Toxic: While not all mushrooms are toxic to dogs, some wild mushrooms can contain harmful compounds that affect the liver, kidneys, and nervous system. Toxicity levels vary by species.
Signs of Toxicity: Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe liver or kidney failure, depending on the mushroom species
Veterinary Attention: If you suspect your dog has consumed wild mushrooms, consult a veterinarian immediately. Do not attempt to identify mushroom species yourself, as some toxic varieties closely resemble safe ones.
10. Cooked Bones
Toxic Ingredient: Splintering bones and bone fragments
Why They're Toxic: Cooked bones, especially poultry bones, can splinter and cause choking, intestinal blockage, or perforation.
Signs of Toxicity: Choking, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Veterinary Attention: Contact a veterinarian if your dog ingests a bone and experiences any symptoms
Being aware of these toxic foods and their potential effects on your dog is essential for responsible pet ownership. If you suspect your dog has ingested any of these poisonous foods, contact your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic immediately. Prompt action can save your dog's life and prevent serious health complications. Always prioritise your dog's safety by keeping harmful foods out of their reach.