Oct 21 2009

What Not to Feed Your Pet

There are many foods that people routinely eat without a problem. These same foods, however, can have a very different effect on our pets. The spectrum is broad, ranging from mild gastrointestinal symptoms to major toxic reactions.

With the approaching holidays, veterinarians will soon be treating some of the most serious cases of food indiscretion and food toxicity.  At this time of the year, it is very important for you, as pet owners to have a good working knowledge of which foods are potentially harmful to your pets.

In general, any kind of “people food” can cause an upset stomach in your pet.  Unlike humans, dogs and cats generally eat only one type of food.  The result is that their gastrointestinal tract becomes accustomed to digesting only that food.  Similar to people, the intestines of dogs and cats contain certain types of bacteria, which aid in their digestive process.  When we feed our pets new foods that they can not digest easily, it can result in serious abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Your pet may be affected for several days, becoming lethargic and refusing to eat. Fortunately, in most cases, after a few days he or she will begin a rapid recovery.  So, always keep in mind that there is a real risk involved when you decide to give your pet a new food.

To this point, the foods that I have referred to as “people food” can cause mild to moderate symptoms in your pet. In addition to these, there are other foods that can be quite toxic to your pet and can cause serious disease.  The following is a list of those foods, which veterinarians caution you to never feed your pet


The Following is a List of Toxic Foods to Never Give Your Pet

Chocolate contains Theobromine and caffeine which are both classified as Methylxanthines.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to the effects of Methylxanthines.  All chocolate is not the same and does not have the same toxic effects on dogs.  The general rule is the more bitter the chocolate the more toxic it can be.  For instance, unsweetened baking chocolate has 7 times more Theobromine in it then milk chocolate and will have more toxic effects when digested in the same quantity.
The clinical signs associated with the toxic effects of chocolate are the following:

increase in Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulation
increased heart rate (tachycardia)
abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

If your pet has ingested chocolate and is exhibiting any of these clinical signs, please have him or her evaluated by your veterinarian immediately. Do not feed your pet chocolate.
Onions are members of the genus Allium.  Pieces of onion, onion powder, or even cooked onion can cause damage to the red blood cells, which can result in an anemia, or a low red blood cell count, in dogs and cats.  Onions cause oxidative damage to the red blood cells which result in hemolysis.  Hemolysis means your pet s body is attacking its own red blood cells.  Clinical signs associated with onion toxicity include;

pallor- pale mucous membranes and gums
brown coloration of  the urine
Many of the holidays foods we cook contain onions, and onion powder.  We should remember this when we want to give our pet a taste of stuffing or mashed potatoes.  If you note any of these clinical signs in your pet, please see your veterinarian immediately.
Macadamia nuts may cause problems if ingested by dogs.  Clinical signs that can be associated with macadamia nut toxicity include:
hyperthermia, or increased body temperature.
The exact cause for the sensitivity is unknown.  If your dog is exhibiting any of these clinical signs after ingestion of macadamia nuts, please see your veterinarian.


Ingestion of rising bread dough can be life threatening to dogs.  The animal’s rising body heat will cause the bread to rise in the stomach and release ethanol.  Clinical signs associated with bread dough toxicity include:
severe abdominal pain
lack of coordination
If your dog is exhibiting any of these clinical signs after ingestion of bread dough, please see your veterinarian.
If eaten in large quantities, some types of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause kidney failure in dogs.  The cause of the toxicity is unclear.
Xylitol is a natural occurring sugar substitute.  It is found in many sugar free gums, candies, and other foods.  This substance is actually toxic to dogs in large quantities.  It can cause as life threatening hypoglycemia, or low sugar level.  The cause is unknown.  In very high doses it can cause liver failure and bleeding tendencies (coagulopathy). 

 It is important to understand that our pets are not like us.  They cannot eat all the different types of foods and treats that we eat.  The holidays are quickly approaching, and this time of the year veterinarians see the most cases of food indiscretion and food toxicities with our pets.  Try to remember this when your pet is begging you for a taste of what you are eating.  If we do not give them a taste of our food, they will love and appreciate us more for keeping them healthy and happy.  Happy holidays and have a safe and wonderful holiday season. 

  Nerdel's Dalmation


Posted in: Your Pet with Dr. Birken