September 25, 2007 > Are you sharing your food?
Are you sharing your food?
By Nancy Lyon
Most people are aware of the many house and garden plants that have toxic and deadly consequences if eaten by curious or bored critters. It is less well known that many "everyday" human foods can be dangerous for our animals to eat. As different species, what can be beneficial to us can be potentially deadly to them.
It's become widely known that chocolate is very toxic to cats, dogs and birds. Dark chocolate can cause seizures, coma and death. Baker's chocolate is the most dangerous. A dog can consume milk chocolate and appear to be fine because the toxin is not as concentrated, but it is still a danger.
Parents need to make sure that their children are aware that this "people food" is not safe for their animal siblings.
Sweet smelling cocoa bean shell garden mulch, a by-product of chocolate production, is sold for landscaping. Homeowners find cocoa mulch desirable because it provides an attractive color and odor to the yard and degrades into an organic fertilizer. Unfortunately for Fido, the unprocessed beans contain dangerous levels of the same toxin as chocolate itself and some dogs find the mulch attractive to eat. If you use cocoa bean shell mulch and have a dog with indiscriminate eating habits, consider that low doses of the toxin in it can cause gastrointestinal upsets and larger amounts can cause heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors, seizures and even death.
Xylitol, a sweetener found in certain sugar-free candies and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for companion animals. Dogs ingesting significant amounts of candies sweetened with xylitol may develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. The symptoms can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product, so it is important to seek veterinary treatment immediately as current data points to xylitol as a culprit in the development of liver failure in dogs.
Again, parents need to make sure that their children are aware that certain "people food" is not safe for animal siblings.
Avocados are deadly fare for birds, so don't be tempted to share your guacamole or any part of the fruit with them. Salt is also deadly to our avian pals. Their livers cannot excrete salt the way ours does, so watch out for processed foods such as canned veggies or salty chips - they could be their last taste treat.
A toxin in tempting grapes and raisins has caused kidney failure in dogs that ingest varying amounts of them. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises not giving grapes or raisins to pets in any amount.
Luscious macadamia nuts may only put a few pounds on us but your dog can have a toxic reaction. Within twelve hours of eating the nuts, they start to develop symptoms such as an inability to stand, ataxia (walking wobbly), depression, vomiting, muscle tremors, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), weakness, and an elevated heart rate. Usually the symptoms go away within 48 hours but the weakness, vomiting, and fear can lead to dangerous, and sometimes deadly, shock. These symptoms can be even worse if your dog also eats some chocolate with the nuts. The effect of both combined is much worse and kidney failure can set in.
Common onions contain a substance which destroys red blood cells in cats, causing a form of anemia. Another root vegetable, garlic, contains a similar substance if in a lesser amount. Green, raw potatoes and tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae family of plants which includes the Deadly Nightshade, and parts of these plants contain a bitter, poisonous alkaloid which can cause violent lower gastrointestinal symptoms.
The recent pet food recalls have put us on notice that not all is carefully monitored and that we need to be vigilant. Many people swear to the benefits of raw or uncooked meat diets for their animals. But in many instances these supposed advantages can carry hidden hazards. A raw pet food company has just recalled several chicken products infected with salmonella and in some instances, listeria as well. Both organisms can cause serious infections in dogs and cats who are frail, senior, and those with weakened immune systems - the potential of infection is always there.
The list of consumable dangers to our animal friends is long but well worth checking out. Do your homework; the time will be well spent. It can save their lives and save you the grief of losing them when it could have been prevented. Knowledge is our greatest tool for safe living but unfortunately this knowledge often comes after something tragic happens. We are the guardians of our animal friends and it is vitally important that we keep current about potential threats to their health.
Check the following websites. If you don't have Internet access, you can find help at your local library.