6 Foods That Are Toxic to Dogs

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Six foods that are toxic to dogs: chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins, caffeine, macadamia nuts, and xylitol.

By: Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a dog insurance and cat insurance agency.

We all know that dogs love people food. However, some common human food is dangerous and downright deadly to dogs. If you notice that your dog has possibly eaten any of the following foods, make sure to have him or her seen by a veterinarian immediately!

1. Chocolate

This is the most common toxic food that pets ingest. Chocolate contains two compounds that are toxic to dogs: theobromine and caffeine which will be discussed later. The toxins cause upset stomach which may be visualized as vomiting and diarrhea.  At high doses, dogs may show neurological signs such as seizures, weakness and coma. Dogs can also experience life threatening arrhythmias, or abnormal heart beats. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains and the more toxic it is. Treatment includes inducing vomiting (if your dog has eaten the chocolate within the last two hours), administering activated charcoal and giving high volumes of intravenous (IV) fluids. With treatment, most dogs who ingest chocolate will live.

2. Xylitol

This is a sugar substitute that is used in many “sugar free” human products including candy, chewing gum and toothpaste. This chemical causes a very dramatic release of insulin in dogs within 30 minutes of ingestion. This abnormal insulin release can cause dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Signs include weakness, seizures and coma. If your dog survives this initial episode of hypoglycemia, they can develop liver failure in the days following ingestion. Treatment includes inducing vomiting, IV fluids with added dextrose (sugar) if your dog’s blood sugar is low, and monitoring liver values for several days after ingestion. If your dog develops liver damage from ingesting xylitol, other medications and blood work may be necessary.

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3. Grapes and raisins

These tasty little fruits are a major source of kidney failure in dogs. The toxin substance in grapes is not known at this point, however even a few grapes are enough to cause severe kidney failure and death in a small dog. Some dogs do not seem to be affected by eating grapes and raisins, while other dogs have been known to die from just a handful of the toxic fruit. Dogs who have eaten grapes or raisins often go into severe kidney failure about 3 days after ingestion. Treatment includes inducing vomiting and giving large volumes of IV fluids for a minimum of 2 days to help flush the kidneys. Typically, daily lab work is needed to assess how well your dog is responding to treatment.

4. Macadamia nuts

This nut is mildly toxic to dogs. As few as 10 nuts can make a 20 pound dog sick. Signs include vomiting, weakness, lethargy and tremors. Treatment consists of inducing vomiting if the macadamia nuts were ingested within the last two hours as well as IV fluids and medications to control tremors if needed.

5. Onions

This common cooking ingredients can be very deadly to dogs. Onions can be hidden in soups (as onion powder or dehydrated onions), casseroles, salads and other meals. Onion toxicity is very common when a dog gets into the trash because onions are used frequently at home. Onions cause oxidative damage to the hemoglobin on red blood cells, which in turn causes red cells to be destroyed by the body. This can cause dangerous and life threatening anemia (decreased red blood cells). Dogs usually show signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, pale or yellow gums, and occasionally dark urine. Treatment includes inducing vomiting, large volumes of IV fluids, administering activated charcoal and blood transfusions if needed. With treatment, dogs usually survive.

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6. Caffeine

This common drug can be consumed by dogs in many forms. Dogs who ingest coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks or caffeine “diet pills” may show signs of caffeine toxicity. The sings are similar to chocolate toxicity and dogs usually show signs of hyperexcitability, shaking and vomiting. Treatment of caffeine toxicity is similar to the treatment of chocolate toxicity.

Remember to keep these foods well out of reach of your canine friends. If you think your dog has consumed any of these common foods, make sure to take him or vet to your veterinarian immediately! With proper treatment, many dogs can survive these toxic foods. If you’re a Pets Best customer with a BestBenefit or Accident Only plan, coverage for any of the above issues is included in your plan.

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