Some foods and beverages that are edible and safe for people and other animal species may be hazardous or deadly for dogs. Some foods contain toxins that may cause mild digestive upsets, whereas, others cause severe symptoms, permanent illness and even death.
If your pet ingests a potentially poisonous substance, contact your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary hospital. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (see resource 1) is an excellent resource for animal poison-related emergencies and is staffed by veterinarians and veterinary toxicologists available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Certain mushrooms are toxic to dogs, and consuming those in the Amanita family can cause severe liver disease, neurological disorders or death. Veterinarian Mike Richards suggests bringing any dog that has eaten toxic mushrooms to the veterinarian to "induce vomiting...and give activated charcoal." Green potatoes, peels and sprouts, rhubarb leaves and the green parts of tomatoes contain oxalates which adversely affect dogs' digestive, urinary and nervous systems.
Raw or cooked onions and garlic may damage dogs' red blood cells and cause hemolytic anemia if ingested in large amounts. Most dogs will not eat enough raw onions and garlic to cause serious problems, but, according to the ASPCA, "eating concentrated forms…such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder may cause toxicosis," and a veterinarian should examine your dog immediately.
Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs when eaten in large quantities, but no one knows exactly how much is too much, so avoid feeding them to your dog. Canines consuming grapes and raisins may exhibit vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea, followed by signs of kidney failure. Due to the potential severity of symptoms, veterinarian Charlotte Means, in her article, The Wrath of Grapes, recommends hospitalization to induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal and intravenous fluids and monitor blood chemistry.
"Avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as persin," that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Fish and Meat
Raw salmon poisoning disease (SPD), a serious problem in the Pacific Northwest and California, is caused by an infection from a rickettsial organism, which a dog is exposed to only when it eats an infected fish. Symptoms include lethargy and anorexia, high fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, nasal and gastrointestinal symptoms. and, if left untreated, death--SPD has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. SPD is preventable by cooking fish before feeding it to your dog. Keeping your dog away from waterways where salmon spawn will ensure that no fish or carcasses are eaten. If you suspect your dog has eaten raw salmon, see your vet immediately.
Eating large amounts of liver can cause vitamin A toxicity, which may affect a dog's muscles or bones.
Chocolate, Candy and Sweeteners
Xylitol, a sweetener used in gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste, presents a serious risk to pets, causing liver damage and even death in susceptible dogs. Dogs eating xylitol can experience a rapid, severe drop in blood sugar levels and may develop disorientation, seizures and potentially fatal liver failure.
Chocolate contains a xanthine compound called theobromine, that may be toxic to dogs. The chance of toxicity with milk chocolate is low; it is higher with dark chocolate, such as semi-sweet morsels or baker's chocolate. Still, it's safest to avoid feeding any type of chocolate to your dog.
Xanthines, found in caffeine, affect the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and peripheral nerves. Toxicity symptoms include hyper-excitability and -irritability, vomiting, thirst, abdominal pain, muscle tremors, irregular heartbeat, high fever and, in severe cases, seizures, cardiac arrest or death. If you suspect chocolate poisoning, contact your vet immediately.
Nuts and Seeds
Walnut and macadamia nut toxicosis is not likely to be fatal for dogs, but it can affect digestive, muscle and nervous systems. Dogs with more than mild symptoms need veterinary care, including intravenous fluids and pain control medication.
Some fruit pits and seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which, when ingested, cause cyanide poisoning, even though dogs can eat the fruit itself. Some potentially toxic seeds and pits include apricot, peach and cherry pits and apple seeds.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.