By Kelley Kombrinck
For us humans, sharing meals with each other is a huge part of our lives. It’s a way to celebrate, to grieve, to bond and to conduct business. We probably do this most often with our loved ones, often every night at dinner, so it is natural for us to want to include our special furry friends in this practice. As long as man and dog have been cohabitating, we’ve been slipping food to them from our plates. It’s easy to assume that whatever is good and tasty to us will be the same for our dogs. Unfortunately, this is not the case and there are a number of foods that are not healthy for our four-legged companions and some that can even be deadly. Before you pass your dog that yummy morsel, let’s look at some of the foods dogs can’t eat.
As a general rule, it is probably best to limit how much “human” food we share with our dogs. Most of our food is heavily seasoned or processed and we aren’t always aware of what might bother their digestive systems. To understand the healthiest diet for your dog, you should always consult your vet. With that in mind, if you do give in to those big, hungry eyes that seem to say, “Please may I have just a bite?” there are some foods that are particularly harmful to a dog’s body and should be avoided. There is an excellent and comprehensive list of foods that are both safe, and dangerous for dogs that can be found at the American Kennel Club website for those looking for more suggestions, but for this post we will focus on the ones that should always be left alone.
Foods To Avoid
(Remember, even foods that are “ok” for dogs aren’t meant for them, so when you do share, make sure it is only occasionally, and small amounts.)
Most people, dog families or not, are aware of this one and with good reason. Chocolate comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, varieties and is in many different foods and beverages that we consume. Most households have quite a bit of chocolate in one form or another laying about the kitchen and it is extremely toxic to dogs. Chocolate contains a stimulant called methylxanthine, and ingesting even a small amount can cause a dog to experience severe vomiting and diarrhea. Any significant amount can cause a dog to have seizures, heart problems and could even kill them. Not only do you want to make sure you don’t knowingly give your dog friend any chocolate, you want to make sure that there is no way for them to get into it on their own. If you discover that your dog has eaten chocolate, it’s important to contact your vet immediately. If you can’t reach a vet, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline to find out how best to proceed.
These nuts are a big no-no for dog consumption. Like chocolate, they are extremely toxic to dogs and can cause any number of harmful effects including damage to their nervous system.
Garlic is part of a family of plants called the Allium family, along with onions, leeks, shallots and scallions. All of these should be avoided when giving your dog food from the table because they can all make them sick. Garlic, however, is much more toxic than the others and has a host of symptoms including an elevated heartrate and weakness that can lead to collapse. It is also worthwhile to note that with foods such as garlic and onions, a dog may have delayed symptoms, so if you know that your fur baby has gotten into the special, garlic-heavy family spaghetti sauce, keep an eye on them for a few days and watch for any signs of discomfort or irregular behavior.
Cinnamon is a spice with a very pleasant sort of “heat” that we humans enjoy and while it is not necessarily toxic for dogs, it is also not good for them. The oils that carry that spiciness to our flavor receptors can irritate the lining of a dog’s mouth. If it is inhaled as a powder (it’s most common form in this country) it can cause breathing issues and overall will just make a dog feel sick and uncomfortable.
Certain nuts are toxic to dogs in and of themselves (the aforementioned Macadamia nuts)while others, like peanuts and cashews, are alright in very small amounts. Almonds fall somewhere in between and so to be overly cautious we are including them on our list. While not specifically toxic, almonds can easily be lodged in a dog’s esophagus creating a choking hazard or even damage their windpipe if not chewed very thoroughly. Additionally, if the almonds are salted they can cause your dog to retain water which can be life-threatening if there is any underlying heart condition. Best to steer clear and keep the almonds for yourself.
Grapes & Raisins
Dogs can eat some fruits, but grapes and raisins should definitely be avoided. They are toxic to a fur-baby’s system and eating them can cause a dog to endure vomiting, severe lethargy and possible kidney failure.
Dogs are able to digest dairy and it is not always harmful to them but some dogs have an intolerance for lactose that can cause mild to severe digestive issues. On top of that, ice cream contains very high levels of sugar and sodium, which can cause weight gain, retention and lead to more serious conditions down the line. While it may be hard to not give a good boy or good girl the last lick of your frozen treat, it is best to just keep that last lick for yourself.
Alcohol is a big no-no for dogs. Their bodies react to alcohol in a very similar way to ours except that they experience issues much faster and with a much lower amount. Think of your furry friend as the ultimate lightweight. Vomiting, diarrhea and loss of coordination can begin quickly after consuming even a small volume of alcohol and can eventually lead to coma or even death.
Like alcohol, the effects of caffeine on a dog’s system are not unlike our own, but are greatly amplified and far more damaging. Muscle tremors, trouble breathing and heart palpitations are all common symptoms of caffeine consumption in dogs, but depending on how much they ingested, can also lead to caffeine poisoning.
Xylitol is a popular artificial sweetener used in many different foods and other products (like toothpaste). It is extremely harmful to dogs and can cause liver failure in just a few short days after being ingested. It also causes severe, repeated vomiting, lethargy and sometimes seizures. This one can sneak up on you because sometimes you don’t know that a product contains xylitol. Some peanut-butters, for instance, contain xylitol and many dogs receive peanut-butter as a treat. Before sharing anything with your animal friends, make sure you check the ingredients list.
Of course, there are other “human” foods that are harmful to greater and lesser degrees to dogs. If you’re committed to sharing foods with your dog, it is probably best to research it thoroughly first, or as mentioned above, contact a veterinarian who can help guide you. We all want to make our animal friends happy and give them treats that we enjoy, but we also want them to feel good and be healthy. There are so many other treats that are appropriate for our dogs that will give them that good feeling while not doing any harm to them.
Visit the blog over at Petstop.com for more great articles on ways to spend time with and care for your beloved furry friend!