When Good Dogs Eat Bad Things

Interested in what foods to avoid giving your dog and why? Read this article reprinted with permission from The Healthy Dog! newsletter.

by Karen Klemens

Editor's Note: Since this article was first published a we've learned that, in addition to the other foods listed here, raisins, grapes, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and are especially dangerous for smaller dogs. Be safe! Please avoid giving them to your pet!

Jake's story is horrible but all too common. His owner thought he was just giving his Rottweiler a bone -- a chicken bone. The owner knew it wasn't the best thing to give Jake but didn't know why, and he certainly didn't think he was killing Jake. That's what happened, though. Over the next few days, Jake died a slow, painful death. The splintered chicken bones punctured the dog's gastrointestinal tract, causing deadly toxins to be released into his stomach. Jake became disoriented -- he wouldn't respond to his owner and he'd look around aimlessly. He also would regularly sit and, only using his front paws, spin around in one place. A short time later Jake succumbed.

This issue of The Healthy Dog includes a brief rundown of common and not-so-common household foods and products that, if given to your dog, can be deadly. And just in case you think turkey bones are safe, owner beware: turkey bones, like chicken bones, can be just as deadly if given to man's best friend.

If you think the best way to a dog's heart is through food, think again. Foods high in fat -- such as the table scraps that we humans cut away from our meats -- can cause canine pancreatitis and gastroenteritis, serious and potentially fatal conditions. Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas can result in a complete loss of appetite, frequent vomiting, diarrhea that may contain blood, weakness and abdominal pain (apparent through whimpering and restlessness). The reactions can range from barely noticeable to a severe shock-like collapse that can result in death. These conditions can occur after raids on garbage cans, also. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestinal linings and has similar symptoms. These cases often require hospitalization and fluid replacement.

Many table scraps also contain onion that can be toxic for a dog, especially smaller pooches. Onions can cause hemolytic anemia, a condition that destroys a dog's red blood cells, according to Dr. Kathy Michel of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. An onion-poisoned dog will become lethargic, develop breathing difficulties and will have pale gums (check around the teeth). Fortunately, the toxins will pass through the dog's system, but until then, he or she may need a blood transfusion. If you cook dog food at home, hold the onions.

It may seem like the best treat of all, but it can be deadly. All chocolate, with its caffeine and related chemical called theobromine, can raise your dog's heart rate to beat abnormally. It can cause seizures that will eventually lead to a coma. Baking or dark chocolate is the deadliest -- about nine times more toxic than milk chocolate. A chocolate-poisoned pooch will vomit, urinate more than usual, have diarrhea, and show hyperactivity.

Naturally nontoxic plants can still make your pet sick if the greenery has been sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers. Although it depends on the type of plant consumed by your dog, symptoms to look out for include breathing difficulties, convulsions, excessive salivation, gastroenteritis, skin rashes, stomach upset, swallowing difficulties, vomiting, and watery eyes and nose, according to the book, Are you Poisoning Your Pets? by Nina Anderson and Howard Peiper (Avery Publishing Group). Some of the deadliest plants and flowers include dieffenbachia, mistletoe, poinsettias, laurel, rhododendrons, azaleas, daphne, lantanas, holly, delphiniums, foxglove, irises, lilies of the valley, amaryllis, morning glories, and daffodils. The bulbs of daffodils, narcissus, and jonquils trigger severe gastroenteritis; hyacinth bulbs cause trembling and convulsions. Avocado leaves and unripe stems, rhubarb leaves, spinach leaves and tomato vines, stems and leaves can also be harmful.

Most pesticide chemicals in commercial flea repellents are fat-soluble and are stored in the fatty tissues of the body, primarily in the liver and in the nervous system. As these chemicals accumulate over time, they negatively affect nerves, hormones, and immunity. Symptoms to lookout for include anorexia, cancer, colic, convulsions, deformity of sexual organs, depression, diarrhea, foaming at the mouth, nausea, seizures, stiffness, vomiting and weakness, according to Anderson and Peiper.

Pyrethrum, a nontoxic insecticide made from chrysanthemum flowers, is found in many flea repellant products and is considered safe in its natural state. However, combine pyrethrum with chemical additives and you have a potentially dangerous environment for your dog. Chemical additives to look out for include diethyl toluamide (DEET), propoxur, diazinon, carbaryl, dichlorvos, and DDVP. Be forewarned: constant inhalation of DDVP, found in flea collars, can cause permanent damage to your dog's internal organs.

The following vomit guide is taken from Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide, Good Health,Loving Care, Maximum Longevity, published by Rodale Press, Inc.

Poison Induce Vomiting?
Antifreeze Yes
Arsenic (and/rat/mouse poison) Yes
Asprin Yes
Battery Acid No
Bleach No
Crayons Yes
Drain cleaner No
Fertilizer No
Furniture polish No
Glue No
Household cleaners No
Insecticides (flea/tick dips) Yes
Kerosene No
Kitchen matches Yes
Laundry detergent No
Medications Yes
Motor oil No
Nail polish No
Paint thinner No
Paint brush cleaner No
Paste (glue) No
Pine-oil cleaners No
Plaster, putty No
Shampoo Yes
Shoe polish Yes
Toilet bowl cleaners No
Turpentine No
Weed killers Yes

One teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for each ten pounds of body weight can quickly induce vomiting. If you're fresh out of hydrogen peroxide, try a combination of one tablespoon of dry mustard and one cup of cold water. But, as indicated in the chart above, vomiting should never be induced when trying to purge caustic substances such as drain cleaner and petroleum-based products that can burn twice -- once when they do go down and again if they are vomited. Also, if your pooch is having trouble breathing, having seizures, has a slow heart rate, is unconscious, or has a bloated stomach, never induce vomiting.

The Minnesota-based Pet Poison Helpline is a phone-based poison control center for animals. You can contact them in Minnesota at 217.333.2053. For emergencies, call: 800.213.6680. Cost is $35 per case, with unlimited follow-up calls at no charge. A credit card is required for payment. In addition, the ASPCA has a poison hotline available. Visit their site for more information. You can also try calling 800.548.2423 or 888.4-ANI-HELP. Or contact your veterinarian for information about pet poison hotlines in your area.

The Healthy Dog was a newsletter on dog health, dedicated to the Healthy Dog editor's dogs: Diablo, a German Shepherd, and Janczi, a Vizsla, both rescued animal actors who were inhumanely "debarked" by their original owners. A portion of the proceeds from this newsletter benefited nonprofit animal shelters and organizations. The information in this article reprint from The Healthy Dog is not intended as medical advice, but as a guide for when working with your veterinarian or pet's health practitioner.

Copyright © 1998 by Karen Klemens, The Healthy Dog. All rights reserved. No part of this news update may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.

Latest News

  • Latest News
    Summer in Maine was made for Labrador Retrievers. Especially Labs who live near water. And this summer,...

Treat Recipes

  • 1

Tales & Tips

  • 1