Pets and People Food

Many pet owners think it is harmless to give their pets “people food” every now and then.  It is easy to scrape leftovers into their bowl or to give them a treat while you are eating a snack.  While some “people food” is fine for pets, you should be aware of the surprising foods that can cause serious health issues in animals.  According to an MSNBC report, the following foods are dangerous and can even be fatal to your pet:

  • Avocados:  This fruit contains a toxin called persin, which causes lung, heart and tissue damage in cats and dogs, as well as most other animals.
  • Beer:  Beer and other alcoholic beverages can cause the same brain and liver damage to pets that they cause in humans, and to a much larger degree, since animals are so much smaller than people.  Even if your pet ingests only a small amount of alcohol, he or she still can experience vomiting, as well as brain and liver damage.
  • Chocolate:  We have all heard that chocolate is harmful to dogs and cats, and here is why: Chocolate contains theobromine, which causes rapid or irregular heartbeats that can result in death, especially if an animal is exercising or exerting a lot of energy.  Unsweetened chocolates used for baking and dark chocolates are especially dangerous. 
  • Candy:  Food that contain xylitol, such as candy sugar-free gum or diet soft drinks, can cause pets to experience a drop in blood sugar, seizures and loss of coordination.  Seek medical attention if your pet ingests xylitol, since he or she can die if left untreated. 
  • Caffeine:  Caffeine affects your pet’s central nervous and cardiac systems, causing heart palpitations and even death if large quantities are consumed. 
  • Grapes/raisins:  These popular snacks can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Even a single-serving box of raisins can be fatal.  If your dog ingests just a few grapes or raisins on a regular basis, the toxin buildup will eventually kill him. 
  • Nuts:  Watch out especially for walnuts and macadamia nuts.  If a pet consumes nuts, the effects can include vomiting, paralysis and death.  Within 12 hours of consumption, a pet can experience elevated heart rate and body temperature, an inability to walk or stand, and kidney failure, which is often deadly.
  • Onions (including garlic, leeks, shallots and chives):  This popular ingredient destroys your pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia and difficulty breathing.  Even if your pet intakes a small amount, over time the effect is deadly. 
  • Medicine:  Medication ingestion is the most common type of pet poisoning.  Keep medicine locked away and out of reach.  Some pet owners may give their pets over-the-counter pain killers, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.  The active ingredients in these drugs are extremely toxic for pets, causing ulcers, kidney failure and liver damage, which can result in death. 
  • Bread dough:  A large quantity of bread dough can clog and twist the stomach resulting in death.  Rising dough also produces an alcohol (ethanol) which can be fatal.

But do not worry, there are still a few human foods you can feed to your pet as a treat, as long as your consult your veterinarian, including: 

  • Lean meats (without bones or skin)
  • Baked potatoes (avoid butter, sour cream, and seasonings)
  • Breads (without nuts or raisins)
  • Plain white rice and pasta
  • Apples, oranges, bananas and watermelon (remove seeds)
  • Carrot sticks, cucumber or zucchini slices, and green beans

When it comes to feeding your pet, it is best to stick to the pet food recommended by your veterinarian.  While human food is a nice treat once in a while, pet food is specifically formulated to keep your pet healthy and happy.  Seek immediate medical attention from your veterinarian if your pet ingests any of the listed toxic foods.

This article brought to you by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.