Our beloved dogs and cats are very curious creatures. Unfortunately, it’s this curiosity that can lead our pets to consume dangerous and inappropriate items. Our pets are also often highly skilled at begging for a cheeky taste of our dinner/cooking. This could mean we unknowingly allow them to ingest harmful foods or ingredients. It is so important as pet owners that we can protect our dogs and cats from harm and keep anything dangerous safely tucked away. The key to keeping our pets safe is recognising these potential toxins in and around our home.
It's All About FOOD!
There are several foods that we consume and enjoy ourselves that are in fact toxic to our pets. Below is a guide to just some of the foods that we should be on the lookout for:
Most dog and cat owners are already aware that chocolate is extremely toxic to our four-legged furry friends. Not only is the caffeine present in chocolate a threat, but chocolate also contains high levels of fat and a multitude of toxic chemicals including Theobromine. In general, the darker and richer the chocolate the higher the risk of toxicity. Just small amounts of chocolate can cause panting, vomiting, diarrhoea, and damage your pet’s heart and nervous systems. Remember chocolate can be life threatening so always take care to keep it locked away from your pet.
Apples seeds contain a natural chemical that releases cyanide when digested. Whilst the flesh is perfectly safe and often seen in many dog foods for their appetising taste, the seeds should never be fed.
Onion in any form, is extremely poisonous to dogs and even more so for cats. They contain disulphides and thiosulphate, both of which can cause anaemia and damage red blood cells. Keep in mind this substance is found in most members of the Allium family including leeks, chives, and shallots. Onion powder is also dangerous and can be a sneaky ingredient found in lots of human foods. It can often be found in pizza or pasta sauces, baby foods, Chinese dishes and rather frequently in crisps!
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes contain a toxin that can cause severe damage to your pet’s health, more specifically it has been known to cause kidney failure. The exact substance that causes this reaction is unknown, but these foods should most definitely be avoided.
Often forgotten, nuts can prove dangerous to your pet’s health due to either toxicity or by causing intestinal obstructions. The key ones to most definitely steer clear of are: Almonds, black walnuts, English walnuts, hickory nuts, Japanese walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and pistachios.
This contains persin, which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and heart congestion. Persim is present in the pit of the fruit, this then seeps into the flesh, meaning all parts of the avocado are incredibly toxic to pets.
Milk and Dairy Products
Our dogs and cats should not be given cow’s milk because they can be intolerant of lactose which is a sugar naturally found in milk. Giving your pet cow’s milk, especially in large quantities, may cause diarrhoea and other symptoms such as vomiting. This is because as they don’t have enough of the lactase enzyme needed to properly digest dairy foods.
The danger with cooked bones is that they can easily splinter when chewed, which can cause obstruction of the gut or airways. Raw (uncooked) bones, however, are appropriate and good for both your pet’s nutrition and teeth. Even cats like to have nibble on a raw bone as part of a healthy diet.
Mushroom poisoning occurs as a result of ingesting toxic mushrooms. This is a common hazard for dogs because of the amount of time they spend outdoors or in wooded areas, particularly during the summer and autumn months. Be sure to check your gardens for any wild growing mushrooms.
This can be dangerous if ingested by your pets. The leaves contain soluble oxalate crystals, with less of the crystals being prevalent in the stalk. That’s why rhubarb stems are edible, but the leaves are not. Although it is best not to let your pet have any parts of the rhubarb plant.
Tomatine is found in the leafy greens, the fruit blossoms, and in small green tomatoes; this concentration rapidly decreases as the tomato ripens. When stems, vines and green fruit are ingested, it can cause serious illness to our pets.
Xylitol is an artificial sugar substitute commonly used in toothpastes, mouthwash, sugarless gum, certain cough medicines and chewable multi-vitamins. It is also used in many baked goods and sweet treats. This ingredient is potentially lethal if ingested by our furry friends, so be sure to keep anything labelled ‘sugar free’ out of reach.
Yeast, be it on its own or in dough, can be potentially dangerous to pets. Just like yeast rises and expands in bread, it will do the same in our pets’ stomachs and intestines resulting in a potentially life-threatening situation. Some yeasts can also ferment in the gut to produce alcohol, which can lead to alcohol toxicity.
Persimmons, plums and peaches
They are perfectly safe and nutritious if seen within your cat/dog food. It is the seeds and pits of these fruits that can be incredibly dangerous if ingested by your pet. Not only do they pose a risk of causing intestinal obstruction, but there is also a risk of cyanide toxicity.
Coffee, tea, energy drinks, dietary pills or anything containing caffeine should never be given to your pet. The detrimental effect of caffeine products can be extensive as they can affect the heart, stomach, intestines and nervous system. So, resist the temptation to share that cup of tea.
Bacteria in spoiled foods cause stomach upsets and illnesses to our pets, just as they would to us.
While there are some human foods that are safe to feed, it is always better to stick to pet safe foods, treats and products.
A good place to start is by finding a high-quality natural diet for your dog or cat. The right food can do wonders for your beloved pet, from helping to relive itchy skin to supporting their hardworking joints.
For more advice and guidance on identifying and finding those wholesome foods check out this handy Nutrition Guide.
Inside and Out
As well as foods in the home being potentially dangerous to our pets, there are also many things around the home, both inside and outside that can also health problems.
Below is a guide to some of the things we as pet owner should be aware of:
Anti-freeze that contains ethylene glycol has a sweet taste that attracts animals but is deadly if consumed in even small quantities. Often found in the colder seasons on footpaths and roads, in car cooling systems/ screen wash, and surprisingly in many snow globes. It is best to always watch your pet, keep potential antifreeze products out of reach and to wash and dry their paws when coming in from outdoors in the winter.
Dogs can be particularly at risk of exposure to acorns in the autumn and winter months. The toxic ingredient is thought to be tannic acid which can cause significant damage to the liver and kidneys.
If the batteries are chewed and pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning.
Medications such as aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, cold medicines, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills can all be toxic to animals. Medicines should always be kept out of reach from pets and should never be given to them unless specifically direct by a veterinary surgeon. Be sure to also keep tubes of cream out of reach as well.
Poisonous Plants (Inside and Outside)
There are almost 1000 different plants that can prove toxic to our pets. When keeping plants indoors or out, always do your research to ensure you are not growing anything that could be harmful. A special mention of lilies should be made – as these are incredibly toxic to cats. All parts including the pollen are harmful, by simply rubbing against this plant and grooming themselves cats could be in danger.
Plant Chemicals and Plants Foods
Plant foods such as fertilizer can be toxic if ingested by our furry friends. Always ensure your pets are supervised if you have used any of these products.
Ant Bait, Powders and Gels
If ingested, in large quantities this can cause severe reactions. Always keep them safely locked away from your pets.
Repeated exposure to rodent baits that contain anti-coagulant compounds can have a very detrimental effect on our furry friends.
Exposure to toads is most common at the time of spawning, between June and August. Most toad-related incidents occur in the evening when cats or dogs lick or eat them. Be sure to supervise your pets to reduce the risk of interaction with toads.
Glow Sticks/Glow Jewellery
These contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP) inside, which is the clear to yellow, oily liquid that has a very bitter taste. This is incredibly toxic to pets, it important to keep them out of reach and out of chewing range.
Slug and snail pellets
Slug and snail pellets are one of the most common poisons we see affecting dogs. They contain Metaldehyde which even in small amounts can have horrifying effects. Never use these in areas that your pets can reach.
Animal medications are now flavoured to improve palatability for our pets and make it easier for us owners to give them their required dosage. However due to their yummy taste if your pet manages to get hold of them there is a potential for overdose. Keep them locked away and safely out of reach.
Cats and Flea Treatments
A special mention should be made with regards to cats and flea treatments. Permethrin is an insecticide commonly found in spot on and shampoo products for dogs. The concentrated permethrin found in these dog products is extremely toxic to cats and can be life threatening. Poisoning often occurs by accident when owners use a flea treatment intended for dogs on their feline. Toxicity can also occur by the cat being in close proximity to a recently treated dog. Cats can lick off their canine friends directly or lick it from themselves.
Never use a dog specific treatment on your cat unless specifically advised to by a veterinary surgeon.
If You Suspect Potential Poisoning
If you suspect that your pet may have been exposed to any of the toxins mentioned above, is acting strangely, or experiencing even minor symptoms including weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting or diarrhoea you must seek veterinary assistance immediately. When you go to the vets with your pet, if possible take with you the toxin that may be the cause to help achieve prompt diagnosis and treatment.
If the poison has been swallowed, DO NOT induce vomiting unless specifically instructed to do so by a veterinary surgeon.
The above lists and descriptions are to be used as a guide only and is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a veterinary surgeon. Please contact your veterinary surgeon for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health.