Finding Safe Treats For Your Dog – Part 2
Last week we blogged about some of the most unsafe dog treats that are still on pet store shelves while suggesting some chewy treats that are actually safe for your dog.
But what about people food? Many people foods are toxic to dogs, and some are infamous, like chocolate – nearly everyone knows chocolate is toxic to dogs.
While humans can eat chocolate to their heart’s content, dogs have very different biological systems. And the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous the chocolate becomes. But there are many other people foods that can cause serious illnesses or even death in dogs, and the list may surprise you.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is most commonly found in sugar-free gum, but is also present in candies and other products such as throat lozenges or children’s vitamins. Xylitol causes a dog’s insulin levels to surge, which is extremely life-threatening. Studies also indicate that xylitol can cause eventual liver failure after it is ingested.
The pits or seeds of fruit such as peaches, cherries and apples can lead to poisoning when chewed, because they contain a cyanide compound that is metabolized into hydrogen cyanide. While cyanide is usually the stuff of murder mysteries, humans have nothing to worry about because the amount of cyanide that could be ingested if a human actually managed to chew and swallow a pit or seed is tiny. But dogs are a different story, and the cyanide compounds can accumulate over time.
And not just macadamia nuts, either. Although macadamia nuts have been blamed for neurological illness in dogs because of an unknown toxin, other nuts can be harmful too. Some – such as almonds – may only result in a slight tummy ache. But walnuts (black, English and Japanese) and pecans often contain trace amounts of mold that can cause seizures or brain injuries in dogs. Nuts are also fatty food, and foods with a high fat content can lead to pancreatitis later in life.
Every part of the avocado, including the skin, flesh, pit and leaves is toxic to dogs because of the toxin persin.
Vegetables Containing Oxalates
Rhubarb, raw potatoes and all parts of the tomato plant (fruit and leaves) contain oxalates, which are tiny, needle-sharp crystals that can cause digestive distress and kidney stones if they accumulate.
Small amounts of alcohol and caffeine pose little danger for humans, but their effects on dogs are amplified considerably.
The amounts of caffeine found in the smallest amounts of coffee, coffee grounds or tea can result in caffeine poisoning in dogs. Alcohol poisoning in dogs can cause coma and death, and the hops in beer is toxic to dogs on its own.
Raw bread dough that contains yeast can expand in the warm, moist environment of a dog’s stomach and lead to blockages or trouble breathing. The expanding dough can also release enough alcohol to poison a dog.
Grapes – and their far less enjoyable counterpart, the raisin – have caused documented cased of toxicity in dogs. The exact toxin is unknown, but symptoms usually include kidney failure that can be fatal.
Onions and Garlic
Onions, onion powder, garlic and chives contain a compound called thiosulphate, which is toxic to dogs.
But there are many websites that encourage feeding your dog garlic to ward off fleas or provide other health benefits, as well as a number of garlic-flavoured treats and foods available. What gives?
Garlic contains a much smaller amount of thiosulphate, and is considered considerably less harmful – but still risky in larger, frequent amounts.
Every dog is different. There are tales of dogs who’ve eaten entire wrapped boxes of chocolate during the holidays and lived to bark about it, and then there’s the dog owned by a friend of a friend who snorked up a tiny chocolate crumb off the floor and become ill. Every dog is different and variables such as the weight of the dog and the amount ingested have to be taken into account. In the end, the risk isn’t worth it, and some foods may have a cumulative effect, meaning the toxins build up in a dog’s system over time.
Canned pumpkin or sweet potato are known to help firm up dogs’ poop. Dried sweet potato chunks or “jerky” is sold in a number of pet stores, and you can make your own.
Fruits and veggies such as apples (with no leaves, stems or core), melons, cucumbers or oranges (no peel or seeds) are a nice “sometimes” treat.
Grains like cooked brown rice can be fed to dogs during digestive upsets to help settle their tummies and ensure they’ve eaten something.
There are many people foods you can safely give your dog – in moderation. Over-feeding of people foods can lead to your dog becoming obese or developing pancreatitis. And remember, any new food – especially plant material including fruits and veggies – can result in an upset stomach.
You can also check the ASPCA’s people food list here to see their responses on various questions related to people foods for dogs.