Foods to avoid to keep our pets safe

Throughout the year, we all enjoy seasonal foods and it’s tempting to perhaps offer a little titbit to our furry companion. But beware the seasonal (and non-seasonal) goodies that can cause no end of harm to our beloved pets.

Chocolate

A firm favourite amongst kids and a common foodstuff in most homes, but chocolate can cause no end of complications if ingested by dogs and cats. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can damage the heart, nervous system and guts of our pets. The severity of the damage will depend on the amount and type of chocolate eaten.

Signs to look out for would include excessive drinking, diarrhoea, vomiting, being unusually restless or excited and peeing more than usual. This can progress quickly to fast breathing, shaking, high temperature, seizures and in the worst-case scenarios, can lead to coma and death. If you are concerned your pet has eaten chocolate, take swift action, try to keep the packaging and show this to your Vet.

Grapes, raisins and sultanas

Whilst we have yet to fully understand the reasons why these foods are so harmful to dogs, we do know that grapes, raisins and sultanas cause considerable gut issues and can even lead to kidney failure. Just a very small amount can be extremely harmful to your pet, so being alert to where they can find them is key. Often baked into cakes and biscuits, you can see how easy it is for an inquisitive furry friend to innocently ingest the offending ingredient.

As with most toxins, symptoms would include vomiting and diarrhoea, a reduced appetite and often blood in stools. Whilst your pet cannot tell you when they’re in pain, they will be suffering with tenderness in the abdomen, too.

Due to the nature of the treatment required, often an activated charcoal treatment, a fluid drip and medication, your dog will need to be seen by a Vet. If you suspect your dog has eaten grapes, raisins or sultanas, do not delay in seeking medical advice.

Know your onions!

The allium species, including the humble onion, garlic, leeks and chives are hidden in so many family favourites and added to sauces and dips found in every fridge. Tasty for us humans, not so great for our furry friends. If sufficient quantities have been eaten by your cat or dog, they can suffer damage to their red blood cells, leading to an anaemic response. However, symptoms may not present immediately and can take up to four or five days to become obvious. Look for signs of lethargy, they may vomit or have diarrhoea, even have red-coloured urine. Their breathing may become laboured and their heart rate increase.

Always seek professional advice and act swiftly if you’re concerned. Your Vet will be able to advise of the best course of action for your pet and situation.

Macadamia nuts

Whilst an enjoyable and healthy snack for us humans, even we know the dangers when it comes to nuts and allergies. Certain types of nuts can also be harmful to our pets and macadamia nuts fall into this group. Clinical signs that your pet may have ingested these nuts – which can be found again in biscuits and cakes – are like many of the other toxins we have previously mentioned: vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, weakness in hind limbs (instability), increased breathing rate and increased heart rate. They may even run a temperature. As with all pets, some are affected more than others, and with this particular food type, the signs of an allergic reaction can take up to 12 hours to present. So, again, if you feel they may be suffering in any way due to any ingestion, please seek swift veterinary advice.

Caffeinated drinks and alcohol

Drinks as well as foodstuffs must be on our watch list when it comes to pet safety. Ideally, water is the best form of day-to-day hydration for our pets. Drinks to avoid at all costs include all caffeinated drinks and alcohol in any form.

Caffeine causes the heart rate to increase and will make your pet restless and jittery as they struggle to manage the effects of this simulant. Raising the blood pressure can also cause arrhythmias, tremors and trigger seizures. Ultimately, if sufficient caffeine is ingested, organs can begin to fail. Please act responsibly and know what contains caffeine and ensure they are always out of the reach of your pets.

Equally alcohol can be extremely dangerous to our pets, even in small amounts. Ethanol, the intoxicating agent in beer, wine and other spirits, as well as hops used to brew beer, can cause intoxication leading to disorientation, vomiting, high body temperature, excessive panting and muscle tremors. If left untreated, alcohol intoxication can cause organ failure and even prove to be fatal. Be mindful of foodstuffs that also contain alcohol and ensure they are safely stored away from your pets.

Xylitol

One of the most common and toxic of food-based ingredients is Xylitol, a common sugar substitute found in chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash and vitamin supplements. It is also found in a number of peanut butter brands and products which are produced as ‘low-sugar’ or ‘sugar-free’.

Dogs that have ingested Xylitol often suffer from low blood sugar levels as their pancreas confuses it with real sugar, releasing insulin, which then causes blood sugar levels to plummet. It can also cause liver failure, though it is not known exactly why this happens.

Symptoms and action to take.
Symptoms can present within half an hour or take up to 12 hours and typically include:

• Vomiting
• Lethargy
• Disorientation
• Collapse
• Seizures
• Tremors
• Coma

If you suspect your dog has ingested Xylitol in any form, it is important for you to access veterinary care immediately as it can be absorbed into the blood stream quickly. Delays in veterinary intervention can result in irreversible complications and can prove fatal. Swift action often has a positive outcome and prognosis is good.

Xylitol can be harmful to other household pets, so always ensure products containing this ingredient are kept securely out of harm’s way.

Seeking help

Help is never far away, so please rest assured that you can ensure the best care for your pet should they become a little too greedy for their own good. Most care will need a professional overview. Never try to make your pet vomit. If you suspect they have ingested anything harmful, seek professional advice without delay. We’re here when you need us.

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