Most people tend to think of their pets as part of their family. Pets provide company, friendship and will listen to our problems without complaint. In return, we reciprocate with companionship and provide them with a comfortable place to sleep, medical care and food. We also have a responsibility to keep them safe.
Many pet owners become so close with their pets they almost seem human. For the most part, this is harmless – that is, until it comes to their diet. As omnivores, humans are capable of eating a wide range of substances, but that is not the case for our animal friends. Dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles metabolize foods differently from humans, and therefore require different diets. In fact, some foods and substances that are perfectly harmless for humans can prove to be toxic for pets.
Responsible pet owners should know these potentially toxic foods and other items so they can prevent their pets from ingesting them. It also can be beneficial to understand how and why some of these substances are harmful to pets.
In this guide, we will address the difference between human and animal digestive tracts and why some foods are safe for humans but bad for pets. We’ll examine toxic non-food items, plants and flowers, and other non-edible dangers. We’ll take a look at the long list of toxic food items and why they pose a danger. You’ll discover why the holidays can increase potential toxic exposure to pets, how to teach kids about the dangers of pet poisoning and how it can be prevented. Finally, we’ll discuss what should be done in case a pet ingests a toxic substance.
Proper pet care takes a blend of compassion and knowledge. This guide will provide some important information to help make sure your pet leads a safer and longer life.
Table of Contents
- Why Some Foods Are Harmful to Pets But Not Humans
- Toxic Non-Food Items
- Toxic Food Items
- Apple Seeds
- Candy and Chewing Gum
- Cat Food
- Coconut and Coconut Oil
- Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeinated Beverages
- Cooked Bones
- Corn on the Cob
- Dried Beans
- Fat Trimmings
- Garlic, Onions, and Chives
- Grapes and Raisins
- Green Tomatoes
- Human Vitamins and Supplements
- Macadamia Nuts
- Milk and Dairy Products
- Moldy or Spoiled Food
- Pits from an Apricot, Peach, Plum, etc
- Rhubarb and Tomato Leaves
Why Some Foods Are Harmful to Pets But Not Humans
Humans often view their pets as natural hunters and scavengers. However, pets don’t have the innate ability to decide what is, or isn’t, good for them to digest. Many a dog owner, for example, can share stories of their pets eating their own excrement, only to throw it up and eat it again. This over-enthusiasm to eat can be problematic for pets, especially if they get into trash or are exposed to other potentially harmful items.
Humans, on the other hand, have a discerning sense of smell and taste that can help determine harmful substances in advance. Even if foods have little nutritious value, our systems have the ability to maximize the value of whatever is available in the food.
It is important to keep in mind that even though your pet may seem to be willing to eat almost anything, they can’t safely consume the wide range of foods humans can. A big reason is the differences in our digestive systems.
Human Digestion vs Animal Digestion
A reason humans can eat a wide variety of foods that pets can’t is the significant differences in our digestive systems. The differences start when we take the first bite. Humans chew in a side-to-side motion, while pets tend to chomp and tear. Humans also have digestive enzymes in our saliva that begins breaking down foods before we even swallow. While a dog also has saliva, it serves to kill bacteria in the substance being eaten as opposed to breaking it down. Our GI tract is longer and contains microflora, allowing us to better extract nutrients from the food we eat.
The human stomach is relatively small, passing the food onto the intestine in just hours. A dog, for example, has a stomach that more easily expands, often holding food for a day or so. Their stomachs, however, do not absorb water and nutrients so efficiently. This is why it can be fatal for a dog to experience diarrhea for an extended period. This is also another good reason to keep a close eye on your pet’s diet.
A dog’s stomach acid is much stronger than a human and is better equipped to dissolve chunks of substances. This works well, considering how a dog aggressively bites and tears at food. This acid liquefies food that then heads into its small intestine.
Many of the differences between the digestive systems of a pet and our own is due to how the human diet has evolved throughout time.
Evolution of Our Diet
Dogs are omnivores (meat and plant eaters) while cats are primarily carnivores (meat-eaters). Humans have evolved to adjust to a diet that consists of both plants and meat. Fiber, for example, requires a longer digestive tract to break down. Because of the potential toxins in raw meat, a pet may keep food in its acidic stomach longer, but it will stay in the shorter digestive tract for a briefer period. This is critical for a dog’s survival.
Humans have adjusted to a more plant-based diet and our digestive systems have even adjusted to foods that may once have been toxic to us. Chocolate is one example and alcohol is another. Neither may be exceedingly beneficial to us yet many routinely consume one or the other, or both, sometimes to excess.
There have been studies that say that some primates actually micro-dose on poisonous plants. This serves as a medication against parasites. These micro-doses allow the primates to enjoy a wider variety of foods. This is a possible explanation as to how humans have evolved to eat the things we are able to. Our pet’s digestive systems do not accommodate the wide variety of foods we are able to handle.
The items listed in the following sections will vary as to their toxicity. While some may be only mildly toxic and cause short-term health issues, others may be extremely toxic, potentially causing severe illness or even death. The degree of toxicity will likely depend on several factors:
- The type of pet involved (dog, cat, bird, etc.)
- The size of the pet involved (the larger, the more resistant to toxins)
- The amount of the substance that was ingested
- When a plant is involved, the part of the plant that was ingested (leaf, stem, bulb, etc.)
It is suggested pet owners contact their veterinarian for any questions regarding a specific type of pet or substance. A veterinarian may also be able to provide a more exhaustive list of items and their toxicity.
Toxic Non-Food Items
While the biggest concern being addressed here are food products that may be toxic for our pets, there are other items around a home that can be harmful to them as well. As previously mentioned, some pets, particularly dogs, aren’t always very finicky about what they eat. This means pet owners should be aware of these items that are potentially toxic for pets. Care should be taken to keep these items out of “reach” of pets who may accidentally, or intentionally, ingest them. Beyond food products, one of the broader areas of concern is household plants and flowers.
Plants and Flowers
Plants serve a variety of purposes in and around the home. They are decorative, add beauty and can even serve to clean the air. But plants can also pose a danger to pets. The reality is that most plants, when ingested in large quantities, can cause digestive issues in a pet. Most, however, are short term. Many plants can be significantly more toxic and potentially even fatal.
The list from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists over 400 plants that have been shown to be toxic to some degree for cats and dogs. The following list contains only some of the more common plants that may be found in or near the home.
- Aloe Vera
- American Holly
- Arrowhead Vine
- Bird of Paradise
- English Ivy
- Sago Palm
In many cases, not all parts of the plants listed by the ASPCA may be toxic. Stems, leaves, flowers, seeds or bulbs may be toxic depending on the plant and the pet. Never underestimate a pet’s ability to reach a plant that you may deem as being in a “safe” area. Cats, in particular, are notorious climbers and excessively curious. It is best to simply avoid bringing potentially toxic plants into your home or planting them in your garden if you have a pet.
Homes can be filled with hundreds of items that may arouse the curiosity of cats or may be attractive to the playful side of pets. Dogs, in particular, rely heavily on their sense of smell, which can get them into trouble. Similar to child-proofing a home with small children, it can be beneficial to “pet-proof” a home for pets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists the following as non-edible toxic threats to pets:
- Cocoa mulch
- Fabric softener sheets
- Ice melting products
- Insecticides and pesticides
- Lawn fertilizers and weed killers
- Liquid potpourri
- Paints and solvents
- Rat and mouse bait
- Various household cleaners
- Swimming pool chemicals
- Salt dough Christmas tree ornaments and play dough
The FDA notes that even flea and tick products for dogs can be dangerous, or possibly life-threatening if used on cats or other animals. Among the cleaning products that can prove to be toxic for pets are bleach and toilet-bowl cleaners. If you have a dog, in particular, you should be careful to rinse the bowl thoroughly after cleaning. Many dogs choose an open toilet as an option for cool water.
Care should also be taken with liquid potpourri, mothballs, paint, holiday tinsel, and even common personal-care products like toothpaste and mouthwash. Keeping these items in closed containers, closets and cupboards can go a long way in helping to keep your pet safer.
Toxic Food Items
As your pet’s provider, your pet may show a keen interest in what you are eating. This can be both annoying and charming. For cats, the interest may be one of curiosity. They simply may want to know what it is that you have that they don’t. For dogs, there may be an expectation for you to share. There probably will be an expectation for you to share.
Whether you have a hard and fast rule against feeding pets from the table or not, it can be beneficial to know what food items may be toxic for your pet. Many of them we consume without a second thought.
Alcohol poisoning in pets is very rare, in that for the most part, the taste of it is unpleasant to them. Unless a dog is encouraged to drink or it is so readily accessible that a pet may not be able to avoid it, alcohol is seldom a serious problem. As far as toxicity is concerned, it is the amount of alcohol that is consumed rather than the type of alcohol that can be problematic. In most cases, the effects of alcohol on a pet will be similar to that of a person. They may become lethargic, dizzy and even go to sleep. Like in humans, too much can also make them ill. Excessive alcohol consumption for a pet could lead to hospitalization. Keep in mind, because pets are much smaller than humans and weigh significantly less, it takes much less alcohol to have damaging results. The smaller the animal, the more likely they will experience toxic issues with alcohol.
While there is a small amount of cyanide in apple seeds, it is so insignificant as to not pose a risk for most pets. In fact for dogs, apple cores or chunks of apple can be a teeth-cleansing, refreshing treat. The seeds, however, should not be left where they may be consumed by small birds. While the amount of cyanide in apple seeds may be insignificant for a dog or cat, they can potentially cause a problem for small pets like a bird.
Avocados contain a toxin called persin, a substance that is toxic to some animals. In dogs and cats, the persin in avocado can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to pancreatitis. In birds, it may affect the bird’s ability to perch and cause lethargy and even sudden death. A bird should never be given avocado. Horses that consume avocado can become lethargic, experience swelling in the head, neck, mouth, and chest, which can lead to heart problems. These problems can be severe enough to cause death.
Candy and Chewing Gum
It may be tempting to share a few treats with your four-legged buddy. You should know, however, that some sugar-free candy and gum contains xylitol. This is a five-carbon sugar alcohol which can be particularly toxic to dogs. Dogs who ingest candy or gum with xylitol may experience lethargy, seizures, vomiting, and even live failure in severe cases. While chewing gum without xylitol may not be toxic, it can pose a choking hazard for some pets. It is best to just avoid giving candy or gum of any kind to a pet.
Pet owners who have both a dog and a cat know that the canine in the family may frequently seek out the feline’s food. In many instances, this may not be a problem, other than causing some minor digestive problems for the dog. Some dogs, however, can have a more severe, toxic response to protein-rich cat food. This high level of protein can also be an issue for birds. It is best to keep cat food for your cat and do what it takes to keep it away from dogs and birds.
Most have heard that chocolate can be toxic for dogs and cats but may not be aware of what type of chocolates have the most toxins and what it is about the chocolate that makes it toxic. Chocolate contains methylxanthines, and the darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains. Baker’s and dark chocolate can be most harmful to pets. While milk chocolate is better than dark chocolate, it still should be kept away from animals. Even white chocolate contains some methylxanthines. Pets who ingest chocolate can experience a whole series of health issues, including vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, and seizures. In some cases, dogs and cats can die from eating chocolate. While a large dog may certainly enjoy a small bite of white or milk chocolate, it is better to not allow them to develop a taste for it. It should always be kept away from small pets.
Coconut and Coconut Oil
Like most foods, given in small amounts to animals, coconut and coconut oil may not negatively affect a pet. Owners, however, should be aware that coconut contains high levels of potassium. While potassium is a critical electrolyte in dogs, too much potassium can cause hyperkalemia. This can lead to kidney problems or urinary tract issues. Pets who consume too much coconut or coconut oil may become lethargic or experience diarrhea and vomiting. Do not provide pets access to coconut water.
Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeinated Beverages
Like chocolate, coffee, tea, and many other caffeine products contain methylxanthines, which can be toxic for dogs and cats. When ingested, vomiting, diarrhea, panting and excessive thirst may result. A pet may also become hyperactive, experience an abnormal heart rhythm or have a seizure. In extreme cases, the results may be fatal. There should be no reason to give a pet a caffeine product. Half-full cups and glasses of tea, coffee or colas should always be emptied before a pet can access them.
One of the most confusing food items when it comes to pets, especially dogs, is bones. Dogs, in particular, have often been pictured resting on a favorite blanket gnawing on a large bone. First, pet owners should know that chicken, turkey or pork bones shouldn’t be given to any pet at any time, cooked or uncooked. These bones can easily be shattered into very sharp pieces that can cause mouth, stomach and intestinal tract damage. Pet owners should also know that cooked bones should never be given to a pet. Cooked bones have little-to-no nutritional value and cooking can cause them to become brittle and break into shards. Only raw beef bones should be given to a dog, and that bone should be about the size of the dog’s head. The dog should always be monitored while chewing the bone. Even commercially prepared bones that are smoked or have other flavorings have been known to break into potentially harmful shards.
Corn on the Cob
Dogs can be attracted to corn on the cob for several reasons. It can be the bone shape of the cob, the salty-buttery flavor that often remains on the cob, or the texture. The problem is that the cob itself can be nearly impossible for a small-to-medium dog to pass and cause intestinal blockage. While some dogs may be allergic to corn, intestinal blockage is a much more significant issue. If a dog should somehow rescue a cob of corn from the trash, attempt to get it from them as soon as possible. If pieces of the cob are missing, watch for signs of blockage that may include vomiting, diarrhea or straining. A vet should be seen promptly. The corn kernels themselves may not be toxic but the cob can certainly cause serious problems.
While cooked beans can actually be good for your dog, raw beans can be virtually indigestible. Dried beans given to a dog should be prepared much like that for humans, soaked thoroughly and cooked. Beware, while cooked beans may not be toxic to your dog, they can cause human-like reactions like flatulence. Cooked beans should never be used as a substitute for meat in a dog’s diet.
While it can be tempting to give a dog the trimmings left over from a steak or pork chop, these often fatty trimmings can cause pancreatitis. It is also the reason that fatty fast-foods and burgers shouldn’t be given to a dog, even as a treat. Dispose of left-over bones and fat securely and remove them from the house as soon as possible. Some dogs are very resourceful and superior hunters for these hidden treasures. You may have to pro-actively out-smart them.
Garlic, Onions, and Chives
Onions contain a substance called thiosulphate, which is toxic to both dogs and cats. When ingested in any form, cooked or uncooked, onions can cause hemolytic anemia, which is damage to red blood cells. Garlic is said to be about five times as toxic to pets as onions and is often used as an ingredient in hamburgers, adding another reason to avoid giving hamburgers to your dog. Chives are also toxic to dogs and cats. When consuming any of these, pets can become lethargic and experience an elevated heart rate and abdominal pain.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins can be extremely toxic for dogs, and although they are less likely to be ingested by cats, can also be toxic to them. Grapes and raisins can cause severe abdominal pain and result in acute kidney failure. Foods made with or containing grapes and raisins should not be given to pets. These include raisin bread, trail mix with raisins, grape juice and some wines. Wines, which also contain alcohol, can be especially toxic to pets. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
Ripe tomatoes are generally considered safe for pets (in limited quantities). Green tomatoes, however, can be toxic. Green tomatoes and their leaves contain solanine, which can cause a variety of distressful symptoms for pets, including vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, and confusion. While pets will generally leave green tomatoes on the garden vine, care should be taken with pets around green tomatoes planted in home gardens.
The toxicity of hops can range from mild to severe. In some cases, it can even be fatal. Hops are often found in plugs or pellets and are more commonly found in homes with the popularity of home brewing. Symptoms of hop poisoning in dogs include malignant hyperthermia, a rapid heart rate, anxiety, and vomiting. Since beer contains potentially toxic hops and alcohol, it should not be given to pets. The smaller the pet, the more dangerous beer can be.
Human Vitamins and Supplements
It is important to realize that the vast majority of commercial pet-food products offer a reasonably balanced diet for pets. Even if a supplement or vitamin is required for a pet, it will usually be in a much lower dose than that of a human vitamin or supplement. In essence, this means that a pet can get an unhealthy dose of a vitamin or mineral from a supplement designed for humans. For example, there are glucosamine supplements made for humans and glucosamine supplements for dogs. These will have very different dosages and should be used for their intended purpose. Human supplements should not be given intentionally to pets and if a pet accidentally ingests a number of pills, a vet should be consulted promptly.
Liver, in small doses, can be a tasty treat for dogs. If given in large doses, however, or over an extended period, it can be toxic. Liver contains large amounts of vitamin A, and when consumed in large quantities, it can result in hypervitaminosis A. This can lead to bone deformation, weight loss, and anorexia. A pet’s diet should never include more than three servings of raw or cooked liver per week. It can be helpful to check any canned food to see if liver is already included in the ingredients before adding additional liver to the diet of a pet.
Many dogs love nuts. They love the texture and enjoy the flavor. Unfortunately, many forms of nuts don’t love them back. Macadamia nuts are one type of nut that can be toxic for dogs. They are fatty, which can lead to pancreatitis. They also contain a toxin that can lead to neurological issues. Other nuts that can be toxic for dogs include pistachios, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hickory nuts. First signs of toxicity often include stomach-related issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Milk and Dairy Products
A bowl of milk may not be particularly beneficial for cats in spite of what we may imagine. Dogs, however, frequently have a more toxic response to milk and dairy products. Dogs are more likely to be allergic to milk and dairy products, and like humans, can be lactose-intolerant. While dogs drink the milk of their mothers when they are puppies, they can have issues digesting cow milk as they age. Signs of being allergic or lactose-intolerant include vomiting and diarrhea. At most, milk and dairy products should be given as a rare treat to dogs.
Moldy or Spoiled Food
Cats tend to be more discriminating about what they eat than dogs, but moldy or spoiled food can be toxic for both. In many cases, ingestion may result from a knocked over trash can (accidentally or intentionally). It frequently occurs when outdoor pets go exploring. They may encounter moldy nuts or spoiled fruits. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. While most symptoms will last only a day or two, if left untreated, it can sometimes be fatal.
The nutty, spicy flavor of nutmeg is popular throughout the holiday season. It is appealing to us and it is appealing to dogs. While an occasional cookie with nutmeg may prove to be harmless, especially to larger dogs, small dogs should be watched carefully after sneaking a nutmeg-laced treat. In high doses, nutmeg can cause hallucinations in pets, increasing their heart rate and anxiety. Their blood pressure can increase significantly, and they may even experience seizures. The biggest threat may be your nutmeg shaker if left on a countertop or tabletop when cooking. Keep nutmeg safely away from your dog when cooking and you can help ensure their safety and your peace of mind.
Pits from an Apricot, Peach, Plum, etc.
Pits from peaches, apricots, and plums can be fatal for your dog. If that doesn’t grab your attention enough, you should know they can cause death in three different ways. First of all, the pits can cause a choking hazard. If your dog somehow manages to get the pit, or parts of it, into his digestive system, it can cause a blockage that can be fatal. But perhaps the most concerning aspect of these pits is that they contain amygdalin, which is a toxin to dogs. Ingestion of an apricot, peach or plum pit could cause kidney failure and even death within days. To add to the problem is that the foliage of these trees can also be toxic. If fruit, leaves or stems from these trees fall on your property, prevent your dog from having access to them.
Rhubarb and Tomato Leaves
While rhubarb and tomato leaves are part of plants, they both have toxic qualities that can negatively affect dogs and cats. Tomato plant leaves contain solanine, which can be harmful to both dogs and cats. While the stems or fruity part of rhubarb may be relatively harmless, the leaves can be toxic to both animals and humans. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and oxalic salts, which are toxic to a wide variety of animals, including horses. Ingestion of plants or the fruit and leaves can create signs, including drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and tremors. It is best to simply keep rhubarb and tomato plant leaves away from pets, and for that matter, humans.
Salt, in all forms, is toxic and may even be life-threatening for dogs and cats. This includes table salt, water softener salt, rock-salt and de-icers, and seawater. Symptoms of salt poisoning include a decreased appetite, excessive thirst, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of coordination, and perhaps a coma. In extreme cases, death can occur. When taking a pet to the ocean, it is important to bring a supply of fresh water and a bowl so they will be less inclined to drink the saltwater. If you suspect salt poisoning in a pet, call a vet immediately.
Like humans, dogs love sweet treats. The problem is, also like humans, sugar can be bad for dogs, and to a lesser degree cats. Sugar releases dopamine, which is pleasurable. As time goes by, it takes an increasing amount of sugar to release dopamine. Sugar also masks the taste of chemicals and other potentially dangerous ingredients in food and treats. Too much sugar can lead to obesity in dogs and cats and increases the risk of diabetes. It also can be harmful to a pet’s teeth. While some sugar in a pet’s diet can help provide energy, too much can be addictive and toxic. Keep in mind when reading the ingredients of your pet’s food, sugar comes in many forms. It may be listed as cane sugar, sucrose, caramel, corn syrup, sorbitol, xylitol, beet pulp, and others. Minimize your pet’s intake of sugars and ensure they get enough exercise.
Because tobacco contains nicotine, it is toxic for dogs and cats. This includes when it is a plant, in a cigarette or cigar, chewing tobacco and even Nicorette gum. Ingesting tobacco can initially lead to low heart and respiratory rates. This can change to anxiety and overstimulation, uncontrolled urination, seizures and potentially paralysis and death. Pet owners are strongly encouraged to keep tobacco products away from pets.
Walnuts pose a danger for dogs for several reasons. They can create a choking hazard, they are difficult to digest, and because they are so difficult to digest, they can create blockages in the intestines. Walnuts also contain a large amount of fat, which can lead to pancreatitis. Walnuts are not the only nuts you should keep away from your dog. Almonds, hickory nuts, pistachios, pecans, and macadamia nuts can create similar problems.
Xylitol is a substance that is frequently used as a sugar substitute. While it is naturally present in some berries, it can be extracted for commercial use from corn, trees, and other vegetation. It is made into a white powder-like substance resembling sugar to add sweetness to foods and other products like toothpaste. While xylitol is safe for humans, it is extremely toxic for dogs. Xylitol causes a rapid influx of insulin from a dog’s pancreas, which can lead to low blood sugar, seizures, and potential death.
Yeast, including that in unbaked bread dough, can be extremely toxic for dogs. If a dog should ingest yeast, its stomach serves as the perfect place for yeast organisms to grow. If the dog has eaten yeast in unbaked dough, it may have difficulty throwing the dough up. Instead, it may expand in the pet’s stomach, pressing against its respiratory organs and making it difficult for the pet to breathe. In addition, fermenting yeast cells can create ethanol, raising a dog’s blood alcohol level to toxic levels. This can create potentially fatal alcohol poisoning.
Preventing a calamity is always preferable to dealing with the results of one. This is true in the care of your pets and in animal poison prevention. The first step is increasing awareness of the potential problems and those that may exist in your particular living space. Like with children, it can be helpful to always be aware of what your pet is up to, but there are other steps you can take to make your home more pet-safe. Of course, you’ll want to limit access to potentially toxic materials for your pet. If you have children, teaching them about items around the home that can be hazardous to pets can be helpful. You should also be aware of the specific problems differing holidays can create for pets in and around the home.
Removing or Limiting Access to Toxic Items
No pet owner is expected to remove all potentially toxic plants, foods, and non-food items from their homes. They can, however, take appropriate steps to remove or limit access to as many as possible. Because of the sheer number of items that can be toxic to pets, this can sometimes be easier said than done.
Toxic plants should be completely avoided or at least placed where they can’t be reached. Keep in mind cats have superpowers when it comes to climbing.
It can be helpful to go room by room to make sure items are secured. In the kitchen, make sure spices are closed and difficult to access. Keep cleaners and chemicals closed and stored away properly. Invest in a trash can that is more pet-proof. Keep pantry doors closed.
Garages can be filled with items toxic to animals, so make sure insecticides, paints, chemicals, and cleaners are capped and stored securely. Even in the bathroom, pet-owners need to be cautious to make sure toothpaste and mouthwash containing xylitol are not left open on a vanity top. Keep medications out of reach as well as makeup and other personal-care products.
Ingesting toxic substances can cause discomfort for your pet and potentially a costly vet visit for you. In some cases, it could lead to the tragic loss of a beloved pet. Take the necessary steps to keep your pet safe. They are counting on you.
During the holidays, the number of cases of pet poisonings rise. This is due for a variety of reasons. Homes are more frequently filled with delicious aromas that heighten a pet’s senses. Toxic spices like nutmeg and toxic nuts are more frequently used in cooking. Homes are filled with visitors that can create anxiety for pets and a distraction for pet owners. Candy and sweet baked goods are often left available for guests in open bowls. Dinner tables and kitchen counters regularly have foods on them. Mistletoe and Poinsettia plants adorn homes. The amount of trash increases, and we can simply become too busy to monitor our pets properly.
This risk is not just limited to the end-of-the-year holidays either. There are the chocolates of Valentine’s Day, the Lilies of Easter, summer holiday barbecues and the treats of Halloween. Make sure your pet-safety radar is extra sensitive during these times. When traveling, make sure to pack your dog’s travel food carrier with food to remove the necessity of feeding them “people food” on the road.
Bringing a pet into the home is a wonderful opportunity to teach children responsibility. Most, however, limit that responsibility to tasks like walking or feeding the dog or changing the cat’s litter box. It is also an opportunity to teach our children about the difference between our animals and us, especially when it comes to what is good, and not so good, for them to eat. It can also be tied to an important lesson about our own nutrition.
Rather than limiting instruction to simply “no people food”, there’s a chance to help them understand why it’s important the dog doesn’t eat certain foods, and why a pet shouldn’t be interrupted when eating. It can teach responsibility for children to put away items that are potentially toxic to pets. It may help make them better and more responsible pet owners themselves in the future.
Make sure any responsibilities you give your child regarding a pet is age-appropriate, and do not allow them to discipline a pet for bad behavior. Let them take a share in the responsibility for the health and care of the pet in your home and help them become good pet parents.
If Something Toxic is Ingested
In spite of the best efforts, accidents do happen and even good intentions can have bad results. Perhaps grandma didn’t realize her sugar-coated, nutmeg, walnut-surprise cookies would lead to such stomach issues for Fido. Maybe the T-Bone steak bone with leftover trimmings was left on the kitchen table just a minute too long. Then, of course, there are those times when you come home from work to discover a kitchen floor scattered with trash, with your innocent-looking pet sitting next to the devastation.
If you have reason to believe your pet has ingested something toxic, don’t wait for symptoms to show up. You can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 and explain the circumstances. The line is available 24/7, 365 days per year and a consultation fee may apply. If you prefer, you can also contact your own pet care team for guidance. If your specific vet is not available, most communities have a pet hospital that is open for longer hours for emergencies.
Protect Your Pet Today
Most pet owners want to do what’s best for their pets, but they can be challenged by wanting to see their pet happy. This can lead to poor diets laced with far too much potentially harmful people food and treats. It can be tough to resist that cute little face staring up at you from the tableside, tilting his or her head as if to ask “What about me?”
Dog-treat and dog-food manufacturers know owners want their pets happy, so they often include sugars and sweet-tasting substances to cover the bland taste of fillers. Treats, in particular, can be loaded with less than healthy ingredients so your pet will happily gobble them down looking for more. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even the best calming chews for dogs can be toxic if too many are ingested. The dangers don’t just lie in what we give our pets. It also lies in the potentially toxic food and non-food items around our homes they may seek out on their own.
Diligence in keeping a pet safe can pay big dividends in a long, happy and healthy relationship with your pet. They count on us for companionship, love, food, and care. They rely on us to keep them safe.