Top Ten Kitchen Toxins for Dogs

by Yvette Sajem
     - Pamela Follett/Demand Media

    Dogs are curious explorers and exist in a seemingly constant state of hunger, which makes your kitchen a most inviting environment. But if you live with a dog, you should be aware that your kitchen may contain items that need to be hidden on a high shelf. It's a mistake to assume that because food items are safe for you that they are safe for your dog. Many foods safely enjoyed by you can be toxic to your canine companion.

    Chocolate

    Chocolate contains the compounds theobromine and caffeine, which are both toxic to dogs. Depending on the levels of these compounds ingested, your dog can experience vomiting, increased thirst, muscle tremors, abdominal pain, hyperactivity, irregular heart rhythm, seizures and death. According to the ASCPA, the rule of thumb for chocolate is "the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is." But play it safe. Keep all chocolate items out of your dog's reach.

    Grapes, Raisins and Currants

    The ingestion of grapes, raisins and currants have been linked to acute kidney failure in dogs. Even dogs who have eaten them before without reaction have been reported to become seriously ill when eating them again. Signs of grape, raisin or currant toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and increased or decreased urine flow.

    Nuts

    Do not feed your dog nuts or any foods containing nuts. Macadamia nuts can cause serious symptoms in dogs that last up to two days, including rear leg weakness, fever, tremors and pain. Moldy walnuts, hickory nuts and pecans contain the toxin juglone, which can cause seizures and other neurological symptoms. Almonds, pistachios and nonmoldy walnuts, pecans and hickory nuts can cause gastrointestinal distress or blockage in the throat or intestinal tract.

    Onions and Garlic

    Close members of the allium family (onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, scallions) and concentrated versions of them (garlic powder, dehydrated onions, onion soup mix) contain the compound thiosulphate. In dogs, thiosulphate causes hemolytic anemia. It attacks the red blood cells, causing them to burst. Signs of allium toxicity may not be apparent for three to five days after ingestion. They include vomiting, oral irritation, drooling, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, pale gums, weakness, elevated heart or respiratory rate, exercise intolerance and fainting.

    Xylitol

    Xylitol is a noncaloric sugar substitute commonly used in chewing gum, chewable vitamins, sugar-free baked goods and candies, toothpaste, cough medicine and mouthwash. According to VPI Pet Insurance, xylitol causes the immediate and rapid release of insulin in dogs, resulting in dangerously low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. It can often lead to liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, disorientation, weakness and seizures.

    Caffeine

    Items containing caffeine should be stored out of your dog's reach. Coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee- or chocolate-flavored yogurt or ice cream, pain relievers, diet pills and even some caffeine-infused energy foods such as oatmeal and sunflower seeds contain enough caffeine to affect your dog's heart, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Signs of caffeine toxicity include increased urination, increased heart rate and blood pressure, excessive panting, restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching and seizures.

    Salt

    That simple, flavor-enhancing table salt that you sprinkle on your baked potato can be fatal to your dog. Salt poisoning can lead to severe kidney and neurological damage. Signs of salt toxicity include diarrhea, vomiting, walking drunk, lethargy, excessive thirst or urination, loss of appetite, fluid accumulation, tremors and seizures. In addition to obvious salt sources, according to Pet Poison Helpline you should be aware of hidden sources such as play dough, paint balls, rock salt, enemas and even sea water.

    Alcohol

    Any form of alcohol or products containing alcohol are highly dangerous to your dog. Dogs absorb alcohol far more rapidly than humans. Alcohol ingestion causes rapid drops in blood pressure, blood sugar and body temperature. Alcohol intoxication in dogs can lead to vomiting, disorientation, loss of coordination, seizures, coma, respiratory failure and even death.

    Bread Dough

    Unbaked bread dough made with live yeast is extremely dangerous for your dog. Once ingested, yeast dough expands in your dog's stomach and can lead to decreased blood flow, tissue death, breathing difficulty and bloat. Further, as yeast multiplies it releases alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of yeast poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, disorientation, stupor, distended abdomen and seizures.

    Fatty Foods

    As much as your dog would love to chow down on the leftover fat trimmed from your steak, it's a bad idea to indulge him. Avoid sharing fat-filled items like fast food, fried foods, foods cooked in grease, high fat dairy items, processed meats and junk food. These items can cause severe gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Further, pancreatitis, which can be fatal if left untreated, has been linked to the ingestion of fatty foods.

    Cautionary Note

    If you suspect that your dog has ingested any of these items, prompt veterinary care is warranted. Do not wait for symptoms to appear or attempt to care for your dog yourself. Take your dog to a veterinary hospital immediately.

    Photo Credits

    • Pamela Follett/Demand Media

    About the Author

    Yvette Sajem has been a professional writer since 1995. Her work includes greeting cards and two children's books. A lifelong animal advocate, she is active in animal rescue and transport, and is particularly partial to senior and special needs animals.

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