Wagging tails and plaintive mews may tempt loving pet owners to share their dinner with a furry friend. An innocent gesture of sharing a snack meant for human consumption may end in a trip to the local veterinarian if a pet eats something he shouldn't. Knowing which table foods are toxic to pets and keeping, them out of reach of curious noses and paws can prevent potential illnesses and keep companion animals safe.
Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs
Certain fruits and vegetables contain elements that are toxic to dogs and cats, some of them unknown. Onions, chives and garlic can cause gastrointestinal distress in cats, though dogs also may react to these foods. Consumption of these foods can lead to red blood cell damage, according to the ASPCA. Grapes and raisins are to be avoided, although scientists have not identified the toxic substance they contain. The fruits are known to cause kidney failure, and other serious problems may occur in pets with preexisting health issues. Avocados are another fruit that should be kept out of the reach of dogs. Persin, a chemical that can be found in avocado leaves, seeds, fruit and bark, can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Raw Meat, Bones and Dairy
Raw meat and eggs may contain the bacteria strains Salmonella spp, Campylobacter spp, Clostridium spp, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus, which are as harmful to pets as they are to their human owners. Avadin, an enzyme found in raw eggs, decreases the pet's ability to absorb the B vitamin biotin. This can lead to skin and coat problems. Meat bones from a cooked stew or roast might taste good to a pet, but they create a choking hazard and the potential for a bone fragment lodged in the pet's mouth, or bone splinters puncturing the pet's digestive organs. It should be noted that there are some proponents of feeding dogs a raw meat diet, also commonly known as the BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) diet. Proponents say that feeding various raw animal proteins, is closer to the foods dogs used to eat in the wild, and is more beneficial for the dog's digestive tract than processed dog foods. However, opponents, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, note that the risk of feeding raw or undercooked meats and other proteins outweigh any potential benefits because the risk of a dog contracting a dangerous pathogen is too great. If you're worried about your dog's diet lacking calcium, avoid raw bones and instead use bone powder, which you can find in your local pet store. Dairy products create digestive upset for dogs. Pets aren't equipped with the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down milk sugars.
Caffeine and Chocolate
Chocolate, coffee and caffeine all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, certain soft drinks and the fruit of the coffee plant. Energy drinks and tea contain methylxanthines, as do diet pills and pain killers. Methylxanthines cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, extreme thirst and urination, abnormal heart beat, seizures and, in extreme cases, death, according to the ASPCA. The levels of methylxanthine in chocolate may vary depending on the concentration of cacao in the product. Another substance, theobromine, is present in chocolate and may cause pets to behave restlessly or experience muscle spasms.
Alcohol and Xylitol
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used commonly in chewing gum, toothpaste or sugar-free diet products. Animal Planet indicates that only a small amount of xylitol is toxic to pets as it encourages a flux of insulin to be released into the pet's body. This release of insulin then leads to hypoglycemia. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, lethargy and a lack of coordination. Seizures and liver failure may occur in rapid order. Alcohol consumption in pets may be potentially lethal, depending on the ratio of alcohol consumed to the pet's weight. Even in small amounts, alcohol can cause tremors, breathing problems, diarrhea and vomiting as well as the suppression of the central nervous system. When pet owners worry that their companion animal may have ingested a toxic substance, a trusted veterinary professional or animal poison control hotline can provide helpful information and advice.