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Dangerous Foods: Are They Harmful to Your Dog?

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Americans spend over $10 billion dollars a year on food for our pets. Despite buying the best food available, some pets would rather eat what we eat. However, certain foods can be dangerous to your pet, causing varying degrees of illness. Some food is toxic due to ingredients and some by improper cooking, storage or poor hygiene.

Alcoholic Beverages. Ethanol is the component in alcoholic beverages that can be toxic when an excessive amount is ingested. Pets are much smaller than us and can be highly affected by small amounts of alcohol. Exercise caution when drinks and pets are together. Toxicity can cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, and may result in death. Signs may include odor of alcohol on the animal's breath, staggering, behavioral changes, excitement, depression, increased urination, slowed respiratory rate or cardiac arrest and death.

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include apprehension, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation and shock.

Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic. The toxic component in the avocado is "persin," which is a fatty acid derivative. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen and sac around the heart. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause signs is unknown. Do not feed your pet any component of the avocado.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure or muscle spasms.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. The levels of caffeine and theobromine vary between different types of chocolate. For example, white chocolate has the lowest concentration of stimulants and baking chocolate or cacao beans have the highest concentration.

Depending on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount eaten, various problems can occur. The high fat content in chocolate may result in vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Once toxic levels are eaten, the stimulant effect becomes apparent. You may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination and possibly excessive panting. Heart rate and blood pressure levels may also increase. Seizure activity may occur in severe cases.

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