Foods which are great for humans but poisonous to our best friends. (Not a training or behaviour issue, but information all dog lovers should know)
If you were asked to name something which is poisonous to dogs, you might well say chocolate – It’s the one that most of us are aware of. It’s worth remembering, with Easter on its way, that chocolate made for humans is toxic to them. Dogs cannot metabolise substances such as caffeine, which is present in chocolate, in the same way that we can. Symptoms include vomiting, hyperactivity, muscle tremors and – if enough is eaten – coma and death. Just one large bar of dark chocolate can be fatal for a small dog. (Dark chocolate is several time more toxic than the milk variety).
So how much chocolate is OK? The simple answer is “None”. Although it can be hard to resist the pleading gaze that Fido may give us, why would we want to give in and poison him “just a bit” by giving him some of our chocolate? It doesn’t make sense, really, does it?
But what about the doggie chocolate drops that can be bought as treats? Although medically they may be fine, I never use them. Here’s why: As you reward your dog with the treats, he/she associates the smell and taste of chocolate with pleasure. At the very least, he/she becomes accustomed to eating chocolate. There’s no doubt that to their sensitive noses there is a difference, but why would we want to train our dogs to make the association that: ‘chocolate (or something like it) is good’? What will happen if one day someone accidentally leaves some lying around?
Here are more ‘toxic for dogs’ foods to be aware of:
- 1.Raisins (and Grapes) are a problem. Recent studies have shown that as little as 10g of raisins per kilo of body weight can bring about renal failure in dogs. Avoid at all costs!
- 2.Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plums. Large amounts of stems, seeds and leaves can be toxic as, surprisingly, they contain a cyanide type compound. Symptoms include apprehension, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing.
- 3.Sweetener ‘Xylitol’ used in such things as ‘sugar free’ chewing gum and sweets may cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in lethargy, loss of coordination, and seizures. Do you have any in your house? Is it in reach of your pets? Handbags on the floor are a good (bad!) example.
- 4.Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark and seeds have all been reported to be toxic. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty in breathing. The amount that needs to be ingested to cause symptoms is unknown – So no guacamole for the dogs, please!
- 5.Onions (and, to a lesser extent, Garlic) contain substances which can have a deleterious effect on the red blood cells, and can eventually cause your dog to become anaemic if ingested in large quantities. Overall, feeding a lot of onions and garlic is something that you will want to avoid.
- 6.Macadamia Nuts have recently been shown to cause muscular weakness and vomiting. The mechanism of toxicity is currently unknown. Beware of salted peanuts too. It’s the salt, not the nuts, that is the problem. It’s all too easy for your dog to ingest too much salt this way and need veterinary treatment.
- 7.Automotive Antifreeze is a very dangerous poison. (OK, I know it’s not a food as such – humour me on this one!) Amazingly, as little as a tablespoon can kill a dog. Please keep it out of harm’s way. Do you have any in the garage or shed? Cats are also very badly affected by antifreeze.
I should add that this is not an exhaustive list and that there are also many plants which are toxic to dogs. Tomato and azalea are two, but the list is long and beyond the scope of this article. Why not do an internet search so that you know what to steer clear of?
OK, that’s it for now. I’m off to eat my sugar free fruit and nut chocolate bar – and the dogs can keep their paws off. It’s ALL mine!
I am grateful to the good people at Johnston Veterinary Clinic in Wellingborough for their expert help with this article
I’m Graeme Hall MGoDT, The Dogfather, independent professional dog trainer and dog behaviour expert based in Northamptonshire, covering the UK. I'm a Master Dog Trainer with the Guild Of Dog Trainers. I can come to you wherever you are – and wherever there is a dog behaviour problem to fix or perhaps dog advice or dog help needed. Contact me here