With how closely our lives intertwine with those of our pets, it’s easy to forget that they aren’t actually human. Fur-babies are loved and nurtured by any caring owner, no different from how we’d raise a baby. We feed them food that will keep them healthy and happy, with plenty of treats that significantly raise the ‘happy’ part of the equation.
Because of this, a lot of small habits fall through the cracks, that actually are of consequence. Dogs are descended from wolves, and while generations of breeding and domestication have helped them adapt to living with humans, fact remains that they are not human, and have massively different dietary requirements.
Take this statement, for example: Dogs are omnivores. So if humans are omnivores too, you’d assume that that means that dogs can process anything humans can. But they can’t at all. Dogs are facultative omnivores, even in nature. Which means that they can survive off carbohydrates, they are essentially carnivores and need protein heavy diets to be able to flourish and develop properly.
So many foods that we eat almost every day are straight up poisonous for dogs. They can cause their systems to go into overload or directly go into shutdown. Here are some of the items that you wouldn’t blink at in a kitchen, but you should keep your dog far, far away from.
You might not recognise the name right away, but Xylitol is a sweetener that you can find in many sweet treats. Ready to eat cakes, biscuits, low calorie food stuffs, all use Xylitol as a sugar substitute, so that they knock a few hundred calories off, without compromising on taste.
It’s also heavily used in products like toothpaste and syrups, and in medications, to disguise the taste of the drugs in the mixture. It’s not just artificially added, though. It’s also found naturally occurring in many fruits, as a sugar alcohol, e.g. , in berries, plums, mushrooms, oats. etc. although in smaller concentrations.
The problem with something like Xylitol is that it is found so very commonly around us. And human and dogs process Xylitol very differently. In humans, the body recognises it as an ‘additional’ sugar, and no regulatory hormones are released to control it. But in dogs, Xylitol is absorbed very rapidly.
Once in the bloodstream, it triggers the release of a large amount of insulin from the pancreas, in an attempt to control the blood sugar. This causes your dog’s blood sugar to plummet to dangerously low levels.
As a consequence of this, your dog can get disoriented, dizzy, have a blackout, lose consciousness, or even slip into a hypoglycemic coma, all in the span of an hour of eating something with a lot of Xylitol. Weakness, lack of coordination, tremors, seizures, vomiting, rolling of the eyes, are all common symptoms. And the amount needed to cause something like this is not large, either. The range of 100mg per kg of body weight can start your dog spiralling into hypoglycemia, and for smaller dogs, that is enough to cause the liver to into failure.
In fact, for smaller dogs, even a few pieces of Xylitol rich gum can pose a serious threat. Large dogs are lesser at risk in this regard because it takes larger doses to be a problem for them. But just to give you an idea of what this could be: with chewing gums or candies that have 1-1.5g Xylitol per piece, just 2-3 pieces can cause an issue for a medium sized dog.
The creamier half of Avocado on toast is a delight for the breakfast table, but not so much in your dog’s share. Avocados contain a substance cause Persin, which is basically a fungicidal toxin. It’s only a problem for human if they are allergic to it, which is usually rare. But for dogs, cats, birds, and horses, it comes with a host of problems.
While not immediately fatally toxic, avocado can still cause nausea, vomiting, retching and dry heaving, diarrhoea (esp.. fatty and greasy stools, because of the high fat content), or the exact opposite- constipation- as a result of blockage and intestinal obstruction. Also, the high fat content can put your dog’s digestive system into overload, causing the pancreas to get inflamed. Over a period of time, this can lead to pancreatitis.
And, not to forget, the pit is also capable of causing serious obstruction or even choking, if your dog digs it out of the trash and gets his teeth on it. Even parts of the pit are capable of doing that. Even split, it contains enough sharp edges to cause serious lacerations as it goes down.
This staple of the kitchen won’t even make you blink twice (unless you’re chopping some, that is), but for dogs, onions do not belong anywhere close to the plate. Onions are part of a three-fer for dogs. In any form whatsoever, whether raw, powdered, chopped, fried, whatever it is, onions can cause your dog’s blood to become serious crippled in its oxygen carrying capacity.
Onions contain a compound called N-propyl disulphide, which attacks the oxygen carrying compound in blood, called Haemoglobin. Haemoglobin contains proteins and ions in chains, to which oxygen is bound in the bloodstream and delivered to the whole body.
When a dog eats onions, N-propyl disulphide attacks the red blood cells which carry this Haemoglobin, and causes them to die much earlier than their normal life lasts. As a result, these cells lyse very quickly, and the bone marrow can’t keep producing more cells to keep up with this new rate, resulting in a deficiency.
At the same time, the accelerated breakdown of red cells causes disturbances of its own. By-products generated during the lysis aren’t cleared as completely by the dog’s body as it would otherwise do. Dogs start having red or brownish coloured urine, as well as symptoms of anaemia, like weakness, dizziness, fatigue (and getting tired very easily), dullness, refusal to play, generalized body aches, breathlessness, irritability, and accelerated heart rate, even at rest. You might notice that his eyes have become whiter than usual, or that his skin hangs loosely, or that his fur has lost lustre.
Another very telling sign of anaemia is that their gums and tongue become noticeably white. It may start with something as seemingly innocuous as a repeated upset stomach, or whining at night. Over a period of time, these small symptoms can snowball into full blown multiple organ failure, as a result of the constant damage beneath the surface.
And the amount needed isn’t large, either. As little as a quarter of a cup can start issues in a 10-12 kg dog- which isn’t much at all. So next time you let your dog take onion rings off your plate, think again.
Part two of the evil Allium-4, leeks are a member of the same plant family as onions, Allium. While not as commonly used by themselves, leeks often find their way into soups and broths- for good reason, well. They taste really good. But the effects for dogs can be disastrous.
Leeks work much in the same way as onions do on dogs. As mentioned, they target and breakdown red blood cells in dogs’ systems, triggering a cascade of problems, with almost every single organ system being directly or indirectly affected.
Apart from the direct oxidative damage to the blood cells, there also some apparent effects on the digestive system, like nausea, drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, especially with very greasy, poorly digested stools.
Additionally, there’s a genetic predisposition in Asian dog breeds, and they suffer the damage faster, e.g. . Akitas, Shiba Inus, etc. This applies to Asian cat breeds as well.
The symptoms seem very vague, which is why diagnosis can be tricky. Plus, sometimes it takes a while for apparent symptoms to appear. But that doesn’t mean that the damage has not been continuing steadily in the meanwhile. The safest thing to do is to make sure that your dog simply ingests no leeks at all.
Although less likely to end up in your dog’s food on their own, the sharp-toothed herb can easily find its way into your food- and then your dog’s. Chives are Allium member number 3. While not as poisonous as onions or leeks, chives are still mild to moderately toxic for them, depending on the quantity ingested, and the frequency of the ingestion.
Chives can cause anaemia as well, because of the N-propyl disulphide content in them. The damage progresses much as it does with onions and leeks, with red blood cell damage, reduced cell life, with accelerated cell death and delayed turnover, progressively worsening anaemia, and gastrointestinal disturbances, like nausea, abdominal pain, retching, vomiting, and diarrhoea. As with onions, the effects are more pronounced and more easily elicited in smaller dogs, and Asian dog breeds, than in larger dogs.
Garlic is the fourth big Allium member, and the most dangerous by far. As a member of the same family as onions, leeks, and chives, it is also toxic because of the compound N-propyl disulphide. However, here is where the similarity ends.
Garlic is at least five times more toxic than onions for dogs, and progressively more toxic than leeks, and chives. The active toxic compound is present in much higher concentrations, leading to similar symptoms of anaemia and disturbed GI function, but the effects are massively accelerated.
With food let around in the kitchen,something as small as one clove of garlic can lead to toxicity in cats and small dogs. And it’s not unusual for garlic to sit on the countertop while you’re cooking, or even otherwise. But the consequences of a lapse in attention can be grave, as far as dogs and garlic are concerned. Your dog could end up requiring hospitalization, resuscitation, and even a blood transfusion.
7. Grapes and Raisins
Two sides of the same fruit-coin, and both sides poisonous. Grapes of all kinds- green, black, purple, seedless, seeded, anything- and subsequently raisins, are both highly toxic for dogs.
While the exact compound in grapes that is poisonous for dogs is not known, there is no doubt in the fact that the toxicity exists. In this case, the size, age, or even breed of the dog plays no role. Grapes are immediately toxic- and unfortunately, lethally so. Ingestion of grapes requires immediate hospitalization, to avoid the usually sudden onset acute kidney failure that follows such an incident.
Dogs can show symptoms like decreased appetite, fatigue, lethargy (not coming when you call, not responding to their name, being generally withdrawn), weakness, unusually slow or careful movements (because of stiffness in the joints and bodyache), diarrhoea or vomiting soon after ingestion, pain in the abdomen that is more pronounced on touching or pressing, and severe dehydration. Dehydration manifests as tired panting, a dry nose, dry mouth, pulled back gums, and limp skin.
However, one of the most telling and more dangerous symptoms is that the affected dog has a decreasing or decreased urine output. So your dog may reduce asking you to take him out, or decrease the number of times he asks to be let out. This is often immediately apparent, more so than the other symptoms like fatigue, which may not be noticed.
The decreased urine output indicates that his kidneys are shutting down- which requires immediate medical attention, and is otherwise fatal.
When you consider how toxic grapes and raisins are for dogs, the fact that wine is also toxic, comes as no surprise. However, there are other forms of alcoholic beverages to be discussed as well.
There are plenty of videos online of dogs being given some beer, or some fruity cocktail, and them lapping it all up with apparent relish. Fact of the matter is that dogs will drink pretty much anything (except their medicines, sigh) if they are thirsty or hungry, or even just curious. However, in no way does that mean that it actually does the dog any good- quite the opposite, really,
Take beer, for example. Beer is mild enough on its own, but by a yet-unexplained mechanism, Hops are toxic for dogs. The effects are more pronounced in home brewed beers, when compared to commercial beers, possibly because of a difference in processing. But even that amount of hops can be poisonous to a dog.
That is not even taking the effect of the alcohol content into consideration. Alcohol is not processed well by dogs, because it simply is not a part of a canine diet. Naturally, they haven’t adapted to it. A mildly drunk dog can look amusingly confuddled, stumbling around or wetting himself.
But that is the very tip of the iceberg. Disturbed motor functions, weakened coordination, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, rapid fluctuations in body temperature, vomiting, excessive drooling, all are indicators of ethanol toxicity- alcohol poisoning. More scarily, permanent kidney damage is also very, very likely.
And, just to put that into perspective for you, a small dog can get poisoned from eating rum cake.
As odd as it seems, unfortunately, milk belongs on the list of people foods that dogs shouldn’t have. As puppies, dogs need milk. As they grow up, they never lose their taste for it, but many lose their ability to process any form of dairy at all.
Not unlike in humans, lactose intolerance in dogs is a very real issue. A lot of dogs retain production of the enzyme Lactate well into adulthood. Lactate, as the name suggests, is the enzyme that acts on lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. When the enzyme is still being produced in the body, there’s no issue. But production of lactate usually decreases with increasing age. That’s where the problem comes in.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from something as simple as your dog being extra burpy and stinky, like he’s suddenly a little gas balloon, to a very bloated abdomen (because of trapped gas), increased bowel sounds, abdominal pain and severe intestinal cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, discomfort, nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite,etc.
However, more serious complications like rashes and difficulty in breathing may occur, if your dog has developed an allergy, instead of just an intolerance. In cases of dogs allergic to dairy, anaphylaxis can have very real- and sometimes lethal- consequences.
So the next time you’re thinking of giving your dog a cold treat in the hot summer, make sure he can process the cream, before getting him that ice cream. Hey, dogs scream for it, too!
10. Macadamia Nuts
Even till a few years ago, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts were not as prevalent in the markets. However, since they are in so many baked goodies and mixes these days (and since they’re delicious!). It’s good to be forewarned about why they are dangerous for your dog.
Macadamia nuts are incredibly toxic for dogs. Although the mechanism is not understood, even one nut eaten can trigger symptoms like quivering, trembling limbs (especially in the hind legs), high grade fever, lethargy, weakness, and vomiting. So if you suspect that your dog has eaten one macadamia nut, a visit to the vet is highly recommended.
It seems almost cruel to follow up Macadamia nuts with chocolate on a list without passing a little suggestion on, but it only goes to reinforce how irresistible chocolate is. And not just for us humans, but for dogs, too.
Dogs have a definite sweet tooth. They love their sweet treats just as much as we do. Unfortunately, in their case, it can spell disaster, because their systems simply cannot process it. An active compound in chocolate is Theobromine, and it is present in fairly large concentrations. When dogs eat chocolate, it reaches their digestive system and Theobromine gets processed by their livers, and converted to Xanthine.
Xanthine is an active metabolite form that is capable of wreaking havoc on a dog’s nervous system. It causes accelerated activity, and sends the affected dog’s system into overdrive, so to speak. By acting on receptors, it causes their heart rates to accelerate to dangerously high rates, that their little hearts simply cannot sustain. So if you’re familiar with the statement that ‘chocolate gives dogs heart attacks’, you can guess now, it’s not wrong.
At the same time, the increased central nervous system activity is the typical response to poisoning. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have excessive and uncontrollable drooling, vomiting, urination, and diarrhoea. It’s an attempt on the body’s part to rid the body of the toxins, but depending on how much has been already absorbed by the system, only immediate medical attention can help stabilize them after this point. Because after this point, his systems can begin to shut down.
It’s important to remember that it takes only a little chocolate to poison a small dog. Something like a couple of pieces of chocolate left unattended can be enough to send a pet into a toxic state.
12. Coffee and Tea
While it’s a cute enough routine to have your dog eating at your own mealtimes, coffee and tea belong firmly in the list of things you should not share with him.
Like chocolate, coffee and tea also contain Theobromine, in different quantities. But more importantly, coffee contains Caffeine, as does tea, in smaller amounts. Caffeine is very high on the list of things that are lethal for dogs.
It affects dogs much in the way it does humans, but they cannot process it as we do. Also, dogs are significantly smaller than humans, even the big ones. So a small amount can already persist very long in their system, and cause toxicity.
In amounts totalling to 150 mg per kg body weight, caffeine causes restlessness, tremors, agitation, aggressive behaviour, panting, pacing, increased urination, and diarrhoea. But as the dose gets higher, these get replaced by palpitation, dizziness, vomiting, seizures, tachycardia, and collapse. If not treated immediately, it is entirely possible for a dog to have a heart attack and/or severe kidney injury as a result of caffeine poisoning.
13. Fat and Meat Trimmings
It seems almost absurd to think that a dog shouldn’t eat fat or meat trimmings off your cutting board. But there is a definite explanation for it.
While in small amounts, fat is definitely a good and safe treat for your dog, this is true only in cases of dogs who are partly raw-fed. As in, dogs whose diet consists at least of raw/wet food food servings. In case of dogs who eat only dry food (the regular, processed kind you get in nuggets in bags), their digestive systems are already strained trying to process the heavy carbohydrate load these foods inevitably contain.
A large amount of fat (by dog standards) can cause an overload for his digestive system and lead to an inflammation of the pancreas, which is actually responsible for producing the relevant digestive enzymes. But if your dog is already on a diet of some fresh/raw/animal sources meat, it’s safe for him to snack off the trimmings while you cook- in moderation!
Dog bones are a huge story. It’s almost a picture we’ve seen right from childhood (and countless TV shows): a dog with a bone in his mouth. But as an adult with a dog of your own, you should know- which bone!
Chicken bones are a very bad idea for dogs because of how much they splinter. They split very easily and have extremely sharp edges, and can lacerate the tender inside of your dog’s mouth. Beef and mutton bones are naturally the next best- but make sure first! Any sharp edges can tear your dog’s GI tract as they go through. Or worse- get stuck!
15. The P-word
Peaches, plums, persimmons- all look very festive in a fruit basket. They do very well as a almost-dessert snacks, too. Not as much for dogs, though.
While the fruit flesh is only a problem for dogs because of how much sugar it contains, the heart of the problem (and the fruits) is their pits. All three stone fruits have fairly large pits that humans don’t eat. Dogs, however, lack the common sense to avoid them. As a result, they often break teeth on them, swallow them in uneven chunks, or even in pieces. These pieces don’t pass through the intestines well and cause blockades, resulting in intestinal obstruction and swelling.
As a result, they often break teeth on them, swallow them in uneven chunks, or even in pieces. These pieces don’t pass through the intestines well and cause blockades, resulting in intestinal obstruction and swelling.
Plus, the pits also contain enough cyanide to be seriously toxic to a dog.
16. Fish and Raw Meat
Again, it seems almost counter-intuitive to deny a dog raw meat or fish, but there is a very real risk here: parasites. The eggs, spores, larvae, etc. that are so very commonly found in fish and raw meat are not a problem if they were frozen and thawed, as these temperatures kill the parasites, whichever stage of their life cycle they are in. With freshly killed, culled, or caught meat, the parasites are very much alive and find their secondary host in our pets. Dog and Fish tapeworm infections are very real considerations.
With fish, there’s also another fact to consider. Fish meat contains an enzyme called Thiaminase, which is responsible for the breakdown of Thiamine. We know Thiamine better as Vitamin B1. Eating raw fish too often can be the cause of your dog getting a vitamin B deficiency despite having a diet rich in its sources. Except for Salmon. Salmon stock fishes do not contain this enzyme in any amounts significant to dogs.
17. Raw Eggs
While boiled eggs make a perfectly healthy and delicious treat for dogs, raw eggs are much likelier to be contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella. We’ve all heard of Salmonella outbreaks now and then. It’s easy to avoid by simply boiling the egg. Tastes much better, and much safer!
Also, raw eggs contain Avidin. Avidin is a sort of counter-compound to Biotin, another B vitamin. Eating too many raw eggs can lead to a deficiency in Biotin in an otherwise healthy dog.
While salt is an important part of your dog’s diet just as it is yours, the amounts of salt needed by a dog are vastly different from ours.
In quantities larger than their daily requirement, salt causes thirst, dehydration, elevated body temperatures, hypertension, seizures, renal damage, and even death. So the next time your dog is eyeing your bag of pretzels pleadingly, think again!
Exactly how too much sugar is terrible for humans, it’s also a very bad addition to a doggy diet. Dogs’ diets have no requirement for sugar whatsoever. Whatever does find its way into their mouths, though, should be regulated closely.
High sugar intake causes their blood sugar to spike and drop erratically, which puts strain on their pancreases and livers. Also, muscle uptake of sugar gets affected as well. Even small but regular sugary treats can lead to a dog developing diabetes and multiple health issues. Obesity in dogs is a major concern, especially when they are not exercised regularly, or old dogs.
Sugar is also not metabolized by dogs like humans. They do not have the necessary breakdown in their saliva like we do. As a result, sugar stays sugar in their mouths, predisposing them to cavities, tartar, and plaque, a lot faster than in humans.
20. Medicines – Ours, Not Theirs!
Human medicines should NEVER be used for dogs, unless your Vet has expressly given that drug their all-clear. Because of the difference in our metabolisms, a lot of extremely common human medicines, that you would not even think twice about taking, are lethal for dogs. Others do not work at all, because their systems process and excrete them much more rapidly.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are the most common painkillers, are also bad for dog livers. Most routine human medications, in fact, need alteration or substitution when being used for a dog. This should be done only after approval from your Vet. Take Acetaminophen, for example. Also called Paracetomol, it’s safe for humans in up to massive quantities per day. But for dogs, paracetomol intake can be fatal very quickly.