Common Food Toxicities in Pets

 By Tania Archbold and Linda Sorensen


It is important to be aware that there are some foods toxic to pets and to make sure that their pets don’t eat them.


Lets start with the most commonly known food toxicity.





Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs because of a chemical in it called Theo-Bromine. This chemical can be fatal if enough of it is ingested. Theo-Bromine can increase your pet’s heart rate, make them agitated, and may cause heart arrhythmia (abnormal heart beats), vomiting and diarrhoea or make them hyperactive. Chocolate ingestion can lead to pancreatitis in your pet as well.


Different chocolate has different levels of Theo-Bromine in it, (darker chocolate has more), but it is best not to feed any chocolate at all.



Grapes/ Raisins


We see dogs with grape and raisin poisoning, but so far we haven’t seen any cats with it. As few as 7 grapes can be poisonous to pets. There is an unknown compound in the ‘fleshy’ part of the grape which causes damage to your pet's kidneys. Renal failure signs can start to show in your pet about 3-5 days after they eat the grapes or raisins.


Signs are vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy. They can have abdominal pain.



Onions/ Garlic


Both dogs and cats can get onion and garlic poisoning. There is a very small amount of garlic in some pet foods which is not known to cause any problems. In dogs and cats garlic and onion can cause haemolytic anemia which is the breakdown of the red blood cells.


Some signs you may notice are lethargy, weakness, pale mucus membranes (gums), or jaundice (yellowing of the gums and inner eyelids).





Certain types of mushrooms can be a problem for dogs. The rule is if you won’t eat it yourself, don’t feed it to your dog. Mushroom toxicity can cause liver, kidney or heart disease and neurological disorders. Clinical signs may take up to 6-8 hours to be noticed after they eat the mushrooms.


Some of the signs are vomiting, seizures, drooling, nausea and depression.



Bread Dough


A lot of people don’t know about this, but if you make your own bread you need to be aware of it. Bread dough can swell in the stomach and cause your pet to bloat. A cold water lavage may be needed to stop the yeast from expanding. Animals can also get alcohol poisoning from the yeast in the dough. Surgery may be needed to get the dough out of their stomachs.



Macadamia Nuts


Again, this is another one that a lot of people don’t know about. Symptoms can start as soon as 3 hours after the animal eats the macadamia nuts. Only a small amount can be toxic to pets. Some signs are paralysis to the hind limbs, lethargy, vomiting and abdominal pain.



Sugar Substitutes


Artificial sweetener can be poisonous to dogs. This can be found in chewing gum, sweets, breath mints and other human foods. The toxic ingredient in these is Xylitol. Only 1 or 2 pieces of gum can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), it can also cause acute liver failure. Some signs are seizures, lack of energy, weakness and in-coordination. Liver failure signs also include blood in faeces, depression and lack of appetite.



What do you do?


If your pet eats any of the above foods or any other food you are unsure of, please call us. We may want to make your pet vomit (when it is appropriate) to minimize the toxicity.


Your pet may need to stay with us for supportive care while the toxins are excreted or eliminated. There are no specific treatments for most of these toxicities so getting your pet to the vet as soon as possible will help their prognosis. It will also help if you know what your pet ate, how much and the time elapsed since ingestion.


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