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Food Toxicity in Dogs & Cats: Common Culprits

Emergency veterinarian Sean Panella

Food toxicity in dogs and cats was the topic of this week’s Veterinary Referral Center of Central Oregon’s FB Live video. Dr. Jennifer Bentley sat down with ER Dr. Sean Panella (Has Your Pup Been Affected by Cheatgrass?) to discuss which foods to keep away from your pets, and why. It might be surprising to many pet parents that several fruits and vegetables top the list of people food that can cause serious health issues for your dog or cat. Read on to learn more about the most common culprits of pet poisoning from food.

Watch "What Foods are Toxic for Dogs and Cats" Video

Grapes & Raisins: Nature’s Candy Not So Sweet for Pets

While it’s not known, according to Dr. Panella, what exactly the toxin is in grapes and raisins that is so dangerous, it’s certain that nature’s candy is very bad for your dog or cat. The extent of poisoning is not dose-dependent, meaning that even a small amount can be highly toxic to a large pet. Damage includes acute injury to the kidneys or even kidney failure. Poisoning often occurs when a dog gets into baked goods with raisins, like a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies.

Fruits & Veggies that Cause Food Toxicity in Dogs & Cats

For most people, the more fruits and veggies in your diet, the better. But food toxicity in dogs and cats can often be traced to produce staples. Onions, garlic, and chives—all in the allium family—are very toxic to dogs and cats alike. They contain organosulfoxides, which convert to a complex mixture of sulfur compounds, causing your pet’s red blood cells to break down.

Avocados contain a toxic known as persin, which can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea in your pet. Also, avocado pits can get lodged in the intestinal tract, resulting in a painful and dangerous obstruction. Cherry pits contain cyanide, as do apple seeds in large quantities. A slice of apple is fine for a snack, says Dr. Panella, but avoid giving your pet any seeds. As with the avocado pit, the core can cause an obstruction, so that’s another no-no.

More Foods to Keep Out of Pets’ Reach

Dr. Taylor Stockdale, ER doctor at VRCCO, goes into detail about chocolate toxicity in this video, but as a reminder, chocolate ingestion can cause tremors, cardiac arrhythmia, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal mayhem. The higher the potency, or concentration of cocoa, the more toxic it is to your dog or cat. But even the milk chocolate on those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can cause distress.

What about foods like popcorn? A piece or two of popcorn may be OK, but be careful of kernels, and avoid giving your pet butter, which can lead to pancreatitis in your pet.

What to Do If You Suspect Poisoning

Don’t wait to get help. Dr. Panella recommends calling a veterinary poison control hotline, which typically will charge a fee, but is a timely way to get immediate advice about what to do. Post the number in the kitchen or add it as a contact in your phone:

Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435

Call your vet, too. Kidney damage or other problems may not present immediately, so it’s important to see your vet to make sure your pet has access to appropriate treatment. For kidney damage, that may mean IV fluid therapy for hydration, monitoring, and possibly a dose of activated charcoal to absorb whatever remains in your pet’s system.