Here’s Exactly What To Do When Your Pet Eats Potentially Dangerous Foods

Dogs love to eat. There’s no way around that fact. But when their nibbling finds its way into an unattended danger, the results can be quite harmful.

It may be impossible to watch over your dog every second of the day, but knowing what to do in an emergency can be just as important as keeping foods that may be dangerous to dogs out of reach.

In every case, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. There is often no better tool than professional advice in such matters, so whether it’s an emergency or just some general questions, don’t hesitate to call your vet. But you can also prepare for the worst-case scenario by boning up on your contingency plans.

Do you know what to do when your dog eats something questionable? Keep this list handy and you’ll always have some guidance.

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9. Grapes

There is yet room for more research on grapes and raisins and their toxicity to dogs, but they have been proven deadly, even in small amounts.

According to PetMD, a dog may begin vomiting, acting lethargic, or experiencing diarrhea a few hours after eating grapes or raisins. In the worst-case scenario, oral ulcers, tremors, and seizures may occur, possibly even leading to coma and death.

It is imperative to induce vomiting if you believe your dog has ingested grapes or raisins. If a dog is unconscious, in shock, having trouble breathing, or has already vomited, however, inducing further vomiting is not recommended. Call a veterinarian as soon as possible and await further instruction.

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8. Garlic/onion

“Any member of the Allium family—onions, garlic, leeks, and chives are the most common reported to cause toxicity—contains N-propyl disulfide,” Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, staff doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center told PetMD. “This compound damages the oxygen-carrying substance found in red blood cells called hemoglobin.”

In the most severe cases, hemoglobin damage can result in anemia, showing up as red or brown urine.

“Consumption of as little as 15 to 30 g/kg in dogs has resulted in clinically important hematologic changes,” Hohenhaus maintains. “Onion toxicities are consistently noted in animals that ingest more than 0.5 percent of their body weight in onions at one time.”

Whether raw, cooked, or powdered, the equivalent of a quarter of a cup of onion is enough to make a 20-pound dog ill, or worse. Any animals experiencing urine discoloration, lack of coordination, lethargy, or hyper-salivation after eating onions or garlic need to stay hydrated to dilute any toxic substances and may need immediate treatment to stem further dangers.

“Treatment should be immediate and follow the principles of decontamination, often including administration of intravenous fluids (to maintain hydration and for diuresis to “flush” the bloodstream and kidneys), induction of vomiting or gastric lavage (to remove the toxic agent if ingested within the last 2 hours), administration of activated charcoal (to absorb toxins), and possibly a cathartic (drug to cause increased excretion of a toxin),” says Susan Konecny, RN, DVM and medical director of Best Friends Animal Society.

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7. Macadamia Nuts

Nuts contain a lot of fat, which the canine system just isn’t built to handle. Macadamia nuts, especially, can cause pancreatic problems if your dog happens to eat them.

According to the ASPCA, a dog that has consumed macadamia nuts may show some weakness in the back legs, vomiting, and diarrhea. In the worst cases, a dog may begin shaking uncontrollably. Call a local vet or poison control.

“If you see your dog vomiting, experiencing lack of appetite, stomach pain or a decrease in activity level within three days of eating macadamia nuts, you should contact your vet right away,” the ASPCA reports.

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6. Toothpaste (Xylitol)

While your pet may show signs of morning breath every once in a while, toothpaste is not going to help the situation. To some animals, it may even be poisonous.

Xylitol, a sweetener used in many toothpastes, sugar-free gum, and other products, is extremely toxic to dogs and can bring on hypoglycemia soon after it’s ingested, Votary reports.

Signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, black stool, seizures, and worse. Some animals may even show no symptoms until liver failure occurs, Dr. Callum Turner, DVM, maintains.

“Many toothpastes have xylitol as an artificial sweetener; this isn’t tolerated well in dogs and can cause blood sugar to plummet,” Turner says. “Xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, so if he is displaying symptoms it would be too late to induce vomiting. I would recommend visiting your veterinarian to be on the safe side to check blood glucose levels, especially if you are noting shaking and weakness.”

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5. Apple seeds

Many dogs enjoy the sweet taste of apples. but the seeds within are often a controversial topic. Indeed, the seeds contain a small amount of cyanide, but not nearly enough to harm an animal, unless taken in large amounts.

“Apple seeds are overhyped as being poisonous to pets,” writes Dr. Marty Becker. “The amount of cyanide within a few seeds is so minimal that it’s really not a concern. I know of some dogs who love to steal apples right off the tree when they can reach them, or just wait for them to fall.”

What can be problematic is the tough center of the apple itself. While likely not poisonous, it’s far more likely to pose a choking hazard. Responsible pet owners are urged to cut fruit up before serving, Becker says, and to throw the core away.

If you do believe your pet is behaving strangely fatigued after ingesting apple seeds, it’s always best to alert your veterinarian. And when a vet isn’t available, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can help with questions too.

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4. Nutmeg

Few kitchen cabinets are complete without at least a small shaker of nutmeg, but even if you only use it once a year, it may still pose a problem to your pet’s health.

Myristicin, a toxin found in the hard nutmeg seed, is unlikely to cause any harm in small amounts, but when enough is ingested, even humans can experience hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and possibly seizures, Charlotte Flint, DVM staff veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline tells the Pet Poison Helpline.

Few cases of nutmeg poisoning are actually confirmed each year, Flint says, as a dog or cat would have to eat more than most people keep around to be poisoned.

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3. Alcohol

Alcohol should be off limits to animals no matter the occasion, as ingesting alcoholic beverages can lead to a lack of coordination, slowed heart rate, and ethanol poisoning, according to PetMD. What’s worse, ethanol poisoning isn’t just a consequence of beverages; dogs can get sick from eating fermented foods, like bread or rotting apples, or chemicals like gasoline, mouthwash, or perfume.

Apart from keeping potentially poisonous foods and drinks out of reach of your pet, it’s important to contact a veterinarian immediately if an animal begins showing signs of lethargy, incontinence, or the other indicators of ethanol poisoning. It’s also vital to flush out the substances with plenty of water.

A specialist may, in severe cases, administer medication or an oxygen mask, PetMD maintains. And urine will be subsequently checked to make sure acid levels are decreasing.

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2. Avocado

This versatile fruit may be the preferred pairing of any self-respecting millennial’s toast, but give it to a dog and the consequences may be less than positive.

Avocado contains persin, a substance that has been labeled by the ASPCA to be toxic to horses, cattle, goats, and birds. Dogs and cats can tolerate the fruit just fine, although it may cause some mild discomfort.

As Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, tells I Heart Dogs, while avocado may upset an animal’s stomach, the bigger issue comes with the pit.

“If ingested it can cause an obstruction,” Wismer says. “We do not see the heart or reproductive problems in dogs and cats that we can in other species. At the [ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center] call center we have fielded hundreds (if not thousands) of avocado (plain, guacamole, etc.) exposures in dogs and cats. Other than the aforementioned pit foreign bodies, we only see mild stomach upset.”

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1. Chocolate

A little chocolate isn’t going to do much but contribute extra calories, but in large quantities, elevated levels of theobromine could cause an animal health issues.

Milk chocolate is less worrisome than dark chocolate, and white chocolate poses little concern at all, but bitter baking chocolate should be kept far out of animal access, the Pet Poison Helpline maintains.

A dog that has eaten a significant amount of chocolate may experience diarrhea or vomiting, and in much worse cases, abnormal heart rate and seizures.

This information from PetMD provides a clear picture of the foods with the highest theobromine content.

Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened, processed with alkali [Dutch cocoa] 1 cup (86g) 2266 mg 67.1mg
Baking chocolate, unsweetened, squares 1 cup, grated (132g) 1712 mg 106mg
Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened 1 cup (86g) 1769 mg 198mg
Baking chocolate, unsweetened, liquid 1 oz (28g) 447 mg 13.2mg
Puddings, chocolate flavor, low calorie, regular, dry mix 1 Package (40g) 238 mg 7.2mg
Desserts, rennin, chocolate, dry mix 1 Package, 2 oz (57g) 242 mg 7.4mg
Puddings, chocolate flavor, low calorie, instant, dry mix 1 Package, 1.4oz box (40g) 189 mg 5.6mg
Syrups, chocolate, HERSHEY’S Genuine Chocolate Flavored Lite Syrup 2 tbsp (35g) 68.3 mg 2.1mg
Cocoa, dry powder, hi-fat or breakfast, processed with alkali 1 oz (28g) 685 mg 20.2mg
Candies, chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids I bar (101g) 810 mg 80.8mg
Cocoa, dry powder, hi-fat or breakfast, plain 1 Tbsp (5g) 92.6 mg 10.3mg

Along with calling a veterinarian, those worried their animal may be suffering from theobromine poisoning should try to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to filter the toxins. A specialist may want to add sedatives, heart medication, and even antacids to counteract the damage, the Helpline states.

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We hope this list will help you answer some crucial questions before it’s too late. Sadly, for many dog lovers in England, there’s more than just questionable fruit to worry about when it comes to caring for pets. Owners of banned breeds, if found guilty under the Dangerous Dogs Act, can be fined any amount a judge sees fit and sent to prison for up to six months while their animals are destroyed. Click the link below to see how you can help!

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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