How many of us give our dog a treat ? I think I’m safe in presuming all of us. How many of us give our dogs treats from the table or plate ? Sharing your treats with them may seem like a good idea at the time but did you realise you may be poisoning your pet ? Here are some everyday human food and drinks that can cause upset for your dog.
Human foods not to feed to your dog
Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine (a bit like caffeine) that is poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine differs in the different types of chocolate (dark chocolate has the most in it). Theobromine mainly affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Signs of
theobromine poisoning will occur from 4-24hours following ingestion and will vary depending on the amount of chocolate (theobromine) your dog has eaten. You may see vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity and seizures.
Theobromine doses in the region of 100-150 mg/kg bodyweight are toxic to dogs
There is no antidote to theobromine. In most cases your vet will make your dog vomit. Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is showing. They may need intravenous fluids (a drip), medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizure activity (fits).
What does theobromine do and what symptoms will I see?
Theobromide mainly affects the heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms will occur from 4-24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate and will vary depending on the amount of chocolate (theobromine) your dog has eaten.
If your dog has eaten chocolate, you may see:
- Vomiting (may include blood)
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension, incoordination
- Increased heart rate
How much chocolate is too much for my dog?
Our advice is not to give any chocolate to your dog, but if they have managed to get hold of some chocolate these are some guidelines you need to be aware of.
Theobromine doses in the region of 100-150 mg/kg bodyweight are toxic to dogs.
Approximate amount of theobromine in 25grams of chocolate.
- White chocolate contains minimal amounts of theobromine.
- Milk chocolate contains 44-64 mg theobromine
- Semi-sweet chocolate and sweet dark chocolate contains 150-160 mg theobromine
- Unsweetened (baking) chocolate 390-450 mg theobromine
- Dry cocoa powder 800 mg theobromine
This means that for a Labrador (around 30kg bodyweight) we would expect to see a fatal toxic reaction if they had eaten 1kg of milk chocolate, ½kg dark chocolate or 170grams of baking chocolate.
Signs of poisoning will be seen at lower levels of ingestion. For example, a 30kg dog that has eaten 200g milk chocolate is likely to have a digestive upset (vomiting and diarrhoea). If they had eaten 500g milk chocolate, it is likely that cardiovascular problems will be seen (increased heart rate) and if they had eaten 750g milk chocolate they may develop seizures.
It can be hard to tell exactly how much your dog may have eaten and the amount of caffeine and theobromine in chocolate will vary due to growing conditions, cocoa bean sources and variety. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and contact your vet for advice if you are at all concerned.
What should I do if my dog has eaten chocolate?
Treatment may be needed if your dog eats any chocolate so please contact your vet as soon as possible. It will assist your vet if you can tell them how much chocolate your dog has eaten, what type of chocolate it was (wrappers can be very helpful) and when your dog ate the chocolate. This will enable them to work out whether your dog has eaten a toxic dose or not and what treatment your dog is likely to need.
There is no antidote to theobromine. In most cases your vet will make your dog vomit. They may wash out the stomach and feed activated charcoal which will absorb any theobromine left in the intestine. Other treatments will depend on the signs your dog is showing. They may need intravenous fluids (a drip), medication to control heart rate, blood pressure and seizure activity.
With prompt intervention and treatment even in dogs that have eaten large amounts of chocolate the prognosis for a poisoned dog is usually good.
Like chocolate, caffeine also contains stimulants, as this substance is found in the fruit of the plant that is used to make coffee.
Dogs are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than people. A couple of laps of tea or coffee will not do any harm, but the ingestion of moderate amounts of coffee grounds or tea bags can lead to serious problems. Signs are similar to chocolate toxicity and treatment is broadly similar.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.
Onions are particularly toxic and signs of poisoning occur a few days after your dog has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.
Alcohol is significantly more toxic to dogs than to humans. When consumed, alcoholic beverages and alcoholic food products may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. So, remember to keep alcoholic beverages well out of reach of your dog!
A substance called Persin that is contained in the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. In addition birds and rodents are particularly sensitive and serious reactions such as the development of congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart can result.
Grapes & Raisins
The toxic substance that is contained within grapes and raisins is unknown; however these fruits can cause kidney failure. Dogs that already have certain health problems may have an even more serious reaction so this is certainly one to avoid.
Within 12 hours of ingestion macadamia nuts can cause dogs to experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia (increased body temperature). These symptoms tend to last for approximately 12 to 48 hours, and as with all the other food groups mentioned if you suspect your dog has consumed macadamia nuts note the possible quantity consumed and contact your vet.
Ingestion of yeast dough can cause gas to accumulate in your dog’s digestive system as a result of the dough rising. Not only can this be painful but if may also cause the stomach or intestines to become obstructed (blocked) or distended. So whilst small bits of bread can be given as a treat due to the fact that risks are diminished once the yeast has fully risen, it is advised to avoid giving your dog yeast dough.
Whilst feeding your dog bones may seem like a good idea in that it takes our dogs back to their ‘roots’, it is important to remember that domestic dogs may choke on the bones, or sustain injury as the splinters can become lodged in or puncture your dog’s digestive tract, so if you choose to give your dog bones be sure to keep an eye on him while he tucks in, and avoid giving cooked bones (which splinter easily) or giving bones that are small enough to get stuck in their bowels.
Eating large quantities of bone can often cause constipation, so try to monitor the amount your dog manages to consume.
Corn on the cob
Corn on the cob may seem like a healthy table scrap to give your dog, but unlike most vegetables, it does not digest well in a dog’s stomach. If your dog swallows large chunks of the cob, or even whole, it can cause an intestinal blockage due to it’s size and shape. If your dog gobbled up corn on the cob watch for signs of trouble such as vomiting, loss of appetite or reduced appetite, absence of faeces or sometimes diarrhoea and signs of abdominal discomfort. In this case, have your dog see a vet immediately and be careful to never feed corn on the cob again.
The artificial sweetener xylitol found in many foods such as sugar free gum, diabetic cakes, diet foods etc. causes insulin release in many species leading to potentially fatal hypoglycaemia (lowered sugar levels). The initial symptoms include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination, following this recumbency (unable to stand) and seizures may occur. Xylitol has also been linked to fatal acute liver disease and blood clotting disorders in dogs. Even very small amounts can be extremely dangerous and if you think your dog has eaten any amount of xylitol then you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
As dogs do not have significant amounts of the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose in milk, feeding your dog milk and other milk-based products can cause diarrhoea or other digestive upset.