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Take Care When You Share

Don’t let treats injure your canine pal

The human-animal bond brings great joy and comfort to both owner and pet. One of the ways that we build this bond is by sharing food with our furry friends. But some foods that are perfectly safe for people can be harmful or even deadly to dogs.

Everyone loves chocolate, and dogs are no exception. Consequently, it is the most common foodstuff canines consume that results in illness. Chocolate, coffee, and tea contain caffeine, and other substances similar to caffeine, that cause overstimulation of the central nervous system, the heart, and other tissues in dogs. In severe cases, this can lead to fever, heart arrhythmias, seizure, coma, and even death. The darker the chocolate, the greater the risk to dogs. For example, a standard milk chocolate bar weighs about 1.5 ounces. A 25 pound dog could eat a single milk chocolate bar, and would likely experience relatively mild adverse effects. However, if the same dog ate 1.5 ounces of cocoa powder severe health consequences could result.

Another source of potential danger for dogs is the artificial sweetener xylitol. It is found in over 1900 products, the most familiar being sugar-free gum and candies. It is safe in people, and even prevents bacteria in the mouth from damaging tooth enamel. In dogs however, it causes increased insulin release, which can lead to severe low blood sugar, liver damage, and in extreme cases, death. Some sugar-free gums and candies can contain over a gram of xylitol per piece. In a 30 pound dog, mild effects can be seen with the intake of less than a gram, and very severe problems can occur with intakes approaching 5 grams.

Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives are common ingredients in many foods, and are often given to dogs, or sneakily obtained when the owner turns their back for a moment. They contain compounds known as organosulfoxides, which can cause canine red blood cells to burst. If enough of these vital cells are ruptured, your pet may require a blood transfusion in order to survive.

Other foods to avoid giving your dog include raw bread dough, avocados, moldy food, nutmeg, macadamia nuts, raw meat or raw fish, fatty foods, or anything containing caffeine or alcohol. Also, please do not give human medicines to your pets without the advice of a veterinarian. For example, a single regular-strength Tylenol can cause serious health problems in cats.

Sharing food with our companion animals brings great pleasure to both owner and pet and helps to strengthen the human-animal bond. By avoiding foods known to be dangerous for dogs, you can still enjoy this ritual together, and keep your best friend happy and healthy. If your pet does accidentally consume a dangerous food, please contact your veterinarian right away, as treatment in the first hour or so can sometimes be vital, and greatly increases the chances of a complete recovery.

 

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