Big puppy dog eyes can get just about anything they want when they appear at the side of the dinner table—but that doesn't mean they should. The wrong food scrap could cause symptoms that provoke a panicked call to the Pet Poison Helpline or a rush visit to the local veterinary office.
“We see animals for ingesting all sorts of stuff,” said Dr. John de Jong, president-elect of American Veterinary Medical Association and practitioner at the Newton Animal Hospital in Boston. “They present for vomiting, diarrhea, other issues like hematuria and ataxia—meaning that they are off on their walk—because of various toxicities.”
If you're going to feed Fido directly from your plate, de Jong recommends practicing common sense and moderation.
“See what your animal can tolerate in small doses, because every animal is different,” he said.
And proceed with most caution around this seemingly harmless set of eight table scraps, foods that are dangerous for dogs, which actually cause most of the toxicities and internal damage that vets see regularly.
Just because your dog regularly chews on bones, doesn’t mean you can throw it a bone from your meal, too. It’s a common misconception that some types of bones are okay while others are not, but, in reality, any bone pulled from your plate can be problematic. Poultry, pork, or steak all pose the same risks that dog chews purchased from the pet store do not.
“The reason you can’t give dogs bones is that they splinter,” de Jong explained.
Those shards can cause trauma to the mouth, esophagus, and all the way down the gastrointestinal tract, from fractured teeth to a scraped lining. Plus, if a bone has a lot of fat—bone marrow—on it, this can cause diarrhea.
Raw Onions And Garlic
Related in the Allium family (along with chives and leeks), these potent dinner ingredients can spell serious trouble for dogs who sneak some off of your cutting board—and garlic is about five times as toxic as onions. Poisoning from either results in oxidative damage to the red blood cells, which could manifest itself as blood in the urine, and vomiting, drooling, diarrhea. Clinical symptoms typically won't present themselves for several days, so keep a close especially close eye on your animal during meal prep to prevent ingestion of a large (and potentially lethal) amount.
Bites Of Fatty Meats And Poultry
Dogs are carnivores, so why not give them the remains of chicken, beef, or pork?
“I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t tell you that, at home before having something delicious, I cut off a little piece of filet mignon or rotisserie chicken and give it to our dog,” de Jong admited.
All of these meats are generally safe, so long as you don’t overindulge the animal — or feed them the cut-off fat you'd otherwise toss out in the garbage. Chicken, for example, has very fatty skin that can cause diarrhea (not to mention a number of smaller bones you’d want to make sure were carefully removed first).
Then, there are still some animals with sensitive stomachs that cannot tolerate any amount.
“For some, even what seems like the slightest change from diet—which is mundane dry kibble—can lead to cases of pancreatitis or diarrhea,” de Jong said.
Grapes And Raisins
“This consumption often happens by accident,” de Jong said. “Say, a kid left some grapes on the counter and puppy jumped up and ate it.”
Be it in the kitchen or out in a garden where grapevines grow, if a pet gets into and ingests some, it may become lethargic, stop urinating, and experience kidney damage and even failure. While the reason for the reaction is unclear, one thing is: Any amount of these fruits and fruit products (such as juice, trail mix, bagels, or chocolate-coated treats) in the system can be toxic.
Milk Products Like Ice Cream
Though sharing a sweet might make a great photo opp for your Instagram, your dog really shouldn't get his or her own cone. Everything in small amounts can, for the most part, be tolerated.
“A spoonful of ice cream may not hurt them, but some animals don’t tolerate lactose,” de Jong said.
Typically a dog who has overdosed in milk or ice cream has diarrhea because they can’t handle the creaminess, he adds, but it can usually be controlled pretty well. A bigger concern would be if there was chocolate in it.
Watch out for dipped ice cream cones, wrapped Hershey’s kisses, or ground baking chocolate around your dog, as all contain a methylxanthine, which stimulates the nervous system and heart. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be for your dog to ingest.
“We see a chocolate toxicity at least once of month,” de Jong said, and the Pet Poison Helpline similarly reports high frequency—95 percent of its chocolate calls are dogs as opposed to any other household animal. Induce vomiting right away, or else it can cause cardiac issues like a higher heart rate, hypertension, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Too many sweets, of course, can cause some hyperactivity and an upset stomach.
“Same goes for us if we have too rich of a meal,” de Jong said. “But we’re more concerned about sugar replacements than sugar,” he added.
Found in sugar-free products from chewing gum to snacks, the artificial sweetener xylitol can cause weakness, seizures, low blood sugar, liver failure, and even death in dogs within the first 15 minutes of a large ingestion.
Salt And Salted Snacks
When your dog steals some spilled table salt and sneaks into an open bag of particularly salted snacks, dehydration will occur.
“If a food is too salty, you’re typically going to drink a lot to compensate,” de Jong said, which means your animal will need more water bowl refills and bathroom breaks.
Other key symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and problems walking.
“But the biggest risk is the effect salt and salty snacks may have on the kidneys,” de Jong explained, which is why you’ll want to phone your vet immediately for treatment.
IF YOUR DOG EXHIBITS ANY ABNORMAL ACTIVITY OR SYMPTOMS...
“Google can be a source of information, but also sometimes a source of misinformation. That’s true for animal owners and pets, but also for people who try to diagnose themselves online,” de Jong said.
“There’s no substitute for consulting with a vet,” who, he added, should be able to handle most if not all of these cases.
If you believe your furry friend has ingested something, you may also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or your nearest pet emergency center.
This article first appeared on Rodale's Organic Life.