Friday, 21 October 2016 19:23

Hazardous Substances for Pets

Written by  Dr. Mindy Cohan
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Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about things to keep out of your pet's reach! 

Hazardous Substances for Pets 

While people may try to resist the temptation of chocolate, dogs never have the willpower to say, “No.” This accounts for the reason animal poison control hotlines receive more calls about chocolate than any other ingested substance. Although cats can also be affected by chocolate, they rarely give in to their sweet tooth like dogs. Chocolate and coffee contain xanthine alkaloids, the substance which is responsible for the side effects animals experience if they ingest either product. The xanthine alkaloid in coffee is caffeine and chocolate contains theobromine.  Dogs can ingest many types of chocolate including candy bars, cookies, brownies, cocoa mulch and holiday treats such as chocolate hearts and bunnies. The amount of theobromine ingested is dependent upon the type of chocolate and the amount consumed. Baking chocolate poses the greatest risk, while white chocolate is the most benign type of chocolate in terms of theobromine content. Symptoms of chocolate or coffee ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and death. If your dog consumes either chocolate or coffee, it is critical to call your veterinarian or poison control immediately. You will need to report the size of your dog, the suspected quantity consumed, and most importantly, the type of chocolate the dog devoured. Fortunately, if you witness your dog’s consumption of chocolate or coffee, or discover the ingestion soon afterwards, vomiting can be induced to help prevent further absorption and toxicity. 

While xanthine alkaloids have been identified as the problematic substance in chocolate and coffee, the toxic substance in grapes, raisins and currants is unknown. The danger of kidney failure posed by these foods has only come to light in recent years. Not every dog will experience kidney failure after ingesting these foods. Cats and ferrets can also be affected, but the likelihood of these pets consuming grapes and raisins is far less than it is for dogs. Since we don’t know how to identify which dogs will be affected, it is necessary to treat all dogs as if their life is at risk. The quantity that must be consumed in order to cause a problem is also unknown. Therefore, precautions should be taken even if a small amount is consumed. Raisins are found in many common household food products such as cookies, bagels, trail mix and granola bars. The symptoms related to kidney failure secondary to ingestion of grapes, raisins and currants include vomiting, increased thirst and urination, poor appetite, and lethargy. If you witness or discover that your dog has consumed any of these foods, call your veterinarian or poison control immediately. 

Nuts pose a serious threat to people with severe allergies. For dogs, macadamia nuts do not cause an allergic reaction, but result in alarming symptoms including vomiting, elevated body temperature, tremors and weakness in the hindquarters. A small amount of nuts can cause these problems. Fortunately, dogs will usually recover from macadamia nut ingestion within 24-48 hours. If you discover that your dog has consumed macadamia nuts, contact your veterinarian immediately.

 While raw garlic, onions, chives and leeks may not be as tempting as chocolate, these ingredients found in pizza, onion rings, meat based recipes, and onion dip become a tasty treat for dogs and cats. Onions and garlic contain thiosulfate which creates two types of problems for dogs and cats. Consumption leads to stomach and intestinal upset manifesting in vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and decreased appetite. The other issue is the rupture and loss of red blood cells which results in anemia. Signs of anemia include pale gums, lethargy, increased heart and respiratory rates, weakness, and collapse. Pet owners should avoid sharing any foods containing onions, garlic, chives and leeks with their dogs and cats. If your pet accidentally ingests these foods, contact your veterinarian or poison control immediately. 

Another item that is safe for people, but toxic to dogs is xylitol. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used in many food and non-food products. It can be found in sugar-free chewing gums, breath mints, baked goods, toothpaste, cough syrup, and vitamins. The most dangerous product containing xylitol is peanut butter as this is a food often deliberately given to dogs as a treat. There are two main problems that dogs develop after ingesting xylitol. First, xylitol causes a significant release of insulin from the pancreas. This leads to a dramatic decrease in the dog’s blood sugar level which poses a threat of seizures and coma. Secondly, xylitol causes liver failure. Check all peanut butter labels before giving it to a dog and be sure to keep chewing gum and any baked goods containing xylitol away from dogs. Call your veterinarian or poison control if you discover your dog has ingested anything containing xylitol. 

In addition to various foods, there are many medications, plants and household items which pose a threat to pets. It is important to avoid pet exposure to the following:


·         Pain relievers such as aspirin, Advil, Tylenol – very toxic to cats
Stimulants used for the treatment of ADHD
Pain patches (Fentynyl, Lidocaine) 

Household products

·         Laundry pods
Toilet bowl cleaner
Any product containing bleach
Drain openers
Pennies minted after 1983 (zinc toxicity) 


·         Sago palm – liver failure, severe GI problems
Lilies (Easter, tiger, Japanese, day lilies) – highly dangerous for causing kidney failure in cats, even a nibble of leaf, pollen can be deadly
Bulb plants (tulip, daffodils, narcissus, amaryllis, hyacinth) – all parts are toxic, but bulb can cause severe gastrointestinal and neurologic signs
Yew – all parts except fleshy berry around seed are toxic, cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia
Peace Lily
Lilly of the valley

If your pet has ingested something you believe to be harmful, contact a veterinarian or one of the following organizations for medical advice:

ASPCA poison control hotline: (888) 426-4435, $65 consultation fee
Pet Poison Hotline 855-764-7661, $49 consultation fee 
The Pet Poison Hotline app is great for researching the toxicity of foods, plants and medications.






Read 10455 times Last modified on Friday, 21 October 2016 19:41