Summer is a fun time for the whole family, including the family dog. And outdoor barbeques and trips to the ice cream parlor are often part of that fun.
But stop and think before sharing your summer treats with your canine best friend. Many common human foods and ingredients are harmful to dogs.
We All Scream for Ice Cream
Of course, an all-time favorite treat is ice cream, but please don’t share that cone with your pup and don’t let him/her lick the bowl. Here are two of the three reasons why.
(photo from video by Fancibaer [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Note: dog is actually eating frozen treat made for dogs)
1. Chocolate: A lot of pet owners know chocolate is bad for dogs, but they may not know just how harmful it can be. In very small quantities, it’s probably not a big deal, but why take the chance. In moderate quantities (and dark or baking chocolate is worse), it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, restlessness and agitation. More extreme symptoms that may lead to death are abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures.
The main culprit is the chemical, methylxanthine, which is also in other caffeinated substances. So if you spill coffee grounds or beans, be sure to keep Fido away from them until you get them cleaned up.
2. Dairy: Dogs lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose, so milk and other dairy products can cause digestive problems and diarrhea. And some dogs can be allergic to dairy. If the dog is not allergic to them, small quantities of cheese and yogurt are usually tolerated okay.
Cookies and Cakes and Pies, Oh My!
3. Sugar (and substitute sweeteners): Sugar is the third reason why ice cream isn’t a great idea for dogs. It causes for them the same problems it creates for humans–obesity, tooth damage and diabetes. But substitute sweeteners are far, far worse! They often contain Xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death.
As American as apple pie! But don’t let Fido have any if there are raisins or nutmeg in there. (photo by Larry D. Moore CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)
4. Baking powder, baking soda and yeast: These release gases when they encounter moisture and heat, which is what makes breads and cakes rise and a small clump of sticky dough morph into a tasty light cookie. But when these substances are in your dog’s moist and warm stomach, this gaseous reaction can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), and if in large enough amounts, muscle spasms and/or congestive heart failure. In small quantities (as in a corner of a cookie, not the whole thing), baked goods that have been cooked are probably not a problem but never, ever feed your dog raw dough.
5. Nutmeg: Dogs are attracted to this fragrant and tasty spice just as humans are, but anything more than small amounts of it can be harmful to them. Milder doses (say, a teaspoon or two that falls on the floor while you’re baking and is licked up by the four-legged vacuum cleaner) can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Higher doses (if Fido gets into the spice rack and chews through the plastic container), can result in disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain and even seizures.
6. Nuts: In addition to the choking hazard, some nuts are harmful to dogs. As few as 6 macadamia nuts, for example, can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, difficulty walking, tremors, abdominal pain, lameness, and stiffness.
7. Raisins: Raisins and grapes again may pose a choking risk. But the bigger problem is that even in small amounts, they can cause vomiting, lethargy and depression in dogs.
Hot Off the Grill
8. Onions and Garlic: That hamburger or shish kabob may seem harmless, and indeed the meat itself is. Even a grilled tomato is okay for Fido (the tomato plant is poisonous but the fruit itself is fine). But don’t give him a chunk of onion or garlic.
Shish kabob — meat, maybe; onions, NO! (photo by Ne1compute, CC-BY-SA -3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Indeed, the meat itself may not be okay if it has onion or garlic powder added to it, as burgers and marinade sauces often do. Onions and garlic, even in fairly small amounts, can lead to weakness, vomiting, loss of appetite, dullness, difficulty breathing. And if consumed over a period of time or in large enough quantities, anemia, red blood cell breakdown and death may occur.
Any form is harmful–cooked, uncooked, powdered, etc.–even the little bit found in baby food (sometimes given to older dogs or those with digestive problems). For this reason, dogs should not be given meats, stews or soups prepared for humans (homemade or store bought) since onion and garlic are almost always used to add flavor to these dishes.
9. Corn on the Cob: Corn isn’t the best thing in the world for dogs as it’s a bit hard to digest and high in natural sugar content (dogs on corn are equivalent to children full of sugar). But the corn is not the biggest problem here, the cob is.
Dogs don’t know they’re not supposed to eat the cob and humans looking on might not think anything of it as Fido chows down on it as if it were a bone. After all, dogs chew up all kinds of things, rawhide treats and deer antlers and even their toys.
But corn cobs are indigestible and chunks of them can block the intestines, leading to vomiting or dry heaving, straining during defecation, loss of appetite, stomach pain, whimpering, trembling, restlessness, and increased or decreased drinking.
Some of the symptoms from these foods will dissipate on their own, but it’s best not to take chances. If you notice any of these problems, especially after a cookout or other summer get-together, get your pet to a veterinarian as fast as possible (some of these things are also problematic for cats).
Also, this is hardly a definitive list of all things bad for pets that are good for humans to eat, so before giving your pet any people food, check it and its ingredients out online or consult your veterinarian.
Note: I will be posting about dog related topics periodically. If you’d like to be notified of these posts, please subscribe to the blog. (second subscription option at top on right) Thanks!!
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