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8 toxic foods for dogs – Doorstep Vet helps protect our pets

Joanna Melville of Doorstep Vet reveals what could be poisonous food for dogs, the symptoms to watch out for and what we should be feeding them.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 14.10.2023

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Human food – it can be a toxic world for dogs.

While many dog owners are now (thankfully) aware of the risks of products like chocolate and raisins, there are still many other foods that slip below the radar – and could cause serious health concerns for your four-legged family member.

To get the low-down on what every pet owner needs to know about the potentially toxic foods for dogs out there, we asked Joanna Melville, Practice Owner of Doorstep Vet, for her expert insight.

She shares with us the poisonous food for dogs to avoid, the symptoms to watch out for and what to do if you think your dog has eaten something dangerous, as well as the foods we should be feeding them to keep them happy, strong and, most importantly, safe throughout their lives.

chocolate

Chocolate

Chocolate likely comes top of the list when you think of foods that are toxic for dogs. But why do we need to be so wary of this decadent delight when our little fluffball goes snack-hunting?

‘Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to animals,’ Joanna explains. ‘Generally, the darker the chocolate, the greater levels of theobromine it contains – therefore the more it is a poisonous food for dogs.

‘If your dog has eaten chocolate, they may start vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea, but chocolate may also cause excitability, twitching, tremors and even seizures.’

raisins

Raisins

Raisins, currants, sultanas and grapes are all toxic foods for dogs.

‘Sadly, the true cause of the toxicity to animals is not known,’ Joanna says, ‘or how much is dangerous, as every dog reacts differently to the ingestion.

‘These fruits can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but more seriously (and commonly) kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney failure include:

  • An increased thirst
  • A decrease in urination
  • General tiredness

‘These symptoms may take up to three days to present.

‘Whether you think your dog has eaten just one of these tiny fruits or 20, it’s always wise to seek veterinary advice immediately.’

ice cream

Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, present in food products and some medicines, which can be very poisonous to dogs as it can cause a huge release of insulin which can lead to dangerously low blood sugar for dogs.

‘Anything from ice cream and yoghurt to cookies, condiments and sauces, jam, honey, toothpaste and cough syrups can contain xylitol. If they do, any and every one on this list can potentially be harmful for dogs,’ warns Joanna.

‘Signs of xylitol poisoning can include:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

‘Poisoning in this way may even go on to cause liver failure, so please see your vet immediately if you’re in any way concerned.’

Dog eating bone

Bones

They’re something most of us wouldn’t even think twice about giving to our canine companions after all the cartoons and stereotypes we see about, quite literally, ‘a dog with a bone’.

But, contrary to popular belief, dogs shouldn’t chew or eat bones.

‘Bones can become brittle, causing splinters which may penetrate the oral cavity, stomach or intestine,’ Joanna explains.

‘Larger pieces of bone may also cause an obstruction – all of which may require surgical intervention.’

onions

Onions, garlic, leek, shallots & chives (Allium family)

Maybe think twice about letting your dog lick your dinner plate after you’re done if you tend to cook with any of these vegetables in the Allium family.

‘These vegetables all contain a substance which can cause damage to the red blood cells in dogs and may cause life-threatening anaemia,’ Joanna tells us.

‘Symptoms after ingestion may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Weak, rapid breathing
  • A change in the colour of the urine

‘It’s worth noting that some of these symptoms may take a few days to present.’

macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts

This is probably one to be particularly wary of around Christmastime, with all those nut-filled chocolates and snacks lying around.

‘It’s not known what exactly causes macadamia nuts to be among the toxic foods for dogs,’ says Joanna. ‘But they can certainly cause a serious reaction if eaten.

‘Symptoms to watch out for can include:

  • Your dog becoming wobbly
  • Stiffness when they walk
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • A high temperature’
blue cheese

Blue Cheese

Another one to be particularly vigilant against around the festive season, or anytime you’re entertaining guests with a cheeseboard.

‘Blue cheese contains a substance produced by the fungus used to make the cheese,’ Joanna explains. ‘This fungus is especially harmful to dogs, making blue cheese among the toxic foods for dogs to avoid.

‘The symptoms to watch out for if you think your dog has eaten some blue cheese may include muscle tremors and seizures.’

alcohol

Alcohol

We’re not suggesting anyone would deliberately give their dog booze, but if your four-legged friend happens to get their paws into a packet of chocolate liqueurs or a bottle you’ve accidentally left lying around, it’s best to act fast.

‘Alcohol contains ethanol, which dogs are much more sensitive to than humans,’ says Joanna. ‘So, imagine some of the same effects we experience when we’ve had too much to drink, but amplified for our dogs.

‘Symptoms of ingestion to watch out for may include:

  • Wobbly/unsteady on their feet
  • Drowsy
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Even going into a coma.’

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR DOG HAS EATEN SOMETHING POISONOUS

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Remove the source of food or poison away from your dog.
  3. Contact your vet immediately and inform them:
    1. When the dog ingested the poison.
    2. How much they ingested, (if you know).
    3. The ingredients within the poison from the packaging (if available).
  4. Your vet will then be able to advise you on the seriousness of the poisoning and what to do next.

In addition to this, the Animal Poison Line (01202 509000) is a useful triage service available to the general public for a small fee, and can provide useful, up-to-date advice on whether your pet needs to be seen by a vet.

 

WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY DOG?

Enough about what dogs should avoid eating – we asked Joanna what we should be feeding our dogs to ensure they’re happy, healthy and safe throughout their lives.

‘To help keep your dog healthy, it’s advised to feed them a complete diet suitable for their age, lifestyle and specific health needs,’ Joanna explains.

puppy eating treat

For puppies

‘Young dogs’ nutritional requirements include increased protein to support healthy growth and replenish their expended energy levels.

‘They’re likely to require three or four meals per day, slowly transitioned to two meals per day as they grow older.’

 

For adult dogs

‘Most dogs reach an adult life stage around one year old, so it’s important to transition from puppy to adult food at this time.

‘An adult dog’s food is ideally based upon its breed size and, most importantly, their activity levels. For example: a working dog would have different nutritional needs to a fairly inactive lap dog; a large breed dog would require a greater quantity than a small breed.

‘There are also conditional elements to consider, such as extreme temperatures (hot/cold) which will cause your dogs to burn more calories in a day. On days when the weather is extreme, be sure to give your dog more food to replenish those burned calories.’

golden retriever

For mature dogs (7 years+)

‘While dogs of seven years and above are classed as mature in age, they’re certainly not geriatric.

‘This is where we can support their healthy aging through what we feed them.

‘The nutrients that need to be considered are devoted to maintaining healthy bones, muscles and organs.’

 

For senior dogs (11 years+)

‘Most dogs reach their senior years at around 11, though this will differ between breeds, (larger breeds reach their senior years more quickly than smaller breeds).

‘At this stage, we need to consider their nutritional needs based upon the immunologic and metabolic changes they’re experiencing.

‘A senior dog food blend will be formulated to help with the maintenance of their normal body functions. As with humans, a dog’s metabolism often slows down significantly, therefore a food that is lower in calories is often appropriate.’

For advice on the most appropriate food to feed your dog, speak to your Vet or Veterinary Nurse, who will be best equipped to provide you with additional advice and support.

Doorstep Vet

DOORSTEP VET

Joanna is a practicing vet and the owner of Doorstep Vet – a mobile vet practice that brings convenient, affordable and efficient healthcare straight to your door.

Whether your pet is scared of going to the vet or your working hours make it impossible to find a convenient time to book in a check-up, having a mobile vet on hand can work wonders for pet owners living fast-paced, modern lifestyles.

Doorstep Vet covers Newcastle upon Tyne and the immediate surrounding areas.

 For more information about Doorstep Vet and how they can keep your pets safe and healthy from your doorstep, visit their website

You can also follow Doorstep Vet on Facebook and Instagram

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