STOP Feeding Your Pets These Dangerous, Potentially Fatal Foods
You love your pets. We do too. We talk to pets like they’re human, we love them like they’re human, and sometimes we want to feed them like they’re human. But here’s the deal … they’re not human.
Pets have very different digestive systems than humans. What may be a delicious treat for you may be extremely dangerous (if not fatal) to your pet.
Today we’ll talk about all kinds of potentially dangerous foods you should NOT feed your pets, no matter how tempting. It’s a pretty extensive list, so let’s dive right in.
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Fruits & Veggies
Before we dive into all the fruits and veggies your pets can and can’t eat, we should mention that many of the seeds and/or pits can be dangerous when consumed. That’s because many of them contain cyanide. Yes, poison. They can also have sharp, jagged edges that can get lodged in the digestive tract causing a dangerous obstruction.
Be careful your pet doesn’t eat the seeds or pits of:
Grapes & Raisins
Grapes (and their dried up version, raisins) contain a toxic substance. Unfortunately, we can’t be more specific than that because experts don’t know precisely what it is that causes the toxicity. What we do know is that pets tend to get sick after eating grapes or raisins. In some cases, it can trigger acute (sudden) kidney failure and even death.
These are bad for you and your pets. Rhubarb leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, aka oxalate. Oxalate is expelled through urine, but when there’s too much oxalate in the body, it can accumulate and cause calcium oxalate crystals in the organs. In the kidneys, for example, painful stones may begin to form, which can lead to kidney failure.
Symptoms of mild rhubarb leaf poisoning may include vomiting and/or diarrhea that should only last a few hours. More serious toxicity may cause your pet to have difficulty swallowing, nausea, tummy pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Extreme symptoms may include kidney failure, muscle twitches, numbness or cramps.
Tomato leaves and stems
Ripe tomatoes are safe for dogs. But beware of the leaves and stems, particularly of green, unripened tomatoes. They contain solanine, which (in large quantities) is harmful to dogs, cats and even horses. If your pets ingest the leafy green parts of a tomato, they may become lethargic and experience stomach issues and a slower heart rate.
If ripe tomatoes are ok, does that mean tomato sauce and soup are ok? No. Tomato soup and sauce should not be fed to pets because they contain lots of other ingredients that can be toxic, including sweeteners, salt, garlic, onions and so on. That means no ketchup either.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “Garlic and other members of the allium family, including onions, contain thiosulfate, which is toxic to dogs but not to humans.” Thiosulfate causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia (a disorder that destroys red blood cells faster than they can be made).
Onions & chives
Whether they’re fresh, dehydrated or powdered, onions and chives contain disulfides and sulfoxides (thiosulphate). These can damage your pet’s red blood cells and cause anemia.
Mustard (and mustard seeds)
If your pet sneaks a lick of mustard off your plate, he’ll probably be OK. He might get an upset tummy, vomiting or diarrhea. If he attacks an entire bottle of mustard, on the other hand, that’s a problem. Mustard seeds (the main ingredient in mustard) contain toxic compounds that can lead to gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines).
Snacks & Beverages
This is a well-known danger to both cats and dogs. You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t feed chocolate to your pet, but do you know why?
Chocolate is dangerous to pets because it contains substances called methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine, formerly known as xantheose). They come from the cacao plant and are used medicinally as a heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, diuretic, and as a smooth muscle relaxant.
Dogs and cats cannot metabolize methylxanthines the way humans can, which means even the smallest amounts can be harmful.
It’s also worth noting that different types of chocolate contain different levels of methylxanthines. Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to pets.
Salt (chips, pretzels, etc.)
Salt can dehydrate your pets causing excessive thirst and urination. Worse, it can cause sodium ion poisoning. It’s tempting to share your salty snacks with your pets, but beware … too much salt can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, fever, seizures and death.
Hard NO. Never. Absolutely not.
Alcohol has the same effect on your pet’s liver and brain as it does on yours. And it only takes a little to do a lot of damage. Even the tiniest amount of alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea. and central nervous system issues. It can also cause problems with coordination, difficulty breathing, coma and, yes, even death.
Under NO circumstances should you give your pets alcohol.
Coffee & caffeine
According to the ASPCA, “Chocolate, coffee and caffeine contain substances called methylxanthines, which are very dangerous to a pet’s health and when ingested by pets, can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death.”
According to AKC, “Veterinarians and researchers have not identified what causes this particular food to be toxic to dogs; it’s perfectly safe for humans and has not been seen to affect cats.” Still, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, causing muscle tremors, vomiting, fever, lethargy and weakness.
But not all walnuts. Generally speaking, fresh walnuts are safe for dogs in small amounts. Black walnuts, on the other hand, are toxic to dogs.
Feeding your pet large quantities of walnuts may cause vomiting and diarrhea, or worse, they could develop pancreatitis. Be careful with whole walnuts, too -- they're a choking hazard.
They may not be toxic like macadamia nuts, but if your pets don’t chew them properly, almonds can block the esophagus or tear the windpipe, which can be extremely dangerous.
It’s hit and miss when it comes to nuts for both cats and dogs. We say better to be safe than sorry -- avoid them altogether.
More dangerous ingredients NOT suitable for pet consumption
Human food isn’t always the only dangerous culprit. There are plenty of commercial dog foods out there filled with all kinds of nasty ingredients which are not suitable for pet consumption.
Before you buy food from your local pet store, read the ingredients carefully, and avoid these:
This simple carb has little to no nutritional value. It also causes the blood sugar to spike then drop, which leads to hunger soon after consumption. Too much white flour in your pet’s diet can lead to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.
Bone meal or meat meal (or just “meat”) should all be avoided. Sure, meat is good for your pet. But if the manufacturer can’t tell you what kind of meat, instead referring to “meat” … think twice. It could be meat from dead or diseased animals. It could be expired meat from the grocery store. It could be all kinds of disgusting things no animal should consume. Pet food manufacturers use it as filler to increase the protein percentage listed on the packaging. That doesn't mean it's good for your pet.
It’s bad for humans, and it’s bad for pets. It’s used to boost flavour in otherwise tasteless food. MSG is often hidden under the guise of these ingredients: hydrolyzed protein, disodium inosinate, guaylate, protein isolate, natural flavours, autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast, soy or yeast extracts (or concentrates), calcium or sodium caseinate, texturized protein, monopotassium glutamate, or glutamic acid.
The word “artificial” should stop you in your tracks, whether it’s on the packaging of your pets’ food or your own. Artificial ingredients have no nutritional value. They’re just there to make food look fancy. We think there are plenty of natural foods just bursting with colour (like pumpkin, raspberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes … and so much more). Artificial colours aren’t necessary.
It’s all about gluten these days. Everyone’s off gluten. Should your pets steer clear, too? Probably. While it’s not necessarily going to kill them, there can be side effects if your pet consumes too much. Allergies, hot spots, skin problems and ear trouble may mean your pet is eating too much gluten.
Similar to white flour and refined sugar, corn syrup can cause blood sugar spikes, which can lead to diabetes and obesity. Worse, this super sweet sweetener is addictive, which means your pet will crave sweet treats, and that’s not healthy.
Xylitol (or other sweeteners)
Speaking of sweeteners, this one’s a big no no. Xylitol is toxic to pets. Period, full stop. Read all about it here:
In high doses, this preservative (used to extend the shelf-life of your pet’s food) can cause a blood disorder called methemoglobin. Try to avoid any foods with chemical preservatives. The American Cancer Society says, “When sodium nitrite combines with proteins, nitrosamines are formed. Nitrosamine ingestion can cause cancer in animals over time.”
You may be thinking, “But I thought soy was healthy?!” And you’re right, it is. It’s one of the few plant protein sources that contains all the necessary amino acids. That said, pets often find soy difficult to digest. It’s not “toxic” but it can cause bloating and gas.
Propylene glycol is FDA-approved. It’s also found in plenty of new antifreeze concoctions. According to Wikipedia, “It is an odorless, colorless, sweet-tasting, viscous liquid.” Would we feed it to our pets? No way.
Unfortunately, its name can be misleading. Vegetable oil, which sounds healthy, is mostly made of cheap corn and soybean oils. It also often contains high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. Yep, omegas are good. But some omega 6s can cause inflammation. And too much Omega 6 can aggravate arthritis and causes of hip and joint pain in your pets.
Learn more about PureForm's Omega3 formula ...
This additive is being used in foods as a cheap binder, anti-caking agent and emulsifier. It’s also used in diet foods to resemble fats. Cellulose is indigestible. It’s also cheap, which is why it’s being used more and more often in pet foods.
According to the FDA, “Digests are materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavours.” That sounds like an oxymoron. “Only a small amount of a ‘chicken digest’ is needed to produce a ‘Chicken Flavored Cat Food,’ even though no actual chicken is added to the food.” That doesn’t sound good.
What can you feed your pets?
Lots of good stuff!
When it comes to your pets, a whole, natural, raw food diet is best. If that’s not doable (we get it, not everyone can feed a raw diet), opt for kibbles and wet foods with as few additives and preservatives as possible. Read your labels and look for real ingredients at the top of the list.
A good rule of thumb is … if in doubt, don’t. If you’re not sure whether or not a certain food is safe for your pet, don’t feed it. Better safe than sorry.
That was a lot of information, we know. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, food, or anything else for that matter, give us a holler in the comments below! We’re always here to help.