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Did You Know… Common Foods That Poison Dogs

August 4, 2012

Those of us who have, or have had, dogs, know that most of them will eat anything. ANYTHING. We had a dog who used to eat heaps of gravel, and another who routinely ate balloons. Yet, even knowing this, I somehow had the thought in my head that dogs would have some kind of instinct that would stop them actively poisoning themselves. They really don’t, though. Dogs are related to wolves, they say, and ‘they’ (meaning here sources that I can’t remember) further say that dogs are like wolf pups, eternally stuck at a juvenile level of maturity. I don’t know if that is true or if, being true, that makes a difference on an instinctual level. I don’t know, for instance, if an adult wolf would sniff at a block of the best Whitaker’s 72% cocoa dark chocolate and have some instinct inform his or her wolfy self to leave it alone, and if a pup would eat it, much as dogs do. Not that any of this matters: I just wonder these things.

My portrait (pastel pencils) of Ma Cherie, who was a very cool dog with no observable instincts when it came to That Which Dogs Should Not Eat

I tend to follow obscure trails here in cyber land and, being interested in additive-free and good-for-you homemadeness, I often read recipes. Sometimes they are about homemade dog treats that are supposed to variously render your pooch healthy, happy, flea-free and smelling gorgeous. That’s a lovely thought and I’m all for additive-free, lovingly prepared doggie treats. But some of these well-intentioned animal lovers would do well to first educate themselves. Not all people-food is good for dogs. Some people-food is really poisonous– usually in a cumulative way. So I’ve decided to compile a bit of a list. I’m not talking about things that could cause obstructions and need surgery to remove (corn cobs and peach stones) or things that we all know aren’t good for dogs (alcohol and sugary food). My list is about (mostly) ‘healthy’ people-food that is harmful to dogs.

The first on my list is Onions and Garlic.

Basically, Onions and garlic contain stuff that destroys red blood cells, causing anaemia. Onions– raw, cooked or powdered– are worse than garlic. If you dog is suffering from anaemia, they may be very flat, be vomiting, and be breathless. I guess their gums would be pale, too. So miss the garlic out of any recipe that you might be making for your beloved poochie and read the baby food label before feeding leftovers to the walking rubbish bin: apparently the savoury options often contain powdered onion.

The next one is Raisins, Sultanas and Grapes.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of dogs who habitually rob the grape-vine but my sister-in-law (vet nurse and animal fact go-to girl) says that a cup of raisins can poison a German Shepherd. A very flat, vomiting dog who has eaten a lot of grapes or raisins could be suffering kidney damage for their trouble. Nasty. So keep your Christmas Cake and your Christmas Mince Pies out of reach, and no sharing the leftovers!!

Raw Eggs

I don’t feel like getting technical, but too many raw eggs will, over time, lead to skin and coat problems and make dogs deficient in some kind of B vitamin. (Google it if you care why 🙂 ) 


O Whittaker’s you do make the best Chocolate mmmm… But, as gorgeous as chocolate is, most of us know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Chocolate contains cocoa, which contains theobromine, which affects the nervous system and the heart. Pure cocoa is the deadliest, and of chocolate, the darker it is, the more deadly it is to dogs (and humans, incidentally. However, we would need to eat a whole lot of chocolate to do us any harm as our systems can process the theobromine a lot faster than dogs’ can.) The list of symptoms is quite long and scary. There is the vomiting and the staggering and the breathing and heart problems and the comas and the falling down dead. Not nice. The ready-fire-aim AmStaff of my SIL (the vet nurse) once got hold of a block of gorgeous Whittaker’s 72% cocoa chocolate that technically wasn’t even within reach and, when it was discovered, the dog was then made to ingest a quantity of charcoal under vet supervision. It seemed to do the trick, but it was a very stressful day!!

Speaking of the staggering and whatnot, here’s a story from my childhood that ties in with our accidental poisoning theme:

This is not Baby, but she pretty much looked like this when she was young and had eyes. When we had her she only had one eye and it didn’t work and her coat was hardly ever this short…

My mother had a dog that she adored whose name was Baby. She was an American Cocker Spaniel and was kind of inherited from my Nana. Through no fault of her own, Baby had developed some really disgusting personal habits that, being irrelevant in this context, I won’t go into here. One of her milder habits was eating flour. If Mum left the lid off the flour bin when she was making bread, Baby would plunge her bad black head into the flour and come out looking considerably whiter. One day Mum left pita bread dough rising on her bed in the sun and forgot to shut the door. Baby was stone-blind but her nose worked fine and she, unseen (and unseeing haha), got up on the bed and had a good chew on the dough. We don’t know how much she ate, as the dough was rising, but we noticed the signs on the dough that advertised Baby’s transgression. I actually remember this day really well, because people who had been our next door neighbours when I was a pre-schooler turned up unannounced while my older sister was cutting out her dress for highschool graduation and Mum was smoking out the house burning oil while trying to cook pita bread and the dog was staggering around the front lawn, abdomen swelling and (we soon realised) getting really drunk from the yeast turning to alcohol in her stomach. Mum took Baby to the vet and it turned out she had alcohol poisoning and had to stay overnight and have fluids via IV. Mum never attempted pita bread again. We still laugh about that day but, ooh, poor Baby!

Other people-foods that dogs shouldn’t have are Avocados, Macadamia Nuts and Raw Fish.

All of the parts of the avocado plant can be toxic for dogs; macadamia nuts affect the nervous system; and raw fish can lead to a deficiency in one of the B vitamins while fish like trout and salmon can transmit parasites to dogs that can kill them in a fortnight. To avoid this, alway cook the fish.

This is by no means a definitive list: I just got a basic list from my SIL and then did a quick online search for specific symptoms and things. I compiled my information from these three web pages:

WebMD , Rising Woods and Entirely Pets


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