An Ounce Of Prevention

It was Superbowl Sunday. We had chips and dip on the coffee table, bourbon chicken in the oven, and we had just wrapped our mini hot dogs in crescent rolls. They were sitting on the dining room table, ready to go in the oven when the bourbon chicken was finished. Then, all hell broke loose: The phone rang. The doorbell rang. The toilet overflowed. No one was watching our pup, Pepsi.
Within minutes, our 22-pound vacuum cleaner consumed an entire package worth of crescent rolls and half a package worth of raw mini hot dogs. I immediately started Googling and calling veterinarians until someone answered.
It is people food. It won’t hurt us, so it shouldn’t hurt our 22 pound mutt, right?! I tried to reassure myself, but Google shook me. When a dog eats raw dough, the dough continues to rise while in the dog’s stomach and can cause blockage. Also, the stomach is warm and moist- just the right environment to promote the fermentation of the alcohol in the dough which can be toxic (ethanol toxicosis).
We were advised to give her hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. The poor pup was okay and learned her lesson. Thankfully we were home and able to act quickly.
After that incident, I realized how much I don’t know. What foods are okay for dogs? What is poisonous to our precious fur babies? March 18-24 is National Pet Poison Prevention Week, so it seems like the perfect time to research, reflect, and understand better how to keep our sweet fur babies safe.
I started thinking about all my “whoops” moments as a pet parent. Please know that I would NEVER EVER intentionally harm an animal- especially one who is a member of my family. I am sharing my stories in the hope that it prevents the same issue from happening to someone else’s fur baby.
Superbowl Sunday a previous year, my previous pup (Cuddles) ate some vanilla sheet cake that was frosted with milk chocolate icing. (The cake was decorated like a field with sugar “players,” lines, et cetera- and she ate the losing team. I should have bet on that game! Haha!) The vet advised us to watch her for anything unusual, but since it was milk chocolate and not much was consumed, we did not need to induce vomiting. Another time she consumed a bag of dark chocolates (wrappers and all). That time we needed to immediately induce vomiting. Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
When Pepsi was just a puppy, we had a mouse in the garage. The kids were at the dining room table, snacking on grapes. We moved them to my bedroom in front of a movie so that we could try to lure the mouse out of the garage while the kids were entertained and out of the way. In the chaos of the moment, we forgot to move the grapes off the table. Pepsi consumed about one serving of grapes while we were trying to catch the mouse. We had to induce vomiting. Luckily, Pepsi was okay. (I’m not sure I can say the same about the mouse who surely had a heart attack that day.)  Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.

Once we brought home two beautiful butcher cuts of Angus steak. We had so many groceries that we kept taking trips to the car and leaving the bags on the kitchen floor. In a matter of seconds, Pepsi had consumed one and a half of the steaks. We did not need to induce vomiting, but we were definitely more careful about our groceries after that incident.  Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.
Here are some additional tips from ASPCA:
  • Alcohol (and even foods that contain alcohol) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
  • Citrus- The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.
  • When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.
  • Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours. Other nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets. (That being said, I do give my pup peanuts and peanut butter on occasion as a treat. Peanuts are not toxic, but are high in fat. Fats are hard to digest, so they should be given in small quantities.)
  • Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.
  • Onions, garlic, and chives can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. You might think about giving your dog a burger, but think twice if it has been seasoned with these items.
  • Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.
  • Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. Some people use regular (people) toothpaste to brush their dogs’ teeth. This is a big NO NO! Pet parents, not intending any harm, can actual be harming their pups. Also, don’t leave your purse around if it has candy or gum. Same with a pack of gum in your pants pocket. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Together, we can keep our precious fur babies safe.
All research for this piece is from:
ASPCA. “People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets.” ASPCA, 2018,
If you have a pet poison control emergency, contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435 or your local poison control center.
Posted in Education & Information and tagged , , .

Gwen Kusznier is mom to a 12-year old competitive gymnast, a 10-year old AAA hockey player, an adorable 8-year old furball with an adorable underbite (rescued through S&L and fostered by Dee and Paul), and a baby parakeet. She is also the wife to a beer league hockey player. She loves them all fiercely.

Gwen teaches eighth grade English- Language Arts at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School. She believes that everyone can make a difference and should pursue their passions to make the world a better place. Her students amaze her with their clever Humanity Service Learning Projects in which they educate others about and volunteer for charities such as HarnessLife.

Gwen has been involved in numerous book clubs and writing groups. As she begins her volunteering with HL, Gwen is excited to harness her creativity energies with this new chapter in her life.

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