TO FEED OR NOT TO FEED, PART 1: PEOPLE FOODS YOUR PETS SHOULD AVOID
Posted on August 01 2019
That deep-focus hungry look...you know it so well.
This plate can proffer some treats, but what foods won't make the cut?
by Talia Colosimo
I have to say that as the mother of a curious toddler, I hear myself say “no” perhaps more than any other word. (So much so, that now even I steer clear of the electrical outlets...) But as certain as I am that that tiny, yet powerful word will paint me a villain in my household for years to come, I have absolutely zero intention of curbing its incessant use. I am, undoubtedly, a necessary evil as those “no’s” are justified (though not by my son) as means to protect his fragile life for which my husband and I have so happily, mindfully, lovingly claimed responsibility.
Similarly, as a pet parent, the ceaseless ejections of “no” are used more often than not to preserve one of two things: your dog and all things that aren’t (including, but not limited to that antique armoire you inherited from a great aunt, a haughty neighborhood cat, a carefully manicured flower bed - are you following us?). We get it! Their very existence calls you to cater to every whim and whimper, but when it comes to sharing parcels of food from your plate, there is a very distinguishable line to be drawn. The fact remains that dogs are simply not physically, or even biologically, equipped to ingest or process the same foods we are without varying consequences. Thus, it is essential to their health and your peace of mind to educate yourself on those food items deemed unsafe for canine consumption:
Alcohol: We highly doubt you’ll be decanting a bottle of vino to share with your Vizsla anytime soon, however it should still be mentioned that alcoholic beverages and food products containing or prepared with alcohol pose serious threats to your dog’s health. While some foods on this list are discouraged without being particularly catastrophic, alcohol is one that should certainly be avoided at all costs.
Alliums: There are two distinct things that alliums (namely garlic, onions, chives, leeks, shallots and the like) should avoid like the plague: first dates and dogs. While they’re known for blessing foods across all cuisines with their distinct punch of flavor, for dogs they mean trouble. Allium ingestion puts our dogs at risk of a condition known as hemolytic anemia, in which the red blood cells essentially disintegrate causing eventual breathlessness, weakness and vomiting. If untreated, your dog could very well collapse due to inadequate oxygenation throughout his body. To ensure his safety, be mindful that when in doubt, blander is better.
Almonds: These “tough little nuts” may not be toxic to dogs like their macadamia cousins are, however they can still block or cause damage to a dog’s windpipe if not thoroughly chewed. Furthermore, the salted variety may cause an increase in water retention, which could prove to be fatal to dogs prone to heart disease.
Apple Seeds: Apples: yes. Apple seeds, on the other hand: a resounding no. And why? Apple seeds are enveloped in a casing that contains a natural chemical that releases cyanide when dogs digest it. There may not be signs of immediate distress if ingested, however apple seeds can slowly poison your dog and deteriorate his digestive system. For obvious reasons, ensure that any pieces of apple shared with your dog are absent of those contentious kernels.
Avocados: Sadly, though Avocados reign supreme on our list of Super Foods, they are among the worst items to feed your dog. Not only are the large pits a potential choking hazard, but Avocados also contain a chemical called Persin that is highly toxic to your dog. In fact, the compound is so abundant in their leaves, bark and seeds that it is recommended to sidestep Avocado trees on walks or even cordon off the fruit-bearing tree in your own backyard for safe measure.
Baby Food: Baby food does not a fur baby good. Aside from the fact that babies and dogs have completely different nutritional needs, jarred baby foods, especially those that contain naturally blander vegetables and proteins, often contain traces of flavor enhancers such as garlic, onion and other ingredients that are toxic to dogs. When your child is of age to begin baby-led weaning and self-feeding, be sure you refer to the nutritional labels prior to allowing your dog to savor the spoils that wander beyond her high-chair tray.
Cat Food: If you’re the proud owner of both cats and dogs, you may have found yourself in the familiar quandary where you’ve run low or completely out of food for your pup and consequently supplement his bowl with cat food. Sure, in a pinch it’ll serve its purpose, but as cat food contains higher amounts of proteins and fats specifically tailored to their nutritional needs, this is not a habit you wish to adopt.
Caffeine/Chocolate: Chocolate, by far, seems to be the most acknowledged enemy of dogs. Cacao, the predominant ingredient in chocolate, contains two main methylxanthines, or stimulants, that hinder a dog’s metabolic process: caffeine and theobromine. Whether or not you’re fluent in chemicals, compounds and molecular makeups, the important takeaway is their toxicity to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the higher the level of methylxanthines and thus, the larger danger it poses to your pet (with white chocolate having the lowest level, and baking chocolate containing the highest). Keep your secret stash of confections as inaccessible as possible.
Chewing Gum: We can all agree that the easiest way to quell our malodorous mouths is by means of chewing a minty-cool piece of gum. This solution, however, is not suitable for our dogs for two distinct reasons. Foremost, gum (as well as other gummy candies) can cause bowel obstructions if swallowed. Perhaps even more alarming though, is the presence of xylitol that is highly toxic to your dog. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is derived from a sugar alcohol. Though it’s perfectly safe for us and most commonly used in various products from gum to toothpaste, in dogs and other animal species, it can cause the release of insulin and subsequently, hypoglycemia and possible liver failure.
Citrus: As you might expect, there are varying degrees of the severity of consequences among the foods on this list. Citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and the like) ingested in small amounts are not likely to present problems in your pet beyond that of a minor stomach ache that perhaps only he might be aware. In larger quantities, however, citric acid and the essential oils present in citrus fruits could very well cause irritation or worse, depression of the central nervous system when ingested or inhaled (by way of scent diffusers, for instance). Nonetheless, we’d recommend simply foregoing it as a snack option and being perhaps a bit more mindful when seeking serenity in your home spa via aromatherapy.
Coconut/Coconut Water: Though coconut and coconut-based products are perfectly safe for your pet in moderation (and can actually have positive effects on their overall health), they can have too much of a good thing. The flesh and milk of coconuts when largely consumed may cause gastrointestinal distress and so, we still suggest limiting the amount of these foods offered to your pet. On the other hand, Coconut water is high in potassium and should be avoided altogether.
Cooked Bones: While they may be near synonymous with dogs, bones - especially cooked bones - are definitely among the more perilous foods on our list. The cooking process strips bones of their moisture, rendering them extremely brittle and easily capable of splintering. These fractured fragments can wreak absolute havoc on the teeth, esophagus and digestive tract of your canine. And while some consider raw bones a more natural option, playing it extra safe and opting for bone-shaped treats (essentially for effect, of course) is the ideal scenario here. We’re certain they’ll be grateful regardless!
Grapes/Raisins: Despite the scientific feats we’ve acheived thus far, the reason behind why grapes and their dehydrated counterparts are toxic to dogs remains unknown, though the grave threat they pose is very well documented. Even seemingly negligible amounts can prove fatal to a dog and their wrath pays no mind to size, age or breed. For dog-owning families with smaller children who consider both grapes and raisins as ideal snack options (and they are), we implore you to proceed with extreme caution to ensure the safety of your animal.
Macadamia Nuts: As pet parents, I’m sure you’ve seen Buster enjoy his fair share of things that might suggest his stomach were an impenetrable iron fortress, though that is certainly not the case. And macadamia nuts, as luck would have it, are one of those that test his intestinal integrity. Research conducted by the Veterinary Medicine Publication has showed that even trace amounts of the nut, though not fatal in most cases, is enough to render your pup quite ill, displaying symptoms such as lethargy, general weakness, and even depression. Consumption of macadamia nuts in larger quantities, however, could potentially result in macadamia poisoning, though symptoms as severe as hypothermia and tremors may not rear their ugly heads for upwards of 12 hours. If you suspect your dog has consumed these nuts in any amount, be sure to keep him under close observation.
Milk/Dairy: For those of us who Camembert the thought of completely eradicating cheese from their dog’s diet, do not fret. The occasional morsel of Manchego covertly slipped under cover of dinner table shouldn’t hurt as long as the instances are just that - occasional. While there exist dogs who are lactose intolerant, most dogs simply lack enough of the enzyme lactase responsible for adequately assimilating milk products. In most cases, the worst that could befall your beloved pup if too much high-fat dairy is consumed is pancreatitis, though mild gastrointestinal distress is a more common consequence.
Raw/Undercooked Animal Products: As with humans, dogs too are susceptible to the harmful bacteria present in raw animal products. Raw or undercooked meats and poultry are often rampant in Salmonella and E. Coli while raw fish such as Salmon, may contain a parasite vulnerable to contracting certain bacteria that could be fatal to dogs. Additionally, eggs possess an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of B Vitamin, Biotin, which in turn could prove problematic for your pet’s skin and coat. I suppose, when it comes to all things raw, it’s best to simply say Tartare.
Salty Foods: Excessive amounts of salt are never good for anyone - and that rule transcends all species. Aside from water retention, your pets are susceptible to a host of issues from consuming large quantities of sodium including unquenchable thirst, incessant urination, sodium ion poisoning and worse. As such, the feeding and overfeeding of salty snacks to your dog should be avoided.
Yeast: As it is used as a leavening agent, yeast in raw dough possesses the capability to continue rising even after consumption causing pain, blockages and bloat. Bloating in dogs is particularly dangerous as their stomachs have the potential to twist, thereby threatening their lives. In addition, ethanol is a by-product of yeast and can cause symptoms similar to those attained after consumption of alcohol. If your dog has mastered the art of scouring the countertops at will in search of something to satiate him, it is in his best interest to especially keep yeast dough safely out of reach.
As it so happens, the fun of parenting does not stop with human babies. Oh no. Those delicious babies of the furry assortment are just as much culprits – guilty of stealing our hearts, usurping our lives, and beckoning even the mightiest of men to fall, often willingly, at their padded paws. That instinct, I tell you, is biological (no, really, it is) and we completely understand where you’re coming from. We’re meant to lavish our dogs with unprovoked and often irrational affection. We’re also called to fiercely protect the ones we love, which often means denying those squishy, little faces that which they crave. And in the end, should they still beg and plead at your feet, just gently remind them that they’ll understand when they’re older *wink*. Well, maybe they won’t, but you certainly will.