Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Top Ten Toxins in the Kitchen

I found this sticker at the CVC DC conference on the Pet Poison Helpline desk.

I thought it was a good reminder about all of the pet hazards that lie about our homes. Many of which most of us don't realize are toxic to our pets.

These top ten are based on the number of reported cases to the Pet Poison Helpline.

Here they are;

1. Chocolate.
Most people (I think?) know that chocolate isn't good for dogs. Luckily, the most toxic chocolate is the dark Bakers chocolate. And luckily, most of us have the milk chocolate kind in our house. Most dogs will eat only a small amount of chocolate, although I have had a few cases where the dog ate a whole tray of brownies, or absconded and devoured the whole Easter basket. I have dealt with many, many chocolate cases, and thankfully never lost a pup to this..But please keep your chocolate out of reach anyway. AND, if you do need to have the dark chocolate used for baking around put it in a sealed sturdy container way up high on the shelf..And I know everyone out there with siblings already knows that it's always a good idea to to hide your Easter candy!


2. Grapes, Raisins, Currants
These are toxic to pets because they can cause kidney damage. I remind my clients to not offer them. I have had many clients admit to feeding frozen grapes, ( a popular summer snack) to their dogs. They had no idea they were dangerous. I once had to hospitalize a small mixed breed dog because she ate a pound of grapes. Thankfully her kidneys were fine. We pulled her blood as soon as she came in for a baseline, then put her on i.v. fluids and hospitalization for 3 days. We also calculated "toxic" dose for her on arrival. Her owners elected to hospitalize her because she was dangerously close to the toxic dose. At the end of the three days we re-checked her blood work and none of her kidney values were any different. So she went home with a lesson well learned by everyone.

My favorite morning cereal.
Granola with raisins!

3. Xylitol/Sugar-Free Gum & Candy
These have become a very big problem. We had never heard of these products 5 years ago, but due to the rise in adult onset diabetes more and more products are coming out with "sugar-free" alternatives. Dogs are very sensitive to xylitol. Whenever anyone calls with a candy ingestion concern we have them read the ingredient list, (or run to the store to get the ingredient list if it to is swimming in the belly of their pet) to see if xylitol is listed. Most of the dogs that we see at our practice has obtained the gum from the owners purse, or from finding it in the car. It's odd to think of a gum as toxic, but it absolutely is.

4. Fatty table scraps
The days after Thanksgiving and Christmas are known as "pancreatitis party-time." Guests and family members alike, in an effort to try to spread the cheer" to the entire family share the high fat festival foods with their pets. Sometimes this is in the form of under the table turkey legs, or letting them lick the grease laden platter clean, or a special holiday meal for the pets too that is a far cry from their normal, healthy, nutritionally complete pet food. For as often as I say "pets and humans share much of the same biology and diseases" we do not share the same diet plan. Humans are able to tolerate a very varied food intake. We can tolerate high fiber cereals, drinks, and foods, and then have a high fat fried dough dessert and be fine the next day. But give your pet one sampling of any one of these and you can easily have acute life threatening vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. The best advice is to do what we have been forced to do here at our house, and just not invite your pets to the party. I almost lost Savannah to a massive sweet Italian sausage smorgasbord at one of our 4th of July parties. She was taken off the gust list forever at that near fatal episode.

BAD! BAD husband!

5. Onions & Garlic
I think that sometimes I just like to hear myself talk on this topic. It is seemingly impossible for me to try to educate some of my farming clients into believing me about these two veggies. I have many clients who started using garlic decades ago for flea and tick prevention and will tell me every time I see them, "Well Doc, it works, and none of the dogs are dead yet." Another experimental tolerance test decided to be "harmless" because the test subject "is not dead yet."
We had a Shih Tzu puppy a few years ago that was fed minced onion in her food, (for some reason I can no longer recollect). She was brought to us lifeless and sheet white. A blood transfusion and three nail-biting days later she survived, but when I first saw her I wasn't too hopeful.
Here is reason number 4 and 5 to not feed table scraps. Therefore avoiding the inadvertent raisin, chocolate, fatty, onion or garlic in your left-overs.

6. Compost
If it smells bad, (or dead, dying, rotting, decaying, or repulsive), your dog will eat it. (Let me remind you of the tampon eating lab, the underwear eating pit bull, and the millions of feces eating other dogs). (Collective "Yuck!" and "Bleck!" from everyone reading this now). So if your dog has access to your compost they may eat it. Don't try to reason your way out of thinking to yourself, "it is rotting food, he won't want to eat that." Because I promise you if you deliver your vomiting, diarrhea caked pup to us we will all nod our heads and say, "If it smells bad, your dog will eat it." Then hand you an estimate for $500 - $1500 worth of diagnostics and treatment options.

Wren guards the compost pile.
Lots of bugs to terrorize.

7. Human Medications
Over the last two decades the stock of pharmaceutical companies has sky rocketed. We are a country of baby boomers aging, and many of us are on daily medications for all sorts of ailments. We also keep those medications handy because we take them daily, (or even more frequently). As a course of convenience and habit we have gotten a little careless with putting them out of harms way, or making them inaccessible. There are also some dogs who just love to chew to the point of picking up and gnawing on anything hard enough to present a few minute challenge to the palate. Dogs like moderately hard plastic with pills in it. It's the chew toy with maraca like charm.
When these calls come to us at the clinic we most often hear one of the following; "I dropped a pill on the floor and the dog ate it before I could pick it up." Or, "I came home and the bottle was chewed and pills were everywhere and I am not sure how many were in there, or if my pet ate any."
Best to keep your medications away in a pet-proof container, and do not drop them..(that happens to all of us. It's like piranah infested waters in our kitchen everyday of the year).

8. Macadamia Nuts
I was a little surprised to see this on the list. I knew they were toxic but I have never seen one in my practice. Maybe it is more common in macadamia native areas? Macadamias are expensive, so I don't imagine too many people are feeding them as treats to their pups? Maybe they are chocolate covered macadamia nuts (a wonderful gift to anyone returning from Hawaii who wants to give something absolutely mouth watering and yummy to their friends they vacationed without! Or perhaps to the veterinary staff that watched your pets while you were there? Just a small suggestion). Maybe its the irresistable choclate covered macadamia nuts that have placed macadamia nut below chocolate? I bet its the combo that got macadamia nuts on the list..Anyone else have any ideas?

9. Household Cleaners
Dogs are not stupid, but they are creatures of habit, and their sniffers operate on a magnitude of sensitivity that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Most of the household toxicities that we see are dogs who have ingested a cleaner after drinking from a recently cleaned toilet. My best piece of advice is to scrutinize every square inch of your home and property (garage's are chock full of toxins) like you are a mischievous child. Look around your home and ask yourself, "What could your child (or pet) possibly get into that would be dangerous?"
My hope is that you will try to avoid even bringing these products into your home. For us at my home that means the following are banned; rat poisons, chemicals, waste car products (oil, gasoline, anti freeze), and no harmful household items, ( I do use bleach but it is away from pet access). There are many safer products to chose from. And really in many cases things like good old soap, water, vinegar, baking soda, etc, do the job and leave you worry free.
For those products we use that are harmful designate an area your pet would not have access to and place the products in a container your pet could not get into even if by some fluke it gained access to it.

10. Unbaked Bread Dough/Alcohol
Smells yummy, but think about your stomach becoming the bowl to hold the rising the bread? All that fermenting space expanding dough in your stomach is one major cause for severe indigestion and nausea. Alcohol also ferments, and is toxic to liver and kidneys.

Another important reminder to keep all foods out of reach.
I have had many clients tell me that their pet got up on the table/counter and stole food that they thought was seemingly out of their reach. Reminds me of the old Garfield cartoons. That cat, or his dim witted accomplice Odie, maneuvered whole dining room sets to figure out ways to abscond that apparently out of reach lasagna.

Lasagna is to both myself and Garfield a food worthy of manipulation, scheming, and deviousness. I cannot pass it up and I eat it in dangerous amounts. But I know it is made of onion, garlic, high fat, lots of carbs, and everything that is good and holy in the world of vegetarians. I will keep my serving for me, eat every last morsel, and spare my pets the dangers of its deliciousness.
Bon Apetit!

For more information on foods that are dangerous to your pet, please see;

The Pet Poison Helpline can be reached at 1-800-213-6680
It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A $35 fee is billed for their services.
Pet Poison Helpline

The stickers were made available by VPI, Veterinary Pet Insurance. 1-866-VET-PETS.

If you are ever unsure what you can and cannot give to your pet you can always call your vet. Or go to our website, and ask one of us. We are veterinary professionals available to you at no cost. You can submit a question or chat with other people who share your interests. We are here to educate and help you keep your pet healthy and happy for the rest of your lives.

Or visit me on Twitter @FreePet Advice.


  1. Isn't garlic kind of debatable? It is widely used in recipes and dog food products; it seems that the dose-dependent toxicity requires quite a high dose ...?

  2. Hi there. I wonder if there's a difference between cooked and raw garlic/onions in terms of their toxicity. Do you know?

    1. I can't tell you based on weight, which is heavily influenced by amount of water content, but all forms are toxic. In fact the worst case I ever saw was with dehydrated onions. Thanks for reading and asking. But just play it safe and avoid them.