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 News :. Table foods hazardous to pets
[05.12.2005]

If you have a pet, you know that they can, at will, instantly orchestrate an Oscar-worthy tableside begging performance complete with pleading eyes, tap dancing feet, lip licking and tail wagging.

So you succumb and give them a piece of avocado off of your salad, a piece of your macadamia nut cookie or a lip-smacking chunk of fat off of the roast. Ahhhh, don't they look just lottery-winning excited to have a tasty treat from the table?

Yes! But did you know some of the more common table foods can be potentially hazardous to pets?

Last year a neighbor of mine in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, gave her pet a Thanksgiving feast of ham trimmings. The dog ended up at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine with acute pancreatitis.

Christmas of 2004 my brother Bob in Meridian, Idaho, called me in a panic because his 5-pound Yorkie, Buddy, had gotten into a Christmas stocking left on the floor and consumed more than one Godiva chocolate bar. In tremors, Buddy was taken to a local veterinary emergency hospital for treatment.

Both dogs lived, but at great expense and worry to their owners.

As many pet owners (veterinarians, too!) enjoy offering their animal companions a tidbit or two of "people food," it is important to be aware of some of the foods that can be potentially harmful.

With the help of Dana B. Farbman, DVT, senior manager, Client and Professional Relations for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA APCC), here's an almost A-Z list of foods that should not be fed to pets, along with the potential effects that could be seen:

 Alcoholic beverages -- These can cause gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, drunkenness (ataxia), central nervous system (CNS) depression, tremors, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), or panting, respiratory failure, acidosis, coma and death.

 Avocado -- Birds in particular are very susceptible to poisoning; respiratory distress, fluid accumulation around the heart, and death can result from ingestions.

 Chocolate (all forms) -- Chocolate can cause GI irritation, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors seizures and even death, depending on the dose ingested.

 Coffee (all forms) -- Coffee can produce the same effects as chocolate, depending on the dose.

 Fatty foods -- Foods high in fat can cause GI upset and abdominal discomfort. Can also result in a fatal inflammatory condition of the pancreas (pancreatitis), particularly in dogs.

 Macadamia nuts -- Macadamias can produce weakness (particularly in the hind legs), depression, vomiting, ataxia and tremors. Thus far, dogs have been the only species reported to the ASPCA APCC that are affected by ingestion of this nut.

 Moldy or spoiled foods -- May contain certain molds that release toxins, which can produce GI irritation, severe tremors, seizures and death. Spoiled food can also contain bacterial toxins, which can produce severe food poisoning signs.

 Onions -- Onions, garlic, chives and the like can produce GI upset, and can cause significant damage to red blood cells.

 Raisins and grapes -- Ingestions have been associated with acute kidney failure in some dogs. Affected dogs initially develop vomiting and drinking a lot of water, then develop diarrhea, kidney failure and death.

 Salt (including foods high in salt) -- Salt and foods containing large quantities of salt can produce a sodium ion poisoning, causing regurgitation, depression, tremors, excessive thirst, diarrhea, elevated body temperature, seizures and death if enough is consumed.

 Tomato -- While the red, ripe fruit is not considered to be toxic, the leaves, stem and green unripe fruit can cause severe GI upset, inappetence, hypersalivation, drowsiness, CNS depression, dilated pupils, weakness and slow heart rate.

 Potato -- As they are in the same family, the green plant parts of the potato can produce similar effects as seen with the tomato.

 Xylitol -- Candy, gum and other products containing large amounts of the sweetener xylitol can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar (particularly in dogs), resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

 Yeast dough -- Yeast-based dough can not only expand in the GI tract as it rises, causing an obstruction or intestinal rupture, the yeast can form alcohol when it rises, which can cause alcohol poisoning.

Pet owners should also keep in mind that while certain foods may not be considered "toxic," in significant amounts they could still potentially produce gastrointestinal upset, especially in animals who are known to have a sensitive GI tract.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises that animal owners always check with their pet's veterinarian before offering any human table food to their pet.

For more information about taboo-treats, information about possible home hazards for pets or to just make yourself more familiar with pet poisons in general, keep the following contact information where it can be instantly located: www.aspca.org/apcc or (888) 426-4435.

"An added perk of never feeding your pet when it begs at the table is that it doesn't get rewarded for begging, which can go from slightly annoying to downright distracting at dinner time," said Janice Willard a veterinary ethologist and pet columnist from Moscow, Idaho.

"Giving treats only when you ask the dog to do something, when you thought of it first, is the best way to have a dog that doesn't beg at the table and reinforces your role as the benevolent leader of your canine family."

By DR. MARTY BECKER

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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