When Food is Fido's Foe
We are coming into fall, and one can't escape the signs of all of our upcoming holidays, complete with parties, goodies, and feasts to help us celebrate. During this time we need to stay alert to our pets' interest in these celebratory items: we don't want to spend a holiday at the emergency clinic, or nursing a sick pet back to health from ingesting foods or treats that are safe for us but can cause illness in them.
Halloween -- Keep pets away from lit Jack O'Lantern candles. Of course you'll want to keep your pets safely indoors, maybe in a quiet interior room, on this night of goblins and witches and doorbells and -- Trick or Treat !-- candies and cookies containing chocolate or raisins. Most dogs love chocolate, but as little as 1/2 ounce of dark chocolate could be toxic to a small dog. Chocolate can cause elevated heart rate, weakness, neurological signs (staggering, collapsing) and can even be fatal -- "death by chocolate" is not a joke, for a dog.
Raisins, even a "toddler size" snack box, can cause irreversable kidney disease in a dog.
Should your dog get into the treat bag, or the stash of candies, call your vet, your local emergency vet if your vet is closed, or contact the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline at 1 (888) 426-4435 -- there is a fee for consulting the hotline, but it could be worth your pet's life if your local vet is unavailable. It is most helpful if you know how long ago the pet ate the treats, and the amount, and what they are (milk chocolate coated cookies versus solid dark chocolate "chunks", etc).
The next major feasting event in most households is Thanksgiving. Of course there may be chocolate, in silk pies or bowls of snacks on tables. Raisins remain toxic -- they can be in mincemeat. The star of most Thanksgiving tables is turkey or goose -- the meat of poultry is not inherently toxic to dogs and cats, but the fat under the skin, which makes luscious gravy, tastes wonderful to our pets and overconsumption of fat, salt, or spices can trigger gastrointestinal upset, voming, diarrhea, lack of appetite and even inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis, which is very painful and can be quite serious. Don't let your guests give your pet treats from the table -- if your pet is accustomed to a little bit of leftovers, YOU need to be the one to decide how much, and what -- don't feel you are going to spoil them a bit by giving more "just this once": if they become sick from too much rich food all at once, you'll feel terrible about it.
December brings scads of holiday parties in most cultures -- Hanukkah, with foil-wrapped chocolate "geld", Christmas, with cookies, chocolates, macadamia nuts, Kwanzaa, all of these with rich holiday foods. Other cautions around the holidays include typical plants like poinsettia, mistletoe or Jerusalem cherries all of which are toxic if eaten. Let's all enjoy the upcoming holidays safe and secure from household items which can act as poisons!
- Dr. Andrea Frost