By Mara Ratnofsky, DVM
General Medicine, Angell Animal Medical Center
Chocolate can cause seizures, coma and death
Chocolate contains methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine) which stimulate the nervous system. Vomiting and diarrhea usually occur 2-4 hours after ingestion, followed by increased urination, muscle tremors, increased body temperature, and irregular heartbeat. Seizures, coma, and death can occur 12-36 hours after ingestion. There is no specific antidote to give when your dog eats chocolate, but hospitalization for monitoring and supportive care is very important. Possible therapies include medications to make the dog vomit, feeding activated charcoal to absorb the toxins, and administration of sedatives, IV fluids, and other medications. The smaller the dog and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous the situation.
Grapes and Raisins can cause kidney failure
The toxic compound in grapes and raisins has yet to be identified, but for some dogs ingestion of even a small amount can cause kidney failure. Any dogs can be affected, however some dogs seem to tolerate grapes and raisins without a problem. Clinical signs of toxicity may start a few hours after ingestion and include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, and decreased urine production. Immediate medical care is necessary to try to prevent permanent kidney damage.
Xylitol (sugar substitute) can cause liver failure and blood clotting problems
Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in gum and candy. It has some beneficial effects, such as decreased tooth decay, but in dogs even a small dose can cause a profound drop in blood sugar. Symptoms usually start about 30 minutes after ingestion, and include weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting, seizures, and coma. Treatment involves intravenous administration of a sugar solution and medications to correct electrolyte imbalances. At higher doses, xylitol can cause liver failure and blood clotting problems. Treatment includes supportive care and medications to help improve liver function.
Garlic, Onions, and Chives can cause anemia and kidney failure
Large amounts of these products can significantly damage red blood cells causing anemia and possible kidney failure. While your dog may not choose to eat an entire onion, be aware that baby food (often recommended to improve a sick dog’s appetite) frequently contains onion and garlic powder, and garlic supplements contain high doses of concentrated garlic. Signs of toxicity include weakness, pale gums, and rapid heart rate. Blood transfusions, intravenous fluids, and medications are the mainstays of treatment.
Macadamia Nuts can cause weakness, vomiting and fever
Twelve hours after ingestion of macadamia nuts, dogs may show severe weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting, fever, and depression. The reason macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs is not well understood, and most dogs recover well after 24-48 hours. However, hospitalization and supportive care may be necessary to aid recovery.
Kale can cause kidney and bladder stones
Kale might be nutritious for humans, but keep it away from your dogs. Lots of pet owners have started feeding kale ribs to their dogs as a treat, but kale is high in calcium oxalate, which can cause health issues including kidney and bladder stones. Most dogs can recover at home with medication, however hospitalization and supportive care may be necessary to aid recovery.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten any of these items, contact your veterinarian or Angell’s 24/7 Emergency Service (617-522-7282) for advice as soon as possible.