Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 27, 2012

Watch your cabinets, countertops for toxic foods


— A number of foods in your kitchen can be deadly to your cats and dogs. You may know some, and others may surprise you.

Dr. Dorothy Black, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said these foods may not always cause toxic reactions. “But it’s just a good rule of thumb to keep these items off your kitchen counters and under no circumstances feed these foods to your pet,” she said.

Grapes and raisins possess an unknown toxic substance that can lead to renal failure. Toxic doses have been reported with just one or two grapes or raisins. There is no known antidote, only supportive care and dialysis to support kidney recovery.

Not all animals will suffer kidney failure after ingesting grapes or raisins, but it is best to avoid them for your dogs and cats.

“Grapes can be particularly tricky for dogs, because many actually like to eat grapes, so you have to be especially aware,” said Black. “Our pets are amazing creatures, but they can really get into dangerous situations with human food very quickly.”

Chocolate is also commonly known to be bad for pets. It contains two toxic ingredients - caffeine and theobromine. Dark chocolate is especially harmful because it has a higher concentration of toxic metabolites than milk chocolate or white chocolate.

Signs of distress seen after chocolate ingestion include anxiety/anxiousness, hyperactivity, urination, elevated body temperature, seizures and irregular heart rhythms. There is no antidote, but supportive care is usually successful for recovery.

Xylitol is a common sugar substitute now used in many kitchens. If ingested by pets, it is associated with a severe decline in blood sugar and liver failure. The exact mechanism of toxicity is unknown, and there is no antidote. While supportive care is typically successful, liver failure may still occur.

“It is important to remember that if you cook or use xylitol in your foods, those foods should not be fed to pets,” Black said. “It is still toxic if used in cooking or baking.”

Onions, garlic, and chives are also toxic. They contain allicin, which is released upon crushing or chewing the plant. Allicin damages the hemoglobin in red blood cells, leading to anemia. There is no antidote, though supportive care is typically successful.

While cats are especially affected by onions and garlic, dogs are especially susceptible to macadamia nut toxicity. An unknown toxin in the nut leads to difficulty walking, high body temperatures, depression and vomiting. No deaths have been reported, but hospital care is often required.

“Supportive care, which is the usual treatment for food toxicity, often works to recover pets who ingest these foods,” Black said. “But these supportive treatments to get pets back on their feet are often very costly for the owner and difficult for the patient. In cases that require dialysis, pets have a difficult road to recovery.”

Foods mentioned here should be kept off countertops and out of reach of pets, and under no circumstances fed to dogs and cats. Preventing pets from ingesting these items is the best way to keep them safe. But, if they do ingest these foods, contact your veterinarian immediately.


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.