How not to poison your pet this Christmas

Christmas is a time when humans enjoy food, but there are some seasonal human foods that can cause problems for our pets.

Foodstuffs that can poison pets

Chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine. The lethal dose is around 1 to 2.5 grams for a 10kg dog. This could be as little as two ounces of dark baking chocolate.

Coffee and tea contain caffeine: for my 10kg dog, the lethal dose is around 1.5g  so my dog would need to drink 10 cups of filter coffee (or even more cups of tea) which is an unlikely occurrence. .

Onions and garlic contain so-called organothiosulphates, which are toxic but pets rarely eat enough to fall ill (the quantities used to flavour human meals are generally safe).

Grapes and raisins seem innocuous, but in 2001 the first article was published in the USA about their potential toxicity to dogs, and since then, the phenomenon has been recognised across the world. In the UK, there were 23 cases between 2003 and 2005. The toxic agent remains unknown but it can cause severe, fatal renal failure, after ingestion of relatively small quantities of grapes or raisins. The lowest dose that has been known to cause problems is 20g/kg of grapes (perhaps 20 grapes for my 10kg dog), or 3g/kg of raisins (about 20 – 30 raisins for my 10kg dog). In one study, 60% of dogs that ate substantial amounts of grapes were poisoned: it’s now recommended that every dog that has eaten grapes or raisins should be treated intensively to reduce the risk of complications.

Macadamia nuts also contain an unidentified toxic compound that has not yet been identified which causes weakness and collapse in dogs when eaten in moderate amounts. My 10kg terrier would need to eat between 7 and 20 nuts to be affected.

Salt is safe when added to food as seasoning, but when eaten in large quantities, pets can be fatally poisoned. As an example, one large dog died after being force fed 10 teaspoonfuls of salt by her owner in an effort to make the dog vomit after eating chocolate.

Xylitol is a sweetening agent known as “E976” that’s common in toothpaste and chewing gum and some sweets. The first case of pet poisoning happened in 2004 when a Labrador ate around 100 pieces of a sugar-free chewing gum.The dog collapsed from an ultra-low blood sugar, but recovered after treatment. Other pets have since died in similar circumstances.

Alcohol can be poisonous for pets, just as for humans. A couple of measures of spirits would cause severe poisoning to a10kg dog.

Cats are less commonly poisoned than dogs because they are fussier about what they consume.

Texts from listeners

  • What’s Pete opinion on raw dog food?
  • Our dog was being minded for four days when we were away, we noticed a lump on her upper chest yesterday when we picked her up, it’s the size of s small ping pong ball and seems soft and fluid filled not hard and not sore, should we be worried? Pat black rock
  • My dog is Toilet trained and for years we have had no issues. However over the last few months he is soiling everywhere, what could the issue be. He is 10 years old.
  • I have a 13 year old male neutered Labrador who is suffering from fecal incontinence. He doesn’t know he is going and then seems embarrassed. We have a toddler and a 4 year old, it’s not a nice environment for them. What can we do? He’s a house dog, is outside 2 – 3 hours per day. Help! Alan in Kildare
  • I have 10 month pointer keeps shaking his head as ears irritated. Tried cleaning with ointment etc but no joy. Any suggestions? John
  • Our 3 yr old shih tzu was put on oramec(sheep wormer) low daily dose a year ago for demodex and our vet tells us she must remain on this for life. Why is this?
  • 5 year old Pom had a very tight haircut 6 months ago. Her hair has grown again but not on her back. Any ideas what’s caused this? Tony in Balbriggan.

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1 Comment

  • Heather May says:

    for the dog that has started to poo inside if you have a toddler who isnt toilet trained the dog could pick up the smell and poo indoors.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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