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Plenty of stuff can be toxic for dogs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: Your column on toxins affecting cats was most interesting. I don’t have cats, but I’m wishing you would do a similar column concerning dogs. Our two beagles love fruit and veggies. I know grapes are toxic for dogs, as is chocolate. But I am wondering if there are other human foods that could be bad for them.

Dr. Nichol: There is a long list of household disasters waiting for our dogs. Unlike cats, they’ll eat almost anything. Many ant and roach baits come mixed with peanut butter, jelly and bread crumbs. Some contain insecticides that are potentially deadly for genetically predisposed dogs, like some herding breeds. Birth control pills are a canine favorite that seldom create problems, but other drugs can spell big trouble. Swallowed silica gel packets may result in stomach upset and intestinal blockage.

Household detergents will irritate the stomach and eyes but unless a really large volume is consumed medical attention is seldom necessary. Acids and other corrosives severely damage the mouth, stomach, intestines, and skin. Eye exposure or inhaling the fumes can be devastating. Drain openers, dishwasher detergents, alkaline batteries and toilet bowl cleaners contain alkaline corrosives that turn body tissues to liquid. Cationic detergents, found in fabric softeners, some potpourri oils, hair mousse and sanitizers can cause severe lethargy and coma.

Lithium disc batteries can be swallowed or even inhaled. Pennies minted after 1982 and many screws, nuts and bolts contain zinc, which breaks down red blood cells leading to vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, dark red urine, diarrhea, jaundice and kidney failure. Dogs who eat paintballs may stagger, seizure and die. Chocolate eaters show similar signs but face a much greater risk.

Consumption of moldy food can lead to trembling, seizures and death. Grapes and raisins have killed dogs by damaging their kidneys. Xylitol, a sugar substitute, causes a rapid insulin release leading to low blood sugar. These dogs can become weak, stagger, seizure and lapse into a coma.


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Like cats, dogs will happily eat rodent poison as well as poisoned rodents. They may gorge on chewable veterinary drugs or eat houseplants. Poison proofing for pets can be harder than for toddlers.

Q: You printed an article stating garlic was poison for dogs. Every professional handler’s treat of choice is calf liver, sprinkled with much garlic. I myself have used this treat for 30 years. There was never an incident of a dog being poisoned. Let’s set the record straight.

Dr. Nichol: You are right; lots of dogs and humans eat things that aren’t good for them. They seem to dodge the bullet because they don’t consume enough to cause symptoms, but there is still low-level damage. For clarity, here again is a portion of my answer to the garlic question of two weeks ago: “According to Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, Ph.D., a specialist in veterinary toxicology, ‘Any amount of garlic is going to cause some red blood cell damage – it’s only when the amount of garlic is sufficient to damage enough cells that you’ll see symptoms.’ My comment was, “If I were you I wouldn’t risk it.” With my pets, I play it safe.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides medical care for pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). He treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Contact Dr. Nichol on his website (click Submit a Question?) or 6633 Caminito Coors NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120. Find me on Facebook.