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Your Happy Pet: Five foods your pets should never eat

Original Publication Date: April 14, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Last week, we considered garden plants that can be toxic to your dog. There are also many human foods that can be just as dangerous.

Store candy aisles are brimming with more than the usual amount of chocolate sweets as the Easter bunny hops our way. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is potentially toxic to pets and can cause restlessness, vomiting and muscle spasms.

Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate contain the highest amounts of the obromine. Milk chocolate has lower levels of the toxin, but 4 to 10 ounces of it can be lethal to a small dog. A 10-ounce candy bar is not very big.

You may not know the term xylitol, but you have probably used products that had it listed on the label. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some candies, sugar-free gum, diet foods, cookies, toothpastes and nasal sprays. In pets, a relatively small amount can release insulin that leads to a drop in blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Symptoms of xylitol ingestion include vomiting, coordination problems and lethargy.

Grapes and raisins are two more culprits that should not appear on your pet's menu. They can cause reactions ranging from hyperactivity and vomiting to lethargy, depression, kidney failure or even death.

The exact substance that is toxic to pets has not been determined, but the responses are well-documented.

Since childhood, I was taught that giving a cat a saucer of milk was a kind thing to do, but that is so wrong.

Cats and dogs lack the ability to make enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk and other dairy products. In other words, cats and dogs are lactose intolerant.

Adding dairy to your pet's diet can cause upset stomach, diarrhea or sometimes food allergies. Do your cat and dog a favor and give them treats more suited to their physiology.

Many people consider onions, garlic and chives tasty additions to many dishes, but these can irritate the gastrointestinal tract of your pet and possibly cause serious red blood cell or liver damage and asthma attacks.

Cats seem to be more sensitive than dogs, but both have been reported to react after eating raw, cooked or dehydrated forms of these seasonings. Most pets show little interest in the raw forms of these foods, but remember not to share meat prepared using onions, garlic or chives for flavor.

The next time your pet looks at you with big, sad eyes wanting to share your food, please stop. Goodies that appeal to your taste buds may put your pet's health and life at risk. Perhaps it is safer to offer dog cookies made for dogs.

Contact your vet if you know or even suspect your pet has consumed chocolate, xylitol, grapes, dairy products or onions and garlic.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at