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Due to the close coexistence between humans and animals, it can happen that our pets also enjoy food and drinks that not only do not suit them, but that can also cause them a lot of harm. Many foods that are safe and commonplace for humans can have life-threatening effects on pets. What these are and the most important things about the associated poisoning are explained here.

Which foods can be toxic to small animals and pets?

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The following list lists the foods that are absolutely toxic to pets and often lead to poisoning.

  • Chocolate: It contains theobromine, which is toxic to animals. Depending on the cocoa content, chocolate can be very dangerous for pets. Everything about chocolate poisoning can be found here.
  • Sweeteners: A common representative of the sweeteners that is used in many foods is xylitol. This poses a danger to dogs, but not to cats. B. in sugar-free chewing gum, candy, baked goods or other sugar-free desserts and drinks.
  • Grapes: The fruit itself or products made with it, e.g. B. raisins, pomace or baked goods are highly toxic to dogs. Raisins in particular have a highly damaging effect. Unfortunately, the reason for this is not known to this day.
  • Onions and leeks: Many members of this family of plants commonly used in cooking are highly toxic to pets. In addition to onions, this also includes garlic, young onions, chives, shallots, and wild garlic. It is important to know that the toxins contained do not lose their harmful effect even when cooked or fried, so they remain toxic in prepared dishes! They are usually avoided raw because of their pungent aroma.
  • Fruit: Certain types of fruit, or more precisely their pips and seeds, should be kept away from pets. These include, in particular, the stones of stone fruit (Prunus genus). Well-known representatives are peaches, apricots, plums and cherries. Poisoning often occurs if the cores are left as occupation material. The cyan compounds contained are absorbed by chewing and swallowing and can very quickly cause symptoms.
  • Coffee and tea: The active ingredients caffeine and theophylline are very related to theobromine (see chocolate). They therefore also cause similar symptoms. While it is often more difficult for animals to ingest large amounts of it, it should be avoided at all costs. Other products that contain caffeine (e.g. caffeine tablets) should also be kept away from pets.
  • Alcohol: This has the same effect on pets as it does on humans. Due to their lower weight, however, much less alcohol is required to cause symptoms of intoxication. Therefore, pets should never have access to this either.
  • Yeast and sourdough: Dough made with yeast is toxic to animals due to the substances produced by the yeast. On the one hand, fermentation processes in the dough produce alcohol (see Alcohol), on the other hand carbon dioxide, which leads to bloating of the digestive tract. In general, baked goods intended for human consumption should not be fed to pets.
  • Almonds: Almonds also contain cyanide compounds (see fruit). Therefore, in larger quantities, they can also be dangerous for animals.

In addition to foods that are absolutely toxic to pets, there are others that are only harmful in larger quantities. It should therefore also be avoided to feed them. The following is just a small selection of such foods:

  • Table and kitchen waste in general
  • Spicy foods or foods with a high salt content, such as dried meat
  • raw potatoes
  • citrus fruits
  • nuts
  • avocado
  • rhubarb

Symptoms of poisoning

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Often the signs of poisoning are ambiguous and very different. Watch out for the following changes in your pet:

  • Restlessness, excitement, hypersensitivity to touch
  • Weakness, exhaustion, coma
  • uncontrolled shaking, convulsions
  • unsteady, uncontrolled gait
  • excessive salivation
  • Vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain, i.e. hard stomach, hunched back and resistance to touch
  • Panting, rapid breathing, shortness of breath
  • frequent urination or incontinence
  • Impaired vision, dilated or narrow pupil
  • Changes in the color of the oral mucosa

While some symptoms are more likely to be associated with certain toxins, an assessment should only be made by a veterinarian!

My animal has eaten something poisonous – what can I do?

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from poisoning, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible! In the case of poisoning, time is an important factor in successful treatment. If you have observed the ingestion of a potential poison or there are indications of it (e.g. chewed packaging, missing food, overturned rubbish bin…), also go to the veterinarian, even if there are no symptoms yet. These can also occur with a delay, but are then perhaps difficult to treat.

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If it is known which toxin was ingested, it should be brought along with the packaging if possible. Vomit should also be bagged and taken away for closer examination. Under no circumstances should you try to administer anti-poisoning agents to your animal, e.g. B.

“Home remedies” (milk or vegetable oils) or medicines intended for humans. You should also refrain from inducing vomiting in the animal. Therapeutic measures should only be carried out by veterinary specialists!

The following information is important for the treating veterinarian:

What did the animal ingest?
How much was taken?
When was it recorded?
What are the symptoms of the affected animal?
When did the symptoms start?

Diagnosis & Therapy

If necessary, the veterinarian will first stabilize your animal (circulation, breathing) and then examine it thoroughly. If poisoning is the cause, further investigations can be useful (examination of vomit or stomach contents after gastric lavage, blood test, urine and faeces test).

The vet has several treatment options available. As with all poisonings, the aim is to remove the toxic substances from the organism as far as possible before they are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. In addition, the consequences of the poison should be mitigated.

This is why time is so crucial: the sooner the vet can help, the better. Immediately after ingestion, the food is still undigested in the stomach. Appropriate medication can be used to induce vomiting in dogs and cats. Furthermore, activated carbon binds toxins in the gastrointestinal tract and laxatives accelerate the removal. Diuretics and fluids (in the form of an infusion) promote excretion in the urine.

If these methods are no longer (cannot) be effective enough, antidotes can be used in some cases. However, this only works if the exact poison is known and the antidote is available.

Prevention of food poisoning

Before poisoning occurs, care should be taken to ensure that pets do not come into contact with potential toxins in the first place. There are a few simple rules that are easy to implement in every household:

  • Pets should generally not be given food and drink intended for human consumption/enjoyment, including table and kitchen waste.
  • Garbage cans should be designed in such a way that there is no access to table and kitchen waste.
  • Where access to food and drink is possible, animals should not be left unattended.
  • Don’t forget the boxes of chocolates, biscuits on the living room table or the plate of leftovers left on the kitchen counter!

Toxic Foods for Pets: Conclusion

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Not only typical toxins can lead to poisoning, but also everyday foods. Ingestion is often not observed or can only be assumed. In addition to treating the symptoms, the focus is on detoxification and stabilization. Rapid action by the owner and veterinarian is crucial for the success of the therapy.