What Should You Never Feed Your Dog?

Find out which food and household items could be dangerous to your pets.

Unfortunately, we tend to overlook a number of household items that are potentially very dangerous to a dog's health. It's especially important to be aware of this because as you know, dogs are essentially scavengers and will often eat just about anything they can sink their fangs into. My own dog is more like a mobile garbage disposal. It's also very important to be aware of these items because their sense of smell is so well developed that your pooch will be able to find what you may think is well hidden.

One of these dangerous household items, it turns out, is simple chocolate. Although chocolate has been reported recently to be high in human-friendly antioxidants, it appears to be potentially lethal for our pets, and particularly for our dogs. Cats are mostly unaffected because they don't care for the taste of chocolate, but dogs tend to be crazy about it. Certain breeds of dogs react differently to chocolate. The root of the problem is that chocolate contains various chemicals called methylxanthine alkaloids (some types have more of these chemicals than others).

Sadly, relatively miniscule amounts of these chemicals are capable of causing such serious problems as constriction of the arteries and an increased heart rate. Large amounts may cause even more dire symptoms and a pound of milk chocolate could possibly kill a sixteen pound dog.

If you find that your dog has eaten chocolate, by all means take note of the type and try to estimate the amount eaten. Then get on the phone with a veterinarian or an emergency facility. Be sure your children know how important it is to keep chocolate out of your dog's reach.

If you aren't aware your dog has consumed chocolate, the consequences can be severe. If consumption is not discovered within 4 to 6 hours without the right treatment, cardiac failure, seizures, coma and death may result, according to veterinarian Dr. Jane Bicks. In addition to seemingly innocent chocolate, there are a number of other common household items that might seem safe for our dogs but that can be downright dangerous.

Some mushrooms, as an example, cause abdominal pain, liver and kidney damage, and amenia. So be aware of wild mushrooms when you're out walking your dog in wooded areas. Garlic might seem benign but can cause vomiting, liver damage, anemia and diarrhea, so do not give your pet baby food because it can contain garlic.

Anti-freeze can shut down your dog's kidney and they tend to love the taste. Mistletoe can cause vomiting, abdominal pain and depression. Onions can cause liver damage, anemia and diarrhea. Onion can also sometimes be found in baby food. Cats are actually somewhat more sensitive to this one, so keep out of the reach of both.

Coffee, like cocoa, is especially dangerous, and may cause heart rate increase, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death. Caffeine just does not have the same effect in dogs.

Concerning dog food, you should look for dyes and other chemicals, according to Dr. Bicks. BHA, for instance, which is one of the main synthetic antioxidant preservatives used to prevent food discoloration, has been observed to cause cancer in laboratory rats at certain doses. Small doses are as yet unclear, but because dog food is eaten every day, caution is advised.

Many conventional dog food brands have large quantities of sodium to make them palatable, and this can be quite harmful to a dog. Other ingredients to wary of are dairy, by-products, chemical preservatives and artificial colors.

Aaron Wilmont is an author and researcher in the fields of human and pet health. For more information go to www.dog-food-nutrition.com.

Many ingredients are tucked away in cookies, bread, cake, preserves and other processed foods. It is really important to be aware of what you are feeding your canine companion so that you can avoid these problem foods.