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7 Foods That Can Be Fatal to Dogs

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7 Foods That Can Be Fatal to Dogs
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By Kayla McDonell

Certain foods that are safe for humans can be harmful to dogs.

Because dogs have a different metabolism than people, feeding human foods to dogs can be very dangerous for their health and may even be fatal in some cases.


This article reviews seven food items that have been proven toxic to dogs—so if you have a dog, it's important to keep these foods out of their reach.

Avocados

Avocados contain a toxin called persin. Persin is perfectly safe for human consumption, but can be very poisonous to dogs (1).

It is found in avocado fruit, pits, leaves and bark, so you should avoid giving any part of the plant to your dog.

If a dog eats these, fluid may accumulate in the dog's lungs and chest.

This can make it difficult for him or her to breathe, which can lead to oxygen deprivation and even death (1).

Fluid can also accumulate in the heart, pancreas and abdomen, which can lead to other fatal complications (2).

Avocado pits can also be accidentally swallowed, which can cause choking or a blockage in the digestive tract.

Summary: Eating any part of the avocado plant can cause severe health problems in dogs that may result in death.

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is often used to sweeten candy, chewing gum, toothpaste and baked goods.

While deemed safe for human consumption, it can be deadly for dogs.

Eating foods that contain xylitol can lead to a sudden and significant drop in a dog's blood sugar (3, 4, 5, 6).

Initial symptoms often show up within 30 minutes of consumption and include vomiting, weakness, depression, difficulty moving, coma and seizures (1).

Eventually, xylitol can lead to liver damage and death (7).

Summary: Eating foods that contain xylitol can cause a dog's blood sugar to drop drastically. This can cause health problems, liver failure and death.

Coffee, Tea and Other Caffeine

Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea, cocoa and guarana, a South American plant.

It is also often added to soft drinks and medications.

Caffeine can speed the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system in dogs.

Within two to four hours of consuming caffeine, dogs may experience restlessness, excessive thirst, a lack of bladder control, vomiting and diarrhea.

If dogs ingest too much caffeine, they can experience abnormal heart rhythm or lung failure, which can ultimately lead to death (8).

In fact, several cases of death have been reported in dogs due to an overdose of caffeine (9, 10, 11).

The minimum dose of caffeine at which death was reported was less than 2.2 mg per pound (1 mg per kg) of body weight (9).

The average cup of coffee or tea contains between 40 and 150 mg caffeine, so even just a few sips could be deadly for a dog.

Summary: Consuming caffeine can cause abnormal heart rhythm or lung failure in dogs, which can ultimately lead to death. Coffee, tea and other sources of caffeine should be kept away from dogs.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins can be extremely toxic to dogs.

They can cause rapid kidney failure, which can ultimately be fatal (12).

The toxic compounds in grapes are still unknown, but even small amounts can make your dog sick.

Toxic levels vary from dog to dog, but one study reviewing 180 reports found that some dogs died after eating just a handful of raisins (13).

Therefore, ingestion of any quantity should be taken very seriously.

It is important to note that poisoning can happen from eating raw grapes and raisins or from eating them as ingredients in baked goods like cookies, cakes and snack bars. Watch for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and depression (8).

These may be followed by signs of kidney failure, such as excessive thirst and very little urine production (12).

Summary: Grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs. Even very small amounts can lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal.

Alcohol and Yeast Dough

Alcohol is found in a variety of products including alcoholic beverages, perfumes, mouthwash, paint, varnish and various cleaning products.

While occasional alcohol consumption is safe for humans, dogs cannot tolerate it, even in small amounts.

Symptoms usually develop within an hour after consumption and include tiredness, depression, lack of muscle coordination, low body temperature, poor breathing, vomiting and diarrhea.

If a dog consumes too much alcohol, it can result in lung failure, seizures, coma and even death.

The toxic dose of 100 percent (or 200 proof) alcohol in dogs has recently been reported to be about 0.59 ounces per pound of body weight (8 ml per kg), with death occurring 12 to 24 hours after ingestion (14).

Alcohol poisoning in dogs usually happens after accidental ingestion of alcoholic beverages (15, 16, 17).

However, in one case, a dog died of alcohol poisoning after eating a large amount of rotten apples (18).

It's also a concern if a dog eats raw dough that contains yeast. As the yeast cells ferment, they actually produce alcohol, which causes a dog's blood alcohol level to rise and can ultimately cause alcohol poisoning and death (19, 20).

What's more, the dough will expand in a dog's stomach and can cause severe bloating. This puts pressure on the surrounding organs and can make it very difficult for the dog to breathe.

It is important to never feed raw yeast dough or alcohol to your dog. Alcoholic beverages should not be left unattended and raw dough should be kept well out of reach.

Summary: If a dog consumes alcohol, it can lead to serious health problems and even death. This can also happen if a dog eats raw dough.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains the stimulant chemicals theobromine and caffeine, both of which are very difficult for dogs to metabolize.

If a dog eats chocolate, it can cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.

These symptoms can also progress to more serious problems like heart attacks, internal bleeding, muscle tremors, seizures and death (21).

The severity of the side effects depends on how large the dog is and how much and what type of chocolate it has consumed.

The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it will be to your dog. Unsweetened baker's chocolate and cocoa powder are among the most dangerous varieties (22).

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dogs may show symptoms after ingesting as little as 44 mg per pound (20 mg per kg) of body weight.

In other words, about 1 ounce (28 grams) of a baker's chocolate bar would be enough to cause toxic symptoms in a 44-pound (20-kg) dog.

It is most common for dogs to experience chocolate poisoning on holidays like Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas—presumably because these are times when people often have chocolate on hand.

No matter the occasion, it is important to always keep chocolate out of reach.

Summary: Eating chocolate can cause a whole slew of health problems in dogs and can even kill them. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.

Salt

Eating too much salt could lead to a condition known as salt poisoning or water deprivation in dogs.

This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, fever and seizures. It may even be fatal in severe cases (23).

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the toxic dose for dogs is around 2.2 teaspoons of salt per pound (4 grams per kg) of body weight.

Because of this, it is not a good idea to give your dog salted foods like pretzels, popcorn or chips.

It is also important to make sure your dog always has access to fresh drinking water.

Summary: Eating too much salt can cause water deprivation in dogs, which can be deadly. You should avoid feeding salted foods to your dog and make sure fresh drinking water is always available.

Other Foods That May Be Harmful to Your Dog

The following foods have not been proven deadly to dogs, but they can still be harmful.

To be safe, you may want to avoid feeding the following foods to your dog.

  • Onions, garlic and chives: These can damage a dog's red blood cells and cause anemia. In severe cases, your dog could require a blood transfusion (24, 25).
  • Milk and dairy products: Like humans, dogs can become intolerant to lactose over time. Consuming milk and dairy products may lead to vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive problems in dogs.
  • Macadamia nuts: These contain an unknown toxin that can cause weakness, muscle tremors and vomiting in dogs. Because of their high fat content, macadamia nuts can also lead to pancreatitis or an inflamed pancreas (26, 27).
  • Apples, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums: Their seeds or pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous. Eating them can lead to some pretty serious side effects, including digestive problems (28).

Summary: Onions, garlic, chives, dairy products, macadamia nuts and fruits with pits may also be harmful to your dog.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Harmful Food

The best way to ensure your dog doesn't eat anything harmful is to keep these foods out of reach.

To minimize the risk, make sure that you don't leave these foods on countertops or tables, in purses or other places where your dog could access them.

If you know your dog has ingested something toxic, consult your veterinarian immediately or call the pet poison hotline.

Treatment will vary depending upon your dog's symptoms and the type of food he or she was exposed to.

You should never treat or medicate a dog unless a licensed veterinarian advises you to do so.

Summary: If your dog has consumed something toxic, consult your veterinarian or call the pet poison hotline.

The Bottom Line

Certain foods that are safe for humans can be very harmful to dogs, such as the seven listed here.

The best way to avoid food poisoning in dogs is to only feed them dog food and keep human foods out of reach.

If your dog has eaten something it should not have, contact your vet or call the pet poison hotline immediately.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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