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People Foods for Pets: The Do’s and Don’ts


We love our pets and want to make them happy, but when it comes to people food, it’s essential to be aware of what’s off-limits, despite those adorable puppy dog eyes. This is because your pet’s metabolism — how they break-down food and extract nutrients for energy — differs from yours, and because certain compounds and ingredients can be toxic.

On the bright side, there are plenty of naturally low-calorie fresh fruits and veggies that are safe options that are high in nutrition and are tasty, too.

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Without further ado, here’s a quick guide to the do’s and don’ts of sharing your favorite foods with your furry best friend.

10 Human Foods Your Pets Should Never Eat

1. Alcohol: In any form, even food, alcohol acts on a pet’s central nervous system just like it does on yours. But it takes much less to do real damage. After consumption, it is quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal track and crosses the blood-brain barrier. Smaller dogs, especially, can become very sick, with symptoms like tremors, shortness of breath, problems with coordination, vomiting, diarrhea and can result in a coma, or even, death.

2. Foods That Contain Ethanol: This is also very dangerous for pets. Raw bread dough contains yeast (also bad for pets) to make it rise which produces ethanol which can cause alcohol poisoning. Ingesting rotten apples, sloe berries used to make sloe gin and pizza dough also contain ethanol and are a danger to pets. Hops used to brew beer are toxic and cause symptoms including hyperthermia, panting, vomiting, abdominal pain, heart palpitations and seizures.

3. Caffeine: Coffee, tea, sodas, and even some medicines contain caffeine which is toxic to pets. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine (a type of caffeine), both of which stimulate the nervous system and the heart and are slowly metabolized by dogs. If your pet eats chocolate, beware, it will result in excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate or any food or drink with caffeine of any kind, get them to the veterinarian, stat.

4. Certain Fruits and Vegetables: The essential oils in oranges, grapefruits and more can depress the central nervous system. Pits in cherries, plums and peaches are a choking hazard. Plums and peaches also contain cyanide. Seeds from apples and persimmon fruit can block the small intestine. Grape, raisins, sultanas and currants from the Vitis vinifera family are all toxic. Scientists have yet to pin-point the toxic substance in these fruits that cause repeated vomiting, lethargy and even renal failure. The flesh and milk of a fresh coconut is also toxic because it causes stomach distress and diarrhea. Coconut water contains potassium, another no-no for dogs.

Technically a fruit, avocados contains persin, a fungicidal toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Persin harms the cardiovascular system of birds, and is also toxic for rabbits, horses, sheep and goats. If you grow avocado plants at home, keep them well out of reach of your pet. The avocado seed is a choking hazard.

Vegetables such as mushroom plants, mustard seeds, the leaves and stems of potatoes and tomatoes, and rhubarb leaves are all toxic. Anything moldy is dangerous too.

5. Herbs: Onions, garlic, leeks and chives belong to the Allium (Amaryllidaceae) family and all are downright dangerous, for dogs and cats because they damage red blood cells, leading to anemia. Gastrointestinal upset means vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite and depression. Symptoms may not manifest immediately, but if you suspect your pet has ingested either, get to the veterinarian right away.

6. Dairy: Unlike humans, pets don’t have enough lactase enzymes to digest lactose from milk, yogurt, cheese and the rest. This translates into an upset stomach, loose stools and diarrhea. Dairy can also result in food allergies which can cause your pet to itch.

7. Nuts: Avoid all high fat nuts including almonds, walnuts and pecans because they cause, vomiting, diarrhea and even a serious condition known as pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts can cause fever, depression and tremors, and weakness in a dog’s back legs which is extremely dangerous.

8. Raw Foods: Harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli lurk in raw or undercooked meat and chicken and uncooked fish contains dangerous parasites. Avidin, an enzyme in raw eggs interferes with the absorption of biotin, a B vitamin, resulting in skin and coat problems. Raw or cooked bones are a choking hazard and splinters can damage the esophagus and the entire gastrointestinal tract. Excess fat found on raw or cooked bones and bone marrow can cause diarrhea and worse, pancreatitis. The yeast in raw bread dough make the abdomen to bloat resulting in extremely painful gas and bloating.

9. Salty Snacks: Too much salt makes your pet thirsty, increases urine output and can even result in sodium ion poisoning. Salt laden foods like potato chips and pretzels can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, fever and even, death.

10. Xylitol: This artificial sweeter cuts calories in gum, candy, soda, cookies, baked goods and is even in additives to water to improve dental health for pets, but it also stimulates insulin release, causing a dip in blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) elevated liver enzymes and liver failure. Pets may vomit, feel lethargic, have trouble walking and may even have seizures.

Seems like a daunting list of foods to steer clear of? Don’t worry — there is good news! Rather than giving your pet store-bought treats to reinforce good behavior, which have recently been found to exceed dogs’ daily energy needs, you can switch to certain human foods as healthier “treat” options. But first, check with your veterinarian before introducing any new foods into your pet’s diet to make sure it will not interfere with any medications or aggravate any health conditions. If you get the green light, there are a few people food treats that you can add to your pet’s diet. Just do so, in small amounts — less than 10 percent of your pet’s diet — as too much can easily cause stomach upset. Choose organic foods if you can since they are free of chemicals and pesticides.

5 Human Foods Your Pets Can Enjoy (in Moderation)

1. Vegetables: Many veggies make good treats for your pets. Just be sure to remove the rind, skin, seeds or pits. Introduce vegetables more easily by steaming or boiling them first. Keep in mind that not every pet will like these as treats.

Carrots are chock full of good nutrients for your pet. Beta-carotene is healthy for your pet’s eyes, falcarinol may be protective against cancer, and antioxidants fight free-radical damage. Carrots are also good for cardiovascular health. Other good choices include cooked sweet potatoes in small chunks and green beans which are high in fiber, antioxidants, folic acid and B12.

Cooked broccoli is often recommended by vets because it boosts immune function. Broccoli also helps to prevent cancer because broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane compounds that promote healthy hormone levels and multiply cancer fighting enzymes. The antioxidants in steamed or sautéed leafy greens quash free radical damage, helping to prevent cancer and cooling inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

2. Fruits: Sliced apples and bananas (hint: try ‘em frozen!), even cantaloupe (watch seed intake) are fine for cats and dogs. De-pitted watermelon is safe too. Blackberries and blueberries are chock-full of antioxidants which protect your pet from free radical damage.

3. Lean Meats: Cooked lean meat without excess fat or bones is safe. But don’t add spices.

4. & 5. White rice and pasta. Must be cooked. Pair white rice with chicken to soothe your dog’s upset tummy.

Finally, be prepared. Keep the numbers of your local veterinarian, pet ER and ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 handy. If you think your pet has consumed a toxic food or drink, do not delay. Get your pet to the vet.


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