What to Feed Your Pets – and What to Avoid!

Our pets, particularly dogs and cats, are very curious by nature – they can end up eating all sorts of foods! As any dog or cat owner knows, they’re also very good at begging for a taste of whatever we have on our plates or happen to be cooking. However, as hard as it is to say no, not everything that’s good for us is good for our four-legged friends. In fact, sometimes food that is perfectly fit for human consumption can be toxic for pets, having far-reaching and even deadly effects on their health. For your and Fido’s own good, it’s important to know the dos and don’ts of what to feed your pets!

Foods to Avoid

If you’re wondering what foods are definite no-goes for your pets, this list will leave you well-informed to make better choices about your pet’s diet.

  1. Chocolate

Every dog owner will have heard of this before – but can it be true? Is chocolate truly dangerous for dogs?

The unfortunate answer is yes. But it largely depends on the size of your dog, and the amount and strength of chocolate consumed.

This is because pure, dark chocolate contains a theobromine, a component that is toxic to them. Although humans can easily digest theobromine, dogs process it much more slowly. The more that ends up in their system, the closer the levels get to a toxic level and can cause damage.

In this respect, if a big dog ingests some light milk chocolate, it won’t be as bad as a chihuahua eating 5 bars of 80% dark chocolate. Remember that cocoa, cooking chocolate and dark chocolate all contain the highest levels of theobromine, whereas milk and white chocolate have the lowest. To give you an idea, just 25 grams of dark chocolate are enough to poison a 20kg dog!

A small amount of chocolate may give your dog a bad stomach – or it may do nothing at all. Large amounts can produce serious health problems, like seizures, irregular heartbeats, internal bleeding or heart attacks. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually shown by severe hyperactivity.

The best way to deal with this is to take your pooch to the vet, who will induce vomiting.

  1. Onions

Did you know that onions are actually incredibly poisonous for dogs and cats? They contain a compound called disulphides and thiosulphates. The ingestion of these toxins can cause a condition called haemolytic anaemia – basically, they damage the red blood cells in your pets, and can cause these red blood cells circulating the anima’s body to become very fragile and eventually burst.

Signs that this is happening to your pet include vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia (breathlessness, lethargy, pale gums, an elevated heart rate) and abdominal pain and discoloured urine. It can take several days to a week after your pet eats onions for these symptoms to appear.

All onions, whether they are raw, cooked, or dried are a danger to pets. It only takes a very small of onions to poison your cat or dog – cats are actually more sensitive than dogs. Consuming as little as 5g of onions in cats, or 15-30g in dogs has resulted in red blood cell damage. For all animals, a general rule is that by ingesting 0.5% of their body weight in onions can result in onion toxicosis.

For this reason, it’s important to stay vigilant – onions are found in almost everything we humans eat! Watch out for your pet eating pizza, tomato sauces, Chinese takeaways and baby foods especially. Other foods contain onion powder in various amounts. Although it does take a certain amount of onion to cause a problem, it can be hard to know how much is in a food, especially if you are feeding your dog scraps. It can be tricky to determine what has caused a toxic reaction in pets if they have been eating table scraps – so always be sure of what you’re feeding your pets!

  1. Garlic

Garlic can also be toxic for pets. Although it is considered a holistic remedy in the prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure and warding off fleas, it is not effective when ingested by pets. This is because garlic is one of the Allium family – it contains compounds called disulphides and thiosulphates, like onions, shallots, leeks and chives, which can again cause Heinz body anaemia, haemolytic anaemia, and methemoglobinemia which are all conditions of damage to the red blood cells.

From a toxicity perspective, garlic is a lot more toxic than onions – 5 times more concentrated, smaller amounts of garlic can cause toxicosis in pets. Even just one clove of garlic can cause toxicity in pets! The symptoms of garlic poisoning are the same as that of onion toxicosis – vomiting, diarrhoea, anema (breathlessness, lethargy, yellow gums, elevated heart rate), abdominal pain and discoloured urine.

Keep foods that contain garlic, and garlic pills, well out of reach of pets!