Not all foods fit for humans are fit for dogs

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By Tracy Turner | Ohio State Chow Line

Q: “I’ve recently adopted a dog. He’s been a great companion for me as I’ve been sheltering at home alone during the coronavirus pandemic. As this is my first time as a dog owner, I’ve given my dog bites of food from my meals in addition to his own dog food. Is that OK?”

A: Congratulations on becoming a new dog parent! Many people such as yourself have become new dog owners in recent weeks as people continue to abide by stay-at-home orders and have sought companionship by welcoming new pets into their homes.

In fact, animal rescue centers and shelters nationwide have reported a spike in adoptions and foster applications since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including for example, the Franklin County Dog Shelter, which has reported an increase in pet adoptions, according to published reports.

However, it’s important to understand that in some cases, no, it’s not a good idea to feed your dog some foods that come from your dinner table.

Your question is similar to a question addressed in a 2017 Chow Line, which referenced a U.S. Food and Drug Administration notice advising pet owners not to feed their dog some foods that are meant for human consumption. That’s because some foods people eat can be dangerous or even deadly for dogs, the FDA says.

The reason?

Even though dogs are omnivores and can eat meat- and plant-based products, an animal’s body processes food much differently than a human’s body, the FDA says.

High on the list of human foods that dogs should not eat? Chocolate and any food that contains xylitol, which is a sugar substitute that is used in many sugar-free foods.

Chocolate contains methylxanthines, a stimulant that can stop a dog’s metabolic process. Even a small piece of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can result in your dog developing diarrhea and vomiting. And xylitol, which can also be found in some peanut butters, can be deadly for dogs, the FDA warns.

Here are some other human foods that the FDA, the American Kennel Club, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say to avoid feeding to your dog:

  • Raw meat. Just like in humans, any E. coli, salmonella, or other harmful bacteria that might be present in raw meat, can also make your dog sick. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands if you are handling raw meat before giving your dog anything to eat.
  • Raw eggs. Just like raw meat, raw eggs can contain salmonella. Also, raw eggs contain avidin, an enzyme that decreases the absorption of biotin. This can lead to skin and hair coat issues as well as cause neurologic problems in dogs.
  • Grapes, raisins, or currants. These foods can cause kidney failure in some dogs.
  • Fried and fatty foods. These items can cause pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease.
  • Cinnamon. While cinnamon is not toxic to dogs, it can irritate the inside of a dog’s mouth. It can also lower a dog’s blood sugar, thus leading to diarrhea, vomiting, increased or decreased heart rate, and even liver disease.
  • Onions, garlic, and chives. Garlic can create anemia in dogs, causing side effects such as pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness, and collapsing. Poisoning from garlic and onions can have delayed symptoms, so if you think your dog might have eaten some, monitor him or her for a few days, not just right after consumption. However, since garlic and onion tend to be cumulative toxins, they are unlikely to cause a problem unless your dog ingests a very large amount at one time or eats them often, says Dr. Valerie Parker, a veterinarian and associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Moldy food. If you throw away moldy cheese rinds or hamburger buns, make sure your dog doesn’t then get into the garbage, where he or she might eat them.
  • Salty snacks. Salty snacks can increase water retention in some dogs. If your dog happens to grab a bag of salty potato chips or pretzels, make sure he or she has access to plenty of water.
  • Macadamia nuts. These are some of the most poisonous foods for dogs and can have a damaging effect on the dog’s nervous system. They can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, and lethargy.
  • Ice cream. As tempting as it might be to want to give your dog ice cream on a hot summer day, most dogs don’t digest dairy products well, and many might also have lactose intolerance.

While your dog might look longingly at you while you eat, you might want to resist the temptation to share your goodies until you are sure that the foods you are eating won’t have a negative impact on your pet.

Talk to your veterinarian before introducing human foods to your dog to make sure that your good intentions don’t accidentally cause harm for your pet.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

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