Dogs tend to throw caution to the wind, engage in all too often risky curiosity, and chew and eat less than savory items. While these tendencies are part of their goofy nature that makes them so endearing to us, they can deal them a harsh blow to their health or even kill them. For many of these things I called less than savory items that can be so dangerous if ingested by a dog, it may surprise you, as many would not stop to think of some of the items on my list as dangerous. Here are 10 such items you must keep out of reach of dogs, or if possible keep out of your home altogether.
1.) Baby Diapers – Many dogs – my own included – find baby diapers with their yummy baby excrement inside them, simply irresistible. They will chew them up, consume them, and in the process, create a potential obstruction hazard. You see, baby diapers are made to be absorbable, a feat accomplished by the absorbent foam polymer that leaches away moisture, while engorging and enlarging as it does so. With the stomach and small intestine constantly secreting water to aid in the digestion process, that foam is poised to engorge and enlarge ever more, increasing its potential to obstruct the gut and land your dog into a foreign body removal surgery. Now we know we cannot live without baby diapers, so banning from the home is not an option…therefore, simply be as vigilant as possible about disposing of those diapers as soon as they are changed out.
2.) Tampons – Dogs also cannot resist the temptation of chewing on used tampons. Like the baby diapers, these are also designed to absorb, creating the same type of hazard as the diapers. Like the diapers, ladies cannot live without these items, so be certain to dispose of them in an out of doggy reach area.
3.) Chewing gum or candy with artificial sweetener – Xylitol, a common artificial sweetener put in a lot of chewing gums and candy bars, while supposedly safe for ingestion by humans, in dogs can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar called hypoglycemia, which can lead to severe depression, seizure and death. Liver failure has also been reported from accidental xylitol laden gums and candies.
4.) Anti-freeze – The active ingredient in anti-freeze is ethylene glycol, a sweet tasting compound that most dogs cannot resist lapping up. As sweet as it tastes, however, it physiological effect on dogs if ingested is possible kidney failure. The most common source of anti-freeze toxicity is accumulated puddles of it from a car leaking it. When leaked, it is easy to spot by its bright green appearance, so if you see this, get it cleaned up ASAP and fix the leak! Not only is your dog at risk from this, other dogs walking by may lap it up as well.
5.) Chocolate – Chocolate has a component known as thiobromine, which humans metabolize quickly and innocuously….not so for dogs. Dogs metabolize this compound slowly, which leads it to accumulate to toxic levels in the body, acting as a cardiac and central nervous system stimulant. These effects can lead to muscle twitching, seizures, dangerously fast heart rate, and death. Not all types of chocolate are equal in their thiobromine content. Bakers and semisweet chocolate are the highest in thiobromine thus making them the most dangerous when ingested (all it takes is a small amount), with milk chocolate and dark chocolate coming in at a more distant second and third.
6.) Pest Control Products – Pests are a pest, and we naturally do not want them around ruining our gardens, lawns, and spreading parasites and fleas to our pets. However, in the process of getting rid of them through the use of pest control products, we could also be putting our pets in grave danger. Pest control items used to kill rats, mice, and gophers pose particularly grave danger, able to serve up a particularly gruesome death to your dog (by hemorrhage, brain swelling, or destruction of the intestines). What’s more, what makes these products attractive to lure the pests into ingesting them also makes them attractive for dogs to eat them.
7.) Grapes and raisins – While healthy for us to consume, these fruits are known to cause kidney failure in dogs. While the mechanism by which this occurs is not fully understood, its effects are well documented and seen in general veterinary practice every day.
8.) Sago Palms – A beautiful plant, but when ingested by dogs, the palms are severely liver toxic, with the potential to throw the dog into full out liver failure. Since many dogs find the palms particularly tasty, no dog home should have these.
9.) Foxtails – This is a naturally growing weed mostly found on the western half of the US, whose seeds can cause disease of any organ to which they migrate following contact. The seeds easily migrate through skin, when in haled, or ingested. Toxicity is variable, depending on the organs involved.
10.) Marijuana – With the increasing use of medical marijuana, as well as its legalization in a couple of states with more likely to follow suit, we are seeing an increasing availability of edible marijuana products being offered on the free market. Even in places where it is not legal, some patrons of pot find an attractive way to consume their vice is by baking it into brownies or cookies…I have treated enough cases of marijuana toxicity to know. There are also dogs who will even find the taste of the raw product attractive and eat it bag and all. So if you are a marijuana enthusiast and have a dog, understand the danger it presents to your dog, keep your stash out of reach, and especially keep edible marijuana items out of reach.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.