We love our pets as though they are a part of our family. And they are. However, there are biological differences between humans and our companion animals, and it’s important to be aware of these. Our pets’ digestive systems are different than our own; they have different tolerances to substances found in foods and they also have different dietary needs.
Cats are strict carnivores. Strict or true carnivores, such as cats, have a higher nutritional requirement for taurine (an amino acid), arachidonic acid (a fatty acid), and certain vitamins (niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin A), which are readily available in animal protein and fat sources.
National Research Council of the National Academies and some larger dog food companies consider dogs as omnivores. The term “opportunivore” may best describe the dog’s natural desire to eat whatever is available — plants as well as animals.
Other pets have various needs and restrictions, and it is crucial that we are aware of these and that we know which foods to avoid, as well as what to do in case of emergency.
What Foods Should be Avoided?
“People food,” even if safe for pet consumption, should be proffered in moderation. It is important that they eat a diet best suited to their species’, and to their own, individual needs. However, listed below is a list of foods that pets should not be allowed to ingest under any circumstances.
- Alcohol – This one may seem obvious, but alcohol is an especially toxic substance. It can cause depression of your pet’s central nervous system, difficulty breathing, and even death.
- Avocado – Primarily dangerous for birds and rabbits, avocado can lead to cardiovascular damage or death.
- Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine – These all contain substances called methylxanthines, which can cause a series of symptoms and even death. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most dangerous, as these have higher concentrations of methylxanthines.
- Citrus – Citric acid and essential oils can cause irritation and central nervous system depression if eaten in excess. Small amounts can cause stomach upset.
- Coconut – The oils found in coconut can cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
- Grapes and Raisins – Grapes present a choking hazard, but these foods can also cause kidney failure.
- Milk and Dairy – Pets cannot digest dairy, as their digestive systems lack lactase, the enzyme that processes these foods. Just like with lactose intolerant humans, ingestion can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
- Nuts – The high amount of oils and fats contained in nuts leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis if ingested in large amounts.
- Onions, garlic, and chives – Cats are especially susceptible to these foods, but dogs may also experience gastrointestinal irritation. Toxicity is diagnosed through clinical signs and symptoms.
- Raw/undercooked meat, eggs, and bones – Salmonella and E. Coli are dangerous to humans and our animal counterparts. Domestic pets are at risk of choking on bones, or sustaining an injury if the bone should splinter.
- Salt – Potato chips, pretzels, and other processed foods can lead to sodium ion poisoning or dehydration.
- Xylitol – Found in gum and candies, this substance can cause liver failure and seizures.
- Yeast dough – the excessive bloating due to gas production is painful and also may cause the stomach to expand and potentially twist, which is life-threatening. Ethanol produced by yeast can also affect your pet similarly to alcohol (above).
What if I Suspect that My Pet Ate Something?
If you notice your pet vomiting, becoming feverish, experiencing diarrhea, having seizures, being excessively thirsty, or otherwise acting differently, you should contact Animal Clinic of Milford in Milford, CT or your local veterinarian. These symptoms should be checked out regardless, but be sure to tell your veterinarian if you suspect that they may have been caused by ingesting one of the foods listed above.
We believe in keeping your pets as safe and healthy as possible! It’s important to avoid feeding your pet any foods that may cause them harm. If you accidentally feed them one of these foods, or you believe that they may have gotten into your pantry or kitchen and eaten something, seek veterinary care as soon as possible to protect their health, happiness, and longevity!