Dana Farbman & Eric Dunayer―March 23, 2007
Since rabbits cannot vomit, what do you do when they ingest something poisonous? What steps to you take?
Good question, J.D.! As there are many different factors that could make giving certain types of first-aid to your pet dangerous, it is always a good idea to seek veterinary medical help immediately if you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous. Contact your pet's regular vet, the local emergency clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for help.
I was just given a beautiful bouquet of orchids. I'm scared to put them near my cat though, because she loves to chomp on flowers and leaves. Are orchids poisonous to cats?
There are many different genera of orchids, Kathy, and many are considered to be non-toxic. These include Phalenopsis, Sophrontitis, Oncidium and Cattleya forbesii. It’s important to remember, though, that even plants considered to be non-toxic can still cause some mild gastrointestinal upset. If you know the specific botanical names or genera and species of the orchids you may be getting, we would be happy to confirm whether or not they are among those considered to be toxic or non-toxic.
Thanks for your reply, Dana! They are pinkish-purplish dendrobiums. Is that enough information?
You're very welcome, Kathy! Dendrobriums are among the orchids not considered to be poisonous, so enjoy your flowers!
I was told by an organic pet food company that cats should eat Romaine lettuce and carrots. My cat doesn't like carrots, but every time I eat a salad with Romaine lettuce in it, she insists on eating some, too. She gets excited when I take it out of the refrigerator. I cut up small pieces for her and she eats it up. Is this healthy for her?
Lettuce is indeed safe for cats, Angela. Not many cats will eat vegetables― in fact, they don't need to eat them at all. As long as your cat eats a regular balanced diet for felines, a lettuce treat once in awhile should be just fine.
Since this tainted pet food scare, some people might not know what to do about feeding their pets. Why not encourage owners to cook some healthy people food for their pets? I do constantly and my cats are all doing very well. I give them fresh chicken, steak, pork, shrimp and other kinds of fish without salt or preservatives. Occasionally I give them canned people tuna and they enjoy dry food, too. So we’ve been able to avoid this latest scare, as well as kidney/urinary tract problems stemming from serious salt content in canned pet foods. What do you say about this?
Cooking your own pet food requires both dedication and knowledge, Dianne. You have to be especially careful since home cooked foods could be deficient in certain nutrients. I would recommend consulting with a veterinarian before you commit to cooking for your pets. Also, make sure that they have frequent check-ups just to ensure that they aren't developing any problems stemming from their diet. There are veterinary texts that have recipes for home cooking, and your veterinarian may be able to get you these recipes.
As a professional petsitter I am very concerned about the controversy over the topical flea/tick/ mosquito products. I’ve heard some negative stories about these products, such as animals getting seizures and even falling ill and eventually dying from K9 Advantix products and the Biospot. They claim to take care of mosquitoes as well, but maybe there are too many pesticides in the formula. I also wonder if the product, Frontline Plus, is safe. I use this product on all six of my dogs monthly. I haven't heard anything negative about it to date. Can you advise?
In general, Annette, flea products are safe as long as they are used properly. For instance, using a product labeled for dogs only on a cat could lead to serious, life-threatening problems. Any flea product may cause mild skin irritation in sensitive animals but, again, when used as directed, these products are generally very safe.
I remember reading something a few years ago about grapes being toxic to dogs because they cause kidney failure. My questions are: A) Do all kinds of grapes cause this problem? Does this include grape-related products such a grape juice, wine, grape jam, raisins, etc.? (Obviously, I don't plan to share a bottle of Chenin Blanc with my Vizsla, but spills do happen in every household. Should I be concerned if she licks it up before I can get to it?) B) Is it conceivable that the current pet food contamination could have something to do with grape products? C) Are there other fruits that are poisonous?
Currently, Susan, we know that grapes and raisins appear to cause renal failure in dogs who have ingested them in large amounts. However, we are still not certain of the toxic principle that grapes contain, or of the exact mechanism that causes the renal failure. It is also not clear if only certain dogs are affected, or if ingestion over a long period of time can lead to the same effects as large, acute, single ingestions. As there are still many unknowns involved in the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, it is advisable not to give grapes or raisins to dogs, or certain other pets, in any amount or in any form.
As for other fruits, avocados in large enough amounts can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs, and in very rare situations, heart problems have been reported. The main concern lies with birds, rabbits and goats. We Hope this helps!
My cat loves to drink olive juice. Every time I open a can of olives, she comes running and wants to drink it or roll her body all over the olives. Is olive juice bad for her? And why does she tend to roll her body over the olives?
I had a cat who liked olives as well, J.P.―it’s probably because of the oil. The only thing we might be a little worried about is the salt in the olive juice―otherwise olives are safe. Just make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water to drink and she should be fine.
We know not to feed raisins to dogs, but what about birds? What other everyday food stuffs could have a toxic effect on birds?
As far as we know, Pat, raisins are safe for birds to eat, but it is probably best to avoid them. Avocados can be very dangerous to birds. They can cause heart failure, and generally the birds do not survive. Other food and beverage items that can be dangerous to birds include onions, garlic, chocolate (bakers, semi sweet, milk, dark), coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans), tea, yeast dough, salt, tomato leaves and stems (green parts), potato leaves and stems (green parts), rhubarb leaves, cigarettes and other tobacco products, moldy or spoiled foods and alcoholic beverages.
I know lactose is not good for dogs, but what about soymilk? Is it toxic if it’s chocolate flavored? How about ice cream and yogurt?
Soymilk is safe for dogs, Annie, but as with anything, too much can be a problem.
The amount of chocolate in chocolate-flavored soy milk shouldn't pose a problem for dogs, but again, if you give it to them, it should only be as an occasional treat. Yogurt and ice cream also should not pose any health problems if they are given in moderation.
I’ve heard that the seeds of some fruits contain poison. Should I be removing apple seeds, etc. before feeding them to my birds and guinea pigs? I do now, but it’s quite a chore.
Apple seeds, as well as the seeds of peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. can contain cyanide, Pat. It’s true that the pits have to be opened or the apple seeds chewed on to get to the parts that have the cyanide, but rodents can do this easily, so, although it is extra work, we would advise you not to let them eat the seeds or pits.
I've heard for a long time that chocolate can be fatal to dogs, but what about cats? We have two cats, a brother and sister. They are like night and day as far as their personalities and food preferences go. The female is the savory one. Her favorite food is bacon! The male, however, has a sweet tooth and absolutely loves chocolate. Is chocolate, or bacon for that matter, harmful to cats?
Wow, Rusty- your cats definitely have great taste! However, you should know that cats can be as susceptible to chocolate poisoning as dogs. The reason we typically do not see as many problematic situations with cats and chocolate is because they are more discriminatory in their eating habits than dogs are. They tend to nibble rather than "chow down" on food. In addition to the nervous system and heart problems that can result from caffeine-like substances, the high fat content of certain chocolates can lead to digestive issues. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid offering chocolate to your cat.
The same goes for bacon, where fat content is concerned―and foods that are high in salt could cause excessive urination, thirst and even metabolic disturbances. The bottom line? Don’t worry about what your cats have already sampled. Just avoid making a habit of letting them nibble on these food items.
Are tangerines poisonous to dogs or cats, for that matter?
Wow, Pam. Interesting question. Tangerines are safe for dogs and cats, although we wouldn't imagine too many cats eating them!
Can you name some healthy, safe, well-tolerated veggies that I can feed to my Chihuahuas?
Well, JoAnne, my dogs eat all kinds of vegetables! They especially like carrots. But they will eat broccoli, cauliflower and bell peppers. The only vegetables we recommend you avoid are onions, scallions and garlic.
We have three large dogs that live in the house, but love to play in our fenced-in yard. They trample on the grass and make it muddy. Last year I added a mini-fence down the middle of the backyard. I would treat half the lawn with chemicals (fertilizer, grub control, etc.) and keep the dogs on the other side for a few weeks. Then I would switch. My goal was to minimize their contact with chemicals.
That worked until last fall when our German shepherd puppy decided she wanted the whole yard all the time. What do I do now? It's springtime and a large amount of the yard won't recover without some help. I also need to throw down some more seed and fertilizer. The dogs love to run and play. They are so hard on the turf, they wear down paths throughout the yard.
What can I do to help my yard, but not harm my beloved dogs? Thanks!
I certainly understand your yard dilemma, Diane. I have four dogs myself, and our backyard is constantly struggling to survive! The fact of the matter is that many lawn care products for fertilizing grass can be used safely on lawns frequented by pets. The key to their safe use is to follow label directions to a tee. For example, if a fertilizer spray product instructs you to dilute at a certain ratio and let the treated area dry thoroughly before re-entering, these guidelines are important to adhere to in order to prevent the spread of fertilizer to undesired locations, or in the case of pets, to prevent minor skin irritation or stomach upset. The same rule of thumb applies to grub control and other lawn care items.
Good luck with your lawn, Diane. If you are uncertain about a specific product, talk with your local veterinarian or feel free to email us.
Thanks for the information. I feel a little bit more comfortable about using chemicals on our lawn because I do follow the label instructions carefully. But what about a puppy that does puppy things, like eat the grass that has been treated with chemicals even after the recommended waiting period? That scares me. I don't want my puppy getting cancer or dying early because of exposure to lawn chemicals.
I don't suppose you can mention any brands or specific products that you feel comfortable with?
Your lawn really has it tough, Diane! Seriously though, once the fertilizer has been allowed to dry completely, there is really nothing of significance that your puppy could pick up. The grass itself could cause stomach irritation though, so don't be alarmed if your pup vomits up grass. It should be no more than a minor irritation and resolve fairly quickly.
I've been curious about feeding garlic to dogs as I've noticed that it is listed on the ASPCA's list of foods to avoid feeding your dog. I was wondering what a toxic amount is, because the dry kibble I feed my pup has garlic listed as one of its ingredients, and it is a top-quality food according to the Whole Dog Journal. I know there are many top-quality dry foods that have garlic in them, so I am wondering why they would include it as an ingredient if it were toxic? Also, my dog loves the garlic bagels we buy for her at a local doggie bakery, but I worry about those, too because I don't know if it is too much garlic.
Garlic does indeed have toxic potential to pets, Lisa. In fact, it is generally regarded as being more potent than onion in causing changes in red blood cells in dogs and cats. This is because it contains more of the disulfides responsible for the toxicity seen in the various Allium species. This is true in raw, cooked or powdered forms. In theory, "deodorized" garlic is less toxic, since the disulfides responsible for the odor are usually removed to a large extent.
Even at low levels of exposure to garlic, though, some Heinz body formation in red blood cells is likely. Usually it is when a significant number of red blood cells are altered that oxygen carrying capacity is noticeably compromised and clinical signs develop. Generally, it takes either a fairly large single ingestion or chronic exposure―with bone marrow not compensating for the lost/damaged red blood cells. These effects are also somewhat more likely to be seen in cats, as their red blood cells have shorter life spans and they're more likely to have bone marrow issues. However, the possibility exists that some dogs may also be genetically more susceptible to problems from garlic ingestions.
The bottom line is that we do not definitively know at what dose any dog may experience problems. An occasional low dose, such as the amount found in most commercial pet foods and treats, would not be likely to cause problems. A conservative approach might be to avoid exposure to more concentrated garlic based products.
Here are a couple of article references on the effects of garlic in dogs:
- Cope, R.B. Allium Species Poisoning in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Medicine August 2005, pp 562-566
- Lee KW, Yamato O, Tajima M, Kurakoa M, Omae S, Maede Y (2000). Hematologic changes associated with the appearance of eccentrocytes after intragastric administration of garlic extract to dogs. Am J Vet Res 61:1446-1450.
- Pantoja CV, Chiang LC, Norris BC, Concha JB. (1991) Diuretic, natriuretic and hypotensive effects produced by Allium sativum (garlic) in anaesthetized dogs. J Ethnopharmacol 31:325-331.
I hope you have found this information to be of help, Lisa. Please feel free to contact us again if we can be of assistance to you with any additional questions.
What kinds of "people food" can dogs eat? Some people say it’s okay to feed dogs cheese. But I’ve also heard that dogs are lactose intolerant. Which one is true?
Below is a list of the most common foods that can pose a risk to pets, Lisa. Please note that this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. Therefore, if you are considering offering your pet a food that doesn’t appear on this list, always check with your local veterinarian first.
Foods to Avoid Feeding to Your Pet―and Why:
- Alcoholic beverages―these can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drunkenness (ataxia), central nervous system (CNS) depression, tremors, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), or panting, respiratory failure, acidosis, coma or death.
- Avocado―rabbits, mice and birds in particular are pets susceptible to poisoning. symptoms seen are respiratory distress, fluid accumulation around the heart and death.
Chocolate (in all forms)―can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors seizures and death, depending on the dose ingested.
- Xylitol―candies, gum or other foods sweetened with xylitol can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar, resulting in life-threatening tremors and seizure activity, as well as the potential for liver failure.
- Coffee (in all forms)―can produce the same effects as chocolate, depending upon the dose.
- Fatty foods―can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. Can also result in an inflammatory condition of the pancreas (pancreatitis), particularly in dogs.
- Macadamia nuts―can produce weakness (particularly in the hind legs), depression, vomiting, ataxia and tremors. Thus far, dogs have been the only species reported to the ASPCA/APCC that are effected by ingestion of this species of nut.
- Moldy or spoiled foods―may contain certain molds that release toxins which can cause vomiting, severe tremors, seizures and death. Spoiled food can also contain bacterial toxins which can produce severe food poisoning signs.
- Onions, onion powder―can produce vomiting, diarrhea, and can cause significant damage to red blood cells.
- Raisins and grapes―ingestion of these fruits have been associated with acute kidney failure in dogs. Most dogs initially vomit and drink a lot of water. They then develop diarrhea, kidney failure and, finally, death.
- Salt―can produce sodium ion poisoning which causes vomiting, depression, tremors, excessive thirst, diarrhea, excessive urination, elevated body temperature, seizures and death if a large enough amount is consumed.
- Yeast dough―yeast-based dough can not only expand in the stomach as it rises, causing an obstruction or intestinal rupture, but yeast can form alcohol when it rises, which can cause alcohol poisoning.
As for cheese, Lisa, dogs and cats are relatively lactose intolerant. Therefore, too much of a dairy food could cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea.
We hope this has been helpful to you!
Thanks for your quick response. Overall do you think it’s a bad idea to feed dogs people food like meat and chicken?
You're welcome, Lisa! A small bit of fully cooked meat or chicken as an occasional treat is not likely to pose a problem. However, these meats alone do not provide sufficient nutrition to pets. Because of this, well-rounded commercial pet foods are typically best as a staple.
My cousin has a fat cat, and I mean FAT. He loves fruit. He will jump on our laps to get a bite! Can eating fruit cause him to be overweight? Is it safe to feed him fruit? Will any specific fruit be toxic to his health?
The truth is, Peggy, your cousin’s cat is probably not fat due to eating fruit. Most fruits are fine for cats to eat. Just be sure to avoid giving him raisins/grapes and possibly avocados. It’s not uncommon for kitties to enjoy fruit. I had a cat once who loved cantaloupe and honeydew!
My birds like to bite and chip the paint off my wall. Should I stop them, or does it somehow help them to file their beaks? Also, I read that you can feed birds bread as a treat. Should I avoid certain ingredients or brands?
I would try to stop your birds from biting at the wall, Eli. In older houses, the paint may contain lead, and ingesting plaster or pieces of the dry wall could cause an intestinal obstruction. You may want to get your birds a cuttlebone for their cage to help them with their beaks. In terms of feeding them bread, cooked bread should be fine. Just be sure never to feed them raw dough, and make sure you avoid raisin breads.
We hope we answered your question, Eli. If you have any others, please feel free to contact us again.
Is it safe for dogs to be around a hibiscus tree? I didn't see this tree on the poisonous list, but I've heard it's not good for dogs if they ingest a hibiscus leaf or flower. Is this true?
It is true that the hibiscus species can be potentially toxic, Christa. These trees can possibly cause gastrointestinal upset that could become significant and could lead to dehydration. Drooling, loss of appetite and depression can also occur. Based on this information, we would advise you to keep hibiscus out of the reach of your pets.
I used to work for a vet who would advise dog owners not to feed their dogs ham. I can’t remember the specific reasoning behind his advice. Is ham, cooked or deli, bad for dogs and cats?
Ham is not poisonous, Lisa, but it is high in fat and salt, which could lead to digestive problems as well as excessive urination and thirst―or even metabolic disturbances.
The bottom line? A little piece of ham as an occasional treat is not likely to be an issue, you just should not feed it to dogs or cats in large quantities.
I have a list of non-toxic plants, but what I would really like is a list of cut flowers that I can buy to decorate my dining room table that won't poison my pets. What are some common grocery store or florist shop cut flowers that are safe to have around the house? One of my cats ate baby's breathe once.
Baby's breath will cause vomiting in cats, Donna, but usually it’s nothing serious. Lilies, on the other hand, are very dangerous as they can cause kidney failure in cats. Carnations are part of the compositae family, which are considered to have toxic potential. This family of plants can produce drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, anorexia and loss of coordination. Because of this, we would not recommend keeping carnations in an area where your kitties can gain access to them.
Roses are not known to be toxic, however any plant can produce irritation to an animal’s gastrointestinal tract, potentially producing vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, roses have thorns on their stems, which could cause physical trauma to curious noses, paws and the gastrointestinal tract if swallowed.
Some additional, safer alternatives might include:
- African violet
- Canna lilies (they are not of the genus Lilium)
We hope this helps, Donna. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email us again.
Is it safe and healthy to pour a little bit of homemade chicken soup with carrots and celery in it on my dog’s dry food? Also, is it ok to give my dog bread?
If given in small amounts, these food items are not likely to pose an issue for your dog, Annie. Do you have a specific reason for putting the soup on the food? Is your dog not eating well? If so, it would be a good idea to chat with your veterinarian to make sure there is not an underlying reason for the reluctance to eat. Find out if there might be a more suitable alternative that will make the food more attractive.