Anyone who has a pet knows that animals are willing to eat anything they find in the house without remorse. Cats chew the leaves of various plants, rats and mice chew almost everything without exception, and dogs sometimes act as a vacuum cleaner, “sucking up” all the food they find on the kitchen floor. However, many foods that people would never think of, can be deadly to animals.
Animals have a different metabolism than humans, and a product that the human body can easily handle in the same dose can cause the death of a small animal. Below we’ll look at a few foods and plants that can be in the reach of pets and still carry potential health risks if animals get their hands on them.
This may shock many people, but animals do not share the human joy of chocolate, perhaps because it kills them. Chocolate contains two closely related compounds: theobromine (a primary stimulant) and caffeine, which provide the invigorating effects of chocolate. These compounds help stimulate brain and cardiac and skeletal muscle activity by inhibiting certain cell receptors and enzymes and increasing free calcium concentrations (which helps muscles). At high doses, excessive muscle stimulation occurs, which can result in abnormal heart rhythm, muscle tremors, diarrhea, anxiety and heart failure.
That sounds scary, and you must be wondering why people don’t fall dead after a piece of chocolate cake. In fact, the human body can process theobromine much faster and more efficiently than a dog’s body can. Because chocolate is a very common food item for desserts and other treats, great care should be taken to keep it out of reach of dogs, cats and other animals. Other caffeine-containing products, such as coffee, should be kept away from pets for the same reasons. They can also cause harmful overstimulation.
2. The Onion
What makes people cry and pets die? If you answered, “Onions,” then, to your surprise, you were right. Onions (and similar vegetables such as garlic, leeks, and green onions) are very poisonous to cats and dogs because of the compounds known as N-propyl disulfide and N-propyl sodium thiosulfate they contain. When ingested, these chemicals reduce the formation of the important antioxidant, glutathione, which ultimately leads to higher levels of toxic hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can change the structure of hemoglobin, an important protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to different parts of the body. This change causes the hemoglobin proteins to separate from the red blood cells and group together to form compounds called Heinz bodies.
Unfortunately, the formation of Heinz bodies can lead to the rupture of red blood cells, which increases the risk of anemia and subsequent organ failure. Humans are very resistant to these side effects, but pets (especially cats) are very prone to develop anemia if such products are consumed regularly. Symptoms to consider include: weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, discolored urine, and heavy salivation.
3. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are highly regarded by snackers for their high mineral content, antioxidants and more. Dogs, however, can have side effects if they happen to ingest this tasty snack: vomiting, weakness or mild paralysis, hyperthermia and muscle tremors. It is not known for certain why nuts have such an effect on dogs. Theoretically, we can assume that this condition is caused by some natural substance contained in the nuts, as well as something added during production, or by a fungal lesion.
If medical attention is given in time, problems caused by macadamia nuts are usually treatable and symptoms disappear within 12 to 48 hours. But it’s wise not to leave piles of macadamia nuts around the house, as tempting as that may sound to nut eaters.
4. Grapes and Raisins
Not only do grapes emit an aura of danger (for those who have recently read John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”), but if a dog ingests these small berries, he will be in big trouble. The exact mechanism of exposure is still a mystery, but it is known that eating grapes and raisins can lead to acute kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms usually include vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, loss of appetite, lack of urination, etc.
Unlike macadamia nut poisoning, this type of poisoning is very severe and often fatal. Immediate medical attention is required. If renal failure develops, it is extremely unlikely that the dog will survive. Seedless and peeled grapes also cause a toxic reaction, meaning that the deadly reagent is in the pulp of the fruit. Raisins are no less harmful to dogs. It’s especially easy to discreetly drop it on the floor, so be extra careful the next time you send a large handful of berries into your mouth.
If your dog is feeling uncomfortable because he can’t eat chocolate anymore, here’s more shocking news: he’s no longer allowed to eat candy! Xylitol is a sugar alcohol usually added to sweets, such as chewing gum and candy, as a low-calorie sugar substitute (making it popular with diabetics). However, when ingested by dogs, xylitol causes a large release of insulin, a compound that helps cells absorb sugar from the blood. This sudden spike in insulin can cause the dog’s blood glucose levels to drop dramatically, leading to a condition known as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms of hypoglycemia include seizures, loss of coordination, and vomiting.
In addition, it has been observed that xylitol has been linked to the development of liver failure in dogs. Therefore, it is best to stick to the dog’s native treats and not give your pet candy or chewing gum. The possibility of choking is already dangerous enough in itself, and a sick liver and low blood sugar will not be the best way to reward your dog for diligently following commands.
Pet owners know that cats love to chew on plants for no particular reason. However, this cute habit can lead to the need for emergency medical intervention if lilies get into the mix. Various types of lilies (e.g., Easter lily, tiger lily, Asian lily, etc.) often decorate homes and grounds and are extremely poisonous to cats.
Consumption of any part of the plant causes symptoms such as vomiting, depression, dehydration and abnormal urination. Although the exact mechanism of toxic effects is unknown, practice shows that the kidneys are most affected, and the cat may develop kidney failure if left untreated. If you have lilies and are unsure if they are safe, make sure they are not plants in the genus Lilium or the genus Hemerocallis, as they are the most toxic.
Despite being a favorite ingredient in guacamole appetizers in many parts of the world, avocados are poisonous to almost everyone except humans, one of the few mammals capable of eating this tasty fruit. Avocados contain a natural antifungal substance known as persin, which has been found to be capable of causing necrosis of the heart muscle and mammary gland in various animal species.
Although no such side effects from eating avocados have been documented in cats and dogs, dangerous symptoms have been observed in other animals such as horses, rabbits, mice, sheep, etc. In addition to the toxic persin, the large internal seed is a choking hazard. Birds in particular are very susceptible to avocado poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning manifest as weakness, depression, tangled feathers, reluctance to perch and breathing problems.
Feeling swollen and dying from alcohol poisoning seems to be something only humans can experience, but pets face the same fate if they eat raw yeast dough. Upon entering the stomach, because the environment is warm and moist, the yeast undergoes ethanol fermentation, a metabolic process that breaks down sugar into carbon dioxide and ethanol (also known as alcohol in alcoholic beverages).
In bread dough containing yeast, the release of carbon dioxide is what makes bread rise. It’s not hard to imagine why, if the dough were eaten by a pet, it would become a problem. Expanding dough could potentially cause a blockage in the stomach and make the animal’s belly bloat. In addition, a byproduct released during ethanol fermentation would be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing alcohol poisoning, which could quickly prove fatal if the animal is not taken to a doctor right away. Watch for symptoms such as vomiting, weakness, central nervous system damage, increased heart rate, hypothermia, and bloated abdomen.
9. Sag palm
The cycad palm resembles a miniature tropical palm and will seem like an innocent enough plant to give your yard some tropical flair. However, the sage palm is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Eating this plant by pets can be fatal. The plant contains numerous toxins with different effects, the most dangerous of which is ciazine. When ingested, cyazine converts to methylazoxymethanol (MAM). It causes liver failure by damaging liver cells and impairing its ability to produce glucose.
MAM is also a carcinogen and can cause harmful mutations. Common symptoms caused by sago poisoning include vomiting, blood in feces, increased thirst and urination, mild bruising or bleeding, and neurological symptoms (seizure, paralysis, etc.). Poisoning is seen in dogs, sheep, cattle and other animals. Humans are also known to be susceptible to this toxin. You may now want to plant a real palm tree in your yard instead of a cycad palm to give it a tropical flavor.
This point applies to lovers of all types of reptiles. Fireflies are usually seen as a symbol of natural serenity and beauty, but for some reptiles they are delicious, miniature harbingers of death. Fireflies contain self-defense poisons called lucibufagins (LBGs), which, if ingested, prove fatal to various reptiles kept as pets (chameleons and lizards such as the bearded dragon). Amphibians, particularly frogs, are also at risk. After eating insects, lizards often experience urges to vomit or vomit and their skin turns a darker color. Before you decide to laugh at a reptile going dark after eating a glowing insect, know that it’s not funny at all. Death usually occurs within 2 hours.
Make sure the insects you feed your pet reptiles are safe and nutritious, and don’t give them any random insects found in the wild. They are not adapted to eating all the bugs that exist in the world.