Wintertime is all about comfort foods. A warm kitchen and tasty meal can cut through the cold like nothing else.
However, not everything that we can eat should be ingested by cats and dogs. In fact, many popular recipes include items that are downright toxic if eaten by pets, such as onions, garlic, sugar substitutes and cocoa.
Keep your pet safe while you cook by keeping these ingredients away from your pet.
Onions and garlic
Onions and garlic are members of the Allium plant family, which are all toxic when ingested by dogs and cats. Along with scallions, shallots, chives and leeks, these pungent ingredients contain disulfides and thiosulphates that can cause life-threatening illness if eaten by our pets.
All onions—whether raw, cooked or even freeze-dried—are a danger to your pet. It only takes a small amount of onion or garlic to poison your cat or dog, with cats even more sensitive to onion's effects than dogs.
Symptoms of Allium poisoning generally show within 24 hours, and include vomiting and diarrhea, along with symptoms of anemia—breathlessness, lethargy, pale or yellow gums, rapid breathing and an elevated heart rate. Your pet also could develop anemia, which causes abdominal pain and discolored urine.
Chocolate is among the most common sources of poisoning—due in large part to its popularity with humans. When pet parents don’t keep an eye on chocolate while baking or during parties, pets can get in a lot of trouble.
The effects vary by pet size, species, amount eaten and kind of chocolate: The darker the chocolate and the smaller the pet, the higher the risk. That means a large dog who eats a few pieces of milk chocolate is probably in no danger except to your carpet from vomiting, but a small pet eating the same amount of Baker’s chocolate may be at grave risk. Fortunately, chocolate ingestion is typically not fatal when pets receive prompt treatment.
Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to keep chocolate out of reach or stored behind the closed doors of a pantry, especially around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween when candy is common.
Xylitol is a natural sugar replacement that is used to sweeten candy, gum, toothpaste, children’s medicine and a variety of nut butters. It can also be bought in its refined form and used in baking, like any other sugar.
While xylitol can be valuable for people who are diabetic or maintain a low-carb diet, it is extremely dangerous for pets. As sugar substitutes grow in popularity, more pets are being accidentally exposed.
Ingestion of any small amounts of the product will cause the rapid release of insulin in dogs and result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia leads to vomiting, weakness, collapse and sometimes seizures. Onset of toxicity can be seen in as few as 10 minutes and, without prompt care, it can be fatal.
The best way to prevent xylitol poisoning is awareness. When you’re at the supermarket, take note of which “sugar-free” or “naturally sweetened” products list xylitol or birch sugar (or its chemical classification, “sugar alcohol.”) Be sure not to leave these products where they can be eaten by pets.