Your Dog Ate Dangerous Food? Emergency Care and When to Call the Vet

dog ate dangerous food

Bones, beer, and barbecue; chocolate donuts (the whole bag) or a strange speckled mushroom? If dogs can reach it, and it smells interesting, they might eat it. And then dogs, and dog owners, have a problem on their paws. Dogs, like humans, do not have an innate ability to recognize dangerous food and avoid it.

The Problem of Bones

While experts might debate over the safety of large raw bones for dogs who like to chew — and the consensus of opinion is no — cooked bones are always to be avoided. With cooking, bones become brittle and more likely to splinter with rough chewing; making dogs prone to choking, cutting the mouth and delicate internal digestion with bones splinters, and internal bleeding. Some dogs can chew bones, especially cooked chicken bones, into small enough pieces they will move through the digestive tract. But owners need to be very cautious about early and late signs of trouble.

Choking on a bone, or a bone fragment lodged in the back of the throat or esophagus, can be seen as retching or vomiting, coughing, excessive drooling, behaviors such as drinking lots of water, or signs of agitation such as trouble sitting down, circling, or walking back and forth. These behaviors, or other signs of significant distress, combined with a stolen chicken bone from the trash (source of many a dangerous food item) or other cooked bone eating, means the dog needs to be seen by the emergency vet at once.

If the dog seems okay and shows no signs of distress immediately after eating a cooked bone, the owner still needs to watch carefully for signs that a bone fragment has punctured the intestine or liver, and caused internal bleeding. Loss of appetite, combined with signs of pain and a tender, swollen belly are symptoms that need emergency evaluation.

Raw Meat and Eggs

Though dogs didn’t get their meat cooked in the Neanderthal days, they also didn’t have to deal with E. Coli and Salmonella bacteria from modern food production systems. Just like humans, dogs can get these bacterial infections from undercooked or raw eggs and meat. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and weight loss can be signs of an infectious disease or a food-borne illness. If the symptoms don’t ease within a day or two, have the dog seen by the vet.

Wild Mushrooms

Dogs are notorious for sniffing out mushrooms in the woods, scarfing them down before their owners realize what they’re doing. Some wild mushrooms have a slight fishy odor to a dog’s nose, and this smell makes them irresistible. While most wild mushrooms, and mushrooms growing in lawns, on city tree trunks, and other urban sites are often safe for dogs to eat, there are a few which make dangerous food, and can cause GI distress, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and a very few that can cause a coma — think Sleeping Beauty’s apple! The amanita breeds of mushroom have that slight attractive odor; they tend to grow in places dogs can find while on a walk in the woods. If your dog loves roaming the woods, a look online can help you identify amanita breeds for quick visual identification.

If your dog scarfs down mushrooms before you can stop him, as many do, try to find a sample of the mushroom to bring in for identification. Many mushrooms grow in clumps in a similar ecosystem; so look around the base of other trees in the area for a sample. If you can’t find a sample of any mushroom in the area, or didn’t get a look at it, then note the type of tree, the general region, and other identifying elements that can help mushroom specialists evaluate the danger. If you can find a sample, bring it with you if the dog needs to be seen. You can contact a poison control hotline for pets run by the ASPCA; the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is 1-888-426-4435.

Human Food Can be Dangerous Food

Several human foods are particularly tasty to dogs, but can cause gastrointestinal distress when eaten. Other foods have chemicals that are dangerous to dog’s systems, and should be avoided always. Salt-heavy snacks, various nuts, such as macadamia nuts, pizza crusts, and grapes and raisins can make your dog feel as ‘sick as a dog’, with vomiting and diarrhea. Other processed foods contain xylitol, a chemical sweetener, and this chemical can make for dangerous food for dogs. A good rule of thumb is that if a food comes from a factory rather than growing in the ground, or on a tree, it should be on the no-go list for dogs.

Alcohol is always dangerous for a dog. Don’t let your boy take a slurp out of your beer when he’s thirsty and you’re at a street festival; there are always places that will give a thirsty dog some water.

Chocolate and coffee contain methylxanthines, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea at even small doses. For small dogs, and those that are elderly, these small doses can be particularly dangerous food.

Overall Health and Other Considerations

Dogs that are already sick, or who are getting old, have especially sensitive systems. Small dogs also cannot manage the amount of a dangerous food that a larger dog can eat without problems. Particular care should be taken with older small dogs, and practice rigorous discipline in the areas of snacks and treats.

If your dog is overweight or has diabetes, care should also be taken to make sure treats are not impacting the dog’s ability to eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight. Some commercial treats such as processed bacon and cheese snacks may not be recommended for the elder dog, or one with chronic health problems. Raw or dried slices of apple or sweet potato are favorites of many dogs; dried fruits and vegetables are very concentrated foods, however, and too many can cause diarrhea. There is always a bit of learning curve for changing from highly-flavored commercial treats to fruits and vegetable slices, but eventually dogs respond.

Emergency Vet Care

Dogs will let us know when they are ill; signs a dog owner needs to look for are a change in behavior, agitation or signs of pain, an inability or disinclination to go for walks or other normal behaviors, collapse or difficulty walking, and difficulty eating or drinking. These serious signs should always be evaluated by a vet; and if the dog has eaten anything odd, such as a mushroom in the woods, any samples you can collect will help with identification.

For a senior dog or one who has chronic illness, even a mild case of gastrointestinal distress from eating crackers or popcorn off the coffee table can be serious, and should be evaluated. A young, healthy dog can usually self-limit the amount of distress from eating something inappropriate, and a day or two of vomiting and diarrhea are to be expected. Longer than that, and your dog should be evaluated by the vet.

Can we answer questions or make an appointment for your pet? Please contact us for more information.

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