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Some treats humans love can be dangerous for pets

Dr Rachel Hallman, left, a doctor of veterinary medicine at the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility, performs a cat welfare checkup with help from Pamela Hatch. The Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility provides pet care for active duty members and retirees. Call 573.596.0094 to make an appointment.
(Photo credit: Photo by Mike Curtis, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office)


FORT LEONARD WOOD, Missouri – With Halloween approaching and more holidays on the horizon, it’s important to remember that some of the treats we love can be dangerous for our pets. We care about keeping your pet safe and healthy during the holiday season, so here are some common household substances you should know about.

Chocolate is perhaps the most well-known treat to avoid for pets. One of the most beloved human treats can quickly turn into an emergency for our furry friends. All types of chocolates have a different level of toxicity, with baking chocolate being the worst, followed by semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and then chocolate flavored foods. The toxicity comes from theobromine and caffeine which dogs and cats are unable to process like we are. Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, fast heart rate, tremors or seizures, and even death. Depending on the size of the animal and the type of chocolate, even a small amount can cause serious problems.

Another concern is xylitol / birch sugar, a sugar substitute that can be very toxic to dogs. It is found in gum, candies, mouthwashes, toothpaste, and other sugar-free food products. Xylitol is safe for humans, but dogs are unable to digest it properly and it results in a drop in blood sugar levels and liver damage. In a small dog, a single piece of gum can be problematic.

Many people don’t realize that grapes and raisins can also be toxic to dogs, and until recently no one could say for sure why. Some recent studies have shown the toxicity caused by potassium bitartrate, a substance better known as cream of tartar. It is an incredibly toxic compound to dogs, but the level of tartaric acid varies in grapes due to type, growing conditions, and maturity. This is why some dogs do well after eating grapes, and others get seriously ill after just a few.

Some other toxins in your kitchen include onions, garlic, and chives, which can damage red blood cells and kidney disease in dogs and cats. Rhubarb stems and leaves can cause effects ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to kidney disease in cats and dogs. Citrus products, including the stems, leaves, peels, seeds, and fruits, contain citric acid which can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs and cats. Macadamia nuts can cause neurological signs or gastrointestinal upset in dogs. A variety of nuts can cause gastrointestinal upset due to their high fat content and should be avoided. Coconut and coconut products can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea in dogs.

While these are some of the most common toxins that can be found in your home, this is not a comprehensive list. If in doubt, ask your vet if a specific treat can be given to your pet. If your pet eats anything potentially dangerous, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to reach your veterinarian, the Animal Poison Control Center is a great resource for any animal poison emergency. Their website,, has plenty of free resources, including a searchable database on poisonous plants, household products, and more. have an app that you can download to your phone for quick reference.

The Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility provides pet care for active duty members and retirees. Call 573.596.0094 to make an appointment.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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