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Some food toxic for pets

Authors:
  • EFSA, Parma, Italy; University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice, Slovakia

Abstract

According to world statistics, dogs and cats are the species that owners most frequently seek assistance with potential poisonings, accounting 95–98% of all reported animal cases. Exposures occur more commonly in the summer and in December that is associated with the holiday season. The majority (>90%) of animal poisonings are accidental and acute in nature and occur near or at the animal owner's home. Feeding human foodstuff to pets may also prove dangerous for their health. The aim of this review was to present common food items that should not be fed (intentionally or unintentionally) to dogs, i.e. chocolate, caffeine, and other methylxanthines, grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, avocado, alcohol, nuts, xylitol contained in chewing gum and candies, etc. Onion and avocado are toxic for cats, too. The clinical effects of individual toxicants and possible therapy are also mentioned. Knowing what human food has the potential to be involved in serious toxicoses should allow veterinarians to better educate their clients on means of preventing pet poisonings. It can be concluded that the best advice must surely be to give animal fodder or treats specifically developed for their diets.
interdisciplinary
Some food toxic for pets
Natália KOVALKOVIČOVÁ 1, Irena ŠUTIAKOVÁ 2, Juraj PISTL 1, Václav ŠUTIAK 1
1 University of Veterinary Medicine, Komenského 73, 041 81 Košice, Slovak Republic
2 University of Prešov, Ul. 17. Novembra 1, 081 16 Prešov, Slovak Republic
ITX020309R01 Received: 15 July 2009 Revised: 27 August 2009 Accepted: 28 August 2009
ABSTRACT
According to world statistics, dogs and cats are the species that owners most frequently seek assistance with potential poisonings,
accounting 95–98% of all reported animal cases. Exposures occur more commonly in the summer and in December that is associated
with the holiday season. The majority (>90%) of animal poisonings are accidental and acute in nature and occur near or at the animal
owner's home. Feeding human foodstuff to pets may also prove dangerous for their health.
The aim of this review was to present common food items that should not be fed (intentionally or unintentionally) to dogs, i.e.
chocolate, caffeine, and other methylxanthines, grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, avocado, alcohol, nuts, xylitol contained in chewing
gum and candies, etc. Onion and avocado are toxic for cats, too. The clinical effects of individual toxicants and possible therapy are
also mentioned. Knowing what human food has the potential to be involved in serious toxicoses should allow veterinarians to better
educate their clients on means of preventing pet poisonings.
It can be concluded that the best advice must surely be to give animal fodder or treats specifically developed for their diets.
KEY WORDS: pet; human food; intoxication
Correspondence address:
Natáli a KOVALKOVIČOVÁ, DVM ., PhD.
University of Veterinary Med icine, Komenského 73,
041 81 Košice, Slovak Republic
TEL.: +421915984674; E-MAIL: kovalkovicova@uvm. sk
mouths, dogs far outrank other species when it comes to
owners seeking aid for potential poisonings, making up
70–80% of all animal cases (Gupta, 2007). There are also
some foods, which are edible for humans, and even other
species of animals, that can pose hazards for dogs because
of their different metabolism, e.g. chocolate, caffeine and
other methylxanthines, grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, avo-
cado, alcohol, nuts, etc.
Due, perhaps, to the more discriminating habits and
appetites, cats account for only 11–20% of reported animal
exposures to potential toxicants, which is three times less
frequent than dogs. The cats are independent and less
restrict to adefinite space. Consequently, they are more
susceptible to become victims of poisoning when tasteless
and odorless toxic agents are mixed with tasty foods. In
spite of being very selective in their alimentary pattern,
cats can not notice the presence of the poison mixed with
food, as insecticide aldicarb that is often mixed with fish
that has strong odour and flavour (Xavier et al., 2007). Cats
may due to their grooming habits, be more susceptible to
toxicants that come into contact with their fur, this is espe-
cially problematic with agents to which cats are exquisitely
sensitive (e.g. ethylene glycol) (Gupta, 2007). The most
common poisonous foods for cats are onion and garlic and
other related root vegetables, green tomatoes, green raw
pottatoes, chocolate, grapes and raisins, etc.
Some food may cause only mild digestive upsets,
whereas, others can cause severe illness, and even death
in pets. Knowing what agents have the potential to be
involved in serious toxicoses should allow veterinarians to
better educate their clients on means of preventing animal
Introduction
There is an unlimited number of agents by which exposed
animals may become poisoned, and for the most part,
which specific agents are involved in animal poisonings
will be dependent upon what is available in the animals
environment, the potential or inclination for the animal
to be exposed to the agent, the amount of agent to which
the animal is exposed, and the individual sensitivity of the
animal to the effects of the agent (Gupta, 2007).
Nowadys, the most common agents involved in animal
exposures are rodenticides, chocolate, pharmaceuticals,
glycols, metals, pesticides, plants, miscellaneous agents.
Rodenticides, chocolate (approximately one quarter of all
exposures) and pharmaceuticals (22% of exposures) make
up the majority of agents in the most recent reports (Cope
et al., 2006; Martinez-Haro et al., 2008). Feeding human
foodstuff to pets may also prove dangerous for their health.
Adifference between species regarding the occurrence
of poisonings was found and such fact can be explained by
different behaviour between dogs and cats.
Perhaps at least partly because of their inquisitive
natures and willingness to investigate everything with their
Interdisc Toxicol. 2009; Vol. 2 (3): 169–176.
doi: 10.2478/v10102-009-0012-4
Published online in:
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Copyright ©2009 Slovak Toxicology Soci ety SETOX
REVIEW ARTICLE
170
N. Kovalkovičová, I. Šutiaková, J. Pistl, V. Šutiak
Some food t oxic for pets
ISSN: 1337-6853 (print version) | 1337-9569 (elect ronic ver sion)
poisonings through the appropriate use of household prod-
ucts and the removal of potential hazards from the animals‘
environments.
Chocolate, ca eine and other methylxanthines
Chocolate is derived from the roasted seeds of Theobroma
cacao and its toxic principles are the methylxanthines
theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine (1,3,7-tri-
methylxanthine). Theobromine is also found in tea, cola
beverages, and some other foods.
Chocolate toxicoses occur especially at holidays:
Valentine‘s day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas and may
result in potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias
and CNS dysfunction (Stidworthy et al., 1997; Beasley, 1999).
Sources
Most poisonings from methylxanthines occur as a result
of chocolate ingestion. Chocolate is toxic to all species,
especially to smaller dogs, though a toxic dose will vary
depending on factors like whether the dog ate the chocolate
on an empty stomach, if the dog is particularly sensitive to
chocolate, and the type of chocolate, since dark chocolate
is more toxic, whereas milk chocolate less so, and white
chocolate must be consumed in extremely large quantities
to cause a serious problem. Contributing factors include
indiscriminate eating habits and readily available sources of
chocolate. Deaths have also been reported in livestock fed
cocoa byproducts and in animals consuming mulch from
cocoa-bean hulls. Cocoa bean hulls or waste used as bed-
ding for animals has caused toxicosis primarily in horses.
Third most prevalent poisoning from these agents is a result
of caffeine tablets ingested by dogs or hype race horses
(tablets often contain 100 mg each). Theophylline tablets
or elixirs are also used as human or veterinary medication.
The methylxanthine content
The most important toxic component of chocolate – the
methylxanthine alkaloid theobromine is present in variable
concentrations dependent on the quality of the chocolate
– the darker or richer in cocoa solids the more dangerous
the preparation. Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are
the most toxic forms (Sutton, 1981). Table 1 shows the total
methylxanthine concentration in chocolate (www.merckvet-
manual. com).
The amount of theobromine found in chocolate is small
enough t hat choc olate can be safe ly co nsu med by humans in
large quantities, but animals that metabolize theobromine
more slowly can easily consume enough chocolate to cause
poisoning. Although the concentration of theobromine in
chocolate is 3–10 times that of ca ffeine, both con stituents con-
tribute to the clinical syndrome seen in chocolate toxicosis.
Toxic doses
A 10-kilogram dog can be seriously affected if it eats a quar-
ter of a250 g packet of cocoa powder or half of a250 g block
of cooking chocolate. These forms of chocolate contain ten
times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Thus, a choc-
olate mud cake could be a real health risk for a small dog.
Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a
cake can make a dog unwell. A dog needs to eat more than
a250 g block of milk chocolate to be affected. Obviously,
the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat. A typical 20 kg
dog will normally experience intestinal distress after eating
less than 240 g of dark chocolate, but will not necessarily
experience bradycardia or tachyarrhythmia unless it eats at
least a half a kilogram of milk chocolate. According to the
Merck Veterinary Manual (1998), approximately 1.3 g/kg
b.wt. of baker‘s chocolate is sufficient to cause symptoms
of toxicity, e.g. a typical 25 g baker‘s chocolate bar would be
enough to bring out symptoms in a 20 kg dog.
The negative effects depend on the dosage, the size of
the dog, and the type of chocolate. LD50 of methylxanthines
in animals are summarised in Table 2 (www.actionagainst
poisoning.com).
Absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion (ADME)
Theobromine and caffeine are readily absorbed from the GI
tract and are widely distributed throughout the body. They
are metabolized in the liver and undergo enterohepatic
recycling and then excreted in the urine as both metabolites
and unchanged parent compounds. Methylxanthines also
readily pass in the milk of exposed lactating animals. Very
little parent compound is passed in the feces. The half-lives
Tab le 1. The total methylxanthine concentration in chocolate
(www.merckvetmanual. com).
Type of product
The total methylxan-
thine concentration
dry cocoa powder 28.5 mg/g
unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate 16 mg/g
cocoa bean hulls 9.1 mg/g;
0.5–0. 85% theobromine
semisweet cho colate and sweet dark
chocolate 5.4–5.7 mg/g
milk chocolate 2.3 mg/g
refined chocolate candies 1.4–2.1 g/kg
white chocolate an insignificant source
of methylxanthines
cocoa beans 1–2% theobromine
Table 2. LD50 of methylxanthines in animals
(www.actionagainstpoisoning.com).
Methylxanthine Animal LD50 (mg/kg)
Theophylline Dog 300
Cat 700
Caffeine Dog 140
Theobromine Dog 250–500
Cat 200
Mouse 837
Rat 1 265
171
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Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2009; Vol. 2(3): 169–176
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of theobromine and caffeine in dogs are 17.5 h and 4.5 h,
respectively.
Mechanism of action
Methylxanthines cause a competitive antagonism of cel-
lular adenosine receptors. Inhibition of adenosine receptors
causes CNS stimulation, constriction of some blood vessels,
diuresis, and tachycardia. Methylxanthines also increase
intracellular calcium levels by increasing cellular calcium
entry and inhibiting intracellular sequestration of calcium
by the sarcoplasmic reticulum of striated muscles. The net
effect is increased strength and contractility of skeletal
and cardiac muscle. Methylxanthines may also compete
for benzodiazepine receptors within the CNS and inhibit
phosphodiesterase, resulting in increased cyclic adenosine
monophosphate (AMP) levels. They may also increase
circulating levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine (www.
merckvetmanual.com).
Clinical signs
Clinical signs of toxicosis usually occur within 6–12 h of
ingestion, e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dyspnoe, thirst,
and increased urination. These can progress to dehydration,
restlessness, hyperactivity, cardiac arrhythmias, internal
bleeding, heart attacks, tachypnea, ataxia, tremors, seizures,
weakness, coma, cyanosis, hypertension, hyperthermia, and
eventually death. The high fat content of chocolate products
may trigger pancreatitis in susceptible animals. In general,
mild signs (vomiting, diarrhoea, polydipsia) may be seen in
dogs ingesting 20 mg/kg, cardiotoxic effects may be seen at
40–50 mg/kg, and seizures may occur at doses ≥ 60 mg/kg
(www.merckvetmanual.com). A dog, which ingested a lethal
quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells,
developed severe convulsions and died 17 h later. Analysis
of the stomach content and the ingested cacao bean shells
revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine
(Drolet et al., 1984).
Treatment
Once animals have stabilized, or in animals presenting
before clinical signs have developed (e.g. within 1 h of inges-
tion), decontamination should be performed. Induction of
emesis using apomorphine (0.08 mg/kg i.m. or s.c.) or hydro-
gen peroxide should be initiated; in animals that have been
sedated due to seizures, gastric lavage may be considered.
Activated charcoal (1–4 g/kg, p.o.) should be administered;
because of the enterohepatic recirculation of methylxan-
thines, repeated doses should be administered every 3 h for
up to 72 h in symptomatic animals (control vomiting with
metoclopramide, 0.2–0.4 mg/kg, s.c. or i.m.). Erythromycin
and corticosteroids should be avoided because they interfere
with excretion of methylxanthines. For ventricular-origin
tachyarrythmias lidocaine is applicated (1–2 mg/kg i.v.
until effect, followed by 25–80 mg/kg/min infusion rate to
effect to maintain). However, lidocaine cannot be used in
cats. If lidocaine fails, metoprolol injection is preferred over
propranolol, since metoprolol does not slow renal excretion
of methylxanthines as propranolol can. Suggested starting
dose for injectable form of either metoprolol or propranolol
is 0.02–0.06 mg/kg slow i.v., which can be repeated and
increased if needed. The rate of administration should not
exceed 1 mg/2 min i.v. For bradycardia (less prevalent) atro-
pine is use d at 0 .01–0 .02 m g/kg i .m. or s.c. Art ific ial re spira-
tion is applicated if needed. To release seizures diazepam
(0.52.0 mg/kg, slow i.v.) or barbiturates are applicated.
Fluid diuresis may assist in stabilizing cardiovascular
function and hasten urinary excretion of methylxanthines.
Other treatment for symptomatic animals includes thermo-
regulation, correcting acid/base and electrolyte abnormali-
ties, monitoring cardiac status via electrocardiography, and
urinary catheter placement (methylxanthines and their
metabolites can be reabsorbed across the bladder wall).
Clinical signs may persist up to 72 h in severe cases.
Grapes, raisins and sultanas
One of the more striking poisonings to have emerged as a
potential concern over the last few years has been that of
raisin poisoning in dogs. The ingested doses involved in
these fatal cases ranged from 10 to 57 g of fruit per kg b. wt.
There are now several reports that confirm that ingestion of
these fruits can cause renal failure in dogs. Grapes contain
an unknown toxin (Gwaltney-Brant et al., 2001; Penny et al.,
2003; Campbell and Bates, 2003; Mazzaferro et al., 2004,
Sutton and Campbell, 2006, Campbell, 2007).
Mechanism of action
The toxic mechanism remains to be elucidated, and the
apparent lack of a reproducible dose response relationship
has led some authors to suggest this may reflect either a
component of the fruits that is present in varying quanti-
ties, or the existence of an extrinsic compound that may
not a lways be pr esent. I ndi vidua l va riations in res ponse may
also occur (McKnight, 2005).
Toxic doses
The general consensus at present is that potentially any
dose should be considered a problem. Estimated amounts
of grapes associated with renal injury in dogs are about 32
g/kg; amounts of raisins associated with signs range from
11–30 g/kg (www.merckvetmanual.com).
Clinical signs
Clinical effects usually become apparent within 6 h of
ingestion, and always within 24 h. Early signs are vomiting
(in almost all cases), diarrhoea within 6–12 h of ingestion,
anorexia, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration, tremors
and letha rgy. Ingesta m ay be present in t he vomitus or f aeces.
Po ly di ps ia ma y a ls o b e a pp a ren t. Ol ig u ri c o r a nu ri c r en al fa i l-
ure develops within 24–72 h of exposure; once anuric renal
failure develops, most dogs die or are euthanized. Urinalysis
may reveal proteinuria, glucosuria, microscopic haematuria
and, rarely, crystalluria. Urine and blood tests will provide
definitive evidence for it. Transient elevations in serum
glucose, calcium, phosphorus, liver and pancreatic enzymes
develop in some dogs (Eubig et al., 2005). It is generally
ag reed t hat prog nosi s in dogs w ith ol igu ria or anu ria is poor.
172
N. Kovalkovičová, I. Šutiaková, J. Pistl, V. Šutiak
Some food t oxic for pets
ISSN: 1337-6853 (print version) | 1337-9569 (elect ronic ver sion)
Necropsy
In some of the cases with fatal outcomes proximal renal
tubule necrosis and renal calcification was described
(Morrow et al., 2005).
Therapy
Ingestion of any quantity of grapes, raisins or sultanas by a
dog should be considered treatable. Digestion of the fruits
appears to be slow and decontamination several hours post-
ingestion may be worthwhile as whole grapes and swollen
raisins have been recovered after remaining in the stomach
overnight. Gut decontamination should be considered by
means of emesis or gastric lavage. Emesis can be induced
with 3% hydrogen peroxide (2 ml/kg; no more than 45 ml),
followed by activated charcoal. Activated charcoal may be of
benefit, but care should be taken to ensure bowel sounds are
regular before this is administered. If spontaneous vomit-
ing is protracted it must be consider to use anti-emetics
such as metoclopramide (0.5–1 mg p.o., s.c. or i.m. 6–8 h
or 1–2 mg/kg per day by slow i.v. injection). Aggressive i.v.
fluid therapy for at least 48 h for rehydration and support of
renal function is important (Campbell, 2007). Renal func-
tion and electrolytes should be monitored for at least 72 h
post-ingestion. Where necessary the use of furosemide (2
mg/kg i.v. initially followed by i.v. infusion of 5 mg/kg/h),
dopa mine (0.5– 3 μg/k g/min , i.v.) or ma nnitol (0.2 5–0. 5 g/ kg
i.v. over 5–10 min) may be considered to re-establish urine
output in oliguric dogs (McKnight, 2005). However, the
efficacy of these therapies remains unproven and that there
is evidence t hat t ubula r necro sis or renal t ubule obst ruction
may prevent urine f low. Anuric dogs are unlikely to survive
unless peritoneal d ia lysis or hemodialysis is performed, and
even then the prognosis is guarded.
Onion toxicosis
The onion (Allium cepa) is one of the oldest crops. Its world
production has increased by at least 25% over the past 10
years with current production being around 44 million
tonnes making it the second most important horticultural
crop after tomatoes. Because of its storage characteristics
and durability for shipping, onion has always been traded
more widely than most vegetables. Onion is versatile and is
often used as an ingredient in many dishes and is accepted
by almost all traditions and cultures. Onion consumption is
increasing significantly and this is partly because of heavy
promotion that links f lavour and health. Onion is rich in
two chemical groups that have perceived benefits to human
health – f lavonoids and alk(en)yl cysteine sulphoxides.
Apart from its culinary uses – fresh, cooked or dehydrated
– medicinal properties have been attributed to both since
ancient times, prompting in recent years an accurate chemi-
cal analysis of the most characteristic active ingredients.
Compounds from onion have a range of health benefits
which include anticarcinogenic properties, antiplatelet,
antithrombotic activity, antiasthmatic, antidiabetic, hypo-
cholesterolaemic, fibrinolytic and various other biological
actions, and antibiotic effects (Augusti, 1996; Briggs et al.,
2001; Griffiths et al., 2002; Slimestad et al., 2007). On the
other hand, onion contains the toxic components which
can damage red blood cells and cause haemolytic anaemia
accompanied by the formation of Heinz bodies in erythro-
cytes of animals (Desnoyers, 2000), e.g. in cattle (Carbery,
1999; Rae, 1999; Van Der Kolk, 2000), horses (Thorp and
Harshfielf, 1939), dogs (Stallbaumer, 1981; Harvey and
Rackear, 1985; Solter and Scott, 1987; Yamato et al., 2005)
and cats (Kobayashi, 1981).
Heinz body anaemia is an uncommon finding in
dogs, and few other toxicants, e.g. methylene blue, acet-
aminophene, zinc, benzocaine, vitamin K,phenylhydrazine
(Houston and Myers, 1993) can induce it, so onion ingestion
must always be suspected in such situations.
Mechanism of action
Various factors are implicated in the wide variation in
species susceptibility, including differences in hemoglobin
structure and protective enzyme systems. The mechanism
of onion toxicity has been known for several decades, but
recent studies have shown that more than one toxin is
involved. The toxic components in all type of onions, garlic,
leeks, shallots, and other plants of the Allium family, are
sulfoxides and aliphatic sulfides, specifically allyl and propyl
di-, tri-, and tetrasulfides. Onions contain also the relatively
rare amino acids S-meth and S-prop (en)ylcysteine sufox-
ides (SMCO). It is widely agreed that n-propyl disulphide
is the principal toxin that reduces the activity of glucose-
6-phosphate dehydrogenase in red blood cells; thereby
interfering with regeneration of reduced glutathione needed
to prevent oxidative denaturation of haemoglobin (Thrall,
2004). Denaturated haemoglobin, when developed, precipi-
tates on the surface of red blood cells (named Heinz bodies)
and triggers intra- and extravascular haemolysis (Lincoln et
al., 1992; Tang et al., 2008). The haemolytic effect of sodium
n-propylthiosulphate, which had been isolated from boiled
onions, was studied in dogs by Yamato et al. (1998). The oral
administration of 500 mumol/kg b. wt. of the compound
to dogs resulted in a haemolytic anaemia associated with
an increase of Heinz body formation in erythrocytes, which
was more severe in dogs with the hereditary condition
which results in erythrocytes with high concentrations of
reduced glutathione and potassium than in normal dogs.
In the affected dogs there was a 10-fold increase in the
concentration of oxidised glutathione in their erythrocytes
12 h after the administration of the compound, whereas in
normal dogs there was almost no change.
Tox ici ty
Consumption of as little as 5 g/kg of onions in cats or 15 to
30 g/kg in dog s has resu lted i n clinical ly impor tant hemato-
logic changes (Cope, 2005). Onion toxicosis is consistently
noted in animals that ingest more than 0.5% of their b. wt.
in onions at one time. Arelatively high dosage (600–800 g)
in one meal or spread apart over afew days can damage red
blood cells and cause haemolytic anaemia accompanied by
the formation of Heinz bodies in erythrocytes.
All forms of onion can be a problem including: dehy-
drated, raw or cooked onions, table scraps containing
173
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cooked onions or garlic, left over pizzas, chinese dishes, any
feeding stuff containing onions.
Humans are the most resistant species studied. On the
other hand, there is some concern about the susceptibility
of certain ethnic groups that have agenetic deficiency of
glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.
Although the dog appears to be one of the most sus-
ceptible species, there are very few reports in the scientific
literature concerning accidental canine poisoning associ-
ated with onion ingestion. Cats are more susceptible than
dogs. Since baby food is often used in sick cats that are not
eating (to stimulate their appetite), there was concern that
the onion powder would cause aHeinz body anemia in these
cats (Robertson et al., 1998). Ma ny bab y foo d ma nufac turers
add onions or onion powder to increase palatability. It is
generally accepted that sheep, goats, rats and mice are more
resistant to onion toxicosis than other domestic animals
(Thra ll, 2004; A slani et al., 2 0 05 ). Th e sa f et y of fe e di n g c u l le d
onions to livestock depends upon species susceptibility and
the toxic potential of the onions. Sheep can be maintained
on diets of up to 50% onions with no clinical abnormalities
or detrimental effects on growth. Even when onions are fed
free choice, sheep have only transient hemoglobinuria and
anemia, with few deaths even reported. In contrast, cattle
sh oul d be f ed o nio ns wit h cau tio n, d ue t o th e re lat ive susc ep-
tibilty of their erythrocytes to oxidative damage. Daily feed-
ing of onions could have acumulative effect due to ongoing
formation of Heinz bodies versus a single exposure with
awide gap until the next exposure, allowing the bone mar-
row time to regenerate the prematurely destroyed red cells.
Clinical signs
The first symptoms are usually of gastro-enteritis: vomiting,
diarrhoea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, depression and
dehydration. It will take a few days for the dog to display
the symptoms associated with the loss of red blood cells:
pale mucous membranes, rapid respiratory rate, difficulty
to breath, lethargy, dark coloured urine – reddish or brown,
jaundice, weakness, rapid heart rate. Haematology may
reveal neutrophilia, lymphopenia, Heinz-body anaemia and
methaemoglobinaemia.
Therapy
There is not any antidote, however, supportive care may
be helpful: hospitalisation, administration of intra-venous
fluids, blood transfusions. Treatment is advocated of
ingestion of any quantity. For recent ingestions gastric
decontamination should be considered, and use of adsor-
bents, but thereafter management is largely supportive. It
is important that the animals remain hydrated; antiemetics
may be given to control persistent vomiting. Nonenzymatic
reductants such as ascorbic acid may also be useful (in dog
30 mg/kg b. wt. i.v. each 6–8 h). Antioxidant prevention
(by N-acetylcysteine, vitamin E, ascorbate) of Heinz body
formation and oxidative injury in cats was recommended
by Hill et al. (2001). In severely poisoned animals blood
transfusions have been successfully employed.
Nevertheless, even taking into account that lethal effects
are infrequent in dogs, avoiding exposure to any kind of A.
cepa in this and other domestic animal species seems to be
the best preventive health strategy.
Garlic
Garlic (Allium sativum) is considered to be less toxic and
safe for dogs than onion when used in moderation. Allicin
and ajoene, pharmacologically active agents in garlic, are
potent cardiac and smooth muscle relaxants, vasodilators,
and hypotensive agents (Malik and Siddiqui, 1981; Mayeux
et al., 1988; Martin et al., 1992). Lee et al. (20 00) studied
wether dogs given garlic extract developed hemolytic
anemia. Garlic extract was administered intragastrically
(1.25 ml/kg of b.wt. (5 g of whole garlic/kg) once a day for
7 days). Compared with initial values, erythrocyte count,
haematocrit and hemoglobin concentration decreased to a
minimum value on days 9 to 11. Heinz body formation, an
increase in erythrocyte-reduced glutathione concentration,
and eccentrocytes were also detected, however, no dog
developed hemolytic anemia. Eccentrocytosis appears to
be a major diagnostic feature of garlic-induced hemolysis in
dogs (Lee et al., 2000; Yamato et al., 2005).
Garlic is toxic also for horses, at a daily dose of > 0.2 g/kg
causes Heinz body anemia in them (Pearson et al., 2005).
Avocado
Avocado fruit, pits, leaves and the actual plant are all poten-
tially poisonous to dogs, along with other pets like cats,
mice, rats, birds, rabbits, horses, cattle and goats, among
others.
Persin is a fungicidal toxin found in both the fruit and
leaves of the avocado tree (Persea americana). It has been
isolated only recently and discovered to kill breast cancer
cells. It has also been shown to enhance the effect of the
breast cancer fighting drug Tamoxifen. This could poten-
tially reduce the necessary dosage of current cancer drugs.
Persin is however highly insoluble, and more research will
be needed to put it into a soluble tablet form.
Feeding avocados to any non-human animal should be
completely avoided. The lethal dose is not known; the effect
is different depending upon the animal species. Avocados
will trigger fluid accumulation in the lungs and chest,
leading to difficulty breathing and death due to oxygen
deprivation. Fluid accumulation can also occur in the heart,
pancreas and abdomen (Buoro et al., 1994). High fat content
of avocado can lead to pancreatitis.
Clinical signs
The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting,
diarrhoea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumula-
tion around the tissues of the heart and even death. Birds
seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound
and the symptoms are the increased heart rate, myocardial
tissue damage, labored breathing, disordered plumage,
unrest, weakness, and apathy. High doses cause acute
respiratory syndrome (asphyxia), with death approximately
174
N. Kovalkovičová, I. Šutiaková, J. Pistl, V. Šutiak
Some food t oxic for pets
ISSN: 1337-6853 (print version) | 1337-9569 (elect ronic ver sion)
12 to 24 h after consumption. In lactating rabbits and mice
non-infectious mastitis and agalactia after consumption of
leaves or bark was observed. In rabbits cardial arrhythmia,
submandibular edema and death after consumption of
leaves occur. In cows, horses and goats mastitis after con-
sumption of leaves or bark was observed.
Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts originate from the trees Macadamia inte-
grifolia in the continental USA and Macadamia tetraphylla
in Hawaii and Australia. They are commonly present in
cookies, so owners should be careful what they feed their
dog. Macadamia nuts (both raw and roasted) as well as
macadamia butter contain an unknown toxin that affects
the muscles, digestive system and nervous system and can
cause locomotory difficulties, weakness, dyspnoe, tremors
and swollen limbs. Macadamia nuts and walnuts can also
trigger pancreatitis and peanuts a deadly allergic reaction
(Knott et al., 2008).
The mechanism of action
The mechanism of toxicity is unknown; but may involve
a constituent of the nuts, processing contaminants or
mycotoxins.
Toxicit y
The toxic dose to dogs ranges from 2.4–62.4 g per kg b.wt.
This i s a very large range and ca n mean that some dogs wi ll get
ill with just a sma ll amount of nuts ingested, wh ile other dogs
need to eat a lot of nuts to show signs (Hansen et al., 2000).
Clinical signs
Dogs are the only species in which signs have been reported
(www.merckvetmanual.com). Within 12 h of ingestion, dogs
develop weakness (more pronounced in hind limbs), depres-
sion, vomiting, abdominal pain, ataxia, muscle tremors,
swollen and painful limbs, paralysis of the hindquarters,
hyperthermia (with rectal temperatures up to 40.5 oC), an
elevated heart rate, lameness, stiffness and recumbency.
Tremors may be secondary to muscle weakness. Macadamia
nuts may be identified in vomitus or feces. Mild transient
elevations in serum triglycerides, lipases, and alkaline
phosphatase were reported in some dogs experimentally
dosed with macadamia nuts; these values quickly returned
to baseline by 48 h after experimental dosing (Hansen et
al., 2000). Signs generally resolve within 12–48 h (Hansen
et al., 2000; Hansen, 2002). The onset of clinical signs was
reported as < 12 h in 79% of the cases. The duration of clini-
cal signs for the majority of cases was < 24 h. The amount of
macadamia nuts ingested was estimated in 72% of the calls
with a mean of 11.7 g/kg bw. All field and experimental dogs
recovered uneventfully within 1 to 2 d whether treated by a
veterinarian or not. No mortality has been reported.
Therapy
For asymptomatic dogs with recent ingestion of more than
1–2 g/kg, emesis should be induced; activated charcoal
may be of benefit with large ingestions. Fortunately, most
symptomatic dogs will recover without any specific treat-
ment. Severely affected animals may be given supportive
treatment such as fluids, analgesics or antipyretics (www.
merckvetmanual.com). Use of mild laxatives may assist
the passage of ingesta through the gastrointestinal tract.
Luckily, the muscle weakness, while painful, seems to be of
short duration and the patients do recover from the toxicity.
E ects of xylitol ingestion
Xylitol, an artificialsweetener, is present in many products,
such as candy, sugar-free chewing gums, toothpaste and
baked goods. Ingestion of these foods by dogs results in a
significant, and often sustained, insulin-mediated hypogly-
cemic crisis (Cope, 2004). In both humans and dogs, the
levels of blood sugar are controlled by the body‘s release
of insulin from the pancreas. In human xylitol ingestion
does not cause any significant changes in insulin levels or,
therefore, blood glucose (Dunayer, 2004). However, in dogs,
xylitol is astrong promoter of insulin release, which results
in a rapid decrease in blood glucose (hypoglycemia) (Asano
et al., 1977; Dunayer, 2004; Campbell and Bates, 2008).
A sudden drop in blood sugar then results in depression,
ataxia, seizures and collapse (Thomas and Boag, 2008). This
compound can cause liver damage and death. This informa-
tion was first published in July 2004.
Clinical signs
Clinical signs of xylitol toxicity can develop in as few as
30 min after ingestion and may include one or more of the
following: vomiting, weakness, ataxia, depression, hypo-
kalemia, seizures, coma, liver dysfunction and/or failure.
Dunayer and Gwaltney-Brant (2006) observed in dogs
lethargy and vomiting after ingestion of xylitol. In addition
some dogs had widespread petechial, ecchymotic, or gas-
trointestinal tract hemorrhages, moderately to severely high
serum activities of liver enzymes, hyperbilirubinemia, hypo-
glycemia, hyperphosphatemia, prolonged clotting times,
and thrombocytopenia. Necropsy revealed severe hepatic
necrosis, hepatocyte loss or atrophy with lobular collapse.
Tre atme nt
The induction of vomiting is recommended if performed
very soon after ingestion of the xylitol-containing product
but before clinical signs develop. Frequent small meals or
an oral sugar supplement may be used to manage dogs that
have not yet shown clinical signs. Following the appearance
of clinical signs intravenous dextrose can be used to control
hypoglycemia. It may also be necessary to treat the patient
for hypokalemia, if indicated. Treatment should be contin-
ued until the blood glucose levels return to normal levels.
Dunayer and Gwaltney-Brant (2006) recommended for
treatment i.v. administration of fluids; plasma transfusions;
and, if indicated, administration of dextrose. Cope (2004)
revealed that binding of xylitol to activated charcoal is rela-
tively low; however, activated charcoal administration may
still be beneficial in some canine acute oral xylitol exposures.
175
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Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2009; Vol. 2(3): 169–176
Copyright © 20 09 Slovak Toxicolo gy Society SETOX
Alcohol toxicoses
Serious intoxications have occurred when dogs have been
given alcohol to drink as a „joke“. Also, dogs seem to be
attracted to alcoholic drinks, so drinks should not be left
unattended. Dogs cannot tolerate alcohol, even in small
amounts.
Ethanol is the alcohol in alcoholic beverages, perfumes
and mouthwashes. Ethanol toxicosis in dogs occurred
after ingestion of rotten apples (Kammerer et al., 2001),
alcoholic beverages (van Wuijckhuise and Cremers, 2003)
or uncooked bread dough that contains Saccharomyces
cerevisiae (brewer‘s and baker‘s yeast), which metabolizes
carbohydrate substates to ethanol and carbon dioxide
(Thrall et al., 1984; Suter, 1992; Means, 2003). Ethanol toxi-
cosis can also occur in dogs and cats after overdosage when
ethanol is given intravenously as acompatitive substrate to
treat ethylene glycol toxicosis (Thrall et al., 1998).
Mechanism of action
The mechanism of action on the CNS is related in part to its
interactions with biomembranes and its probable inhibition
of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) receptors (Valentine,
1990).
Clinical signs
Clinical signs include ataxia, lethargy, sedation, hypother-
mia, metabolic acidosis, vomiting, diarrhoea, poor breath-
ing, liver failure, coma, and death. And the hops in beer are
also potentially toxic to dogs and cause dyspnoe, increased
heart rate, elevated temperature, seizures and death.
Therapy
Severe ethanol intoxication requires mechanical ventilation.
Electrolyte and acid-base status should be also corrected
(Richardson, 2006).
Conclusion
There are also other human foods that may cause intoxica-
tions in pets, e.g. tomato, pottato, rhubarb, persimons, etc.
T he b e st a dv i ce mu st s u rel y b e t o g i ve a n im al s f oo ds t uf fs
and or treats specifically developed for their diets.
Acknowledgements
This study was supported by VEGA Grants No. 1/0545/08,
1/4375/07 and the National Reference Laboratory for
Pesticides, University of Veterinary Medicine in Košice.
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