We are not just a nation of dog lovers, but also a nation of food lovers. There is no question that most of us enjoy our comfort foods, and often choose to indulge in the foods that make us feel good – rather than opt for the foods that are best for our health. These foods range from chocolate and fried foods to heavily processed snacks. All we need to do is open the Deliveroo app on our phone, and the food is at our doorstep within a matter of minutes – delivering the boost of serotonin we’ve been waiting to feel all day. However, did you know that salmon, spinach, and even eggs have been proven to increase your levels of serotonin? We were surprised to find that out too!
When it comes to consuming comfort foods, the feeling they provide is just as important as physically eating the food itself, with comfort foods being associated with feelings of improved mood and reduced loneliness. We tend to seek out our comfort foods when we’re experiencing any type of extreme emotion, from being overly happy to feeling extremely down. However, this is quite a different matter for our dogs. Even though those puppy dog eyes seem irresistible, and have you reaching too often for a treat, there are many foods that are simply too harmful for our dogs to consume and must be avoided – even if your dog is drooling at your feet. Incidentally, did you know that your dog has evolved a small muscle that allows them to intensely raise their inner eyebrow, making their eyes appear larger and similar to that of a human infant? This expression triggers a nurturing response in humans – no wonder it is hard to resist!
Toxic foods to avoid giving your dog
Acorns (also known as oak nuts) are the nuts of the oak tree, which contains one or two oak seeds enclosed in a tough protective shell. These nuts are recognized as one of the most toxic foods for your dog to ingest. Acorns contain tannins, which are a group of bitter plant compounds - known to cause adverse health effects in your dog - including liver damage, kidney failure, abdominal obstruction, and even in rare cases, death. It is particularly important during the Autumn months to keep a close eye out for these nuts – as Autumn is the prime time for conkers and acorns to fall on the ground and hide underneath the pile of leaves where your dog loves to play.
Some of us may enjoy the odd glass of wine, but this is not the case for our pooch. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into their body, within as little as thirty minutes. Ethanol (the intoxicating agent in beer, wine and other beverages) and hops (used to brew beer) can cause alcohol intoxication in dogs. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in their blood sugar, blood pressure, and also can lead to sudden changes in temperature. In severe cases, dogs can experience seizures and respiratory failure, so please keep these beverages away from your dog. Our dogs are curious creatures, so even if you leave your drink unattended for a few seconds, or spill your drink, remove it right away to protect your precious pooch.
Avocado is one of the healthiest foods on the planet for humans, but it is quite a different matter for your dog. Avocado contains a fungicidal toxin called Persin – which, when ingested, can have fatal consequences. If your dog were to ingest the pit of an avocado, it can lead to pancreatitis, and blockages within the gastrointestinal tract. Plus, different varieties of avocado contain varying amounts of Persin, which will lead to a range of symptoms and toxicity – so be sure that your avocado and dog do not meet.
4. Blue Cheese:
Some pet owners choose to feed their dog dairy, however, blue cheese is a dairy product that must be avoided. For example - Stilton and Roquefort contain roquefortine C, a bacterium that the cheese creates as it ripens – which is toxic to your dog. Consumption of blue cheese can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues, fever, and even neurological problems, such as seizures.
As dog lovers, we already know that chocolate is a big no-no for our dogs. Chocolate contains a compound called Theobromine. Theobromine converts into Xanthine and can significantly interfere with their central nervous system. Humans can easily metabolize Theobromine, but dogs process this compound very slowly, which allows the compound to build up to toxic levels within their system. This chemical also works as a diuretic, which can lead to severe dehydration. Chocolate might give us a much-needed oxytocin boost, but this can be a real disaster for our dog, with its main effect causing an overstimulation of their muscles, including their heart.
We admit, nothing beats a warm slice of garlic bread, and it can certainly be tempting for our dogs too. Garlic is toxic to our dog because it contains a compound called thiosulfate. Thiosulfate causes direct damage to the red blood cells, which, in turn, means less oxygen will reach their bodily tissues. Consumption of garlic can lead to weakness and lethargy, so please remain responsible and keep the garlic cloves out of reach.
People often think that all fruits are automatically nutritious for our dogs. This belief couldn’t be further from the truth - grapes are widely documented as one of the most toxic foods that your beloved dog can ever consume. Grapes can lead to kidney failure, and even death. Interestingly, the toxic substance in grapes remains unknown, but we do know that your dog cannot metabolize the tannins, flavonoids, and monosaccharides in grapes. Even in small quantities, these tiny fruits can cause death, so always make sure they are out of range.
Onions contain a compound called N-propyl disulfide. This compound has proven to lead to oxidative damage of the red blood cells, whereby the toxin will attach to the oxygen molecules in the cells. This interferes with oxygen transportation throughout the body, which, in turn, can cause anaemia and further oxidative damage. Undesirably, this process will also trick your dog’s body into recognizing the blood cell as a foreign body, which causes the red blood cell to be destroyed (haemolysis), resulting in haemolytic anaemia.
9. Cooked bones:
Undoubtably, our dogs love bones – plus, it keeps them quiet for hours! Raw bones are a rich source of essential minerals that are beneficial to their health, whilst providing great mental stimulation - preventing boredom and reducing unwanted behaviours. Nevertheless, only give your dog raw, uncooked bones to chew on (supervised, of course) and avoid cooked bones. Cooked bones will easily splinter, cause constipation, and in some instances, lead to perforation of the gut - which can be fatal. When a bone is cooked, its structure is significantly altered. The cooking process causes the bone to dry out, which makes the bone harder, more brittle, and difficult to digest, while also increasing the chances that it will splinter. These splinters are incredibly dangerous, since they can cause serious injuries in the mouth, throat, and further down the digestive tract. It may seem natural to give the dog a bone, but not if it is cooked!
10. Macadamia nuts:
Macadamia nuts are fruits of the rare macadamia tree. Although these nuts are not an everyday food, they are often found in baked goods, such as cakes and trail mix. Even though we can eat these, macadamia nuts are harmful to our dogs, and can lead to weakness in the hindlegs, vomiting, diarrhoea, panting, swollen limbs, ataxia, hyperthermia, and depression. Even though the toxic element of these nuts has not yet been identified, it is best to keep these away from your pooch.
Whether your dog is sniffing around your feet, or using their big eyes to gaze into yours, it can be very tempting to give them a treat - but be mindful of the foods you are feeding them. Your dog is an opportunist, and their willingness to eat any food has no indication on whether the food is good or bad for them. As a general rule, it’s safest to stick to feeding your dog what your veterinarian recommends - this way you know your dog will consume the right balance of nutrients to meet their needs. Nevertheless, if you want to give them a treat, please do your research beforehand, to guarantee you are giving them the best nutrition they deserve.