During Christmas dinner, we have the pleasure of sitting together around the table and appreciate the real meaning of that day. It is also the time for children to enjoy opening presents while the whole family savors chocolates, puddings, and special dishes that are perfect for humans, but which could be extremely dangerous for the four legged members of the family. While it is true that the origin of the relationship between dogs and primitive men was marked by the similarities in their diets and the beneficial association to hunt,
it is also true that by living on their own, pooches had the freedom to instinctively choose to eat the available nutritional offers that were most beneficial to their health. As domestication evolved, men began to decide their furry companion's entire diet. During the last decade, a new approach to dog ownership shows that most pet dogs are considered as family members, which are consequently adopting humans habits. Overweight dogs are actually a new problem that arises from this modern lifestyle of humans and is reflected in our pets. Nowadays, an average pet dog exercises less and eats more human food that its ancestors did.
Therefore, because similarities between dog and humans' diets does not mean they are exactly the same, many foods that humans consume are not adequate for dogs. Furthermore, some of them have proven adverse effects on dogs and cats' health, even when given in small portions. The Holiday Season is not only a critical period for dogs abandonment, but also a time when the number of reported accidents caused by human food on pets rises considerably. The most common human foods that are on Christmas table and could cause toxicity in dogs are raisins or grapes, garlic, onion, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and xylitol.
Raisins and grapes are present in numerous substances. Its toxicity produces gastrointestinal upset and, in many cases, acute renal failure. The symptoms are vomiting with subsequent diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness within the first 24 hours of ingestion. The degree of the condition is not related to the amount of grapes or raisins ingested or the size of the dog. Renal problems could lead to acute renal failure. This serious stage implies a sudden decline of kidney function, requiring hemodialysis as treatment, but without improving the animal's chances of survival. Raisins can be found in most of Christmas puddings, so make sure to keep these traditional dessert out of your dog's reach.
Chocolate is in numerous traditional Christmas and Easter dishes from all over the world. It is often given as a gift during these periods of the year when the number of chocolate related reported accidents involving dogs increases. Theobromine and caffeine are the toxic substances present in chocolate and cocoa products. However, theobromine is a toxin particularly dangerous for dogs due to its accumulative effect. Since the elimination of theobromine is slow in dogs, pooches are more susceptible to toxicity after chocolate intakes. The highest concentration of this substance is in baking and dark chocolate. Both theobromine and caffeine are stimulants of the central nervous systems leading to symptoms such as hyperactivity, tachycardia, arrhythmia, rapid breathing, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, convulsion, coma seizures and even death. Caffeine is also present in coffee and tea, two other substances to keep away from your dog.
Xylitol is a popular sweetener used in many products like sugar-free gum, candies, and baked goods, Christmas cookies and cakes. It is highly toxic for dogs, but not for humans. Therefore, it is employed to sweeten medicines and personal care products such as cough syrup, chewable vitamins, and toothpaste. In dogs, Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia i.e. low concentrations of sugar in theirs bloodstream. Like with humans, the level of sugar in a dog's blood is controlled by the insulin released by the pancreas. Unlike humans, however, xylitol strongly stimulates insulin release in dogs, causing an acute decrease of blood sugar that could lead to seizures, coma, and even death. The clinical signs of hypoglycemia occur within 10 to 60 minutes after the ingestion and include vomiting, incoordination, tremors, weakness, lethargy, seizures, liver failure, and coma. The ingestion of Macadamia nuts can also be toxic to dogs and numerous cases were reported. Even though the actual causes of the reaction remain unidentified and are still being researched. The symptoms appear usually within 12 hours after the first intake and include vomiting, tremors, difficulty breathing, hyperthermia, tachycardia, and weakness. Macadamia nuts are ingredient of cookies, candies, party treats, and they are much more present in our households during the holiday season. Sometimes, they are combined with chocolate, which has synergistic effects that can exacerbate the symptoms and lead to a more severe and dangerous health condition. Onions and garlic are part of most of human foods and are also very dangerous for dogs, because they contain organo-sulfoxide compounds, which are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The intake of a sufficient amount of onions in all forms, raw, cooked, dehydrated or powder can produce damages of canine erythrocytes, i.e. red blood cells, leading to hemolytic anaemia. The symptoms appear several days after the ingestion as result of anemia, including weakness, pale mucous membranes, tachycardia, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, this may evolve in renal failure and death.
Moreover, there are many other foods consumed by humans on a regular basis that could be dangerous for your pooch and are worth reminding. Among them we can find: avocado, seeds of peaches, plum, and persimmons, raw meat, bones, and eggs, milk and milk based products, yeast dough, salt and alcohol. If you suspect your dog has ingested any of these foods or has some of the symptoms listed above contact your veterinary or any animal poison control center as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are lots of foods that your dog can eat and can be part of the special Christmas dinner or as special snacks you offer to your family. Among the most popular and beneficial human foods that can be shared with our dog we can find fresh, frozen or cooked vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, and spinach. Fruits like apples, cantaloupes, pears and oranges are also good for your pooch. Cooked eggs and meat without seasoning or sauces, for example turkey without bones are fine too. Also, if you want to cook a special dinner for your beloved four-legged family member, you can try this recipe: Turkey and Trimmings Christmas Balls, by Joe Inglis,
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