Many fresh whole foods are often as good for our dogs as they are for us. However, anything added to your pet’s diet should be done so in moderation and with prior discussion with your vet.
Canned varieties of fruits and vegetables tend to contain salt, sugar, spices and other seasonings that may appeal to your pooch’s taste buds but should be avoided. Dogs don’t digest cellulose, plant fiber, as readily as humans. Most food remains in the canine stomach longer but quickly passes through a dog’s shorter intestinal tract, not allowing for proper digestion.
Can your dog eat Apricots, Mint and Kale? Keep reading to find out more about these common May fruits, herbs, and veggies.
Originally from China, the first apricot tree arrived in the United States (Virginia) in 1720, but its real appearance is credited to its arrival at the Spanish Missions some 70 years later.
The sunny orchards of California provide the perfect environment to grow this delectable fruit. Generally, we refer to the species P. armeniaca, since the trees disputed origin also gives roots to Armenia (no pun intended), but there are several varieties.
The apricot is a small tree with a dense, spreading canopy of leaves and branches. Flowers contain 4 white-to-pinkish petals that appear in the spring before the leaves show. A firm fruit, apricots range from sweet to tart and contain a single seed enclosed in a hard stone pit or kernel which is grainy with 3 ridges running down the side.
The flesh only of fresh, raw apricots is safest for dogs. Dried apricots are chewy, so if your dog gulps, dried fruit could form a blockage in his intestines. Apricot jam or jelly contains too much sugar which can contribute to kidney and other health problems in your pet. Apricot nectar, juice or puree (often used in pastries) also contains too much sugar, unless you juice at home.
How about apricot yogurt for your dog? That depends. Most yogurts are considered to be low in lactose, which many dogs cannot tolerate, but again, there are often added sugars and artificial sugars that can be problematic to your pet.
The toxic culprit of this fruit is the apricot kernel or seed (the true center of the pit) which contains cyanide – a rapidly acting, potentially deadly chemical!
If your dog swallows an apricot pit whole, it can lead to problems in the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines…
- Pain or straining while attempting to urinate; remaining in the “squat” for a long period
- Frequent urination with little output
- Blood in the urine
- Vomiting, gagging or regurgitation due to an esophageal stricture
- Loss of appetite due to blockage, esophageal tear, pain or overall discomfort
- Apparent abdominal pain due to blockage
- Broken teeth and/or scraped gums from chewing the hard pit
But, if your dog cracks the pit open, there is a potential for cyanide poisoning. Cyanide is the material in the kernel, the true seed in the center of the pit, and can be deadly in a matter of minutes! If only a small amount of cyanide is ingested, signs may include:
- Salivation and bright red gums indicating suffocation (oxygen in the blood is not being released to cells)
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Seizures or paralysis
Recognize the signs of cyanide poisoning, gastrointestinal distress, broken teeth, or other ailments listed above, and get immediate veterinary care for your ill pet.
Mint is a fragrant perennial herb with toothed leaves and multiple tiny purple, pink, or white flowers, depending on the variety. You can always tell a member of the mint family by its square stem and distinctive scent when gently crushed. Commonly grown indoors for cooking, mint is also a ground clover thriving in both sun and shade and comes in apple mint, chocolate mint, lavender mint, pineapple mint, and more than 20 other varieties.
Most varieties of mint are perfectly safe for dogs, but like most things in life, proper proportions are vital. Mint should be added slowly to the canine diet to prevent adverse reactions. The equivalent of no more than two mint leaves per day is the recommended dose.
One variety of non-culinary mint, Pennyroyal (mentha pulegium), also referred to as squaw grass, mosquito plant, and pudding grass, is in fact toxic to dogs! It grows in most parts of the U.S. except the coldest of climates and has small oval leaves, grayish in color. When crushed, pennyroyal smells similar to spearmint, and has a strong medicinal flavor. It is used as pesticide and therefore, may be found in flea collars and treatments. The concern here is that pets could ingest or absorb the toxic oils.
In addition to pennyroyal potentially causing liver failure, artificial forms of mint may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is also deadly to dogs! Many essential oils are safe and beneficial for our canine pals but do your research as some containing various forms of mint could be toxic.
- Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C which support healthy bones, skin and eyes. It is full of trace minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, potassium, and zinc which all play a key role in balanced nutrition. Mint has antioxidant properties that prevent the oxidation of your dog’s cells.
- The rosmarinic acid in mint may aid in seasonal allergy relief in some pets and people while menthol, a natural decongestant, can provide comfort from respiratory issues.
- Spearmint (mentha spicata) contains natural antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties that can freshen your pup's breath, while in moderation, peppermint (mentha balsamea) may also soothe an upset canine tummy.
- Consider anything that is not normal for your dog's normal health and behavior
Poisoning can range from mild-to-severe, so the sooner treatment is available, the better are chances for recovery. Once the liver is in full failure, there is no cure.
If an essential oil has come in contact with your dog’s coat or skin:
1) Wash off with a pet-specific soap or liquid dish soap (like Dawn®) immediately.
2) Get to your veterinarian for diagnostic testing as the toxin was likely absorbed through the skin or ingested via grooming. Bring along the mint that your pet came in contact with if you can.
Whether ingested or absorbed, your veterinarian may perform a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel to assess the liver and kidneys. If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea excessively, a packed cell volume (PCV) may be in order to determine dehydration.
Depending on these results, more testing may be needed to determine treatment for mint poisoning in your dog. If results are abnormal, fluid therapy to flush toxins and re-hydrate may be started. Vitamins B and C may be added to boost the immune system. Emesis (inducing vomiting) would be for dogs that ingested too much mint but who have not vomited while in some cases, the administration of activated charcoal will be the best bet to bind with and neutralize the toxins before your dog’s body absorbs them. Supportive medications may be given following recovery, to help heal the liver.
Kale is a leafy, cruciferous vegetable considered to be a nutritional powerhouse. Although a member of the cabbage family, the central leaves do not form a head and can be green or purple, smooth or curly. Kale originated in the eastern Mediterranean and has been cultivated for food since 2,000 BC.
For the average dog with no prior health issues, kale is safe in moderation. However, along with many benefits, kale does contain several potentially harmful compounds for dogs.
Calcium oxalates have been shown to cause bladder and kidney stones, so dogs prone to these ailments should only eat cooked kale which significantly reduces their effectiveness. Still, consult with your veterinarian if your dog has any health issues, and if given the okay, steam that kale or sauté in liquid.
Isothiocyanates can cause gas, stomach pain, and even diarrhea in some canine pals. Feeding kale in moderation should prevent these issues, but introduce it slowly.
Thallium, a heavy metal, can affect thyroid function, so if your dog has thyroid issues, it may be best to avoid kale altogether. If your vet says small amounts are okay, don’t feed raw kale and avoid the rib sections.
G.I. problems, bladder and kidney stones, and thyroid issues are the main concerns, so be on the look-out for:
- Any gastrointestinal distress: vomiting, diarrhea, apparent stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Straining or pain while urinating; remaining in the squat position of long periods of time
- Urinating frequently with little output
- Blood in the urine
- Lethargy or intolerance to exercise
- Weight gain without a change in diet consumption; obesity
- Changes in coat and skin: increased shedding, hair loss, thickening of the skin
- Abnormal intolerance of cold temperatures
Keep an eye on your pup when feeding Kale and be sure to know and watch for symptoms of illness and get your dog examined by your veterinarian immediately. Depending on the symptoms and organ systems that are being affected, medication, change in diet or even surgery may be in order to get your dog back to good health.
Many fruits, vegetables, and even herbs can enhance your pet’s health, but before introducing ANY new food into your dog’s diet, do your research and speak to your veterinarian. If you get the okay, introduce the novel ingredient slowly and watch for any adverse reactions. It may turn out to be the best thing you could do for your dog, but moderation and constant supervision to keep your pet healthy is an important step to keeping your pet healthy.
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