March is poison prevention awareness month, and when it comes to accidental pet poisoning, the kitchen might be the most dangerous room in the house. From foods that you probably already know are lethal to your pet (like chocolate) to common items that you might not realize are dangerous (such as table salt), your kitchen is a minefield.
Even if you think you’ve placed dangerous food items in a safe place by keeping them up high or near the back of the counter, it might not be good enough. If you have a dog who likes to counter-surf or a cat that’s fond of walking across the bar, you may need to reconsider and keep toxic foods locked away in a cabinet instead of just putting them up high.
Here are a few of the top pet poisons that are probably in your kitchen right now.
Members of the allium family, such as the foods listed above, have a compound known as thiosulphate. If this compound is ingested by dogs or by cats, it can result in a condition called oxidative hemolysis, which causes anemia and attacks the red blood cells. If your dog has eaten an onion, you might not know it for several days afterward. Symptoms can eventually appear, though, including diarrhea, pale gums, lethargy, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a high heart rate. And this warning covers onions and garlic in any form — garlic powder or onion powder are dangerous, too.
At one point, salt was used to induce vomiting in dogs and cats — but this is no longer endorsed by veterinarians. Salt is highly poisonous and can cause sodium poisoning, which in extreme cases can be life-threatening. If your dog or cat has ingested salt, symptoms can begin to appear after just a few hours. You might see excessive thirst, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, seizures, lethargy, and a decreased appetite. In addition to keeping the salt shaker far out of reach, you’ll want to keep pets away from the following items: rock salt or other de-icing products, baking soda, and homemade Play-Dough.
Pets are far more sensitive to caffeine than people are. If a small dog or cat ingests moderate amounts of coffee grounds or tea bags, that can be fatal. It’s essential to store any coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, tea, chocolate, pain relievers, diet pills, and coffee- or chocolate-flavored ice cream up high (and preferably behind a cabinet door, too, just to be safe).
Symptoms of caffeine poisoning generally can occur an hour or two after the caffeine has been ingested. Caffeine affects the heart, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract in dogs and can cause an increased heart rate, vomiting, weakness, seizures, diarrhea, and restlessness or hyperactivity.
Fatty foods aren’t toxic, but they do cause painful gastrointestinal symptoms and can lead to more serious issues. Don’t give your pets fatty foods such as processed meats, fried foods, or anything cooked in grease. Fatty foods might lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which can be fatal if not treated correctly. It’s especially important to never give your dog fatty foods if he is overweight or more advanced in age.
Nuts aren’t very dangerous for cats — if consumed, they may cause sodium poisoning or stomach problems, but nothing too scary. For dogs, however, nuts can be toxic. Macadamia nuts are high-fat and are the most dangerous, causing serious problems that might be life-threatening (fever, pain, tremors). Other nuts are bad, too; pecans, hickory nuts, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts can all cause intestinal blockages or even seizures. Most nuts contain lots of salt and fat — which can both be very dangerous.
Raisins and grapes (and currants as well) often result in acute kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms surface in 24 hours or less and include weakness, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased urine output. Keep in mind that raisins are more concentrated than grapes, so just a few raisins can do a lot of damage. Raisins and grapes are especially dangerous to dogs, but can also have a negative effect on cats.