Maurillo: Tips for pet food safety this holiday season | Lifestyles

Ruben Morello for Citizen

Holiday celebrations are in full swing, and pet owners need to be wary of potential food hazards that their pets should avoid. Eating these highly rated “foods to avoid” could lead to serious and/or life-threatening health problems for their pets. Canines generally tend to eat first and inquire about it later. Felines tend to be more selective. However, do not count on that this is the norm. Both types can get in trouble if you let your guard down. Dangerous foods to always avoid include:

• Members of the Allium family, such as onions and garlic, affect red blood cells, causing anemia. The fact that most animals are attracted to such foods is dangerous enough. Large or sick pets are encouraged to eat by feeding them baby food, which often contains onions and garlic, causing or exacerbating anemia. Read labels to avoid potential dangers. A small onion can be fatal.

• Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. Young children can drop it or give it to the family pet. Teach kids not to share these foods with their furry friends.

• Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many sugar-free sweets and gums. Xylitol can cause seizures and liver failure by drastically lowering a pet’s blood sugar levels.

• Macadamia nuts will weaken or paralyze your pet’s hind limbs. It can often be resolved in about 24 hours, but it’s scary nonetheless. The reason is still unknown to researchers.

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• Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid that causes rapid heartbeat, tremors, seizures and death. Dark chocolate is worse than milk chocolate, but both should be considered poisonous to pets.

• Yeast paste will continue to rise in your pet’s stomach and intestines, causing painful bloating and potential for ruptures and deaths. One of the byproducts of this raised dough is alcohol, which poisons the pet.

• Moldy foods should not be fed to pets. Mold can contain compounds that cause muscle tremors and seizures.

• Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, contain lactose which cannot be broken down by the pet’s digestive system. Eating dairy products often leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, pancreatitis.

• Canned tuna that contains mercury harms the health of pets over time. It also does not provide the nutritional requirements needed for a healthy, balanced diet.

Symptoms can vary greatly, but generally follow the same symptoms as any possible poisoning: observation or suspicion of eating dangerous food(s), lethargy, abdominal pain, white/gray mucous membranes, drooling, tremors, seizures and death. Treatment may or may not include hospitalization where the pet’s stomach will be pumped, administration of activated charcoal, supportive therapies/medication and monitoring. The sooner you treat the pet after ingestion, the more likely it is to achieve a better outcome while reducing the long-term damage the pet suffers.

It also cannot often be said that to maintain a healthy and balanced diet throughout the holiday season and year, it is essential that owners strive to maintain consistency in the type, quantity and frequency of food(s) fed. You are not giving a pet a special holiday bonus by:

• Feed a pet wet/canned food on one day of the year to a pet that is usually fed dry food. This will cause diarrhea and digestive upset.

• Feeding more food than is normally fed can cause bloating (expansion of a crooked stomach).

• Or waiting to get home hours after feeding time while attending a holiday celebration, where the pet is likely to ingest non-food items (tinsel, glass ornaments, plants, etc.), causing other health problems.

If you suspect that a pet has swallowed any of the above dangerous foods, seek veterinary treatment for the pet immediately. Always have your veterinarian’s name and phone number, the name and phone number of your local emergency veterinary hospital, and an animal poison control number readily available in case of an emergency. Please sterilize and neuter your pet, and always be kind! I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!

Robin Murillo, of Auburn, worked as a veterinary technician and animal cruelty investigator for several years in central New York.

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