Joan Merriam: What you don’t know could poison your dog |

Joan Merriam: What you don’t know could poison your dog

By now we all know that dark chocolate, grapes and raisins, and the chemical xylitol can be dangerous for our dogs. But there are many other things — both food-related and not — that you may not realize can be poisonous to pets.

By now we all know that dark chocolate, grapes and raisins, and the chemical xylitol can be dangerous for our dogs. But there are many other things — both food-related and not — that you may not realize can be poisonous to Fido. The list is far too long for one column, but here are a few:


That yummy guacamole is a real treat for most of us, but it can be a bad food for dogs. Avocados — including their leaves, seed and bark —contain a chemical called persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. And if your pup loves to chew, make sure he doesn’t chow down on the pit, which can create a potentially fatal obstruction in his stomach or intestines.

You may never have given a thought to that raw bread dough rising on your kitchen counter, but it presents a deadly danger for your dog if he eats it. The yeast in bread dough produces carbon dioxide, causing the dog’s stomach to expand and bloat. Ultimately, this bloating can rupture the stomach lining, cause severe cardiovascular and diaphragmatic damage, and 25% of the time, lead to death.

Alcohol and Alcoholic Drinks

Some people think it’s funny to let their dog lap up a bowl of beer, never thinking it could also be deadly. Alcohol poisoning happens much more quickly in dogs than in humans, simply because they’re smaller. They’re often more attracted to sweet, fruit-based drinks and punches, and may be prone to drink more of them. And don’t forget uncooked foods like desserts made with alcohol. Ingestion of alcohol can cause a dog to experience dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature, and when severe intoxication occurs, the result can be seizures and respiratory failure.

Household and Outdoor Items

Again, we all know how deadly antifreeze can be to our dogs, but did you ever think about things like fire logs? Or swimming pool compounds? Or fertilizers? All of these contain chemicals that can be toxic to our dogs.

Some firestarters contain heavy metals which could cause heavy metal toxicity; if ingested, the compressed sawdust and wax in fire logs can result an intestinal obstruction.

Undiluted pool chemicals like chlorine bleach tablets are corrosive, causing severe ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach.

Fertilizers, too, are potentially toxic to your dog — and many dogs are drawn to their smell. Most fertilizers contain elements like iron, copper and zinc, as well as herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. While consumption of small amounts of fertilizer may only result in mild stomach upset, larger ingestions can result in severe poisoning.

House and Garden Plants

There are dozens of plants that can cause problems for your dog, some more serious than others. For instance, you may have never thought of ivy as being an issue for your dog, but while it’s not deadly, ivy’s naturally-occurring compounds can irritate the skin and mucous membranes if chewed or swallowed. What about that sweet-smelling, spring-blooming lily-of-the-valley? Even a minor exposure to any part of the plant can cause changes in a dog’s heart rate and rhythm, and eating just a few leaves or bulbs can cause vomiting, low blood pressure, disorientation, seizures or coma.

Both azalea and rhododendron are also toxic to your pup, and can result in vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and even cardiac failure. And never allow your dog to eat growing mushrooms unless you’re absolutely, totally, 100% sure it is edible. (Obviously, the same goes for you!)

Many dogs love apples, and that’s great … but did you know that an apple’s seeds contain a form of cyanide? Yeah, deadly cyanide. Same goes for apricots, cherries, plums and peaches — so be sure to pick up any fallen fruit around your trees so your pup won’t be tempted to snack.

And since it’s now legal in California, many folks have marijuana around the house — but if your dog eats your stash, he can suffer central nervous system depression, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and even seizures and coma.

Nine time outs of ten, your dog won’t even bother with any of these foods, plants or substances — but remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and make sure to keep these potentially deadly items far from your pup.

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Casey (hence, “Casey’s Corner”). You can reach Joan at And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.


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