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    What Food is Bad for Dogs?

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Finding high quality dog food that doesn’t break the bank can be a challenge. Premium dog food can be expensive, but is it really better than cheaper brands? Are natural and organic dog food alternatives the way to go? 

    There's no easy answer to these questions. Pet experts tend to disagree on what exactly constitutes healthy dog food. Some say that preservatives and additives aren’t harmful to dogs, while others question their value. Your best option is research and make the choice for your fur-family. Read on for some help with that.

    Chemicals and ingredients that could be bad for your dog

    Many commercial manufacturers use chemical preservatives in their dog treats, pet food, pet shampoo and cleaning products. These chemicals are often nutritionally empty. When it comes to natural ingredients used in pet food, generally these are preservative-free and often better than artificially flavored dog food with artificial colors.  

    What ingredients should you avoid in dog food

    Quickly spotting dangerous ingredients in pet food requires a good eye. Some pets can be very sensitive to ingredients and since warning labels are not required, it can take some training to look. Here are some potentially hazardous chemicals found in some dog food:

    • Artificial colors: If a pet food has an orange tint, it may mean artificial colors were actively used.
    • Ethoxyquin: This chemical is often listed as “fish meal” and is a preservative that prevents rancidity. Unfortunately, it can cause liver damage, cancer, thyroid damage and kidney damage. It is banned in the European Union but not in the United States yet.
    • Propylene glycol: This preserves moisture in food and has been approved by FDA regulators and agents. However, propylene glycol may become toxic if large quantities are digested. It has been proven to be toxic to cats.
    • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): BHA is a toxic chemical used as a preservative in canned dog food, treats and dry dog food. It is a carcinogen.
    • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): BHT is similar to BHA in that it keeps foods from going rancid. It is also a potential carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.

    Just like in human food, artificial preservatives are used to make a product look and smell good. But these chemicals can be harmful to your pet. Over time, these chemicals can collect in an animal’s body and cause damage.

    If you notice signs of an allergic reaction, take your dog to the vet immediately. And you should keep an eye out for a reaction whenever feeding your dog new food.

    What dog food is toxic

    Dogs can be sensitive to various ingredients in their food. As with humans, some dogs have specific allergies that can cause a reaction when ingested. But what do we mean by ‘toxic’?

    ‘Toxic’ can mean anything from immediately poisonous to having a negative effect on health in the long-term. Immediate toxicity generally only happens when a batch of dog food has gone bad. Potential toxicity implies a build-up over a long period. 

    Some of the ingredients in dog food that may be harmful to your pets:

    • Artificial preservatives: As mentioned, many cancer-causing preservatives are in dog foods. 
    • Corn syrup or sugar: Some dog food brands use sugar to make the dog food more attractive. Sometimes, this sugar makes a dog addicted to the dog food, which can lead to overeating. Excess sugar is bad for canine health just as it is bad for human health.
    • Corn: Corn is not considered healthy for dogs and is a no-no when it comes to dog food ingredients. One of the reasons is that the cheap corn used in dog food is often contaminated with mycotoxins (mold), which is potentially toxic.
    • Unnamed meats: Meat is good for your dog, but unnamed meats (instead of specifying “chicken” or “beef”) are commonly used in dog food. These meats and “meat meals” are leftovers that aren’t fit for human consumption and loaded with meat and animal fat from livestock.
    • Rendered fat: As with unnamed meat, rendered fat in dog food is often created from by-products and scraps, many of which have been contaminated.

    In general, additives should be consumed in small amounts. Look for dog food that has simple ingredients made from whole foods.

    Quality, “human-grade” pet foods will contain the best ingredients necessary to support those dogs. Some of the best natural dog foods contain dog-friendly fruits and vegetables. These healthier dog foods can also help dogs lose weight.

    What human food is poisonous to dogs

    Many dogs enjoy eating as much human food as they can get. Some of these foods can be toxic and cause an immediate reaction or death. Human food is actually the third leading cause of pet poisonings worldwide.

    What people food is toxic to dogs? According to experts, several common human foods can negatively affect your pets. These foods that are inherently toxic to canines and any reaction to them is not an allergy. This is why it is so important that you are aware of which foods are poisonous.

    • Avocado: Inside avocado flesh is a substance called persin that can cause poisoning in dogs. Actually, any part of the avocado fruit is toxic to dogs because of the persin content. Also, the pits can be swallowed by dogs, causing an intestinal blockage.
    • Chocolate: Chocolate contains chemicals such as methylxanthines and caffeine, which are toxic to dogs. A sprinkling of chocolate may be dangerous. Chocolate is found in milk chocolate, dark or baking chocolate, candy and sometimes chewing gum. A small amount of chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, and large quantities can cause heart palpitations, seizures and death. Call your vet immediately if your dog has eaten any chocolate.
    • Cloves: Some claim cloves aren’t harmful to dogs, but this is not true. Clove is one ingredient that is harmful to pets. It contains eugenol, which is toxic to both dogs and cats. Clove essential oil is especially dangerous to dogs.
    • Garlic and onions: Used liberally in human food, garlic and onions can be toxic to dogs. They contain n-propyl disulfide and thiosulfate, which are toxic to our canine friends.
    • Grapes and raisins: Grapes can have toxic levels of an unknown substance that is very bad in dogs. Symptoms of poisoning from grapes include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, weakness and increased thirst.
    • Macadamia nuts: A toxic substance found in macadamia nuts is harmful to dogs. In addition to causing digestive distress, macadamia nuts can also negatively impact a dog’s nervous system, causing tremors and ataxia. 
    • Xylitol: Xylitol is an alcohol sugar that is used as an artificial sweetener. It can cause a quick drop in a dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that can be deadly for dogs. Because it is included so many processed foods, as well as toothpastes, be on the lookout for it. 
    • Yeast (bread dough): Yeast is very toxic to dogs. Do not let your dog snack on unrisen bread dough. Yeast is problematic in that if raw bread dough is eaten before it is cooked, it can expand inside the dog’s stomach. This can obviously cause some serious problems, and if this happens, you need to take your dog to the emergency veterinarian. Yeast also ferments in a dog’s stomach, which produces ethanol. Ethanol is an alcohol, which is poisonous to dogs and can cause serious disturbances in a dog’s equilibrium and bodily functions. Alcohol poisoning in a dog is quite serious, and it might show up in the form of vomiting, uncoordinated movements, drooling, excitability and overall weakness.

    Not all human food is toxic to dogs, but check before giving a dog anything from your kitchen table. Some foods may not be toxic per se but can cause a bit of a reaction. For example, raw meat, can cause diarrhea and loss of appetite if eaten too frequently, but it is generally good for dogs in moderation.

    Peanut butter, in contrast, can be good for dogs, though too much peanut butter can cause stomach upset. However, it is important to choose peanut butter that is free of xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs. To be safe, choose natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts.

    When to seek medical attention if your dog has eaten bad dog food

    If the dog has a sensitive stomach, vomiting can result. If vomiting occurs from an overconsumption of feces or toxic matter, the vet will also check on the dog’s vomit. An upset stomach is a concern when it becomes painful or when vomit or stool is bloody, and the dog is not acting normally. If not treated quickly, the toxins can rapidly start to build up in the stomach and cause abdominal pain and vomiting.

    Vomiting could happen for a number of reasons, between human food and eating bad dog food. If your dog is sick, symptoms might include lethargy, shortness of breath, frustration and depression. To have your dog examined by a veterinarian, you may need to answer a few questions about the symptoms.

    It is possible that your pet has more than one problem with stomach upset. Dogs can experience diarrhea or loose stool. If your dog starts vomiting or appears to be in pain after eating what you might suspect is bad food, you must seek veterinary help immediately.

    The vet can usually determine the cause of the illness. To diagnose diarrhea, the vet will determine if it is bacterial or viral. If there is diarrhea, the vet will occasionally recommend an IV to quickly replenish fluids flushed out by the diarrhea. In acute or chronic cases, the vet may check the pet’s stool or urine to judge the cause of the problem.

    If you suspect your dog has eaten poisonous food, the safest thing to do is to take a list of the food you know your dog has eaten with you to a veterinarian. While you may feel that the food does not cause any harm, your vet can determine the type of toxicity. If your vet concludes the food is toxic, he or she will treat the dog. The vet will take important steps to mitigate the toxicity.

    If you ever notice your dog eating human foods that you haven’t cleared as safe first, call your vet immediately. Also be on the lookout for signs of food poisoning or toxicity, including vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.