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Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506
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Source: Dr. Ken Harkin, 785-532-4251, kharkin@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-6415, ebarcomb@k-state.edu

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

FOODS LIKE RAISINS AND NUTS THAT ARE GOOD FOR US CAN BE BAD FOR OUR DOGS, K-STATE VETERINARIAN SAYS

MANHATTAN -- Many conscientious dog owners wouldn't think of giving their canine a tasty but dangerous chocolate bar. But they may not know that giving a dog a handful of fruit or nuts can be just as risky.

Seemingly harmless foods like fruits and nuts that have health benefits for people can be dangerous to dogs, said Ken Harkin, associate professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Harkin says a few foods to watch out for include:

* Raisins. A healthful snack food for people, they can wreak havoc on dogs. Harkin said raisin toxicity is a relatively rare condition that can result in kidney failure. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea before the dog takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

* Macadamia nuts. Harkin warns that the tasty and pricey nuts are toxic to dogs and create hind limb weakness, tremors, depression, vomiting and fever. He said dogs usually recover.

* Moldy food. What grosses you out may not even faze your dog. Your pet's indiscriminating tastes can lead to trouble. Harkin said moldy food can produce a tremor syndrome in dogs that can result in seizures.

* Bread dough. Even a food fundamental to many human diets can be dangerous when it's uncooked. Harkin said bread dough isn't good for dogs or children, either. The yeast can ferment in your dog's stomach and produce signs of "ethanol ingestion" -- drunkenness. A ball of dough also can obstruct the dog's gastrointestinal tract.

* Dark chocolate. Even though dark chocolate is being touted as a good source of antioxidants for humans, chocolate still is unsafe for dogs. "The major offenders would be cocoa powder and baker's chocolate, with dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate behind these," Harkin said. "It takes three times as much dark chocolate to equal baker's chocolate."

If you suspect your dog has ingested an excessive amount of one of these foods, Harkin says to call your dog's veterinarian.

He also recommends a good quality commercial dog or cat food as the staple in a pet's diet. Harkin says don't offer too many table scraps or other treats, as pets could develop a picky appetite and not eat their nutritionally balanced diet. He said although it is not common, it has become a problem with some pets. When doting pet owners wanting to offer something from their plates, Harkin emphasizes moderation.

"The main reason not to feed table scraps is to avoid obesity," he said.

Foods like raisins aren't necessary dangerous in small amounts but can be when given in excess, Harkin said.

"You would never eat 16 cups of raisins in one sitting, so why would you give a 5- or 10-pound dog a half cup of raisins in one sitting?" he said. "A few grapes or raisins never hurt any dog, but it's the massive amount they consume that kills them."

Dogs don't know when enough is enough, Harkin said.

"Dogs get more toxicity issues with raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts because they have that gluttonous instinct to eat everything in sight, and they eat well above the toxic level," Harkin said. "You just don't see many cats, birds or reptiles doing that.