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Picnic Dangers for Dogs

Ah, summer…the start of backyard BBQs and picnics. With the summer season comes certain poison dangers that pose a threat to your dog while you’re outside. If you’re about to go out on a picnic with your pooch, make sure you, your family, and your friends are aware of potential food poison risks to your dog. More importantly, make sure to educate them that they should never feed your dog any snacks without your permission.

Before you set that picnic blanket down, make sure your dog can’t get into the following dangerous or poisonous table foods:

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Baked goods containing xylitol
  • Corn on the cob
  • Peach pits
  • Fatty table snacks or bonesBy just being aware of these 5 picnic dangers, you can save yourself a several thousand dollar veterinary bill and an emergency trip to AERC or your emergency veterinarian!Grapes and raisins
    Anything containing grapes and raisins is considered to be poisonous to dogs. Common picnic items like grapes, baked goods containing raisins (e.g., oatmeal raisin cookies), and trail mix all pose a threat.  While one or two grapes are unlikely to cause a problem (depending on the size of the dog), accidental ingestion of the Vitus spp. can result in the following signs:

    • vomiting
    • abdominal pain
    • inappetance
    • diarrhea
    • lethargy
    • excessive or decreased thirst or urination
    • acute kidney injury (AKI)

    Unfortunately, clinical signs often aren’t obvious until days later, when it’s more costly – and more dangerous – to your pet. The sooner you recognize that your dog got into this, the sooner you should get to a veterinarian, as it’ll be safer for your dog and less expensive to treat! Treatment for grape or raisin poisoning includes decontamination, aggressive intravenous (IV) fluids, anti-vomiting medication, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, and blood work monitoring (to check kidney function).

    Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that is poisonous to dogs. While safe for humans, when accidentally ingested by non-primate species, xylitol can result in an insulin spike by the body (with a secondary life-threatening drop in blood sugar). With really high doses, acute liver failure can be seen! So, if you have any baked goods, candies, mints, gums, etc. that contain xylitol, keep them out of reach of your dog. Clinical signs of xylitol poisoning can be seen as early as 15-30 minutes, and include all of the following signs of a low blood sugar:

    • weakness or lethargy
    • vomiting
    • collapse

    More severe, life-threatening signs of liver failure may include black tarry stool, jaundice (e.g., yellowing of the gums), severe lethargy, walking drunk, and rarely, seizures and death, although these signs aren’t typically seen for 24-72 hours after ingestion of xylitol. Treatment for xylitol poisoning includes decontamination, blood sugar monitoring, dextrose supplementation, IV fluids, drugs to protect the liver (e.g., n-acetylcysteine, SAMe, etc.), and monitoring liver function.

    Foreign bodies: Corn on the cob and peach pits  
    While corn on the cob and peach pits aren’t poisonous per se, these two common picnic items are very dangerous to dogs. Both of these leftover garbage scraps can easily get stuck in the intestines, and require an expensive abdominal surgery to remove. Corn cobs are notorious for being difficult to detect on x-rays, as the density doesn’t show up well. Multiple x-rays or even an abdominal ultrasound may be necessary to diagnose this. The longer you wait (with the corn cob sitting in your dog’s intestines), the bigger the danger, as it can perforate and rupture your dog’s intestines. For this reason, never give your dog corn on the cob – if you want, slice the kernels off for him instead. Clinical signs of foreign body obstructions include:

    • vomiting
    • drooling (from nausea)
    • abdominal pain
    • decreased stool production
    • inappetance
    • lethargy

    Believe it or not, left untreated, these picnic foods can cause the intestines to rupture and potentially kill your pet.

    Fatty table snacks and bones
    Leftover BBQ bits (like bones, grizzle, and fat) and bones should never be given to your dog… especially if you own an overweight dog or a breed that is really predisposed to inflammation of the pancreas (called “pancreatitis”). These breeds include Yorkshire terriers, miniature schnauzers, or Shetland sheepdog. When a dog accidentally ingests a fatty snack, it overstimulates the pancreas can result in the following clinical signs:

    •    vomiting
    •    abdominal pain
    •    fever
    •    diarrhea
    •    weakness
    •    inappetance
    •    death (from organ failure)

    When in doubt, keep your dog safe this summer by keeping these common picnic items out of reach. Keep in mind that the sooner that you recognize that your pet is poisoned, the easier it is to treat and the less dangerous (and less expensive) it is to your dog.  When in doubt, if your dog did get into any of these summer food dangers, contact your veterinarian, AERC (or your local emergency veterinarian), or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Enjoy your summer with your dog, but pay heed to these common picnic pet emergencies!

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