Human Foods That Are Toxic To Your Cats And Dogs
Domesticated cats and dogs, although still genetically linked to their feral ancestors, depend entirely on us for their food. The keen and instinctive senses they used in the wild to successfully hunt prey for daily survival have been diminished as we offer them comfort and security in our homes. Nevertheless, their digestive systems and nutritional requirements are still designed for their inner “wild beasts”, and it is important for us to remember this when we offer them food.
Dogs are classified as omnivores, with a preference for meat. Their wild ancestors sometimes ingested plant matter (most of it found inside the prey they were eating), and they would forage and scavenge during difficult times, eating whatever they could (berries, fruit, vegetables) when necessary to survive.
Cats are classified as obligate carnivores—animals which must eat meat to live. Our feline pets’ ancestors were also designed as hunters; cats can swallow whole, small prey, feathers and bones intact, and expel the non-essentials later.
Cats and dogs have fang teeth, which helped their feral relatives tear and scrape large pieces of meat from the bones of their prey. They have molars to crush food and bone as needed, but they cannot move their jaws from side to side as a human can, and really gulp down their food quickly and in large pieces. Cats and dogs don’t have digestive enzymes in their saliva—the work begins in their stomachs, which have a much higher level of acidity than ours do.
Do our pets enjoy food the same way we do?
Cats and dogs have a much less developed sense of taste than humans. Humans have approximately 9,000 taste buds on their tongues–dogs have roughly 1700, and cats fewer than 500 (and, according to recent research, cats are missing the receptors required to taste “sweet”).
Humans who find it no longer necessary to hunt for food in the wild can take time to sit down, sometimes in a social setting, and enjoy their food over a period of hours. Cats and dogs are not social diners, and belong to one of two basic groups:
- those who display territorial attributes at meals, tending to eat like it may be their last meal for a while—quickly, and often indiscriminately, trying to satiate
themselves on whatever is in front of them
- Picky or finicky eaters, who push their food around in their bowls, spit it out, or refuse entirely what is offered
Work with territorial eaters to ensure that they are calm at meal times—do not allow them to jump, growl, or display hostility to other pets or family members.
Fussy eaters may just not like what is offered, have delicate tummies, or may be very smart animals who have come to understand that refusal of food brings something tastier to their bowls!
Any sudden change in eating patterns should be watched carefully, as it can be an early warning sign of physical or emotional ill health.
Dogs can sometimes eat rotting, putrid meat without getting ill (not necessarily on a regular basis, but certainly in order to survive in difficult times), and can even have an unpleasant experience with something that made them ill, and within 24 hours forget the experience and eat the same thing again. Here cats seem to have the upper paw, and will learn to avoid the offending food, at least for a little while.
If it’s good for me, it’s good for my cat and dog
Again, no! At least, not necessarily.
As we have domesticated animals for companionship, we sometimes tend to “humanize” their needs. If my diet is healthy for me, shouldn’t it be fine for my pet, too?
It’s really important to remember that:
- even though they are part of our family, our pets are not our children; their daily nutrition must be based on their requirements as animals
- even if I am eating a first-rate diet myself, the individual foods I consume may not only not be advisable to feed to my pets, they may be toxic and even fatal
Obviously, we are not allowing our domesticated cats and dogs to wander daily in search of prey to eat. We are their sole source of nourishment, and we must take the role seriously. We can contribute to their good health and longevity not only by offering them the best quality food possible, but also by understanding what not to feed them and why.
Food and drink on the “Never Feed List”
In the Terrible Event of an Emergency
If you noticed your pet eating something suspect, or if your pet begins acting strangely, you must act quickly. Remain calm, call your veterinarian immediately, and be prepared to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Try to have information on:
- what was ingested and the quantity
- when it was ingested
- any symptoms or unusual behaviour manifesting
If your pet vomited or excreted loose, bloody, or foul-smelling feces, try to collect a sample in a plastic bag and take it with you to the vet for analysis.
When you first bring your pet home to begin a new life with you, make sure to ask your vet for a 24-hour emergency number if available. If not, ask for a recommendation to an emergency clinic in your area. Before an emergency happens, find out where the clinic is located by taking a drive there during daylight hours while you are calm. This half hour of planning and preparation may one day save your pet’s life.