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This summer, watch what your pets eat

Bob Maciulis

Bob Maciulis

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Updated: August 16, 2011 12:27AM

One of our Golden Retrievers used to pick blackberries off the prickly vines as carefully as a baby sucking hot spaghetti off a fork, and he was wild about carrots.

All of the dogs we’ve had over the years ate carrots. Not because they’re good for them or because of any kind of upscale yuppy nutritional theory, we couldn’t keep them away any time we opened a bag of baby carrots.

A handful in the pot and here’s one, two, three for the pooches. They would line up according to their pecking order, with the old golden in front and would not move until they each got a carrot.

Although he never showed any symptoms, Sneakers, a dog we’d adopted from the Golden Retriever Rescue when he was only a year old, also ate onion slices, shrimp, apples and pears and just about any other vegetable or fruit we flipped to him.

Except mushrooms. Fresh or canned, he turned his nose up at any kind of mushrooms.

Our cats jumped up onto my desk if I opened a bag of chips.

It’s food, it can’t be bad for dogs and cats.

Or, can it?

How ironic, then, that I was included in an e-mail string some years ago from the fly fishing side of the industry that included an e-mail from a veterinarian in Ohio who described a sad incident that began with a little typical canine mischief.

Laurinda Morris, of the DVM Danville Veterinary Clinic in Danville, Ohio, wrote, “This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, five-year-old male neutered lab mix that ate half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. He started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, but the owner didn’t call my emergency service until 7 a.m. I had heard about raisins and grapes causing acute renal failure but hadn’t seen any formal paper on the subject.

“This is a very sad case — great dog, great owners who had no idea raisins could be a toxin. Please alert everyone you know who has a dog of this very serious risk. Poison control said as few as seven raisins or grapes could be toxic. Many people I know give their dogs grapes or raisins as treats including our ex-handlers. Any exposure should give rise to immediate concern.”

Whoa! I reread the e-mail. Checking over my shoulder to see what our latest canine addition to the family, a golden we named Yukon, was doing but long, lean and lanky was comfortably stretched out on the rug, sawing logs or counting mallards, out cold, but I couldn’t remember if I’d dropped any grapes for him.

I checked with the veterinarian, whom we’d just seen a few days prior, when we sent one of our Golden oldies off to the good place for her last hunt. Our veterinarian surprisingly included onions in her list of common vegetables found in most homes that are on the dangerous list for dogs.

Along with them, garlic, avocado and grapes and raisins are also taboo. She also referred me to the Animal Poison Control Center Web site (

I was shocked to learn that lilies, tulips, narcissus bulbs, azaleas and rhododendron and many other plants commonly used in landscaping and gardening could kill dogs or cats.

Over the years, our dogs have eaten a truckload of tomatoes, for example. They loved them. We’d never had a dog that didn’t crave tomatoes.

According to the Animal Poison Control Center, however, while the ripe fruit is fine and is sometimes used as filler in some cat foods, the green parts of the plant contain a compound which can cause gastrointestinal irritation or even damage to the pet’s central nervous system.

When I brought my first dog to a vet many years ago, he ushered me out of the office after giving it its final round of puppy shots with sage advice, that I should have remembered.

“And, don’t forget,” he said sternly. “It’s a dog. Companies have spent millions of dollars over the years to study what’s good for dogs and they’ve developed perfectly-balanced food that will keep your dog healthy, happy and strong. Don’t give her people food and never give her table scraps.”

I’ll have to keep the door closed when I work from now on. You can tell a dog, “No!” and it will listen. You can’t tell a cat anything. Not if she’s after potato chips!

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