Published in the July 18 – 31, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life
If you haven’t heard, going natural is all the rage. The need for Americans to buy, consume and use all-natural products has increased dramatically during the past few years. We try to limit artificial ingredients and toxins that we use on our children and inside our households in fear that they are harmful to our health. Often, our pets become included in our concerns since they are viewed as part of the family. But what most people forget is the fact that all-natural does not mean it is safe. Unfortunately, we see far too many animals poisoned, or otherwise sick, from all-natural products.
Cleaning Products: All-natural cleaning products are becoming more commonplace. Although they may have less toxic effects than traditional products, it by no means indicates safety. Sulfates, peroxides and alcohol are a few of the ingredients that may be in these products. Although they are considered non-toxic, they can certainly cause significant damage when ingested, especially when the dog has also ingested the plastic container!
Mulch: Cocoa mulch has recently become popular as an all-natural, recycles type of yard mulch. Because of its attractive aroma, it can become quite a tasty dog treat. When ingested in sufficient quantities, it can not only physically block the gastrointestinal tract but it can also cause a toxicity similar to what is seen when dogs ingest large amounts of chocolate.
Human Foods: All-natural human foods are made for humans, not for pets. Some foods, whether they contain natural or artificial ingredients, are not safe for dogs and cats. Grass fed, organic and naturally seasoned beef contains a host of potential problems for a dog including: mechanical damage from the bone ingestion, pancreatitis from the high amount of fat in red meat and toxicity from the onions and garlic used to season the meat. Other examples include chocolate, grapes, avocados, raisins and some nuts.
Pesticides/Fertilizers: Products used in the yard to help prevent pests and enhance our plants are often dangerous, even the all-natural types. Even though an all-natural product may not cause the severe symptoms seen with traditional products, they can certainly cause enough gastrointestinal upset to warrant a visit to the veterinarian.
Supplements/Vitamins: Herbal supplements, vitamins and other dietary supplements may contain ingredients that can be dangerous to your pet. Many of these products are assumed to be very safe because they are sold over-the-counter. But in fact, many of the medication we use today have been derived or extracted from plants. Some of these ingredients are very effective and can be dangerous, especially if given in inappropriate dosages or if mixed with other medications. Vitamins are also generally considered to be very safe. Water soluble vitamins (such as vitamin C) are generally considered to be safe as excessive amounts can be excreted in the urine. Fat soluble vitamins (such as vitamins D and E) can be ingested in toxic quantities since these vitamins tend to accumulate in the body and are not easily excreted.
Don’t assume that a product or food is safe just because it is natural. Arsenic is natural, right? That certainly does not mean that it is safe. Treat all-natural products in the same manner you would other products.
- Check labels.
- Limit your pet’s exposure to all cleaning products, fertilizers, pesticides and medications.
- Don’t give your pet any supplements without checking with your veterinarian.
- Don’t give your pet human foods.
- Contact your veterinarian right away if you think your pet has ingested something that may be unsafe. Early treatment can prevent or lessen the symptoms of ingestion.
Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay received her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.
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