Things That Should Not Go In Your Retriever’s Mouth

An article from WWA’s Doctor’s Orders

By Dr. K.C. Brooks, an avid waterfowler, dog lover and practicing veterinarian at Lodi Veterinary Care.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s January 2021 eNewsletter.

Our retrieving dogs spend much of their lives intentionally putting things into their mouth and delivering them to hand. Because of that instinct, many of our hunting companions are also prone to putting things in their mouth that end up in their stomach. Giving food, treats and preventative medications goes a long way to keeping our dogs happy and healthy.  Unfortunately, there are many things that can put their health at severe risk if consumed.  This article highlights some of the most common things that your dog should not eat.

Human pain relievers (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) top the list of medications that dog owners give intentionally while not understanding how much damage they can cause.  While these medications have widespread human use with reasonable safety margins, they have very narrow therapeutic windows for dogs.  Liver failure, severe anemia, kidney dysfunction and gastrointestinal problems are a few of the common side effects from these medications.  Dogs are not little humans so it is best not to assume that human medications cannot do harm.  Now days, there are a large number of pain relievers and anti-inflammatories that are labeled safe and effective for dogs.

Chocolate is another human favorite that can put your retriever’s health at risk.  The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate have a marked stimulatory effect on the body that can adversely affect the heart and nervous system. Different types of chocolate are more of a risk for dogs, and certain dogs seem more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. It is best to minimize the amount of chocolate given to your dog.  Should your dog help themselves to a bag of chocolate candy, chips, chunks or cookies, it is a best practice to consult your veterinarian or a poison control center to see if corrective action is prudent.  Muscle tremors, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, irregular heart rhythms and seizures are a few of the more common clinical signs seen.

Many people are unaware that grapes and raisins can be harmful to dogs.  Both can be a significant health risk in relatively low quantities.  These common foods can cause kidney failure.  Unfortunately, clinical signs are often not seen until irreversible damage is done.  Treatment consists of decontamination and fluid therapy and the prognosis is best when these measures are started early.

Onions and garlic are another common food that many dogs have access to either by their own foraging or in some cases from intentional feeding.  Along with being readily available in most houses and gardens, they are also present in soups, soup mixes and prepared foods.  When ingested in sufficient quantities, they damage your dog’s red blood cells and can cause a life-threatening anemia.  Vomiting, depression and weakness are the clinical signs that can result from ingestion.

Rodenticides – mouse and rat baits – are probably the most common toxicity that results from dogs putting something in their mouth that does not belong there.  These baits are very attractive to our canine companions and contain agents that work in a variety of ways.  Consumption of a relatively small amount of many of these baits can be fatal if prompt medical attention is not sought.  Symptoms can be vague.  Clinical signs such as weakness, hindlimb weakness or paralysis, bruising or unexplained bleeding are possible.  Prevention is this case is the best policy.  Simply do not use baits in areas where dogs can get to them.

Anti-freeze is the final toxin that dogs can encounter on a fairly regular basis.  Products containing ethylene glycol are commonly used and are very palatable.  Drained radiator contents and leaking radiators are the most likely source of unintentional exposure.  Clinical signs consist of rapid neurologic sign (depression, incoordination) followed by acute kidney failure.  Early detection and treatment are critical to avoiding death from chronic kidney failure.

The above list is far from exhaustive.  Macadamia nuts, marijuana, bread dough, prescription medications, pesticides, herbicides, poisonous plants, table scraps and bones can present severe problems for your dog. Our hunting dogs put their health at risk during the hunting season simply from the conditions they perform in.  Cold water, ice, swift currents, barbed wire fences and rugged terrain put them at risk for injury.  Once they are home, it is our job to keep them safe and limit what goes into their mouth in an effort to keep them healthy.  Being educated on the common things that put our dogs in jeopardy is important.   Being mindful of limiting unintended exposures goes a long way to keeping them healthy and happy.  Enjoy your dog!