chocolates-1737503_640Identifying the Killers in your Kitchen cupboards - keeping your pet safe.

Chocolate, raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts might make for a tasty snack but did you know they could prove harmful and even fatal to your pet?

Other common household hazards include ibuprofen, paracetamol and even chewing gum.

Chocolate contains theobromine a type of chemical classed as a methylxanthine. Methylxanthines are stimulants and include caffeine. Dogs, like humans love chocolate but the toxic effects can be serious and even fatal. Dark chocolate contains twice as much theobromine than milk chocolate. As little as a third of a medium (100 gram) sized bar of dark chocolate would land a 25 kilo dog at the vets. That's probably less than a mouthful to a greedy Labrador! Small doses of chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhoea but higher doses can cause a dangerously rapid heart rate, tremors and even fitting. Gardeners beware that coco shell garden mulch also contains theobromine and is therefore best avoided.

Scientists still haven't identified the toxic component of raisins or grapes despite extensive testing for pesticides, heavy metals and fungal toxins (mycotoxins). Some dogs appear unaffected but others can develop rapid kidney failure after eating only a small amount, indicating that either the toxin is not always present or that factors within the dogs themselves predispose them to poisoning.

The toxic agent in macadamia nuts is also yet to be identified. Ingestion can cause weakness and muscle tremors. Macadamia nuts are high in fat, this can result in inflammation of the pancreas, a painful condition causing vomiting and inappetance.

The sugary coating on ibuprofen tablets make them very inviting for dogs, they can be ingested after a quick root about in an unattended handbag. Ibuprofen inhibits the production of prostaglandins, a group of hormone like compounds important for protecting the lining of the gut from damage and preserving blood flow to the kidney. Ingestion can cause ulceration of the stomach, kidney and liver failure.

Paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats, it's bitter taste makes accidental ingestion unlikely with Pet owners mistakenly administering the drug as a home remedy. Cats lack the enzyme, glucoronyl transferase required to detoxify the drug. Damage occurs to the red blood cells and gums may appear blue in colour as a result of reduced oxygen carrying capacity of the blood known as methaemoglobinaemia. Significant liver damage also results.

Sugar free chewing gum contains the chemical xylitol. Xylitol is a common sweetener also used in mints, puddings, mouth washes and tooth paste. Xylitol causes dangerously low blood sugar in dogs. Low blood sugar can be fatal causing tremors and fitting. Xylitol can also cause severe liver damage.

If your pet does ingest any of these substances it is vital you contact your vet immediately.

Prevention is always better than cure so lock up your grapes, chain up your chocolate and put away the paracetamol, it may just save your pets life!