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Food poisoning is actually more common than is generally suspected in both dogs and people. Often, gastrointestinal upset and illness is attributed to a virus or some cause other than what is actually to blame. Bacterial causes of food poisoning, like Staphylococcus, have a short incubation period between ingestion and illness. Foods usually associated with bacterial food poisoning include milk and products made with dairy (e.g., potato and chicken salads, cream-filled bakery products), sausages, and gravy. Piecrust can act as an insulator and incubate bacterial growth in the filling—even while in the refrigerator. Other foods that have been recognized to cause food poisoning in dogs are raw fish, undercooked meat, and eggs, which can carry Salmonella.

Refrigerators should be regularly purged of old foods—but keep in mind that many dogs are masters at raiding garbage containers. Dogs should not be left unsupervised around garbage cans and wastebaskets, and owners should select trashcans that can be stored in a secure place and can be made dog-proof. Teething puppies, large-breed dogs, and dogs brought up on “people food” are among those most likely to get into the garbage, as are bored dogs. This brings up one of the most central tenets of caring for dogs: Owners are duty-bound to provide a safe environment for their animals.

Food poisoning can take on many appearances with very different clinical signs, but typically it results in nausea, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, inappetence, and dizziness. Often a low-grade fever is present. In one study, 20 percent of dogs fed old eggs, moldy cheese, and spoiled gravy showed a mild fever when they presented to the veterinary hospital.

Although the signs of food poisoning can appear rapidly and be dramatic, the majority of dogs recover completely. Unless animals continue to vomit, treatment for food poisoning victims is primarily supportive.

Prevention of food poisoning in our dogs is entirely up to the owner and consists of housing dogs in safe surroundings, disposing of food items in secure dog-proof containers, and not leaving dogs unsupervised for long periods. So don't forget to clean out your refrigerator!
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