Volunteer camp leader Shelley Hardman and local Pet Food Institute rep Olivia Dorsett take questions from eager students on how to keep pets safe from harmful foods.

Six-year-old Kennedy Albury didn’t know how dangerous it was to feed her two dogs grapes, raisins and trail mix – all nutritious snacks for a first grader but toxic human food for her pets.

“I just knew they couldn’t have chocolate,” said the first grader. “Now I know what I can and can’t give them.”

Albury was the youngest of 11 campers at the Bahamas Humane Society’s summer camp to learn what foods to avoid feeding pets.

“Although primary school age children love their pets, we have found that many times they’re not fully aware of the dangers associated with feeding human food to their animals. Education is key,” said Olivia Dorsett, the local representative for Pet Food Institute. PFI Caribbean is a regional division of the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that promotes education and advocacy initiatives to advance pet nutrition and the overall quality of pet food. PFI Caribbean is active in The Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, and Jamaica.

The organization publishes a list of harmful foods including chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, nutmeg and avocados, foods safe for human consumption, but deadly in higher doses to pets leading to thousands of emergency surgeries throughout the Caribbean region alone.

During an information-packed, age-appropriate presentation at the Humane Society’s headquarters in Chippingham so, students came to the realization that feeding animals a little of this and a little of that could prove fatal, not fattening.

“Is it okay to give your dogs peanut butter?” one camper wanted to know.

“Peanut butter can have xylitol which is an artificial sweetener,” said Dorsett. Found in many products including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste, xylitol could cause insulin release leading to liver failure within a few days of ingesting.

“Always check the label,” Dorsett advised. “I always say when in doubt, leave it out. The best food for your animals is pet food.”

Until meeting Ms. Dorsett, Bahamas Humane Society education coordinator Shelly Hardman was unaware the dangers macadamia nuts could pose including vomiting, weakness, fever, muscle tremors and depression in dogs.

Meanwhile, third grader Giovani Knowles gained a new perspective on safeguarding dogs from a surprising “treat” – cooked bones.

“I didn’t know bones could hurt them,” said Knowles who just recently lost a pet.

Cooked bones from table scraps, even ones as small as a chicken wing, can be very dangerous for a pet. It could splinter and hurt their gastrointestinal tract, sometimes even piercing their bowels or other vital organs, sparking a trip to the emergency room for wound care or surgery.

In the Caribbean region, 54 per cent of pet owners feed their animals table scraps at least once per day, according to research conducted by PFI.

“Pet food matters,” said Dorsett. “Your pet is good to you so you want to be good to your pet.”

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