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EV-uh-oh: Is Rachael Ray poisoning our dogs?

The quick answer is no. Despite a recent boo boo — actually a boo boo repeated from 2006 — in one of her “dog-friendly” recipes, Rachel Ray, whether you find her endearing or annoying, appears to be a true dog person, dog lover and dog philanthropist.

That one of her recipes — reprinted alongside a profile of Ray in this month’s Modern Dog magazine — calls for onions, which can be toxic to dogs, was an unfortunate oversight, a result of either the conflicting information that’s out there or a reflection of Ray’s learning curve when it comes to canines.

The recipe in question, “Isaboo’s Butternut Squash Mac and Cheddar,” originally appeared in Ray’s own magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, which runs a “pet friendly” recipe in every issue — a meal you can make for both you and your dog to eat.

The macaroni and cheese dish, which calls for half an onion, was the first of those to appear in the magazine, back in March 2006.

Ray also has her own dog food company, Rachael Ray Nutrish, some of the profits from which go to her own rescue organization, as she’s quick to point out on her website:

“There are no fillers.  No junk.  Just lots of good, wholesome stuff. How cool is that? And you know me.  I’m all about giving back, so some of the proceeds from Rachael Ray Nutrish go to charities that take care of animals who have no one else to look out for them.  Wow.  How good do you feel now?”

But back to poisoning dogs.

After the onion episode came to light, we went back and checked all the “dog-friendly” recipes Ray has published in her magazine, starting in April 2006 — all 27 of them — and we’re pleased to report that none of them are likely to kill your dog.

True, some of them call for avocados, which are toxic to dogs, and scallions, which are toxic to dogs, and nutmeg, high levels of which can result in seizures, tremors, central nervous system problems and death.

But almost always those recipes point out — either in the ingredient list or in the directions — to use those items only in the human portions.

In her dog-friendly chicken BLT, for instance, Ray calls for adding avocado only after the dog’s avocado-free portion is prepared: “Top 1 piece toast with half the avocado mash, the lettuce, the reserved chicken, the remaining 2 slices bacon, more avocado mash and the remaining piece of toast. Cut the sammy from corner to corner.”

Simlarly, a July 2007 recipe for peanut, orange and carrot salad, calls for four scallions, but Ray makes a point of mentioning parenthetically that they are for people portions only, and are to be added after the dog portion is made.

With nutmeg, Ray’s dog-friendly recipes sometimes call for adding it only to “people portions” and sometimes don’t. In a ham and cheese sandwich recipe, she points out the nutmeg should only be in the human servings. In this month’s recipe, for pet friendly “holiday brunch gus-tinis,” she doesn’t say to withhold the “pinch” of nutmeg that goes into it from the dog’s portion, but she does say to only use the two cloves of garlic that the recipes calls for in the human portion.

Several of Ray’s earlier pet-friendly recipes call for garlic in both human and dog portions.

Both onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, though onions are a far greater danger. Pets affected by onion toxicity can develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea and discolored urine.

Of course, a lot of this depends on the size of the dog, and the amount consumed. The macaroni and cheese recipe, with half an onion required for five servings, likely wouldn’t harm a large or moderate-sized dog.

But why take the risk — especially if you are both a self-professed animal lover and owner of a dog food company, not to mention a celebrity role model to millions?

Whether you are Rachel Ray or John Q. Dogowner, the best advice is to avoid feeding your dogs any amount of foods that, while fine for humans, can be toxic for dogs:

Determining what those are isn’t always easy, because of the conflicting information you can find on the Internet. The ASPCA, for one, has pretty reliable information.

Meanwhile, here’s a partial list:

Chocolate, caffeine, grapes, raisins, mushrooms, garlic, onions, macadamia nuts, avocados, apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, coffee, alcoholic beverages, artificial sweeteners and anything containing xylitol.

When it comes to feeding dogs, the best advice may be the old saying from journalism school: When in doubt, leave it out.


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time January 5, 2009 at 9:45 am

All this has given me a lot of information about onions. I had always thought they just upset the dog’s stomach. Now I see that they’re really toxic. I just don’t see any point to giving a dog any of this stuff, and I suspect that a lot of it is just empty calories for them. When we had the Great Chocolate Disaster a year ago, the vet told me that chocolate in really intense forms (baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate, large amounts of chocolate chips) should also be kept away from human infants and toddlers, as it can be toxic for them as well.

Comment from lin g
Time November 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Ill pass on feeding my dog this product. I have been buying nutrish naturally delish, chicken paw pie and muttballs and my shitzu took a seizure for the first time. I also had a problem about a year ago with ol roy I thought my dog was going to die, black stools, crying. Looked up ol roy dog food and has killed so many dogs, it is still on the market. The black stools are starting again and a seizure. How can it be possible if the dog food is all natural. I’m returning unused dog food. I wish i had a good wet dog food for my dogs and a good dry dog food, I am exhausted trying to figure this out. I make them chicken and egg noodles and give them purina at this time. My shitzu is fussy thats why I tried Ol Roy and now this past month Rachael Ray. He had surgery two months ago for kidney stones. He is eating hills prescription out of a can. It does not smell good and he is not to keen on eating it, he has to be starving to eat it. end of my rope.