Toxic Foods for Pets: Part One

Common household foods that should not be given to dogs and cats.

Many pet owners are unaware of the potential serious threats to dogs or cats that are sitting in our cupboards. These regular and human-healthy foods can cause severe intestinal damage or obstruction, long-term sensitivities, metabolism disturbances, organ disease and even death to sensitive companion animals.

Here is a list of common household food that should be considered a potential health threat to dogs or cats.


Consumption of alcoholic drinks and some foods containing alcohol may lead to intoxication depending on the amount ingested. The ethanol in alcohol causes disorientation, increased urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, we see difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, and ultimately death.


Avocado has been a known toxin in birds for years, and recently we have had reported cases where ingestion causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The toxins are found in the fruit, the seeds, leaves and even the bark of the plant itself. If swallowed whole, the pit can obstruct the digestive tract (esophagus, small intestine).

Bones of any type

Bones are improper treats for dogs since they may obstruct or perforate the intestines and potentially cause life-threatening local and systemic infections. We may observe signs such as coughing, vomiting, abdominal pain, depression, weakness, blood in feces, and even shock and/or death.

Chewing gum

Many varieties of sugar-free chewing gums contain xylitol. This chemical, which is also found in candies, mints, flavored multivitamins, desserts, and certain toothpaste brands. In dogs, ingestion of xylitol can lead to hypoglycemia (weakness, vomiting, collapse, and seizures) or acute liver failure. As the liver is responsible for creating clotting factors in dogs, we commonly see severe bleeding disorders as another side effect from Xylitol ingestion.


The darker the chocolate, the higher the level of toxic ingredient theobromine. Depending on the dose ingested, theobromine can cause hyperactivity, diarrhea, increase in drinking and urinating, tremors, seizures, and potentially death. Chocolate, coffee, tea are all also rich in caffeine (as well as other caffeine beverages and foods), which have similar toxicity mechanism and clinical signs.


We don’t know yet why grapes and their dried version raisins cause such severe toxicities. We do know that it has something to do with the breakdown or digestion of the fruit, as not all dogs and cats seem susceptible. Signs of toxicity include little to no urine, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and dehydration, and indicate a case of acute renal failure.

Green tomatoes and potatoes

Solanine is an important substance that develops in potatoes and tomatoes under certain growing conditions. We find higher concentrations in the sprout of the potato and green, unripe tomatoes (these levels dramatically decreases with ripening). Signs of solanine intoxication include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, anxiousness, and seizures.

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts have been reported to induce weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and fever, usually within the first 12 hours after ingestion.

If you are concerned about your pet’s reaction to any of these foods, please contact us right away.