Ruff Times

LaCava's Mobile Veterinary Service Blog
What NOT to feed your pet: A guide to toxic foods
Published by Dr. Cassandra LaCava in Toxic Foods • 3/18/2013 1:44:16 PM

I know how tempting it is to give your dog or cat a taste of your dinner. Anyone who has ever seen my dog knows that she is no stranger to table scraps, but you need to choose safe foods to give your pup. The following is a guide to the most common foods that you may encounter and be tempted to give your pup, but shouldn't.


Chocolate is probably the most well known toxin of dogs, but many people don't know that a lot of the toxicity depends on the type of chocolate. Different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine and theobromine. In general, the darker (i.e., bakerís chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.


Anything containing caffeine, such as, coffee, tea, energy drinks, dietary pills or soda should never be given to your pet. They can affect the heart, stomach, intestines and nervous system. Symptoms include restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination, excessive panting, increased heart rate and blood pressure levels and seizures.


I know many people may find it funny to give their dogs alcohol, but it can be very dangerous. Alcohol can affect animals quickly, because it gets absorbed into their bloodstream very fast. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Even desserts with small amounts of alcohol can cause a similar toxicity.

Fatty Foods

Foods that are high in fat can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Pancreatitis often follows the ingestion of fatty meal in dogs. Certain breeds like miniature schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, and Yorkshire terriers appear to be more susceptible to a bout of pancreatitis than other breeds. Fight the temptation to share fast food leftovers, junk food or foods cooked in grease with your dog.

Fat Trimmings and Bones
Table scraps often contain bones and meat fat, and both are dangerous for dogs. Remember that foods high in fat can cause pancreatitis, so giving your pup pure fat is very dangerous. As far as bones go, I know what you're thinking! It seems natural to give a dog a bone, but a dog can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog's digestive system.

Fruit Toxins

According to Pet Poison Helpline, grapes and raisins have been known to cause acute renal (kidney) failure in dogs. This means they are unable to filter toxins out of their system. Unfortunately, the reason for kidney failure and the amount of grapes/raisins necessary to be toxic to pets is unknown, so all cases of ingestion have the potential to be dangerous. It can take as little as four grapes/raisins can have an adverse effect on your dog.

Other fruits, such as, persimmons, peaches, and plums are only dangerous because of seeds or pits. The seeds from persimmons can cause inflammation of the small intestine in dogs. Peach pit and plums are dangerous because they can cause intestinal obstruction. Plus, peach and plum pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to both humans and dogs if the pit itself is broken apart and eaten.

Milk and Dairy Products

Milk and milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues because adult dogs are deficient in lactase necessary for digestion of milk. So no matter what Fido says, do not let him drink the milk left after you finish your morning cereal!


Wild mushrooms ó which may be found growing in your backyard or on the nature trail where you walk your dog ó contain toxins that will trigger numerous organ systems, including the kidneys, liver and brain. Nervous system abnormalities, seizures, coma, vomiting, and death can all result when a dog consumes mushrooms.


There are many rumors floating around the internet that claim that avocados are toxic to dogs and cats, because it contains a toxin called persin. Some vets believe that it can be toxic in very large quantities, but according to the Pet Poison Helpline, avocado is not poisonous to dogs, however it still poses a threat! If a dog or cat was to eat the whole avocado seed, it would likely cause obstruction in the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract.

There are certain species that are poisoned by persin. While dogs and cats donít seem to be affected by persin, avocado poisoning can be deadly to birds and large animals (such as cattle).

Pet birds should never be fed avocado, as canaries, parakeets, cockatiels and large parrots are extremely susceptible to persin toxicity. Signs of persin poisoning in birds includes the inability to perch, respiratory distress, fluid accumulation around the birdís heart and lungs, liver and kidney failure, and acute death.


In honor of living in the Nutmeg state, I had to bring this one to light!! Nutmeg
has a spicy scent that dogs are attracted to. High levels can be fatal. Signs include tremors, seizures and nervous system abnormalities.

Onions and Garlic

The ingestion of onions, onion powder, or even cooked onion causes a condition called hemolysis, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. In other words, onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your petís body to burst. Even a small amount can be toxic to your dog or cat.

Garlic, chives, and leeks are also part of the Allium family, and are poisonous to both dogs and cats. Garlic is still controversial among veterinarians as to its toxicity. I always tell owners to stay away from garlic. It is widely used in integrative medicine for a flea preventative, I never endorse this practice. Some clinical signs of this toxicity can include lethargy, pale gums, an elevated heart rate, an increased respiratory rate, weakness, exercise intolerance, and collapse.

Raw Eggs

There are two problems with allowing your dog to eat raw eggs. First: your dog could possibly get food poisoning from bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli. Second: raw eggs contain an enzyme that interferes with the dogís ability to absorb a certain vitamin B, which over time can cause skin problems and affect your dogís coat. Feeding your dog cooked eggs is a safer bet.


Certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, non-moldy walnuts and pistachios can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog's throat and/or intestinal tract; macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can cause toxic poisonings. Moldy walnuts can contain toxic chemical products produced by fungi which cause seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion.


Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in toothpastes, mouthwash, sugarless gum, certain cough medicines and children's chewable multi-vitamins. However, xylitol is extremely dangerous to your dog.

Ingestion of the product will cause the rapid release of insulin in dogs and result in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia results in vomiting, weakness, and sometimes seizures. In some cases, xylitol poisoning can result in liver failure. As little as one stick of xylitol gum could be toxic to a 20-pound dog.

Yeast Dough

Unbaked dough that contains yeast can expand in your petís stomach or intestines. As the yeast ferments, it releases gases, resulting in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even life-threatening bloat and a twisted stomach. Some yeast dough also ferments into alcohol, which contributes to signs of lethargy and alcohol toxicity.

If you ever suspect your animal has been exposed to any toxin, please contact
There is a charge associated with a phone call to them, but it is worth it if it saves your pets life.