Chocolate, Macadamia nuts, avocados…these foods may sound delicious to you, but they’re actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. Our nutrition experts have put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.
Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
Grapes & Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. The risk diminishes after the dough is cooked, so baked bread does not carry this risk.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and to the family members they come into contact with. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, our domesticated pets frequently choke on bones, or may sustain a grave injury should the sharp edges puncture the intestines.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause liver failure as well as insulin release that can lead to low blood sugar. Initial signs of toxicosis may include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination which can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure may develop within a few days.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies in the red blood cells. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem. But we recommend that you be careful NOT to give your pets large quantities of these foods.
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. So, keep those salty chips to yourself!