When you think of common pet toxins, you may think of things like antifreeze, strychnine and other potentially lethal poisons that can be maliciously given to a pet. But some equally toxic things may be found right in your own kitchen that could lead to a big vet bill.

Whether you intentionally give your pets “people food” as snacks or whether your counter-surfing dog or cat has the bad habit of secret snacking, knowing what ingredients can cause your pet trouble will help keep you out of the animal emergency room. If you're throwing a party, here are some popular foods to watch out for:

Dangerous foods for pets

Grapes and raisins

These perfectly portable fruits are not decidedly pet-friendly – they can cause fatal kidney failure in dogs. Because they make a tasty treat for kids, be vigilant about your dog’s potential exposure at snack time.

Onions/onion powder and garlic/garlic powder

These allium vegetables add seasoning for people, but they can damage your pet’s red blood cells. If enough are affected, life-threatening anemia can occur.

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. Weakness, depression, vomiting and tremors are usually seen within 12 hours of ingestion, so keep these crunchy treats out of paw’s reach!


This sugar substitute has gotten many a poor pooch into trouble. Xylitol is a popular ingredient in sugar-free snacks and gums, and ingestion leads to a dangerous drop in blood sugar and potential liver failure.


Everyone’s got a story of a dog who ate chocolate and lived to tell – but it’s still a very risky move. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which can cause neurologic signs in high enough doses. The darker the chocolate, the more concern there is. Most of the time, chocolate ingestion merely causes a little bit of gastric upset, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea. But depending on the dose, chocolate can pack quite a punch, especially in small dogs.

Raw bread dough

Bread dough that is ingested while it is rising will continue to rise in the warm environment of your pet’s stomach, causing significant abdominal pain and bloating. In addition, rising bread dough produces ethanol, which may cause toxicosis.


Just as with humans, some dogs have a penchant for beer, wine or liquor. While you may think it’s funny to give your dogs a nip, even occasional indulgences can cause fatal respiratory depression.

Foreign body ingestions

Some foods are dangerous not because of their toxic potential, but because of their size and digestibility (or lack thereof). Peach pits and corn cobs immediately come to mind. These are often found in the trash, and if your dog is anything like mine, trash cans are very hard to resist. These items might be tasty, but once eaten, they can become lodged in your pet’s intestines, causing life-threatening intestinal blockage (and a hefty hospital bill). Protecting your pet with a dog insurance plan can help with the costs of the unexpected accidents, but the best course of action is to prevent them from happening in the first place!

I think I will always remember my very first foreign body removal surgery – it was on an English Bulldog who had eaten a wine cork from the trash. To be on the safe side, make sure your trash can is inaccessible to pets.

Personally, I advise against feeding pets human food. Not only can it contribute to obesity (all those frequent snacks add up!), but it instills bad habits like begging. But if you absolutely, positively cannot resist those puppy dog eyes, be sure the foods you are treating your dog or cat to are safe.

Sep 26, 2014
Pet Health

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