September 18, 2017


8 Foods That Are Toxic to Your Pet

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

I have a confession to make… I sometimes give in and give my dog the last bite of my pizza crust. Gasp! I am sure we may have all been there at one point. You are at the dinner table, you look down and your dog is giving you the saddest face known to man. When she sees your pizza crust she gets so excited and you think, “What’s one little piece going to hurt?”

After all, we are all taught from a young age that sharing is a good thing. But, sharing certain food items with your pet could be bad for her health! Not only could certain foods cause problems in pets with allergies or food sensitivities, but some foods are toxic to pets.

Here are 8 foods to NOT share with your pet:

1. Grapes or Raisins

Grapes and raisins cause kidney damage to dogs, cats and birds.  If they are ingested in large quantities, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in these pets. Avoid giving grapes and raisins to cats and dogs. If you give this fruit to your bird, give it only occasionally as a treat and give it in very small amounts.

2. Sugar-free items containing Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be found in many sugar-free gums and candies. Some peanut butters now contain xylitol!  Although humans are able to digest this sweetener,  xylitol can cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in dogs. This condition may cause liver failure, and in some cases may lead to coma or death. Some experts claim that xylitol is 100 times more toxic to pets than chocolate is! Dogs are most often the pets that ingest xylitol, but cats and ferrets may also have similar negative reactions.

3. Chocolatefoods toxic to your pet

While chocolate is a sweet treat for us, it can cause significant problems in dogs and cats. The severity of the problem depends on the type and the amount of chocolate that your pet eats.  In general, the darker the chocolate, the worse or more toxic it may be.  Chocolate can cause several reactions that can vary from mild upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea) to hyperactivity and abnormal heart rhythms. In severe cases, chocolate may cause seizures or even death.

4. Onions

5. Garlic

Onions and garlic (particularly raw) can cause upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea). If your pet ingests large quantities of onion or garlic, he may experience damage to his red blood cells. Cats appear to be more sensitive to these foods, but both dogs and cats should avoid onions and garlic.

6. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause your dog to experience vomiting, weakness, muscle tremors, or even hyperthermia (an elevated body temperature). These symptoms may last up to 2 days! In addition, nuts can also cause an intestinal blockage which might require emergency surgery to remove.

7. Avocado

If birds eat avocado, it can cause heart problems and sudden death!  Pet rabbits, donkeys, horses, sheep, and goats may experience swelling and pain around the neck and face. While some people believe that the pit of the avocado is the most toxic portion, it is best to avoid all pieces of this food altogether.

8. Fatty Foods

Foods higher in fat like cheese or meat drippings can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach. Even worse, high-fat foods can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).  The pancreas is an important organ that produces digestive enzymes and regulates blood sugar.  If the pancreas becomes irritated, your pet could become very sick and may require multiple days of hospitalization at the vet clinic.

If you think your pet may have ingested one of these foods, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Make sure all family members know that these foods are toxic to your pet.  And, the next time you sit down to your favorite snack, think first before you decide to share it with your furry or feathered friend!

Dr. Heintz and her dog, Mimi

Dr. Heintz and her dog, Mimi

Dr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.