March 4, 2019

General Wellness & Prevention

Foods That Are Poisonous to Pets

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

Who can resist those big brown eyes begging for some of your food from under the table? We’ve all given pets table scraps at one time or another. However, some of those foods can be irritating or even toxic to our pets.

March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month. This is a great time to review some of the foods that we should NOT feed our pets. Most of us know not to give our dogs chocolate, but there are many other foods we should avoid feeding our pets. This list highlights some of the most common foods:


Alcohol can cause a variety of problems from vomiting and diarrhea to coma and death. Most of us wouldn’t offer Fluffy a drink of our adult beverages, but Fluffy might find alcohol that was spilled on the floor. Other items, like perfume, cough syrup, and mouthwash also contain alcohol, so be sure to keep Fluffy away from these items as well.


We generally don’t feed avocados to dogs or cats, but bird owners beware. Birds can experience heart damage or even death from this fruit. In general, it seems to be the pit of the avocado that is most toxic, but it is best to avoid avocados altogether. Avocados are also problematic for rabbits, donkeys, horses, sheep, and goats.


This substance is in our coffee, tea, energy drinks, and more. Coffee grounds and tea bags in the trash might be a problem if Fluffy gets into your trashcan. Caffeine may cause vomiting, but it can also cause hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, seizures, or death.


The toxic element of chocolate is theobromine. While humans have no problems digesting theobromine, it metabolizes more slowly in pets and can build up to toxic levels in their systems. In small amounts, chocolate may cause vomiting and diarrhea. In larger amounts, it can cause hyperactivity, irregular heartbeat, and even death.

Milk and white chocolate contain the least amount of theobromine. Cocoa, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate contain hazardous amounts of theobromine and can be fatal to your pet. The darker the chocolate, the worse it is for your pet, but it is best to avoid chocolate altogether. 

Grapes and Raisins

These fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Birds, however, are able to eat grapes in small amounts as treats. Grapes can cause birds to have kidney problems if they are given too much or eat them too frequently.


While few people would actually offer their pets spoonfuls of table salt, many people DO share potato chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks with pets. Effects of salt can vary from increased thirst and urination to seizures and death.


Used as a sugar-free sweetener in gum, candy, and even some peanut butters, xylitol can lead to liver failure. Be sure to check the labels on all products before sharing a bite with your pleading pooch.

Yeast Dough

Just as the dough would rise on the baking sheet, it will rise in Fluffy’s stomach. This condition is painful to the pet and it may cause Fluffy’s stomach to bloat. In addition, alcohol from the fermenting yeast can cause intoxication and alcohol poisoning.

In summary

You can see that a well-intentioned owner could share some of his or her food with a companion animal and inadvertently cause severe health problems. At Countrycare Animal Complex, we recommend sticking with food designed for animals’ digestive systems.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something he shouldn’t have, call us at (920) 863-3220. You can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435, but be advised a $65 charge may apply.

The above list is a partial list of all the items that could be poisonous to your pets. For a comprehensive list of foods, plants, and chemicals that could cause harm to your animals, visit the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website.

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.