There’s no denying that the key to your pet’s heart is through their stomach, which is great when you’re rewarding them with treats during positive-reinforcement training. However, do not take this sentiment to the extreme, or you may end up—unintentionally—damaging your pet’s health. Feeding your pet table scraps increases their risk of weight-related health conditions, and many common foods can be toxic—and sometimes deadly—for pets. Our Desert Vet team shares 10 highly toxic foods for pets. 

#1: Chocolate—beware two ingredients toxic to pets

Chocolate is toxic for pets because of two chemicals—caffeine and theobromine. 

  • Caffeine — All chocolate types contain at least some caffeine, with some more caffeinated than others. Pets who consume caffeine, which is a stimulant, may experience an increased heart rate and hyperactivity, as well as high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Theobromine — Theobromine is similar to caffeine, and is used in human medicine as a heart stimulant, diuretic, blood vessel dilator, and muscle relaxant. However, pets cannot metabolize theobromine, so this substance is toxic to them. 

The chocolate toxicity level depends on your pet’s weight, the type of chocolate—dark, bitter chocolate such as unsweetened baking chocolate is the most dangerous—and the amount they consume.

#2: Sugar-free foods—good for people, but not for pets

Xylitol, a sugar substitute also known as birch sugar, is a common ingredient in many foods and products that is beneficial to humans, but extremely toxic, and potentially life-threatening, to dogs. Products containing xylitol include:

  • Sugar-free food and candy — Gum, mints, peanut butter, ice cream, pudding snacks, and baked goods
  • Oral hygiene products — Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Medications — Nasal sprays, allergy medicines, cough syrup, and lozenges
  • Vitamins and supplements — Chewable or gummy vitamins and supplements
  • Personal hygiene products — Deodorant, hair care products, and cosmetics

Xylitol toxicity primarily affects dogs, and does not appear to similarly affect cats. However, err on the side of caution and keep all xylitol-containing products out of every pet’s reach. 

#3:  Raisins and grapes—deadly in pets in only small amounts

Only a small amount of raisins or grapes can cause deadly kidney failure—for example, according to one report, only 0.3 ounces of grapes caused kidney failure in a dog. Ensure your pet does not eat raisins and grapes, or foods that may contain them, such as:

  • Trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Grape juice
  • Raisin bread
  • Wine

#4: Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks—good for flavor, but not for pets

Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks belong to the Allium family and are commonly included in holiday side dishes such as dressing and vegetable casseroles, but can irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract and seriously damage their red blood cells. Toxicity signs, such as vomiting, weakness, nausea, and collapse, may not occur until several days after ingestion.

#5: High-fat foods—a recipe for disaster in pets

High-fat foods, such as turkey skin, gravy, and butter, can shock your pet’s digestive system and cause pancreatitis, which is a painful, potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Not surprisingly, pancreatitis cases in pets increase during the holidays, when people indulge them with holiday treats, foods, and scraps. 

#6: Alcohol—a drunk pet is a sick pet

Alcohol toxicity commonly affects pets who drink alcohol or alcohol-containing products. Alcohol poisoning in pets can lead to dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, liver and kidney problems, and low blood sugar. Pets are often attracted to alcohol’s sweet smell and cannot resist an unattended cocktail, so keeping alcoholic drinks out of pets’ reach is extremely important. 

#7:  Avocado—beware the pits for pets

The avocado itself is not harmful, but pets can swallow the pit and suffer an intestinal obstruction, which can be life-threatening and will likely require surgical removal. 

#8: Macadamia nuts—mysteriously bad for pets

All nuts are high-fat and can trigger pancreatitis, but macadamia nuts, which contain an unknown toxin that causes muscle weakness, depression, elevated body temperatures, and vomiting, are especially dangerous for pets.

#9: Raw dough—an expanding problem in pets

Raw yeast dough that your pet eats will continue to expand in their stomach and can cause a GI obstruction. The yeast can also metabolize and produce alcohol that your pet will absorb, resulting in alcohol toxicity.

#10: Cooked bones—cutting edge problems for pets

You may be tempted to toss your pet a leftover turkey bone, but you must resist the urge. All bones are dangerous for pets, but cooked bones, which can splinter and pierce your pet’s mouth or GI tract, or become lodged and cause a blockage that requires emergency surgical removal, are especially dangerous.

Now that you understand how dangerous foods can be for your pet, you will find resisting your pet’s begging much easier, without feeling guilty. However, pets can be sneaky, so contact our Desert Vet team if you suspect they have ingested anything toxic.