Toxic Foods for Your Pet

The holiday season is just around the corner and everyone's preparations are well underway! Carols playing in the stores, decorating the house, calling relatives and friends - what a fantastic time of year. While you're enjoying this season, please be sure to keep your animals safe, especially from human foods which can make them sick. There are many well-known foods that are toxic to our furry friends. Many of these foods may not be surprising, but there may be some you have never thought of as having the potential to make your pet ill.


This is one of my favourite foods, but it isn't as safe for our lovely pets. Chocolate contains chemicals such as theobromines and caffeine, which affect the liver, heart, nervous, urinary, and respiratory systems. The most toxic type of chocolate is Baker's chocolate, due to the very high concentrations of theobromine and caffeine. Of course, any type of chocolate can be toxic depending on the amount the animal ate, and chocolate can cause clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, seizures, respiratory failure and death.

Grapes and Raisins.

These two yummy snacks for us can cause kidney damage in our dogs. In severe cases they can result in irreversible kidney failure. Of course, with all toxins, it is 'the dose that makes the poison'. In a small dog such as a Shih Tzu, even one or two grapes can cause severe damage!

Fatty foods.

Foods high in fat such as cheese, meats, milk, etc., cause many different issues in dogs. Weight gain is most common, but also vomiting, diarrhea, and a very serious disease called pancreatitis are some of the potential issues which can plague our dogs. Every week we see at least half a dozen dogs for vomiting and diarrhea because of eating human food. Every year we treat approximately two dozen dogs for pancreatitis, a disease where the pancreas releases its digestive enzymes onto itself instead of into the intestines to help digest food. The pancreatic enzymes start digesting itself in an extremely painful process which also causes severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Pancreatitis typically starts after being fed a fatty meal, usually of human food. Even small amounts can trigger this potentially fatal illness.


A month ago I removed a chicken bone from a dog's intestines. Daisy was a one year old labrador retriever was brought in for lethargy and inappetance over the last 24 hours. We saw the chicken bone on x-rays, sitting right in the intestines. In order to see if it was moving through the intestinal tract, we did a sequence of radiographs. A repeated x-ray in two hours showed that bone had not moved at all. When we went into surgery to find the offending bone, we saw it had punctured through the intestinal wall and caused an infection at the area. Poor Daisy! After removing the affected intestines and treating her infection and pain, Daisy was like new again. Thank goodness!

There are many reasons to be wary of bones: swallowing them, allergies to the meat, bone fragments becoming stuck in the mouth or throat, and breaking teeth when our dogs chew on them. This week we removed molar tooth from a dog because it had broken, exposing the roots and nerves underneath! Ouch!

As more of a general list:

  • Tomatoes, onions and garlic can cause red blood cells to be broken down, leading to anemia.
  • Fruits such as apples and oranges are high in sugars. Excess sugar in animals can also predispose to diabetes and weight gain.
  • Household cleaners, antifreeze, and other chemicals can have a wide variety of lethal effects on the body.
  • Toxic plants are numerous, just a few include the yew plant, oxalate plants such as rhubarb which cause irritation in the mouth and throat, lilies which cause kidney failure in cats, and so many others. Give us a call if you're thinking about brining a new plant into the house, we can tell you if it will be safe for your plant-loving animals.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but is some of the more common toxicities we see at the clinic. So, make sure to keep the garbage well tied, keep the chocolate, raisins and grapes locked up and give your dogs lots of petting during the holiday. They'll love you for it! And if you have any questions, we're just a phone call away.

Dr. Kim Quinn

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South Windsor Animal Hospital

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