In 2020, food and chocolate were the third and fourth highest causes of animal poisonings according to the ASPCA Poison Control Center.

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We get it. It's hard to resist those big eyes staring up at you and the soft, gentle cries of a dog who just wants a taste of what's on your plate. But as tempting as it is to feed Fido table scraps, there are plenty of reasons it's not a great idea. For starters, you don't want to reward begging behavior. Treats are meant to reinforce positive behaviors, so save those for situations when your pet has done something good.

Second, not everything you enjoy eating is actually good for your dog or kitty. Plenty of people foods can make your animals sick; some very seriously. Take a look at the list below for some foods you should never feed dogs and cats—no matter how nicely they ask.

1. Alcohol

If your pet accidentally sneaks a sip of beer, it's likely not an emergency. Liquor, wine, and drinks with a higher alcohol content can be even more detrimental for a dog's health. It doesn't take much alcohol for an animal to develop alcohol poisoning, according to Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist with Pet Poison Helpline. It's best to keep any alcoholic drinks far out of reach of dogs or cats.

2. Caffeine

Dogs and cats rarely request coffee in the morning, which is a good thing because caffeine can be deadly to these species. If you own an "eat anything" pet, keep tea bags, coffee beans, and chocolate-covered espresso beans well out of reach.

3. Xylitol

Even small amounts of this artificial sweetener, which is toxic to cats and dogs, can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, or death. Xylitol can be found as a sugar substitute in baked goods, chewing gum, vitamins, and some sugarless brands of peanut butter.

4. Avocados

This fruit contains a toxin called persin, which may cause gastrointestinal upset in cats and dogs. Avocado pits are a bigger risk than the actual fruit. They can be a choking hazard, so keep them away from pets.

5. Garlic and Onions

Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks belong to the genus Allium, which is toxic to dogs and cats. When these foods are consumed, they may cause a pet's red blood cells to rupture and damage important organs. Gastrointestinal upset or even death can occur.

6. Macadamia Nuts

Dogs may be the only species susceptible to macadamia nut toxicity. Some dogs show signs such as being in a trance-like state, fainting, vomiting, or tremors. The signs might disappear without treatment, but some dogs may need veterinary intervention.

7. Mustard Seeds

Never feed pets mustard seeds, which contain toxic compounds. Yellow mustard in small amounts is unlikely to be an issue for a pet, but ingesting too much may lead to vomiting. Mustard greens may also cause severe stomach upset.

8. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs and cats and can cause sudden kidney failure. Never give give grapes or raisins as treats and make sure if you're drinking wine, you keep the glass far out of your curious pet's reach.

9. Apricot, Cherry, and Peach Pits

The stems and leaves of apricots, cherries, and peaches contain small amounts of cyanide (so do apple seeds). One munch is probably not harmful, but too many may cause a problem. Nix the pits, too; they also contain cyanide and could present a choking hazard. If you're looking for food you can safely share with your dog, many vegetables or fruit are usually good options, but it's best to peel and cut it up into bite-size pieces to get rid of those more harmful components.

10. Chocolate

Cats and dogs are both at risk of chocolate poisoning. Keep in mind that cats and smaller dogs face greater risk of chocolate toxicity than larger ones do because it takes less chocolate to affect them negatively. A small dog weighing under 10 pounds can only tolerate the equivalent of one Hershey kiss before it becomes an emergency situation. And the type of chocolate matters, too. Dark chocolate is a lot more toxic for dogs than milk chocolate or white chocolate.

white dog with family and food licking his lips
Credit: teksomolika / Getty

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Something Toxic

If you think your dog has eaten something toxic, the first thing to do is stay calm, advises Marty Becker, DVM. Below are more steps Becker recommends taking to help your potentially poisoned dog before things get worse.

Check to see if your dog is showing any signs of poisoning.

If your pet is not showing any serious signs of illness as described below, contact your regular vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888/426-4435) to determine if he needs to be seen by a vet or treated at home. Your vet may tell you to induce vomiting by giving your dog a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide dose (1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight). There is nothing you can safely give a cat if she has eaten something poisonous.

Examine your dog's vomit for clues.

Many substances first cause stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Examine the vomit for evidence of chewed packaging, food, and other important clues. Many poisonings progress to weakness and depression or nervous stimulation, including tremors and seizures. Pets may stop eating and drinking or may drink excessive amounts, which could suggest liver or kidney involvement. Rapid or slow breathing, with changes in tongue and gum color—from pink to white, blue, or brown—is important to note.

Determine if you need to take emergency action.

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, having seizures, or is bleeding or unconscious, immediately go to your regular vet or an emergency clinic. Take any evidence, including vomit. This information is key to helping your veterinarian save your pet.

A version of this article first appeared in Happy Paws Fall/Winter 2019.