In 2018, 25 percent of the potential animal poisonings examined by the ASPCA Poison Control Center were related to food. Protect your dog's or cat's health by withholding these harmful foods and beverages.

By Steve Dale, CAB
August 24, 2020

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 pup or kitty. Plenty of people foods can make your animals sick; some very seriously. Take a look at the list below for some food you should never feed dogs and cats—no matter how nicely they ask.

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1. Alcohol

If your pet accidentally sneaks a few sips of beer, it's likely no big deal. But videotaping your pet drinking so you can put the video on Instagram isn’t worth the risk to his health.

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, toxic to dogs and cats, 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 & 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 & 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.

9. Apricot & Peach Pits

The stems and leaves of apricot and peach trees contain small amounts of cyanide. 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.

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.

What to Do if Your Pet Eats Something Potentially Dangerous

  • Stay calm. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. —Dr. Marty Becker, DVM

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