If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ingested something toxic, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.
We all love giving our pets special treats, but just because it’s something we humans can eat doesn’t mean it’s safe for our pets. In fact, many human foods can be harmful to pets, as well as toxic – meaning they can make our pets sick or even cause life-threatening symptoms. To help you keep your pets safe, we’re sharing a list of the ten most common human foods that are toxic to pets (in no particular order) and why they’ve earned their infamous bad raps!
The danger: Xylitol can cause severely low blood sugar in pets, as well as liver damage and liver failure.
This sugarless sweetener is found in many products including sugar-free foods like peanut butter, dairy products, energy bars, and baked goods, as well as household items like baby wipes, dental hygiene products, and vitamins. Sugar-free gum is the biggest culprit. Many dogs are poisoned when they ingest cubed sugar-free gum. Always check the ingredient label – especially before giving your dog peanut butter or yogurt!
2. Chocolate and Caffeine
The danger: Chocolate contains caffeine & theobromine. Caffeine increases blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias in pets, which can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, and central nervous system.
Chocolate toxicity depends on the type of chocolate eaten, the amount consumed, and your pet’s weight. Baking chocolate is the most toxic because it has 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce, and white chocolate is the least toxic because it only has 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce. In other words, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is!
In addition to chocolate, caffeine products such as coffee beans (especially chocolate-covered beans), coffee grounds, coffee-flavored ice cream, teas, energy drinks, and supplements are also dangerous.
The danger: These foods lead to kidney damage & kidney failure.
Depending on the pet, even one grape can pose big problems! Not only should pet parents be careful of these foods – but also keep baked goods, jam, trail mix, salad, or other foods containing these ingredients out of your pet’s reach.
4. Yeast Dough
The danger: If your pet eats yeast dough before it’s baked, it can cause alcohol poisoning & stomach bloating, as well as the life-threatening risk of the stomach twisting (a gastric dilatation and volvulus).
Pet parents who love to make homemade breads and rolls with yeast should keep pets out of the kitchen while baking. When a pet eats yeast dough, the yeast ferments in your pet’s stomach, producing alcohol and gas that leads to bloating. Additionally, the dough increases in volume, worsening the bloat.
The danger: These foods are part of the Allium species, and they have sulfur-containing oxidants (SCO) which can damage your pet’s red blood cells and cause life-threatening anemia.
Whether raw, cooked, dried, liquid, or fresh, all forms of alliums can have this effect on both dogs and cats. Typically, pets experience allium poisoning after eating a raw or cooked plant. Powdered onion and garlic are much more toxic than raw because they are concentrated. Pet parents should also be careful of stuffing, soup, savory baked goods, and other food that contains these toxic ingredients.
The danger: A dog that eats macadamia nuts may experience weakness, inability to walk, lethargy, vomiting, and tremors.
In general, all nuts contain too much fat and shouldn’t be fed to dogs due to the risk of pancreatitis. Whether eaten whole, as nut butter, or mixed into baked goods or trail mix, macadamia nuts are toxic. Even a small taste can poison your dog.
The danger: Nutmeg contains myristicin, a narcotic that can have neurological effects on your pet such as hallucinations, incoordination, tremors, and seizures. Pets may also experience dangerously high body temperature.
When baking with nutmeg, keep pets out of the kitchen, and withhold nutmeg from food that will be given to pets, like homemade dog treats. As little as one teaspoon of ground nutmeg to 2-3 whole nutmegs can be toxic. High doses can even be fatal.
The danger: Too much salt can cause high levels of sodium in your pet’s bloodstream, affecting cells, the brain, and nervous tissue.
Sources of salt poisoning in pets include table salt, rock salt for deicers, homemade play dough or slime, and sea water. While a little bit of salt won’t harm your pet, 1.5 grams of salt per pound of your dog’s weight and more than 41 milligrams of salt per pound of your cat’s weight are dangerous.
9. Dairy Foods
The danger: Pets are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest dairy. Some may also have a food allergy to a specific dairy product. Additionally, pets can experience secondary issues like pancreatitis, diarrhea-induced dehydration, and obesity.
While not as life-threatening as other items on our list, it’s important to remember pets really shouldn’t be given dairy products. The occasional treat is okay as long as it’s plain (no chocolate ice cream!), but your pet’s daily meals should provide all the nutrients your pet needs.
10. THC Edibles
The danger: Pets metabolize THC slower than humans, meaning the effects can last longer. Generally, pets experience ataxia (stumbling, unsteady walk), sleepy mentation, and exaggerated responses to movement and noises. In severe cases, pets can experience an abnormal heart rate, slowed breathing, or coma.
Pets are most often exposed to THC from marijuana edibles. The most dangerous type of ingestion is marijuana butter, as it contains very high THC levels. Cats can also be exposed through oral ingestion of marijuana buds, as they do resemble dried catnip.
The danger: Alcohol lowers a pet’s blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature.
While not exactly a food, alcohol is still extremely dangerous for pets. No amount of alcohol is considered “safe” for them. In addition to yeast dough causing alcohol poisoning in pets, alcoholic beverages and alcohol-soaked foods are also dangerous. Always promptly clean up any spills, and never leave drinks unattended.
The best way to keep pets safe is to pet-proof your home and keep all toxic foods out of their reach. Resist those puppy eyes! And when guests come over, remind them not to feed your pet without your permission.
If your pet does eat something toxic, contact your family veterinarian, local animal ER, or an animal poison helpline to determine the best course of action. If you call an animal poison helpline, record the case number to give to your veterinary team.
Please note this is not an exclusive list of human foods that are toxic to pets. Ask your family veterinarian about specific foods or ingredients. You can also find more comprehensive lists on animal poison helpline websites like ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline.