Knowing what is safe and unsafe for a pet to eat can be a complicated topic as while one dog may eat grapes and be fine, another may fall seriously ill and even die. My own dogs often eat avocados that fall from the trees in our garden. They do, however, always leave the seed, which could cause an obstruction in the oesophagus, stomach, or intestinal tract if part or all of it were swallowed. As you will see below, avocado is a fruit that should be avoided as it contains persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs and may cause any of the following symptoms in birds: Inability to perch; agitation; fluffed feathers; anorexia; difficulty breathing; organ failure; sudden death. Horses and ruminants that eat avocados could experience lethargy; swelling of the mouth, head, neck, chest; mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands); heart damage.
There may be several variables that need to be taken into account before you know if a food was ingested by your pet at a toxic amount but, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the foods listed below or any food, plant or item that you are unsure whether to be safe, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian immediately. Please also note that the presence of some food on this list may be controversial, for example, avocados, garlic, raw meat. How can raw meat be on the list when a raw diet can be a very healthy option? As with many things in life, even the best choices sometimes have downfalls.
Here is a list of foods that can be harmful based on information provided by the
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
- Foods are listed in alphabetical order (not order of toxicity)
- The list may not be exhaustive. If in doubt, always consult your veterinary professional
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.
According to the ASPCA, avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats.
Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
These all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds. Methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Please note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.
The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid which can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.
Coconut and Coconut Oil
When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to harm your pet (and may even beneficial). However, the flesh and milk of fresh coconuts contain oils that may cause stomach upset and diarrhoea. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.
Grapes and Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure and should always be avoided.
Can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs.
Milk and Dairy
As pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products can cause diarrhoea or digestive upset.
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and even pancreatitis.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
Can all cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Cats are more susceptible, but dogs are also at risk.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and eggs may contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans.
Raw eggs contain the enzyme avidin which decreases the absorption of biotin (a Bvitamin). This can lead to skin and coat problems.
Pets might choke on bones or sustain serious injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture the pet’s digestive tract.
Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.
Please avoid feeding salt-laden snacks like potato chips (crisps), pretzels, and salted popcorn.
Used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy (sweets), baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release which can lead to liver failure. Signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. May progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in the pet’s digestive system. This can cause pain and may lead to Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), also known as gastric dilation, twisted stomach, or gastric torsion, a medical condition in which the stomach becomes overstretched and rotated by excessive gas content – a life threatening emergency.
Please note the above list may not be exhaustive. If unsure, please consult your veterinary professional.