Common toxic foods you may be feeding your dog

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

Every year, thousands of dogs and puppies are poisoned in their own homes. This most commonly happens when a dog ingests something with an appealing taste or smell such as chocolate, rodent baits, and other items that their wonderful noses just happen to sniff out during their daily wanderings.

When it comes to toxic foods, the level of danger is usually determined by the individual dog and the quantity the dog consumes. Some dogs can eat an entire bag of raisins with no reaction at all, while others might suffer acute kidney failure from even a small quantity. The safest thing to do is prevent your dog from consuming any of the foods that are listed below.


The flesh, pits, and skin of avocados contain a toxin known as persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. While the pit of the avocado is toxic, it can also pose a choking hazard if swallowed. Personally, I have removed several of these pits that made their way through a dog's stomach and into the intestines where it became lodged causing an obstruction.


The higher the cocoa content, the higher the risk. Baker's or dark chocolate contains a high level of cocoa, whereas the content in milk chocolate is much lower. It only takes a small amount, even where the cocoa content is lower, to cause a toxic reaction. A 3 ounce chunk of dark chocolate is enough to be fatal to a dog weighing 25 pounds.

Clinical Signs:

  • drooling

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • rapid heart rate

  • hyperactivity

  • muscle tremors

  • seizures

  • coma

Once case that I will never forget was a Jack Russell Terrier that ate an entire bag of individually wrapped Godiva chocolates. Thankfully, the dog's owner brought the dog to me very quickly. We were able to make the dog vomit and recovered 30 pieces of chocolate still in their wrappers.


When garlic and onions are broken down into the digestive system, they can cause damage to Red Blood Cells. This can result in a mild to severe anemia (low red blood cell count). Depending on the severity of the anemia, treatment may involve symptomatic care, blood transfusions, and oxygen therapy.

Clinical signs:

  • drooling

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • pale color gums

  • weakness

  • elevated heart rate and respiratory rate

  • lethargy

  • collapse


Grapes and raisins can be highly dangerous to some dogs, although in the veterinary community, we have yet to discover why. Some signs you may encounter with this type of toxicity include: vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, and the possibility of acute kidney failure.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener and sugar substitute that has become increasingly popular in human foods and products. It can be found in chewing gum (sugar free), mints, candy, different baked goods, and even some peanut butters. When ingested, it can result in a rapid drop in the dog's blood sugar. This can result in depression, loss of coordination, seizures, and unconsciousness.

Yeast Dough

Once ingested, the uncooked dough for breads, rolls, and other baked goods can literally rise in a dog's stomach and result in a blockage that could require surgery to treat. A secondary toxicity can occur as well. After the yeast rises, the alcohol produced during fermentation can cause alcohol poisoning.


As previously mentioned, alcohol poisoning can occur from yeast ingestion but also from alcoholic beverages. Be cautious of unattended drinks around a curious dog during family gatherings or other parties.

Clinical signs:

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • uncoordinated behavior

  • central nervous system depression

  • tremors

  • coma

Macadamia Nuts

While symptoms usually resolve themselves in a few days, dogs can experience any of the following symptoms: vomiting, weakness, depression, tremors, and temporary paralysis of the rear legs.

Moldy Foods/Trash

In my experience, this toxicity tends to occur from the dogs we describe as "garbage diggers". These are the dogs that like to knock over the trash can or dig through a compost pile. Moldy foods can contain mycotoxins. Spoiled foods can also contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli.

Clinical signs:

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • tremors

  • central nervous system disorders

Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM


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