A toxic food is any substance that, when ingested by a dog, can lead to an adverse reaction ranging from mild digestive upset to severe organ damage or even death. Dogs, being curious and opportunistic eaters, sometimes find their way into human food or rubbish bins, making them susceptible to accidental consumption of harmful substances.
Responsible dog owners should be aware of the potentially harmful foods that can cause illness, injury, or even prove fatal to dogs. We look at eleven of the most toxic foods, which may seem harmless to us, but their ingestion can have disastrous consequences for dogs.
Table of Contents
- Chocolate, Cocoa, Cacao and Cacao Nibs
- Cooked Bones
- Corn on the Cob
- Grapes, Raisins and Currants
- Macadamia Nuts
- Safe Natural Food for Dogs
Alcohol is a chemical compound known as ethanol, commonly found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits. It is a psychoactive substance that affects the central nervous system of both humans and animals.
When ingested by dogs, alcohol can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences due to their smaller size and differences in metabolising alcohol compared to humans.
If a dog ingests alcohol, they can exhibit a range of alarming symptoms. In the early stages, the dog can display signs of intoxication, such as unsteady gait, confusion, and lethargy.
As alcohol absorption continues, more severe symptoms can manifest, including vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive drooling, and laboured breathing. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can lead to seizures, decreased body temperature, and loss of consciousness, which can be fatal if left untreated.
If you suspect or witness your dog ingesting alcohol, immediate action is essential to ensure their safety. Firstly, stay calm and try to assess the amount of alcohol consumed, as this information will be valuable for the veterinarian. Contact your veterinary clinic for professional advice and guidance.
Do not attempt to induce vomiting without consulting a veterinarian, as it can worsen the situation if alcohol has already entered the bloodstream. Keep your dog comfortable and prevent them from ingesting any more alcohol or other substances while awaiting professional medical assistance.
Avocado is a popular fruit known for its creamy texture and rich flavour. It contains a substance called persin, which is mildly toxic to dogs, particularly in certain parts of the avocado plant, such as the leaves, bark, and seed.
The biggest concern with avocado is the risk of gastrointestinal upset or obstruction due to its high-fat content, as well as potential persin toxicity, which can affect the heart, lungs, and other organs in some dogs.
While some dogs can tolerate small amounts of ripe avocado flesh without adverse effects, it's best to avoid giving avocados to dogs altogether to prevent any potential health issues.
If a dog ingests avocado, symptoms of avocado toxicity can include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, and lack of appetite. In cases where a dog ingests large amounts of the plant or its parts, more severe symptoms can emerge, such as difficulty breathing, coughing, fluid accumulation around the heart and lungs, and signs of gastrointestinal obstruction.
The symptoms vary depending on the dog's size, the amount of avocado consumed, and individual sensitivity to persin.
If you suspect or observe your dog ingesting avocado or notice any of the mentioned symptoms, contact your veterinarian for professional advice and care. Treatment for avocado toxicity will depend on the severity of the symptoms and may include supportive care to address gastrointestinal issues, fluid therapy, and medications to manage symptoms. Inducing vomiting should only be done under veterinary guidance.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in various plants, most commonly known for its presence in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans. It is also added to many beverages, energy drinks, and certain medications.
Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant in both humans and animals, including dogs. However, dogs are much more sensitive to its effects, and even small amounts can lead to serious health issues.
If a dog ingests caffeine, they can exhibit a range of symptoms that vary depending on the amount consumed. In the early stages, the dog can appear restless and agitated, with an increased heart rate and rapid breathing.
As caffeine absorption continues, more severe symptoms can emerge, including vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, muscle twitching, and elevated body temperature. In severe cases, caffeine poisoning can lead to seizures, irregular heart rhythms, collapse, and even death.
If you suspect or witness your dog ingesting caffeine, immediate action is essential to ensure their safety. Firstly, stay calm and try to assess the amount of caffeine consumed, as this information will be valuable for the veterinarian. Contact your veterinary clinic for professional advice and guidance.
Do not attempt to induce vomiting without consulting a veterinarian, as it can worsen the situation if caffeine has already entered the bloodstream. Keep your dog comfortable and try to prevent them from ingesting any more caffeine or other substances while awaiting professional medical assistance.
Chocolate, Cocoa, Cacao and Cacao Nibs
Chocolate, Cacao, and Cacao Nibs are derived from the cacao bean (Theobroma cacao) and are commonly used in various food products. They all contain substances called theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to dogs. The level of these compounds varies depending on the type and processing of the cacao bean.
Chocolate is a confection made from roasted cacao beans that are combined with sugar and fats. Cocoa refers to the powder obtained by grinding cacao beans after removing the cacao butter. Cacao typically refers to the raw, unprocessed form of the cacao bean. Cacao Nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans that are often used as a healthy addition to various dishes.
If a dog ingests chocolate, cocoa, or cacao nibs, they may experience a range of symptoms related to theobromine and caffeine toxicity. These symptoms can appear within a few hours after ingestion and may include restlessness, panting, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors, and in severe cases, seizures or cardiac issues.
If you suspect or witness your dog ingesting chocolate, cacao, or cacao nibs, contact your veterinarian immediately. Be prepared to provide information about the type and quantity of chocolate or cacao consumed, as this will help determine the appropriate treatment. Do not attempt home remedies without professional guidance, as theobromine and caffeine toxicity can be life-threatening.
Cooked bones are bones from various types of meat that have been subjected to high heat through cooking methods such as boiling, roasting, grilling, or baking. These bones are particularly dangerous for dogs because the cooking process causes them to become brittle and more likely to splinter into sharp fragments when chewed.
When ingested, these sharp bone fragments can cause serious internal injuries to a dog's digestive system, including the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and intestines.
If a dog ingests cooked bones, they can exhibit a range of distressing symptoms. These can include drooling, pawing at the mouth, reluctance to eat or drink, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
As the sharp bone fragments move through the digestive tract, they can cause internal damage, leading to symptoms such as bleeding, bloating, or signs of discomfort, like hunching over or being unusually still.
If you suspect or know that your dog has ingested cooked bones, it is essential to act promptly to prevent further harm. Refrain from inducing vomiting, as this can exacerbate the issue by causing the bones to splinter further or become lodged.
Contact your veterinarian immediately for professional evaluation and treatment. Your veterinarian may recommend X-rays to assess the extent of the potential damage. Depending on the severity of the situation, treatment may involve supportive care, medications to manage pain and inflammation, or, in severe cases, surgical intervention to remove the bone fragments.
Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob is a popular summer treat enjoyed by many humans. It refers to corn kernels that are still attached to the cob, often served with butter and various seasonings. Whilst corn kernels themselves are not toxic to dogs, the central ‘cob’ poses a significant danger.
Corn cobs are not digestible and can cause serious blockages in a dog's gastrointestinal tract if ingested. Their shape and size make them particularly prone to getting stuck in the stomach or intestines, leading to potential life-threatening complications.
If a dog ingests corn on the cob, they can exhibit various symptoms indicative of an intestinal blockage. These symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain or discomfort, loss of appetite, lethargy, and a hunched posture.
In some cases, you may notice your dog straining to defecate but unable to produce stool due to the obstruction. As the blockage persists, it can lead to dehydration, further vomiting, and potentially more severe issues, such as damage to the intestinal walls or perforation.
If you suspect that your dog has ingested corn on the cob or if you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. Do not attempt to induce vomiting or administer any home remedies, as this can worsen the situation if a blockage is already present.
Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, which may include X-rays or ultrasound imaging to identify the location and severity of the blockage. Depending on the situation, treatment may involve medical management, supportive care, or surgical intervention to remove the corn cob safely.
Grapes, Raisins and Currants
Grapes, raisins, and currants are all types of fruits that come from the same family of plants (Vitaceae). Grapes are small, round berries that can vary in colour, while raisins and currants are dried forms of grapes. These fruits are considered highly toxic to dogs, and even small amounts can lead to severe health issues.
The specific toxic substance in grapes, raisins, and currants was discovered in 2021 by the ASPCA as tartaric acid, which is why the ingestion of these fruits has been linked to acute kidney failure in dogs.
If a dog ingests grapes, raisins, or currants, they may initially display symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. However, the most concerning and potentially life-threatening consequence is acute kidney failure, which may not manifest immediately.
Signs of kidney failure can include increased thirst and urination, lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, and a decrease in or cessation of urine production. As the condition progresses, dogs may exhibit severe dehydration, abdominal pain, and neurological abnormalities.
If you suspect or witness your dog ingesting grapes, raisins, or currants, it is vital to act promptly to prevent kidney damage. Contact your veterinarian for guidance and care. If the ingestion occurred recently, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to remove the fruits from the stomach. However, inducing vomiting is not always recommended, especially if your dog is showing any symptoms, as it can cause further complications.
Your veterinarian may recommend activated charcoal to limit absorption if the ingestion was recent. Treatment for grape, raisin, or currant toxicity typically involves supportive care, intravenous fluids to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring kidney function through blood tests.
Macadamia nuts are nuts native to Australia but eaten worldwide. They are commonly used in cooking and baking or enjoyed as a snack. However, macadamia nuts can be harmful to dogs and should be strictly avoided.
The exact mechanism of their toxicity is not yet fully understood, but ingestion of even small amounts of macadamia nuts can lead to adverse reactions in dogs.
If a dog ingests macadamia nuts, they may exhibit a range of symptoms that can develop within a few hours after consumption. These symptoms often include weakness, lethargy, vomiting, trembling, and difficulty walking.
Dogs can also experience a loss of coordination, and in some cases, they may be unable to use their hind limbs properly. Other signs of macadamia nut poisoning can include fever, increased heart rate, and muscle stiffness or pain.
If you suspect or observe your dog ingesting macadamia nuts or notice any of the mentioned symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. Contact your veterinarian for professional advice and care.
There is no specific antidote for macadamia nut poisoning, so treatment will primarily focus on supportive care. Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent or administer activated charcoal to limit absorption. Intravenous fluids may be given to maintain hydration and flush out the toxins from the dog's system.
Onions are a popular vegetable used in various culinary dishes worldwide. They belong to the Allium family, which also includes garlic and shallots. While onions add flavour to human meals, they are highly toxic to dogs and should be strictly avoided.
Onions contain compounds that can cause oxidative damage to a dog's red blood cells, leading to a condition called hemolytic anaemia. This means that the red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be produced, resulting in a decrease in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
If a dog ingests onions, symptoms of onion toxicity may not appear immediately and can develop within a few days after consumption. Early signs may include vomiting, diarrhoea, and lack of appetite. As the condition progresses, the dog may become weak, lethargic, and show signs of pale or jaundiced mucous membranes (gums, inner eyelids, etc.).
Additionally, they may have difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and exhibit signs of abdominal pain. Hemolytic anaemia can be life-threatening if not promptly addressed.
If you suspect or observe your dog ingesting onions or witness any of the mentioned symptoms, contact your veterinarian for professional advice and care. Inducing vomiting may be considered if the ingestion was recent, but this should only be done under veterinary guidance.
Treatment may involve supportive care, blood transfusions to address anaemia, and medications to support the dog's recovery
Salt, chemically known as sodium chloride, is a mineral commonly used to enhance the flavour of various foods. While salt is essential for the proper functioning of the human body, it can be dangerous for dogs if ingested in excessive amounts.
Dogs have a lower tolerance to salt compared to humans, and consuming too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning, also known as salt poisoning.
If a dog ingests a large amount of salt, they can experience symptoms of salt poisoning. These can include excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, weakness, and in severe cases, tremors, seizures, or even coma.
The high levels of sodium in the bloodstream can disrupt the balance of electrolytes and lead to dehydration, neurological issues, and organ damage.
If you suspect or know that your dog has ingested a large amount of salt, contact your veterinarian for professional guidance and care. Do not try to induce vomiting or administer any home remedies, as it can worsen the situation.
The veterinarian will assess your dog's condition, provide appropriate treatment, and may administer intravenous fluids to help flush out the excess salt from the system and restore the electrolyte balance.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a sugar substitute in many products, such as sugar-free gum, sweets, baked goods, and certain medications. While it is safe for human consumption, xylitol is highly toxic to dogs.
When dogs ingest xylitol, it triggers a rapid release of insulin from the pancreas, causing a dangerous decrease in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Additionally, xylitol can lead to liver damage and failure in dogs, making it a particularly hazardous substance for dogs.
If a dog ingests xylitol, symptoms can vary depending on the amount consumed and the size of the dog. In some cases, symptoms will develop rapidly, within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion.
Common early signs include vomiting, loss of coordination, and weakness. As the hypoglycemia worsens, the dog can experience lethargy, tremors, seizures, collapse, and even coma.
If you suspect or witness your dog ingesting products containing xylitol or notice any of the mentioned symptoms, it is essential to contact your veterinarian for professional advice and care. Inducing vomiting may be considered if the ingestion was recent, but this should only be done under veterinary guidance.
Treatment for xylitol poisoning involves managing hypoglycemia with intravenous dextrose and closely monitoring the dog's blood glucose levels. In cases of severe xylitol toxicity, additional treatments may be necessary to support the liver and prevent further complications.
Safe Natural Food for Dogs
Many dog owners are turning towards safe and natural food options that prioritise the health and well-being of their dogs. Zero additives, natural ingredient food and treats for dogs have gained popularity to ensure dogs enjoy a wholesome and nutritious diet. There are five main types of safe, natural foodstuffs for dogs:
- Dry Food
- Raw Food
- Wet Food
- Natural Chews
- Natural Treats
Choosing safe and natural food for dogs means avoiding harmful additives, preservatives, and artificial flavours that can negatively impact their health. As with any dietary changes or treat introductions, ensure products meet the specific needs and dietary requirements of your individual furry companion.
Safe Natural Dry Food for Dogs
Unlike conventional dry kibble that may contain artificial additives, fillers, and low-quality ingredients, natural dry dog food is crafted with care using responsibly sourced and minimally processed components. This type of food typically includes real meat (fresh and dried) as the main ingredient, complemented by vegetables and fruits, to ensure maximum nutritional value.
Natural dry food avoids harmful preservatives, fillers, cereals and artificial flavours commonly found in cheap and poor-quality dry food brands, providing dogs with a balanced and nourishing diet that supports their overall health and vitality.
Safe Natural Raw Food for Dogs
Safe natural raw food for dogs is a diet that consists of uncooked, minimally processed, and biologically appropriate ingredients that cater to a dog's natural dietary needs. This type of diet (also known as a BARF diet) emphasises feeding dogs raw meats, bones, vegetables, and fruits, mirroring the diet of their wild ancestors. The focus is on providing whole, unprocessed foods without the use of artificial additives, preservatives, or fillers.
Safe natural raw food diets are often tailored to a dog's specific nutritional requirements, aiming to provide optimal nutrition and promote overall health. By choosing this approach, dog owners can offer a diet that aligns with their dog's evolutionary history and supports their natural instincts and well-being.
Safe Natural Wet Food for Dogs
Safe natural wet food for dogs is a nourishing and wholesome option for a dog’s diet. Unlike conventional tinned wet food that may contain artificial additives, flavours, and fillers, safe natural wet dog food is made with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients. These ingredients include fresh meat or fish and whole vegetables that are sourced responsibly to provide a well-rounded and balanced diet.
Safe Natural Chews for Dogs
Safe natural dog chews are made from high-quality, minimally processed, and biologically appropriate ingredients, specifically designed for dogs to chew on. These chews are made from natural materials such as rawhide alternatives, bully sticks, dried meat, or natural dental chews. They are free from harmful additives, artificial flavours, and chemicals that could potentially harm a dog's well-being or be indigestible.
Safe natural dog chews are not only enjoyable for dogs but also contribute to dental health, alleviate boredom, and satisfy their natural chewing instincts. Offer dogs chews that are both safe and natural to keep your dog occupied.
Safe Natural Treats for Dogs
Safe natural dog treats are snacks or rewards which are minimally processed using biologically appropriate ingredients that are specifically formulated to provide dogs with a wholesome and enjoyable dietary supplement. They are devoid of harmful additives, artificial flavours, and chemicals that could potentially compromise a dog's health.
Safe natural dog treats can be used for training, rewarding, or simply as a way to show affection.
With Wags and Woofs,
Laura, Dolly & Reggie