April 25, 2021 4 min read

Common food toxicity in pets

You would be surprised how often our furry friends go to the vet because of eating something that is toxic to them. As some of you may know, there are many food products out there that we can eat, but can cause food toxicity in pets.  This includes: chocolate, caffeine, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocado, macadamia nuts and lollies. These tend to cause very serious health issues in our pets which include cardiac, respiratory, neurological and digestive diseases.

How did this become a problem?

Dogs are such curious pets and enjoy getting into a bit of trouble. Dogs have an inquisitive personality and will sniff everything around them. If they are interested in what they have found, they may take a little nibble. Often this little nibble can lead to a trip to the vet because they have stumbled upon something tasty, but harmful to them. It is important to keep harmful food items out of reach, including that chocolate bar you keep in your zipped up bag (if there’s a will there’s a way).

Sometimes, we may unknowingly be the reason why our dogs and cats get sick. Our pets have started to become an integral part of the family and at times it is difficult not to feed them table scraps. We may even think that because it is healthy for us, it may also be healthy to our pets. However, toxic foods may end up being fed to them.

Here are 4 of the most common food toxicity in pets often seen by veterinarians.

Common Toxic Food Products

Toxic food #1: Chocolate

Chocolate is the main reason why veterinarians often see dogs come to the clinic around the holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is derived from roasted seeds of cocoa, which contains the toxic products theobromine and caffeine. These are metabolised rapidly in humans, while in most animal species they are metabolised very slowly and lead to poisoning.

The darker the chocolate is, the more theobromine it contains. For example, if your pet consumes half of a 250 g dark chocolate block, I would highly recommend getting your pet to your local veterinarian immediately. White chocolate has very small amounts of cocoa, but ensure you bring your pet to the vet if your pet has eaten any sort of chocolate.

Some common symptoms you see in a dog that has just eaten too much chocolate include seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea within 6-12 hours of eating. This can lead to very serious heart and neurological problems, or even death, if your pet is not rushed to the vet immediately.

Although Chocolate is harmful to dogs, Carob is completely safe for dogs! In fact, packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and pectin, Carob is a super food for your doggos. It can help with removing toxins in the body, improving digestion, lowering of cholesterol and used to treat diarrhoea.


Toxic food #2: Grapes and Raisins

The toxin that causes health problems has not yet to be discovered, but pets that eat grapes and raisins have been reported to develop renal failure. It has been shown that about 32g/kg of grapes or raisins can cause renal problems.

Symptoms can be seen in about 6-12 hours after eating which include anorexia, abdominal pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. If you suspect that your dog has eaten  grapes or raisins, make sure to bring your dog to the vet right away.

Toxic food #3: Onions and Garlic

Onions are rich in two chemical groups that may have benefits to human health. These include flavonoids and alkyl cysteine sulphoxides. However, these compounds are toxic to dogs, and can damage red blood cells and result in very serious health problems in our pets. Garlic has shown to be slightly less toxic but should be avoided because it damages red blood cells. Think twice before giving that slice of meat to your pet, if it has been cooked with onion or garlic!

Some symptoms you may see in your dog include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and dehydration.

Toxic food #4: Avocados

This is a highly nutritious and delicious fruit to us humans, but should be avoided by our pets. Avocado fruit, pits, leaves and the entire plant are all poisonous to dogs. They contain Persin which leads to difficulty breathing, heart problems, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Foods that can be harmful over time

Artificial colours and flavourings

Blue 2, Red 40 (a very common colouring agent), and Yellow 5 (tartrazine or E102) and 6 have all been proven to be extremely harmful to humans. These can cause a wide range of symptoms including allergies, behavioural problems and has been linked to several cancers.


Preservatives such as sulphur dioxide, sodium and potassium sulphite depletes B12. To counteract this pet foods containing these preservatives will try to add more B12 to supplement for the deficiency it causes. Usually this is not enough and can cause behavioural and nerve problems in your pets.

Keeping Our Pets Happy

Diet: Be aware of the types of food you are feeding your dog and whether they may be toxic. However, consult your local veterinary if you are unsure whether something may be toxic.

Treats: Dogs enjoy having the occasional treat, but we need to make sure that it does not cause harm to them. The Golden Bone Bakery 4 Flavour Mix—vegan dog treats taste amazing and your furry friend will love you for it.

Enrichment: Dogs are highly active and require enrichment to keep them happy. Treats are great, but chews and toys are providing great playtime for your dog which will make them very happy. Take them for walks and give them lots of attention too, they can’t get enough of it.

 “Always watch what your dog is eating. If you believe they have eaten a toxic food, consult your local veterinarian.”


1. Cortinovis C, Caloni F. Household Food Items Toxic to Dogs and Cats. Front Vet Sci 2016;3:26.

2. Kovalkovicova N, Sutiakova I, Pistl J, Sutiak V. Some food toxic for pets. Interdiscip Toxicol 2009;2:169-176.