Top 10 food and drink items harmful for dogs
No matter how closely we keep an eye on our pets, sometimes they explore things that aren’t meant for them! When you see or have a suspicion that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t it can be pretty worrying!
So, in this article, we’ll give you an overview of the top 10 food and drink items harmful to dogs, to help put your mind at ease. We’ll also explain what you need to do if your dog does eat or drink something they shouldn’t.
Our Lifetime Protection Membership includes 24/7 access to veterinarians by phone, email, or live chat. So, if you’re worried about something your pet has consumed, you can quickly get the help you need.
Coffee and chocolate
Coffee and chocolate are two of us humans’ greatest loves! However, they are pretty harmful to your dog and something to avoid them eating at all costs.
In their varying forms and types, they contain different amounts of 2 things:
- Caffeine (you probably know that one!)
- Theobromine (something similar to caffeine)
The above can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pains, vomiting, and restlessness. Later signs include frequent urination, imbalance, and neurological signs such as tremors and seizures (source).
Symptoms of chocolate and coffee toxicosis can vary largely, depending on how much your pet has consumed, their physical condition, and any other health problems.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten any amount of coffee or chocolate, then it’s best to take them to your veterinarian for a thorough check-up as soon as possible.
Alcohol poisoning in pets can cause a range of symptoms, similar to those we humans suffer from when we drink too much. However, when it comes to our dogs, the consequences of alcohol consumption are serious and can even be life-threatening.
Examples of some of the symptoms include weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems, and difficulty with walking and coordination.
When it comes to alcohol, don’t forget the 2 following things:
- All forms of alcohol pose risks to your pet - whether it be from drinks, disinfectants, or any household products containing alcohol.
- Alcohol toxicity can be caused by drinking, eating, or through skin absorption of the source containing alcohol.
If your dog has come into contact with alcohol, it’s best to take them to your veterinarian straight away.
Grapes and raisins
Despite veterinarians knowing for years that grapes and raisins cause kidney problems for dogs, the actual mechanism for the problem was only recently discovered.
Ingestion of grapes and raisins causes signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, extreme thirst, and dehydration. It will also cause serious elevations of specific components in your dog’s blood, due to kidney damage.
If your dog has eaten any amount of grapes or raisins, it’s best to take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible, as the toxicity can rapidly progress to a life-threatening stage if not treated.
Ingestion of macadamia nuts can cause symptoms such as increased temperature, weakness, vomiting, and loss of balance (source).
It’s not known exactly why macadamia nuts can cause problems for dogs, however, it’s usually not considered to be as serious as ingestion of some of the other things we mentioned earlier.
If your dog has eaten macadamia nuts, it’s best to take them to your veterinarian just to be safe.
Xylitol is a common component of many sweeteners, and sugar-free treats and can have serious consequences for your dog. These symptoms are a result of low blood sugar and can include seizures, collapsing, weakness, and loss of balance (source).
If you think that your pet has eaten anything containing xylitol, it’s best to take them to your veterinarian straight away.
In general, if your pet has eaten something they shouldn't, it's best to read the label thoroughly to see what it contains, especially in the case of xylitol.
It’s not commonly known, but many dogs are actually lactose intolerant. This is because they don’t have the special enzyme which helps them break down lactose.
A little bit of dairy is unlikely to be a disaster for your pet, however, it’s better to avoid giving them dairy products to be on the safe side.
Consumption of milk, cheese, or yogurt can cause vomiting and diarrhea, however, the severity of the reaction can vary a lot from pet to pet.
If your pet has eaten something containing milk, keep a close eye on them and call your veterinarian for advice if you notice anything abnormal.
Onions and garlic
Onions and garlic contain components that are harmful to dogs' red blood cells, resulting in changes and possible damage to their kidneys. Sadly, when it comes to onions and garlic, your pet might not have any obvious signs until their condition becomes very serious.
Signs that can occur include increased breathing, increased heart rate, and general weakness. In severe cases, it can be fatal (source).
If your dog has eaten garlic, or onion it’s best to take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
It’s best to completely avoid your dog being exposed to garlic or onion, as they can cause problems whatever their form (raw, cooked, or in powder).
What to do if you think your dog has eaten something harmful
If you think your pet has eaten something harmful, it’s important to remember not to panic. Familiarizing yourself with the steps below can help you get the help your pet needs fast, and increase their chances of a complete recovery:
The first thing to do is remove, rinse, or take away the harmful item if it’s still within reach of your pet.
Then depending on their symptoms, you may need to bring them immediately to your veterinarian. We’ve listed some symptoms below that indicate your dog needs immediate veterinary attention:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Neurological signs - seizures, tremors, inability to walk properly.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea.
Your veterinarian will be interested in how much of the item your pet has eaten, so if possible, bring any packaging with you. However, don’t do this if it causes a significant delay to your journey.
Don’t forget, not all symptoms of toxicity occur straight away, so it’s best to keep a close eye on your pet following the suspected contact with something harmful.
If your pet has eaten any amount of chocolate, coffee, xylitol, raisins, grapes, garlic, or onion then it’s best to take them to your veterinarian, even if they don’t show immediate symptoms.
If your dog has mild diarrhea or vomiting, has no symptoms or you’re not sure whether they have eaten something potentially harmful then it’s best to call your veterinarian for advice. Or with our Lifetime Protection Membership, you can access veterinary professionals anytime by phone, email or live chat, so if you’re worried about something your dog has eaten, you can quickly get the help you need.
A great resource for poisoning in pets, is the Pet Poison helpline’s 24/7 Animal Poison Control Centre, offers a service which can advise you on the best way to proceed. They also have lots of in-depth information on the food items we’ve discussed in this article.
A pet eating something that’s not intended for them is always stressful, however, after reading this guide you have some information about how best to act and a refresher on common food and drink items that are harmful for dogs.
Charlotte graduated as a veterinarian from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Zagreb. She is a dog mum to a 15-year-old mixed breed called Chiki who she adopted from a shelter 2 years ago and enjoys traveling with.