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Foods poisonous to dogs

Melanie Whitehouse / 02 April 2019

Dogs have a knack of sniffing out tasty treats that are bad for them, so keep these toxic foodstuffs out of reach at all times.

Dog looking hungry

If your dog eats even small amounts of the items below, act immediately and take your pet to a vet. If left, the result could be fatal.


Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is poisonous to dogs and can cause kidney failure. It contains a stimulant called theobromine, which is often higher in dark chocolate than milk or white. This can affect the guts, heart, nervous system and kidneys. Signs your dog has eaten chocolate include diarrhoea, vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures and restlessness.

The chocolate ban extends to chocolate products such as Nutella.


Caffeine is also a stimulant that dogs are sensitive to and the signs are similar to the chocolate signs. A few licks from a cup of coffee or tea is fine but if your dog guzzles lots of coffee grounds, coffee beans or teabags, take it to the vet.

Onions, garlic and chives

Anything that belongs to the onion family, raw, cooked or dry - are particularly toxic to dogs and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and red blood cell damage. Signs of illness are not always immediate and can occur up to a few days later. Remember, it's not always obvious what contains onions: gravy made with granules and stock, takeaways, pizzas and sauces can all contain onion. Pet food experts Purina say spinach, mushrooms, beetroot and rhubarb should also be avoided.


is of course always around in the home, particularly at Christmas and the New Year, but keep your glass out of reach. The smell of a sweet, sticky liqueur is particularly tempting to a dog but alcohol will not only get your pet drunk, it is toxic to them and can cause sickness, diarrhoea and even damage to the central nervous system. Breathing problems, coma and even death are not unknown.

Grapes, sultanas and raisins

They can cause kidney failure, particularly in dogs that are already unwell – helpful website warns that 'even one raisin can be severely toxic' and there is no safe dose. Be particularly wary around Christmas, when Christmas puddings, cakes, mince pies and other festive treats are in abundance.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sweets, chewing gum, drinks and diet and sugar-free products. It's also found in some peanut butters so always check the label and if you’re buying peanut butter look for a brand with 100% peanuts and no sweeteners.

Although humans are fine with xylitol, ingestion even in small quantities by dogs and other animals can lead to potentially fatal consequences and low sugar levels.

Dave Leicester from Vets Now ( says: 'Dogs are extremely sensitive and even small quantities can cause toxicity. Some sugar-free sweets and gums have very high amounts per piece.'

Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting, loss of co-ordination and possible seizures.

'Xylitol has also been linked to fatal acute liver disease and blood-clotting disorders in dogs,' adds Dave. 'This effect is not thought to be dose related, so even very small amounts can be extremely dangerous. If you think your dog has eaten any xylitol, seek urgent veterinary advice.'

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can affect your dog’s muscles and nervous system resulting in weakness, swollen limbs and panting. Black walnuts are not good either, but peanuts, almonds and cashews are acceptable in small doses – too much and the high fat content can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Corn on the cob

While sweetcorn itself is safe corn on the cob is potentially fatal because the fibrous cob can block the dog’s intestine.

Mouldy food

Mouldy food, including blue cheese, is extremely bad for dogs because it contains a wealth of toxins. Blue cheese contains roquefortine C, which may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. In large doses it can also cause twitching, seizures and a high temperature.


Milk isn't good for dogs because they don't have enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose found in milk. Again, it can cause diarrhoea or other digestive problems, as can butter and cheese.


Avocados are toxic because they contain a substance called Persin that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Cooked bones

Cooked should always be avoided as they can splinter and cause a fatal gut perforation or chip teeth and damage gums. Most raw bones are fine.

Unbaked bread dough

Dough that is still in the rising stage can cause gas to build up in your dog's system and cause a blockage.

If you ever have concerns about your dog eating something it shouldn’t contact your vet. Most vets will have an out of hours emergency phone number. In particular look out for symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, bloating, seizures, high temperature and any behaviour that is unusual.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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