Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chocolate & Onions & Grapes, Oh My!

Not the ingredients in the latest weird recipe but rather some common pet poisons.

The list of common foods that are toxic to our family pets may surprise you. I've been practicing veterinary medicine so long that I sometimes forget new generations of pet owners are starting over at the beginning.

Without further ado, some don'ts when it comes to sharing table foods:


(Courtesy of The behavior company)
Almost all pet owners are aware of cocoa and chocolate's toxicity. In general, the darker and more bitter the more dangerous. One chocolate chip cookie or a Hershey's kiss are unlikely to be a problem for a ninety pound labrador, but an ounce of baker's chocolate would very likely send a chihuahua to the nearest veterinary hospital.  The problem ingredient is theobromine which causes the usual array of gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea being the common signs. Higher doses however can lead to hyperactivity, changes in heart rhythm, seizures and death.

Macadamia Nuts
I had a pup in just last week who had helped himself to a significant serving of these smooth round little morsels. He was intermittently vomiting primarily whole nuts but happily eating most of his meals. I was a little concerned that the unchewed nuts would be a good fit for his small intestine and a blockage was imminent. Fortunately his malaise was limited to a few days of belly aching. It could have been worse, symptoms of macadamia nut poisoning include weakness, vomiting, joint pain, fever and depression.

(Courtesy of
Grapes & Raisins
Ingestion of grapes and raisins can lead to the sudden onset of kidney failure. The toxic dose seems variable by weight and individual. So far, there's no way to know which dogs will develop kidney failure from a few grapes or several. Symptoms include vomiting, increased thirst and excessive to reduced urination as the injury progresses. Quick veterinary care is necessary if affected animals are to survive.

Onions and related garlic and leeks cause the hemoglobin in canine and feline red blood cells to precipitate or "clump," rendering those cells unable to carry oxygen properly and marking them for destruction by the body's immune system. This quickly leads to anemia, evidenced by pale gums, increased heart and respiratory rates, weakness, poor appetite and vomiting. How much is toxic? A thirty pound dog eating 1/4 cup of yummy sauteed onions and garlic would be in trouble.

(Courtesy of
Raw bread dough
If a pet eats raw dough made with yeast his body heat causes the dough to rise and the fermentation also produces alcohol. Signs can include bloating, non-productive retching, lethargy, respiratory depression, weakness and collapse.

This alcohol sugar is a sweetening agent in many candies, gums, baked goods and human toothpaste. It can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and liver damage, both of which can be life-threatening. Signs in dogs can include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking and seizures.

If you really need to share a people snack with your pup or kitten, try raw carrots, green beans, apple or melon, which have the added advantage of being low calorie!


  1. I am so glad that you posted this. I had a woman who had written a book that she wanted me to review on my blog mention in her book that she gave her dog "frozen grapes" as a snack.
    When I told her that I wouldn't post a review without mentioning that grapes are toxic she pooh-poohed what she had done.
    I was so appalled and taken aback with her lack of concern that I refused to review her book.
    She is lucky that I refused, had I gone ahead and done a review, trust me, it would NOT have been favorable.
    FYI the review would have been on my dog's blog: Dakota's Den

    1. Thanks for the link Caren, very fun page and Dakota sounds like a character.