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Most all pet owners can agree our pets are members of our families. We become so close to our pets we sometimes forget they aren’t actually humans. The majority of the time, this is innocent – until it comes to our pets’ diets. It’s important to know a number of foods that are harmless to us humans have proven to be toxic to our pets. Thankfully, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has put together a list of the top toxic human foods to avoid feeding our pets.

Alcohol: Under no circumstance should your pet be given alcohol or food products containing alcohol! Alcohol poisoning in pets is very rare as the taste is unpleasant to them – for the most part. When it comes to toxicity, the smaller the animal, the more likely they will experience side effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to difficulty breathing and even death.   

Avocado: Avocados contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. Mildly toxic to dogs and cats, the ingestion of persin can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis. When it comes to pets such as birds and horses, the consumption of avocado is much more severe including sudden death.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine: Most all pet owners know that chocolate is poisonous for dogs and cats, but what many don’t know is why. Chocolate, coffee and caffeine all contain cacao seeds which contain substances called methylxanthines. When ingested, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death. Note: the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.

Coconut and Coconut Oil: Like the majority of foods, when ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut oil are not likely to be seriously harmful to your pet. With that being said, it’s important to be aware that coconut and coconut water contain high levels of potassium – too much can cause hyperkalemia in dogs. The fresh milk and flesh of coconuts also contain oils which can cause upset stomachs and loose stools.

Grapes and Raisins: With the exact toxic substance within grapes and raisins still being unknown, it’s important to avoid giving food containing them to pets. The ingestion of grapes and raisins can cause severe abdominal pain resulting in kidney failure. Because of this, it’s best to avoid them even in small amounts. 

Milk and Dairy: While cats are often seen enjoying a small bowl of milk, it is particularly toxic to dogs. Just like us humans, dogs can be lactose intolerant. Dogs lack significant amounts of lactase – the enzyme used to break down lactose in dairy products – so, ingesting large amounts of milk and dairy can lead to diarrhea and other digestive problems. 

Nuts: Containing excessive amounts of fats and oils, nuts – including almonds, pistachios, pecans and walnuts – can cause stomach-related issues and potentially pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts specifically contain a toxin that can lead to neurological issues including tremors and hyperthermia.

Onions and Garlic: Onions contain thiosulphate – which is toxic to both dogs and cats. Whether they are raw or cooked, ingestion of onions can damage red blood cells. Garlic on the other hand is said to be about five times as toxic to pets as onions. Consumption of both onions and garlic – and even chives – can cause lethargy, abdominal pain and elevated heart rate.

Salt: Hefty amounts of salt can produce extreme thirst, urination and even sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, coma and – in extreme cases – death. This can come from salty snacks, table salt, rock-salt, deicers and seawater. If you suspect your pet has salt poisoning, call a vet or poison control immediately.


Xylitol: A sugar substitute in many products including candy, gum, baked goods and toothpaste – consumption of xylitol can be extremely toxic for dogs in particular. When ingested, insulin is quickly released– leading to low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and even death. 

Yeast: When yeast is ingested by pets, their stomachs serve as the perfect place for yeast organisms to grow. With yeast dough in particular, the dough can rise inside their stomach, pressing against respiratory organs. Not only is this painful, but it can make it hard for our pets to breathe – becoming a life-threatening emergency.

The above list contains few of many toxic human foods for our pets. Although unlikely to see side effects from small doses – it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, next time you’re considering giving your pet the remnants of your food, be sure to think twice and confirm it’s a safe treat.

If you suspect your pet has ingested poisonous food, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.