Dangerous Foods for Cats and Dogs

Woman feeding her dog breakfast from the table like a baby

Common Household Foods that can be Dangerous for Pets

Your pet is a part of your family. If you have a dog or a cat, they’re probably always at your feet or close by, keeping an eye on everything you do – and likely often getting into things they’re not supposed to.

We want to do everything we can to keep our pets safe and happy, and that includes knowing which foods could potentially cause them harm, and what to do if your pet does accidentally ingest something hazardous.

Emergency vet and hospital visits are not only incredibly scary, they can also be very costly, quickly adding up to hundreds – or thousands – of dollars, depending on the level of care your pet needs.

We asked Pets Plus Us® Veterinary Advisor, Dr. Jennifer Sperry, to share her advice on which foods could potentially be hazardous to pets, and what to do if your pet ingests something toxic.

Always assume the worst

The negative impacts of your pet eating something irregular depends on two things:
the amount they’ve ingested, and how long it has been in their body.

If you’re not sure if something may or may not be a toxin, it’s best to assume the worst-case scenario to ensure your pet receives proper intervention. Always assume that your pet has eaten the maximum amount possible and that it has been in their system for the maximum amount of time since they were last supervised.

An example scenario

Let’s say you had a bottle of Vitamin D tablets that your pet somehow managed to get into. You remember the bottle being about half full, and your pet was unsupervised for about two hours. Even though your pet may have eaten none of them, the worst-case scenario is that your pet ate most of the tablets two hours ago. This approach will help a veterinarian decide on a treatment plan.

What to do:

  • Call your vet immediately – the sooner they can intervene, the better the chances that they can help your pet from having any potentially serious outcomes.
  • Collect any packaging – if possible, bring the packaging with you to the vet or emergency clinic, such as a medication bottle, chocolate bar wrapper, pesticide, or whatever you suspect they ate.

Common reasons for emergency vet visits:

Many emergency trips to the vet or animal hospital are a result of a pet ingesting one of the following:

  1. Toxins such as large quantities of chocolate or medication
  2. Things that a pet can’t digest and can cause an obstruction or abrasions, such as socks, toys or bones
  3. Things that are digestible and could be considered food but that the pet isn’t accustomed to, such as garbage or dead animals, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea

If you do suspect your pet has had access to anything outside their normal diet, always consult your vet as soon as possible.

The cost of an emergency vet visit

Any time you have to take your pet to an emergency room, you’re probably looking at costs starting in the ballpark of $400-$500, especially if it’s for a gastrointestinal issue. These types of visits often require x-rays, bloodwork or induced vomiting, which all come at a price. If your visit is after-hours or on short notice, those factors can also add to the cost.

If your pet requires surgery or needs to stay in the hospital overnight, the costs will quickly escalate to $3,000 – $5,000, or more.

Avoid feeding your pet human food

It can be tempting to share some dinner scraps with your pet, but Dr. Sperry says it’s not the best idea. If your pet is on a balanced food, they don’t need any additional supplements added to their diet.

Furthermore, salt and fat content in a lot of human foods is higher than what your pet is used to, so even though certain foods may not be toxic, they can still be harmful to your pet – especially if they’re eaten in large quantities.

Human foods that can be toxic to pets

Be sure to avoid giving your pet any of the following human foods:

  • Avocado (primarily hazardous for birds and rabbits)
  • Citrus
  • Coconut and coconut oil
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chocolate and coffee (anything with caffeine)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Milk and dairy (can cause digestive upset in pets)
  • Salt and salty snack foods
  • Cream of tartar
  • Dough of any kind (this includes cookie dough and playdough)

If you accidentally drop one of these foods, such as a chocolate chip, and your pet snatches it up before you can take it away, it’s not necessarily cause for alarm. Monitor your pet for any signs of distress.

Your pet’s approximate weight is important to keep in mind, too. For example, one square of a chocolate bar could be a problem for a Chihuahua but may be less of an issue for a Great Dane. It’s important to assess the risk level of your own pet. If you’re ever unsure or concerned, it’s best to consult your vet.

Knowing which foods can be harmful to your pet will help you protect them and avoid dangerous and costly scenarios. Pets have an endless appetite for love and affection so fill them up on those and keep them safe and happy.

Disclaimer: This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.