What foods are toxic to my cat or dog?

As we find ourselves in the middle of the holiday season, fantastic foods are all around us….and so are our pets!

Counter surfing is a common complaint amongst my clients… you know where your obedient faithful furry friend defies all that they have been taught and just goes for it!

Honestly, who could blame them? I mean, WE even have a hard time controlling our indulgencies during this festive time. From delectable holiday sweets to the treasured holiday ham and everything in between are all “on the table” for a potential “accidental” ingestion. Nothing says “Merry Christmas!!” like a vomiting dog or cat during your family get-togethers.

So here is a list of foods that have varying levels of toxicity and some advice from a thoughtful vet to help you traverse your holiday bloopers. In the event you suspect or witness your pet giving into their indulgences, please seek immediate veterinary care. You can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for some medical advice 24 hours a day / 365 days a year.

  1. Alcohol- affects the liver and brain just as it does in people, however it takes substantially less to hurt the animal. Vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, coma, and death all can occur
  2. Avocado-contain persin in the leaves, bark, and fruit. Can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Ingestion of the seed can cause an intestinal obstruction requiring emergency surgery.
  3. Bones- the most common reason for a broken tooth and can splinter can cause varying degrees of GI trauma, even perforation requiring surgery!
  4. Chocolate- all chocolate (even white chocolate) contain theobromine. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolate is the most dangerous. Vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac derangements, tremors, seizures, and death can result from small ingestions.
  5. Coffee, and Caffeine- coffee beans/grounds, teas, sodas, energy drinks, cold medicines. Signs include varying degrees of hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated heart rate/blood pressure, tremors, seizures, and death.
  6. Fat Trimmings- contains high fat which can trigger pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in severe cases.
  7. Grapes and Raisins- cause kidney failure and even death. Signs can include vomiting and lethargy.
  8. Macadamia Nuts- eating just 6 nuts can cause muscle twitches, fever, vomiting, and weakness. Symptoms are worsened if ingested with chocolate. Can cause death!
  9. Milk/Dairy- animals lack the enzyme to digest dairy, called lactase. Diarrhea and GI upset are common signs.
  10. Nuts-almonds, pecans, and walnuts contain high fats which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis.
  11. Onions/Garlic/Chives – powdered, dried, raw, or cooked are all toxic. Injury to the red blood cells results in varying degrees of anemia. Signs could be vomiting, weakness, and shortness of breath.
  12. Pitted Fruits- Persimmons, Peaches, and Plums contain pits that can obstruct the bowel resulting in emergency surgery. Peach and plum pits contain cyanide (poison). Signs can include vomiting, refusal to eat, and lethargy.
  13. Raw meats/eggs/fish- risk for food poisoning and rare parasite infections. Signs can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes.
  14. Salty Snack Foods- dogs and cats cannot tolerate the amount of sodium in our diets. This even includes drinking ocean water! Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, tremors, lethargy, fever, seizures, and even death.
  15. Xylitol-Artificial sweetener found in candy, gum, toothpaste, and baked goods. Can cause low blood sugar and liver failure. Symptoms can include vomiting/lethargy/staggering/seizures/death.
  16. Yeast Dough- will cause major GI discomfort as the dough “rises” in the stomach as well as alcohol poisoning as the fermentation process continues.


Carrie Vigeant D.V.M., mother of 3 boys, entrepreneur, wife, and foodie