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Pet safety – dangerous foods

Our pets are experts at letting us know that they’d like a little bit of whatever we’re eating. Unfortunately, many human foods are dangerous or even toxic to our furry friends.

Read the list below and make a mental note for next time your dog is begging at the table. If you can’t resist the guilt trip, keep a container of dog treats handy so that they can have their healthy treat while you do the washing up.


  • Very toxic to dogs and cats
  • Can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, seizures and death
  • Toxic component – Theobromine and caffeine.


  • All components of the fruit are toxic
  • Can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and heart abnormalities
  • Toxic component – Persin

Grapes, raisins and sultanas

  • Very toxic in any form
  • Can lead to acute kidney failure
  • Toxic ingredient is unknown, as is the toxic quantity. Assume ANY level consumed to be toxic

Macadamia Nuts

  • Dangerous in both the shell and the nut itself
  • The nut in the shell is a common cause of intestinal blockage, often requiring surgery
  • The nut itself can cause non-fatal neurological symptoms such as weakness, pain in joints, depression and vomiting
  • Toxic ingredient is unknown

Onions, garlic, chives, shallots, leeks – Allium family

  • Toxic in fresh, dried and powdered forms
  • Can lead to oxidative/toxic damage to red blood cells causing anaemia
  • Can see pale gums, blood in urine, weakness
  • Toxic ingredient – Thiosulphate

Xylitol – artificial sweetener

  • Found in many foods such as chewing gum, lollies/sweets, baked goods, toothpastes, sugar substitute
  • Check the ingredients on your peanut butter
  • Can lead to dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and death

Milk/dairy products

  • Pets do not possess the enzyme lactase which is required to digest lactose
  • Too much dairy can lead to diarrhoea and gastrointestinal upset

Cooked bones

  • Dangerous to pets as can lead to stomach/intestinal tears and blockages
  • May need to be surgically removed
  • Can also lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • Raw bones are considered safer to give but can still be harmful

Fatty foods

  • High fat content foods such as sweets, baked goods, deli meats, bone marrow, sausages, off-cuts and fast food can lead to pancreatitis in pets.
  • If feeding raw bones, do not have the bones cut to expose the marrow
  • Can lead to severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Can be fatal if untreated

Salty foods

  • High salt foods such as corned silverside (corned beef), hot chips, potato crisps can lead to sodium poisoning
  • Can see excessive thirst/urination, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and even death


  • Many human medications are very dangerous to pets
  • Ibuprofen/Nurofen – can lead to stomach ulcers and kidney failure
  • Paracetomol/Acetaminophen – can cause damage to red blood cells and lead to liver failure. Cats are uniquely sensitive to the effects. Dogs can also suffer toxic effects but at much higher doses
  • Assume all human medication is potentially toxic to pets unless specifically approved/dispensed by your veterinarian


Take home messages

If you think your pet may have ingested something dangerous, please contact your vet or an after-hours emergency centre ASAP for advice. The key to treatment is generally rapid removal of the toxin by inducing vomiting. Time is crucial in most cases. Further treatment such as intravenous fluids or other supportive treatments may be required.

Whilst some human foods are safe for pets to eat, the best diet you can feed your dog or cat is a premium quality, veterinary recommended commercial pet food.

If you have any questions regarding any of these toxic foods/ingredients, or want to know if something is safe to feed your pet, please contact your vet for more information.