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Poisonous foods for dogs

It's important to be aware of toxic foods for dogs, as some can cause serious illness.

Most dogs are eager to eat the same foods we enjoy. But there are many foods that can cause serious illness, or even be fatal for your dog. Depending on the food, signs of poisoning can show within a few hours so be mindful of changes in your dogs behaviour.

To prevent a trip to the vet, it's best to keep your dog out of the kitchen while you're cooking. Dogs are naturally interested in us and may try to snap up any dropped pieces of food.


If you suspect your dog has eaten a toxic food, even if it's only a small amount, contact your vet immediately. Acting quickly is vital for a good prognosis.

Common toxic foods for dogs


Chocolate can be toxic for dogs, even in quite small amounts. This is due to a chemical (theobromine) that dogs cannot tolerate. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually show within a few hours.

Dark chocolate, cooking chocolate and cocoa powder usually contains more theobromine than milk chocolate, making it more dangerous for dogs. But even the amount of sugar and fat in chocolate can make your dog ill, so it's best to be cautious and prevent them from finding it in your home.

Take extra care at Christmas and Halloween when dogs may be tempted to chew through wrapping.

Grapes, raisins and currants

Grapes and raisins can put dogs at risk of kidney failure – even a small amount can make your dog seriously ill. The exact cause of toxicity to dogs is unknown, but it appears that some dogs are much more sensitive to grape toxicity than others. Symptoms of poisoning usually show within 24 hours.

As the poisoning progresses and the kidneys become affected, you may notice your dog vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea, drinking and urinating excessively, or experiencing abdominal pain. Once the kidneys have failed, the prognosis is poor.

If your dog has eaten grapes or currants, the vet will likely try to induce vomiting as soon as possible. Your dog may also need intravenous fluids to prevent further damage to the kidneys. The prognosis is much better if your dog is given rapid treatment.

Onions, garlic, chives and leek

Onions, garlic, chives and leek contain a toxin (organosulphoxides) that is very dangerous for dogs. This toxin damages red blood cells and can lead to anaemia. Signs of poisoning can occur within 24 hours, but usually show within a few days.

If anaemia sets in due to poisoning, your dog may become lethargic or have trouble breathing. You may also notice pale gums.

Since these vegetables are often used in cooking, it's important to not share your meals with your dog just in case. If you've planted these vegetables in your garden, you should also make sure to fence them off from dogs who may be tempted.


Sugar-free products such as chewing gum, cakes and sweets which contain the sweetener xylitol, can cause a life-threatening fall in blood sugar levels and collapse, which may result in death.

Signs of xylitol poisoning can show within an hour, but worsen over a few days. Always contact your vet if you think your pet may have eaten any of these foods.

More about xylitol poisoning


Avocado contains a toxin (persin) that is poisonous to dogs. While dogs are more resistant to this toxin than other animals, it's still best to be cautious and prevent your dog from eating avocado. Avocado contains a lot of fat, which can make your dog ill or even lead to pancreatitis. Due to the size of the pit, avocados can also create a choking hazard for dogs.

Macadamia nuts

Just a small amount of macadamia nuts can be toxic for dogs. Initial symptoms show within just a few hours and include vomiting, fever and lethargy. Initial symptoms may show within 3 to 6 hours, with severe signs developing within 12 hours.

Since macadamia nuts are high in fat, they can also lead to pancreatitis in dogs. If your dog has eaten a toxic amount of macadamia nuts, your vet will likely try to induce vomiting. Your dog may also require intravenous fluids and 24-hour monitoring if they have developed pancreatitis.

Bread dough

When dogs eat uncooked bread dough, it can begin to rise in their stomach and cause discomfort. As the dough ferments in the stomach, it can also produce chemicals that are poisonous for dogs. If your dog has eaten bread dough, they may have a distended (swollen) stomach or you may see them retching.


Because of its high salt content, homemade playdough is highly toxic to dogs.

Dangerous drinks for dogs


While a small taste of tea or coffee will not affect your dog, a larger amount of caffeine can be dangerous, especially for smaller dogs.

Caffeine can damage the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and nervous system, and can cause, vomiting, diarrhoea, a high blood pressure and tremors. In severe cases, it can cause heart arrhythmias or coma.


Alcohol can be found in a number of products in your home, including drinks, hand sanitiser and antifreeze. Since alcohol is absorbed very quickly into a dog's system, it can cause damage in as little as 30 minutes, and can be fatal.

In severe cases of alcohol poison, your dog may experience tremors, a seizure or a slow respiratory rate. If you suspect your dog has ingested alcohol, contact your vet immediately.

A graphic showing foods that are toxic for dogs.
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• 10 January 2024

Next review

• 11 January 2027

Approved by
Anna Ewers Clark

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS