/ Food & Drink, Health

Tales of dangerous foods pets shouldn’t eat

Dog eating box of chocolates

Did you know that a box of chocolates could lead to a hefty vet bill – or worse? There are even stories of dogs nibbling on Christmas cake and becoming poorly. So what foods shouldn’t dogs and other pets eat?

I was aware that chocolate wasn’t good for dogs, but I recently experienced first hand just how dangerous it can be.

My mischievous 11 month old puppy found his way into a tucked-away box of dark chocolates and wolfed down the remaining contents, including the foil wrapping. The cardboard box wasn’t quite to his taste, so he chewed it up and spat it out on to the carpet.

A few hours later he was very hyperactive and started panting a lot. After realising what had happened, I rushed him down to the vet where he was immediately hospitalized for induced vomiting, put on an IV drip and given activated liquid charcoal to dry and absorb as much of the toxins as possible.

After an anxious 24 hours, my puppy recovered and he was allowed to come home. Not all dogs, according to the vet, are so lucky.

Why can’t dogs eat chocolate?

The active ingredient that causes the problem is theobromine, and the darker the chocolate the higher the amount. There’s no antidote, so if your dog has eaten even a small amount, vets advise immediate treatment, even if the symptoms haven’t appeared yet. Oh, and it doesn’t just have to be from a box of chocolates. Gardeners with dogs might have to be extra careful, as cocoa mulch is said to contain theobromine.

A survey by Dogs Trust this year revealed that more than half of pet dogs have eaten chocolate intended for humans, and over one in 10 became ill as a result. Of these, 8% died due to the effects and nearly a quarter required urgent veterinary treatment.

Foods dogs can’t eat – myth or reality?

Anxious friends rallied round with support when they found out about my puppy’s close call. But they also shared other gruesome tales of grapes, raisins, sultanas also being potentially toxic to dogs. One knew of a dog who’d died after being given a piece of Christmas cake (containing sultanas).

So, it seems that if you want to keep your furry friend safe, you may need to do more than lock away your chocolates. You might need to sacrifice your waistline and finish the last piece of currant cake. Have you heard any stories of foods that aren’t good for dogs, or other pets?


I threw a box of choc’s onto the lawn [don’t ask], within a couple of minutes 5 foxes appeared and devoured the lot. After reading this article I am wondering that if choc’s affect them as well as dogs if this is a way of curbing the urban fox.

hoppingpinkrabbit says:
26 October 2012

Love that idea! (chocolate to foxes) I have an eating disorder and don’t/can’t eat chocolate (more trouble then its worth). I often get given boxes of chocolates as gifts for birthdays/christmas/hard-work…etc and can’t eat them! (I don’t tell anyone I have an eating disorder because past experience has taught me not to/lost jobs/excluded from social things), maybe instead of fattening up others, the foxes might ‘like’ them… and maybe then I can get more then 2 hours sleep without being woken by foxes having 2 hour long sex scenes.

Things not to feed pets….milk and felines don’t mix, most or all are lactose intolerant and unless you like picking up baaaad cat mess I’d advise to not do this, cats get on fine with water and non dairy foods.

Also, cats, though they think they do, really don’t get on well with flys. They catch and eat them but end up with worms. Be careful as they will try to catch and eat them but the after effects will result in you having to clean up a very big vets bill when the worms have gotten to a stage where the cat needs help.

Those kids toys made with silicone? Very bad idea! A neice of mine had one of those fuzzy pom-pom balls made with silicon strings. The cat tried to eat it, got away with a few strings, no one thought anything of it once the ball was taken away. Two weeks later we find the strings had worked its way around the cats intestines and caused all blood flow and waste flow to stop. The cat nearly died. The cat had to lose part of its intestines to see another day (not cheap!). The cat is now fine, came home, first thing it did? Attack the toy-box again and managing to open the draw which had the silicon-strand pom-pom toy in….seriously, cats do not get on with todays kids toys. Only buy cats toys which are designed for animals and test them to make sure they are indestructable to claws, teeth and just about everything bar a nuclear explosion.

Interesting Our dogs are routinely fed a bowl of milk daily (except race days) during their entire race career and afterwards when they retire – yet I note that dogs are supposed to be Lactose intolerant.- Which was why I did the research a few years ago – In the last 50 years I known of only one dog actually being lactose intolerant – this was detected as a very young pup and the reaction noted in his medical notes – the rest were not lactose intolerant. That was around 30,000 healthy fit dogs.

Lactose intolerance is caused by insufficient beta-galactosidase, the enzyme needed to split the sugar to produce glucose and galactose. In humans the amount of lactose that can be tolerated varies, depending on how much of the enzyme an individual produces. I imagine that the situation will be the same in dogs, and the amount of milk that can be consumed without problem will depend on the animal.

One of our dogs, whose father was a Cocker Spaniel and mother a Pyrenean shepherd, never found a truffle in his life as he was supposed thanks to his parents pedigree and talent, but he found one of my mother’s apple tarts all right, and milk chocolate eggs in the garden one Easter (only the first year we had him, having learned our lesson), and managed to eat the soft part of two-thirds of a pain de campagne once (with the crust left intact – he was a patient and dedicated dog), and a list of other things, but he always came out unscathed. Maybe it’s his “mongrelness” that saved him, maybe he was lucky. It’s not that we weren’t careful, and we never fed him rubbish, but it’s like with kids, you can’t remember to hide or lock away things all of the time.

My 10 year old labrador ate most of the contents of a bag of goodies I had brought back from a day trip to France and thought I had left out of his reach. He ate a bag of chocolate florentines, a tube of mustard mayonnaise, a packet of pepper sauce and a jar of garlic mayonnaise! He showed no ill affects.
On other occasions he devoured three tubes of face cream, a whole salami, tights and pop socks (which came out the other end after he looked a bit uncomfortable for a couple of days), and hundreds of plums from the garden, including the stones!
My vet said recently that they rarely see 10 year old labradors in such good condition!

Steve says:
29 November 2012

Very funny thank you

It depends on the size of the dog – I’ve known dogs who have eaten a small amount of chocolate daily without massive effects – It appears that the toxic level is about 6 oz of dark chocolate may be toxic for a dog under 50 lbs. according to the 10,000 dogs we’ve adopted out (in agreement with US research) We have never had a dog die from accidental overdose in 50 years – though one dog who had a choc bar every day as a treat for 14 years since the age of 2 years had diabetes (retired at 2 years old) – but most dogs of all DIE before getting to 16 years anyway. Rather like grapes – supposed to be toxic – but never known a dog of ours become any more that “loose” from eating them.

I’ve never had a solid 6 oz lump of dark chocolate at home in my life – though my 3 large dogs share three dark chocolate Hobnobs every week. Our dogs come to us at around 80 to 100 ibs at a minimum of 2.5 years old – so it appears toxic level is not exceeded..

We always give a list of “toxic” food to our adopters – but as I said we have not had a problem.

also bad for dogs is white flour. cant remember why but it is apparently, for us too! dogs, like us, omnivores so can eat veg as well. greedy little buggers, but hey, aint they fine.

Dogs can’t eat all veg. My puppy went into organ failure and died after eating some avocado. My other dogs like cabbage and cauli stalks, carrots, swede, apple, pear, banana, peas and potato with no apparent ill effects.

anthony james says:
29 November 2012

my father is a vet and he told me that chocolate is poisonous for dogs but that english chocolate has so little coco in it, as long as they dont get massive amounts theyll be ok, also white flour is, apparently even worse for dogs, i guess its the bleaching process that makes it so posonous to them which means most baked things,bread, biscuits, cake, some sweets, and they love them so much, little do they know, poor little peeps.

Josquine says:
7 December 2012

One of my cats loves tomato juice! No explanation, she never had any as a kitten, but she has to lick out my glass – or even pinch from it when full. The vet says it’s fine.
As for milk not being good for cats, it all depends on the cat. My other cat loves a treat of a little milk or yoghurt and they have never done her any harm. Tomato-juice loving cat won’t touch the stuff.

My ten-year old labrador has just eaten a red chilli pepper. No ill effects! He is the one who consumed the bag of goodies from my French day trip. He appears to have an iron constitution. The only foodstuff he has refused to eat is radishes!

Elainedoglover says:
3 February 2013

Have also heard that onions are toxic to dogs, although have had no experience of this.

Caroline says:
23 February 2013

We fed our childhood beagle grapes. She used to love chasing them across the kitchen floor and never suffered any ill effects. We had no idea they were toxic. Later in life my cocker spaniel ate an entire easter egg hunt laid out in the garden for the children. She had been shut in but my husband didn’t realise and whilst I was briefing the children he let her out the back door. She ate the foil wrappers too. The only adverse effect was two very disappointed and teary little girls. I didn’t know that chocolate was toxic to dogs at the time – she had been shut in just because I knew she would eat the lot. I guess the cocoa content would have been quite low in children’s milk chocolate eggs. Am obviously much wiser now and will bear in mind the avocado story – very sad.

Sally says:
4 December 2014

My 7month old dogs (a lab and a collie) just enjoyed their worming tablets smeared in mayonnaise, normally they get them with butter but the mayo was to hand. We have an avocado tree in our garden which, when it was in fruit this year was a nightmare with two young pups. The pulp (which is what we eat) isn’t toxic – just extremely fattening, however the skin and stones are (also the bark). We tried to take as many from them as we could but they still ate loads ( spitting out the stone and leaving the skin) and thankfully were non the worse for it.
Our cat likes avocados even more and when she was younger used to run outside as soon as she heard them fall of the tree!!
Now we have got over the avocado season our next hurdle is Bombax pods with a cotton wool like substance inside and after that Loquats which are full of large seeds both of which dogs apparently like, both of which are in our garden (in abundance) and both of which are not good for them, joy!!
On a side note there are so many things that your dogs can eat and enjoy, it isn’t worth giving them chocolate, they’ll see a piece of chicken as just as much of a treat and you won’t have to eat more chocolate to get over the worry that you’ve given them something bad ;D

Stephen says:
14 December 2014

I have an 8 month old pedigree Rottweiler. What should I feed her on?

Feed her a BARF diet you will have a happy healthy dog

Elaine says:
14 December 2014

Apart from chocolate and raisins I’ve heard that grapes, onions, onion derivatives and garlic are also dangerous to dogs.

Michelle Stanway says:
18 July 2016

There’s a whole list of things dogs shouldn’t eat, from chocolate and grapes to cat food! There’s a guide I always refer people too that covers the majority of the foods and the reasons why they are considered dangerous. It’s here: http://www.wetnosewaggytail.co.uk/blog/dangerous-foods-dogs.html

Yvonne says:
17 February 2015

My dog has just been spayed and have been told by the vets to take her off Bakers. Please can some one explains why?

paula says:
3 July 2016

Hi, Probably because Bakers is fattening. 🙂

Your vet should have explained why, Yvonne. I suggest you ask the practice for an explanation and whether that advice could include other products.

Nothing about cats!

They instinctively know what’s good for them and avoid anything else.

Marian says:
5 October 2017

You published an excellent article in the Daily Mail last year I think, about different dogs foods, both wet and dry, and their nutritional value. I have searched this site and don’t see it. Please help

Hi Marian,

We do cover a lot when it comes to pet foods and there are many articles on our website. If you’re looking to compare wet vs dry I would suggest this article:


I hope this helps.