November 7


Toxic foods – can food kill your dog?

November 7, 2020

Blog post #4 – Fatal Foods – can food kill your dog?


Did you know that there are foods in your home that could potentially kill your dog?!

This is really scary, but as the saying goes forewarned is forearmed.

In this blog, we will cover the foods commonly found in your kitchen that can be toxic to your dog. By staying informed you can avoid these foods, keeping your dog safe.


There are 7 common foods that can be toxic to dogs that we will be covering.

You may already be aware of some of these foods and others may be new to you.

Using acronyms is a great way to help remember things, the acronym “TOX C MAG” will help with this list of 7 toxic foods.


“T” stands for Tea and Coffee.

Chances are you drink tea and coffee daily; these are the most popular beverages globally. But not for dogs. these beverages contain caffeine which is a methylxanthine compound. Excess amounts can have detrimental effects on your dog’s heart and nervous system.


How much coffee is toxic to your dog?

This is a not a straightforward answer. The caffeine content in a cup of coffee is affected by the type of coffee bean, how the coffee beans are roasted, how the coffee is prepared as well as how big the serving size is.

Generally speaking, brewed coffee contains more caffeine than does tea, but you should take this as just a general guide

If your dog did happen to consume used coffee grounds, they fortunately do contain less caffeine than unused coffee beans. Exactly how much less depends on how much caffeine leeched out during the brewing process.

Toxicity from tea or coffee, the beverage or the ingestion of coffee grounds, can lead to   vomiting and diarrhoea, restlessness, drinking a lot of water, trembles, and even seizures in severe cases.

These are much the same clinical signs we’d see if a human were to severely overdose on caffeine. However, dogs process caffeine more slowly than humans so they are more sensitive to its effects.

While some of you may know of people who share their tea or coffee with their dog; and they seem to be fine…. it may be that they don’t consume sufficient levels of caffeine to cause serious illness. Remember – it’s not easy to determine toxicity levels and exactly how much will cause ill effects in your dog- so its best to avoid it altogether. Why share something with your pet if you know it is bad for them?


In this case, sharing your morning tea or coffee, is not caring for your best friend


 “O” stands for Onions.

Do you know why onions make people cry? It’s because they release a chemical irritant when they are cut which causes the eye to react by producing tears. Onions can do more sinister things to our dogs than make them tear-up. They contain a toxic compound n-propyl disulphide which reacts with red blood cells which destroy them. Low red blood cells result in anaemia.

Signs to look out for in your dog include lack of appetite, weakness, lethargy, pale gums, possibly dark coloured urine.


It isn’t just onions that are toxic. Garlic appears to be twice as toxic than onions on a per weight basis.

Chives, leeks and shallots also contain the toxin.

It also doesn’t matter if these vegetables are raw onion or whether they are dried, cooked or pickled; they are just as toxic.

Other foods which can contain onions include onion powders, dips, sauces, soups or gravies.

Be particularly aware of onions and garlic if you feed you dog table scraps.


“X” is for Xylitol

Xylitol is a sweetener. It is found in foods like sugar free chewing gums and lollies. It is often used in baking as a replacement for sugar.

It is promoted as a sugar substitute ingredient for certain foods, and there are claims that it allows for better dental health by sparing human teeth from cavity formation.

In dogs however, xylitol can have a significant effect on blood sugar levels, causing their blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low.

If your dog consumes enough xylitol it can lead to rapid hypoglycaemia which is low blood glucose/sugar levels.  In more severe cases, it can even lead to liver damage. There is nothing sweet about sharing sweetened treats when it comes to dogs.

“C” is for Chocolate.

According to some sources, humans consume more than 7 million tons of chocolate globally every year……that is a staggering amount! The reason is of course its taste and its feel-good properties. It’s not a feel-good outcome for our furry friends. The fact that so much chocolate is consumed by humans regularly means that this may be one of the most common food toxin exposures by dogs, particularly during holiday seasons such as Easter and Christmas.

So what is it that makes chocolate toxic for our dogs? Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine (these are known as methylxanthines…. you’ll remember this from the tea and coffee, mentioned earlier in this post). Caffeine and theobromine are toxic to dogs because unlike humans, dogs process these components more slowly and so they can accumulate them more readily.


These toxins stimulate the nervous system and the cardiovascular system, the heart and vessels. When this stimulation is excessive, it can lead to serious health issues.

Signs of toxicity to look out for include vomiting and diarrhoea, restlessness, drinking a lot, trembles, and seizures in severe cases. You might notice that these are the signs similar to those with tea and coffee. Why? The commonality between chocolate, tea and coffee is that they all contain caffeine. Chocolate, in addition to caffeine, also contains theobromine which has the potential for this food to be even more toxic.

Remember chocolate is in many forms around the home. It’s not just chocolate bars or slabs, it’s also in food items such as cookies, cakes, beverage mixes, protein bars and shakes, lollies, coated nuts or coated raisins (which are a double ‘no no’… more on that later).


Not all chocolate is the same. This is true for dogs too. – the darker the chocolate, the more toxic ingredients it will contain, and the worse it will be for your dog.

Here is a list from the least toxic to the most toxic:

White chocolate<Milk Chocolate<Semi-sweet or Dark chocolate<Unsweetened or Bakers chocolate<Unsweetened cocoa powder

The level of toxicity is also dependant on the amount that is consumed. The greater the amount consumed; the more toxin is ingested and the greater the threat to your dog.

There are various chocolate toxicity calculators that will help you assess the likely toxicity level based on the total amount of toxin consumed.

Always contact your veterinarian for advice if you believe your dog has ingested toxic foods. The following is a link to a chocolate toxicity calculator. Note that you are leaving the Tail Ovation website when you click on this link. The chocolate toxicity calculator is intended as a guide only. Make sure you select the units of kgs and grams and 1) enter the accurate weight of your dog 2) select the type of chocolate consumed and 3) enter the weight of the chocolate consumed. If in doubt rather overestimate the amount of chocolate eaten and the toxicity level of the type of chocolate. Monitor closely for any adverse signs listed. If your pet is showing signs of diarrhoea or vomiting seek veterinary assistance immediately. If you believe your pet has consumed toxic levels do not wait for signs to develop, rather seek veterinary assistance straight away.


“M” is for Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts contain an as yet unknown compound that is toxic to dogs. Signs of toxicity as a result of a dog ingesting macadamia nuts include vomiting, weakness, trembling and incoordination.

Fortunately, signs tend to resolve on their own within half a day to 2 days.


“A” is for Alcohol.

Did you know, that it’s not only humans that are negatively affected by alcohol, our furry friends are also impacted.

Now there are slightly different types of alcohol, based on their chemical structure. Ethanol is the type of alcohol which we commonly find in alcoholic beverages like beer, wine and spirits. Ethanol is also found in certain liquid medications, hand sanitisers as well as yeast dough.

Another form of alcohol, methanol, is found in windshield washer fluids and can pose serious problems when ingested.

Signs of alcohol toxicosis include vomiting, disorientation, incoordination and staggering and recumbency. In severe toxicosis difficulty breathing is a typical sign.


If you have ever seen someone who has seriously overindulged in alcohol, then as you would notice these are some of the signs typical of drunk people.

Besides the many different alcoholic drinks, rising yeast dough is also a potential source of alcohol. It’s the fermenting yeast that results in the production of ethanol which can lead to toxicosis.

In the case of yeast dough, it’s not only the alcohol that poses a potential hazard to dogs, it’s also the distention, or swelling, of the stomach as the dough expands and rises within the stomach that can cause serious problems for dogs.

Keep your dog well away from any of the many sources of alcohol.


“G” is for Grapes


As you might expect, it’s not just grapes in their original form, it’s also raisins and sultanas (after all these are just dehydrated grapes).  

While raisins are much smaller than grapes, a raisin is just as toxic as a grape.

Grapes and raisins/sultanas are a healthy and tasty ingredient or snack for humans. However, these tasty bites can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs.

Similar to macadamia nuts, the toxic ingredient or component that causes all the problem is not yet well understood. It doesn’t appear to be pesticides used in the vineyards, or microscopic fungi that grow on the grapes. There is variability in how dogs react to grapes, and this could be due to variability in the unknown toxic component or in the varying susceptibility of individual dogs.

Some of the signs that a dog has possibly can include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and/or decreased urine production.

A final note, it doesn’t matter what type of grape it is, or whether it’s organic or commercially grown in a vineyard, it’s best to avoid all types of grapes and raisins.

Final tips on toxins

  • Toxicity levels depend how much toxin a food contains and also how much your dog has consumed, relative to its size and health status and any other underlying health conditions it may have.
  • Always have your vets telephone number handy for emergencies.
  • And, remember the acronym “TOX C MAG” to help you recall these foods


If you would like to help the family remember these foods which may be toxic for your dog then get yourself  a fridge magnet to pop on your fridge. The magnet lists out the toxic foods based on the acronym TOX C MAG.

If we can prevent just one dog from becoming intoxicated, we would all have done a great deed!

About the author 

Brett Simpson

Brett’s passion is to help people and animals live healthier happier lives. First and foremost, Brett is a passionate pet parent. He enjoys spending time with family and friends. Having grown up with many pets including dogs, snakes and chickens he knows how much joy they can bring to the family. This was reemphasised when for a period of time he was without a pet and reintroducing a pet into the home was like a breath of fresh air!
Brett has worked in the animal health industry over 20 years including experience as a vet in practice, a vet in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in the commercial operations of corporate veterinary hospital groups.
This experience gives Brett the unique perspective of knowing the insights from the perspectives of a pet parent, a practicing veterinarian, pharmaceutical companies and corporate group veterinary hospitals. With this unique blend of knowledge and experience Brett aims to empower pet parents with knowledge and products so they can better care for their pets and magnify the joy and passion they have with their pet.
Tails up to that!
Brett’s other passions include property renovations, landscaping, fitness, health and nutrition.

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