Forbidden Foods

You know, I like to think that most Soapbox readers are pretty dog-savvy.

So, if I were to write about how foods like chocolate, onions, macadamia nuts were dangerous for our dogs, I would think the general response would be along the lines of “yeah, yeah, I know – why am I even reading this?”.

The easy to find Wikipedia entry on food dangerous to pets includes the usual: chocolate, grapes/raisins, onions, xylitol (sweetener), macadamia nuts, apple seeds, peach and apricot pits, and hops (in other words, no beer).

And suffice it to say, if it’s bad for your dog, it’s probably bad for your cat, too.

But there are many, many foods that are potentially harmful to our pets that you don’t find on the typical lists.  And for anyone who has – or is interested in – breaking free of the kibble bag, these ingredients are definitely something to be aware of.

Garlic, for instance. Who knew?  While not immediately fatal, even small amounts over time can result in red blood cell damage in dogs and cats.  And for those of us who have emptied our brains of all highschool biology, it’s the red blood cells that contain hemoglobin and are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body and to vital organs, and damage can result in anemia.  So yeah, they’re pretty important. 

Avocado is another toxic food I wouldn’t have personally listed off right away, but appears on this extensive list compiled by the American Animal Hospital Association.  Avocado finds itself in list of cardiovascular toxins and the list of gastrointestinal toxins.  So remember to keep your pets away from the guacamole on Taco Tuesday.  Also harmful are eggplant (a neurological and gastrointestinal toxin) and the leaves and stems of tomatoes and potatoes.

Actually, the  AAHA list noted above also handily includes which household plants are also potentially harmful, which, while that may not be a major concern for some dog owners, cat owners should definitely take note.  Common bouquet flowers that can be harmful are most types of lillies, Chrysanthemum, Bird of Paradise, bamboo, and whatever the heck a Jack-in-the-pulpit is.


Not to be confused with…


Though, at the end of the day, both are toxic.
Podium… pulpit… whatever.
But I digress.
And the question remains: what do you do if you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance such as chocolate or Glenn Beck?
The quick and easy – and correct – answer if you see your pet exhibiting signs of distress or potential poisioning, such as vomiting (more than usual, they are dogs, after all), diarrhea, or general discomfort, is to call your trusty vet.
If circumstances for a vet phone call or visit don’t allow, home remedies are available in extreme circumstances (emphasis on “extreme”).  If it is within 1-2 hours of ingestion, the toxic substance won’t have made it to the small intestine for complete absorbtion yet, and a solution can be to induce vomiting.  To induce vomiting, Michelle Bamberger in Help! The Quick Guide to First Aid for Your Dog, recommends using 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1-2 teaspoons by mouth every 15 minutes until vomiting occurs.  Of course, after this, it is important to ensure your dog stays hydrated and makes it to the vet when possible.
The other question is how much can your dog ingest before you should start to worry.
Moses, for example, is 175 pounds.  So if he finds a rogue M&M on the floor, I’m probably not going to worry, both because it’s cheap chocolate to begin with (actual cocoa content is the concern), and it’s a very small amount relative to his size.
For a great assessment of this very question, and for those of us who enjoy stunning visual displays of data, National Geographic has an interactive chart online.  According to the chart, Moses would need to ingest over 1,400 ounces of white chocolate for it to even give him a bit of an upset stomach.  Just 10 ounces of pure cocoa, however, would be fatal.

At 72 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, if Moses found it in himself to eat this whole bag, we'd be making a rush trip to the vet. (Photo:

For those of you with more, say, “average-sized” dogs, a 50 pound dog would exhibit symptoms after 6 oz. of milk chocolate, and could be subject to seizures after 20 oz.  If your dog weighs 17 pounds or less, the chart shows that less than an ounce of pure cocoa can prove to be fatal if not intercepted.

100g = 3.38 oz, so your dog would have to weigh less than four pounds for this entire bar of milk chocolate to be fatal.

So there you have it.

And if you couldn’t tell, this whole post was really just an excuse to use that interactive and informative National Geographic chart.  Seriously.  Check it out. It’s fun.

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

5 Responses to Forbidden Foods

  1. Kristen says:

    Garlic is actually a very controversial topic as far as if it is good or bad for dogs. There are people who say it is bad, but then there are many people who believe that garlic can be beneficial in small amounts. The ideas of it being bad come from it having the same compound that it is onions that can cause the Heinz-body anemia. However I have read garlic has much less of this compound than onions, and as with most things, dogs much ingest a lot of it on a regular basis for this to be concern. Some of the benefits that people claim are garlic boosts immunities, fights infection, enhances liver function, lowers blood fats, and repels ticks and fleas. I know many people who supplement just a pinch of granulated garlic in their dogs food as a natural flea and tick repellent.

    The jury still isn’t out on it. I think I am on the side of it being okay for dogs as long as you are not giving large amounts of it.

    • thatjenk says:

      Interesting! I didn’t actually know there was a big debate on garlic. I’m usually one to err on the side of caution in most cases, but the flea/tick repellent properties are interesting and I could see how that benefit might outweigh the concerns for some.

  2. You know I love a good chart! And this one is no exception. 😉

    I remember being really surprised to learn that avocado was potentially dangerous. I remember Avoderm dog food being marketed pretty heavily awhile back. I wonder if it’s still around?

    Luckily for us, Gus is extremely picky and normally turns his nose up if we offer him a scrap of bacon. He’s a complete turd, but at least we know he won’t be scarfing up something he shouldn’t be.

    And, IMO, no amount of chocolate could be any more dangerous than Glenn Beck. I’m just saying… 😉

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha! Beck is a neurological toxin like no other (IMO).

      I’d never heard of AvoDerm before, but I just did a quick Google search, and apparently it’s still around!

      From their website (

      “AvoDerm® pet products use only carefully selected suppliers of avocado meal and avocado oil. Years of problem-free consumption of these products indicate that AvoDerm products are not only safe for dogs and cats, but also provide vital nutrients for them.

      Concern has been expressed by the ASPCA about the consumption of the leaves, fruit, bark, and stems from the avocado tree, with the exception of the avocado fruit which is used for the oil and meal; none of these parts are factors in any of the AvoDerm® pet products formulations and we have no indication that avocado oil and meal as used in AvoDerm® are toxic, poisonous, harmful or bad for your dogs or cats diet.”

      Interesting, and good on them for addressing the concern directly. I won’t be switching anytime soon, though. We’re those crazy raw feeders, anyway.

  3. Thanks for this post– I knew about some of these foods, not all of them. I didn’t konw about onions, for example, and I will now be much more careful about what I let OBF eat off the floor!

    I’ll never be a “crazy raw feeder” (no time, no money, no energy!), but I don’t want to poison him either!

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