Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Oct 23, 2023 | Nutrition

The Top Foods and Spices Your Pets Should Avoid

Pets, whether dogs, cats, or other beloved animals, often become an integral part of our families. While it might be tempting to share table scraps or let them sample a bit of what we’re eating, it’s essential to know that many food items can be harmful – even fatal – to our furry friends.

According to ASPCA Poison Control, the foods and spices that your pets should avoid include:

Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine

This trifecta of treats contains methylxanthines. Found in cacao seeds, coffee beans, and certain nuts used in sodas, methylxanthines can lead to a number of symptoms in our pets, including:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Panting
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death

Note: The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for our animals. Baking chocolate has the highest level of methylxanthines, while white chocolate has the least.


Consumption of alcoholic beverages, or even food products that contain alcohol, can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, and central nervous system depression in our pets. More severe reactions may include breathing difficulties, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death.


All parts of the avocado, including the leaves, fruit, seeds, and bark, contain a substance known as Persin. This substance can induce vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. For birds and rodents, the reaction can be severe, leading to respiratory issues, fluid buildup around the heart, and even fatality.

Macadamia Nuts

Popular in various snacks and desserts, these nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia in dogs. Symptoms typically manifest within 12 hours and can last up to two days.

Grapes & Raisins

While the toxic element contained in these fruits remains unidentified, it is a significant danger to our pets, causing kidney failure. The reaction might be more pronounced in pets with existing health issues.

Yeast Dough

When ingested, yeast dough can rise in a dog or cat’s digestive system, causing painful gas to build and possibly even causing the stomach or intestines to rupture.


Used in numerous products, including candies, baked goods, and toothpaste, Xylitol can lead to liver failure by inducing insulin release. Symptoms can include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, and even seizures. Liver issues can emerge within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, and Chives

While these veggies and herbs add a dash of spice to our dishes, they can also cause gastrointestinal irritation in pets and can lead to red blood cell damage. Cats are particularly susceptible, but dogs can also be affected if they consume large quantities. However, small amounts, like that found in broth and gravy (or chicken or turkey cooked in broth) is generally OK.


Believe it or not, pets usually lack lactase, an enzyme required to break down lactose in milk. Thus, milk and milk-based products might cause digestive problems in pets.


Excessive salt intake can lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, and even seizures in pets. Always avoid giving salty foods to your pets.

Nutmeg and Allspice

Though not called out specifically by the ASPCA, many pet experts urge pet owners to take extra precautions when it comes to the spice rack. Sweet smelling, but potentially toxic, nutmeg can cause seizures and central nervous system problems, while allspice can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and even liver or kidney damage.

Always be cautious about what you feed your pets. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. Contact Doylestown Veterinary Hospital for expert guidance on pet nutrition and safety.