Ginger and white cat with vet

Pet food dangers

Sometimes it’s tricky working out what you can and can’t feed your pet. A lot of the foods that can make our pets unwell are foods that we humans eat with no problem! To help avoid any poorly pets and panicked trips to the vets, we’ve put together a list of foods that can make your dog, cat or rabbit ill.

Cats and dogs


Our pets certainly don’t have the same tolerance to alcohol as us humans do – even a tea spoon full can make them ‘drunk’ and is extremely toxic to them. Food products and even hygienic substances like perfume and mouthwash, which contain a pure form of alcohol called Ethanol, can be just as toxic for your pet as a gulp of wine or vodka. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Vomiting.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Tremors.
  • Depression of the central nervous system.
  • In some more severe cases it can also cause coma, liver and brain damage or it can even be fatal!

Make sure to keep any substances which contain alcohol well out of the way of your pet and their curiosity to eat anything and everything!


One of the main, and most well-known, foods to make dogs ill is chocolate. What is slightly less commonly known though is that it’s poisonous to cats too! It contains a substance called theobromine, which is very poisonous to our animal friends and can be fatal if a lot of it is ingested. Some of the symptoms to look out for if your cat or dog has eaten chocolate are:

  • Diarrhoea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Restlessness, hyperactivity and tremors.

You’ll normally see these symptoms between 4 and 24 hours of the chocolate being eaten, if you see any of these signs get in contact with your vet straight away.


Caffeine has a similar effect on our pets as chocolate does, although the occasional lick of tea in the morning for your dog isn’t going to do any harm. Problems occur when a large amount of tea bags, coffee granules or energy drinks etc. are eaten. This can affect your pet’s heart, cause rapid breathing, restlessness and muscle tremors.

Raisins, currants, sultanas and grapes:

Another commonly known one – these fruits can cause kidney failure in both dogs and cats if consumed, so anything containing these fruits should be avoided when feeding your pet treats. Symptoms normally happen within 24 hours, these include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Weakness and lethargy.
  • Decreased urination.
  • Lack of appetite and diarrhoea.

Onions, garlic and chives:

If enough of any of these vegetables are eaten, they can make your pet very ill. They can cause stomach irritation, red blood cell damage, and in cats it can even cause anaemia!

Onions are the worst of these three and can make your pet poorly from eating anything with them in, this ranges from onion gravy to onion powder. Be aware that onion powder is often used as a flavouring in other foods such as other forms of gravy and even poppadum’s! If your pet has been poisoned by eating onions, signs will tend to show a few days later.


Avocado can cause diarrhoea and vomiting in both cats and dogs because of a substance it contains called persin, a fungicidal toxin. This includes the seeds, fruit, leaves and bark of the avocado which is all toxic to pets – so it’s best to be avoided altogether!

Raw meat, eggs & fish and fat trimmings:
It may seem really natural for a cat or dog to chow down on some raw meat, and there is a myth that they have stronger stomach acid that protects them from food poisoning; this is not true. Just like us, if they eat raw meat or eggs which are contaminated they are at risk of E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter just as we would be. Worse, they can spread this infection to their human family through their faeces. In addition, a high fat meal such as sausages at a barbeque, or the fat from a roast dinner can be enough to cause pancreatitis in dogs, and result in a lengthy hospital stay and lifelong dietary restriction.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in things like sweets, sugar free chewing gum, diet foods and most recently some peanut butters. It’s very harmful for dogs and only a small amount can be toxic to them, causing severely low blood sugar similar to a diabetic crisis. It can cause:

  • Vomiting.
  • Lethargy.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Seizures.
  • And in some cases, it can also cause liver disease and blood clotting.

There aren’t any records of cat’s being ill due to xylitol, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so we’d recommend you don’t give your cat any foods with this in.


This isn’t one you’d normally find in your kitchen, but anti-freeze is very poisonous to our pets. It has a sweet taste, so it can be quite appealing to our pets – in particular cats. To avoid any emergency rushes to the vets, make sure to clean up any spillages when you top up your car.

Human painkillers:

Always make sure painkillers are kept well out of the way of your pet, as they can be extremely poisonous. Never give your pet human medication as a substitute to veterinary medication, as this can be fatal. For more information, read our blog on Self Medicating Your Pet >


Dogs are notorious for begging for table scraps (and normally getting them!), so it’s vital you know what foods not to give them, even if they do give you the adorable puppy dog eyes!

Macadamia nuts and peanuts:

Macadamia nuts really aren’t very nice for our dogs, if eaten they can cause the following symptoms:

  • Tremors and weakness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Increased body temperature.

These symptoms normally happen after 12 hours and last for about 12 hours to 2 days.

Peanuts can cause a similar reaction to macadamia nuts which includes mainly vomiting and sometimes, although rarely, fits.

Yeast dough:

Yeast dough isn’t technically poisonous to dogs. However, problems occur when it rises in the dog’s belly, which can cause gas and obstruction in the stomach or intestine. Fully cooked and risen bread is fine to give as a treat, but only in small amounts.

Corn on the cob:

If fed to a dog, corn on the cob can cause intestinal blockages because it’s difficult to digest. The signs to look out for if there is a blockage are as follows:

  • Lack of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Lack of faeces or diarrhoea.
  • Abdominal discomfort.

If your dog shows any of these signs, take them to the vet immediately.


Cats are a little less likely to swipe food from your plate than dogs. However they’re still very capable of grabbing bits of food that have fallen on the floor or even stealing scraps from the kitchen counter when your back is turned! Here are some foods to keep out of the way of your cat:

Milk and dairy products:

It’s quite a traditional thing to give your cat a dish of milk, but it isn’t really that good for them. Some cats can become lactose intolerant once they reach adulthood and therefore any dairy products eaten can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.



Most fruit grown in the UK is fine for rabbits to eat. However, they should only have it in moderation as fruit contains sugar and too much can give your rabbit a tummy upset! Some of the fruit to avoid feeding your rabbit are as follows:

  • Apple pips: contain cyanide. Also avoid any other stones or pips from other fruits like cherries or apricots.
  • Avocado: due to it containing persin.
  • Rhubarb: symptoms of rhubarb poisoning include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and severe dehydration.


It’s great to feed your rabbit vegetables as part of a balanced diet. However, there are those you should steer clear of; some of these are as follows:

  • Onion, spring onion, garlic and chives: Anything in the onion family can make your rabbit ill; the most common symptoms are severe diarrhoea and tummy upset.
  • Nuts: are too high in fat for rabbits to digest properly.
  • Root vegetables (potatoes, parsnip etc.): these wouldn’t normally be eaten by rabbits in the wild and they’re low in nutrition.
  • Tomato plant leaves: the tomato fruit is fine for your rabbit to eat though.

If your pet ever eats any of these foods, make sure to get in contact with your vet straight away.

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