Foods you should never feed your pet

Your cat or dog might be an expert at pulling your heartstrings to get a treat or some table scraps, but did you know there are lots of foods that are dangerous for your pet? Find out which ones to avoid with our handy guide.

Published

09 Aug 2018

What foods are bad for dogs?

Dogs can be quite insistent when it comes to begging for leftovers or an extra treat, but there are some foods that can actually be really harmful to dogs. Keep an eye out for the following:

1. Milk, cheese and cream

Your dog might love a bit of cheese or a bowl of milk, but the high fat content of dairy products can cause stomach upsets or even illnesses like pancreatitis - a very painful and potentially serious condition.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that while puppies drink their mother’s milk, they’re likely to become lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products as they grow older.

Dogs eating

2. Xylitol

Some sweets, soft drinks and baked goods contain the sweetener xylitol. If eaten this can cause your dog’s insulin levels to spike. This can lead to your pup feeling lethargic, and can cause vomiting, seizures or even liver failure.

Luckily, there is a variety of dog-friendly cakes and treats that are made from meat and sweetener-free ingredients. Try shopping around, and ask the seller questions if you’re unsure.

3. Chocolate

It may be a delicious treat for humans, but most chocolate is toxic to dogs. This is because of a substance called theobromine that’s found in cocoa solids.

Chocolate with high cocoa solids – like luxury chocolate brands or cooking chocolate – is especially bad, and could cause medical complications or even death.

If you think your dog has eaten some, you should visit your vet immediately.

4. Macadamia nuts

Just a small handful of these nuts can be very bad for your dog and can cause paralysis of the back legs, tremors, pain and an elevated heart rate.

Symptoms normally last for 48 hours and in severe cases, can even prove fatal. If your dog has eaten macadamia nuts, you should get in touch with your vet right away to arrange an emergency appointment.

Another little help: Some emergency vet visits might be covered by your insurance. If you’re wondering what kind of treatments are covered by insurance, our pet insurance comparison page could be a good place to start.

What foods are bad for cats?

Just like dogs, there are also a range of foods that cats should avoid. Here’s a breakdown of what to look out for:

1. Raw meat and fish

Some raw foods could put your cat at risk of food poisoning from bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. Raw fish can also affect their absorption of vitamin B1 (also known as thiamine), and can cause neurological problems if eaten regularly.

If you cat shows any signs of ill health after eating raw meat or fish, pay your vet a visit.

cat licking food plate

2. Dog food

It might look the same as cat food, but dog food has a different blend of vitamins and nutrients and doesn’t have everything your cat needs to stay healthy and well nourished.

If they are eating dog food over a long period of time, your cat could suffer from weight loss, tiredness, depression, weakness, dry skin, organ failure and even death. This is definitely one to think about if you live in a home with both cats and dogs.

3. Dairy products

You’d be forgiven for thinking a saucer of milk is the perfect treat for your cat but the truth is that many adult cats are lactose intolerant and milk, cream and cheese can cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea. Thankfully, you can buy lactose free cat milk from shops, if you want to indulge them.

4. Chocolate

It’s not only dogs who should be kept away from chocolate. The cocoa solids in chocolate contain theobromine, which can cause abnormal heart rhythms, tremors and seizures. Dark chocolate, expensive brands and cooking chocolate are the worst culprits and while cats are unlikely to seek chocolate out on their own, they may eat it if coaxed.

What foods are toxic to both dogs and cats?

There are also some foods that are toxic to both cats and dogs. Here’s a list of the ones to watch out for.

1. Cherries

Keep cherries in the fridge or out of the way of cats and dogs, because while they are typically only mildly toxic to pets, they can cause dilated pupils, breathing problems and, in extreme cases, shock or even death.

2. Alcohol

It should go without saying that you should never give your pet alcohol but it’s worth knowing that eating fermented fruits, solvents or bread dough could give them ethanol poisoning. Keep these items covered and out of temptation’s way.

3. Grapes and raisins

They may seem like small, harmless snacks, but grapes and raisins can make your pet sick. Large amounts can cause more serious illnesses, like kidney failure. Some dogs and cats will be unaffected but keep an eye out for diarrhoea, lethargy, vomiting.

kids with a puppy

4. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives

Keep your cat or dog away from these foods and watch out for processed dishes and sauces that might contain garlic or onion powder - these can damage your pet’s red blood cells, causing anaemia.

Eating these can also cause weakness, lethargy, vomiting and breathlessness. If you notice your pet displaying any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

5. Table scraps

Your table scraps could have things in them that are harmful to your pet without you realising. Small bones could damage their stomach, while fatty foods could make your pet sick.

6. Caffeine

A coffee might be the best start to your morning but the caffeine levels in it are very bad for animals. Don’t leave half empty cups around and be careful not to leave coffee grounds or tea bags in a bin your pet can get to.

What to do if your pet has eaten something toxic

  • If your pet is vomiting or unwell, check your home for evidence they may have eaten something they shouldn’t have.
  • If you’ve seen your pet eat something mildly toxic, keep an eye out for symptoms.
  • Move your pet into a safe space so that they can’t eat any more of the toxin.
  • Try to stop them from grooming themselves, in case the dangerous food is on their paws or fur.
  • If your pet has eaten something that’s bad for them, give your vet a call, either for advice or to make an emergency appointment.
  • Don’t try to make your dog or cat vomit without speaking to a professional first. Vomiting a toxin back up might make the problem worse.

If you’re worried about the cost of an emergency vet visit, pet insurance could help take the pressure off. Find out more about our pet insurance here.

Should you stick to cat and dog food?

Help your pet stay happy and healthy by sticking to cat and dog food that has been designed to give them all of the nutrients they need.

Treats may still be fine in moderation, depending on the dietary needs of your specific breed. But it’s always worth knowing what foods are, and aren’t safe.

We hope this guide will help you stay strong at the dinner table and act quickly if you think your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have.

Important information

The content on this page aims to offer an informative introduction to the subject matter but does not constitute expert financial advice specific to your own situation. All facts and figures were correct at time of publication and were compiled using a range of sources.

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