Toxic Foods - Pets Beware

Chocolate is known to be an aphrodisiac; some people can't turn down an order of onion rings; and what winter holiday is complete without a can of mixed nuts?

But pet owners shouldn't assume that every human food is safe for their furry companions! What may be a simple "food obsession" to you, can spell certain death to your pet! Here are foods you should keep safe from Fido.


If your 50-pound dog snatches a single chocolate-chip cookie, it probably won’t cause him serious problems. However, if he gobbles up more — a pan of brownies, you should be alert for trouble.

Why? Because chocolate contains theobromine, a cardiac stimulant and diuretic. But not all chocolate is equally toxic.  Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic, containing up to ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate.  Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are second on the toxic meter, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous.

Symptoms that your dog is in danger include:

  • restlessness
  • hyperactivity
  • muscle twitching
  • increased urination and/or excessive panting

If left untreated, your pet could lapse into seizures, and possibly die. Please make sure your Boxer is safe during "high chocolate" holidays such as Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas.

Onion and Garlic

Onions and garlic will do more than give your dog (cat or livestock) bad breath, they are potentially fatal!

Both foods contain thiosulphate (onions more so than garlic), which affect the red blood cells which carry oxygen to the body, causing a condition known as haemolytic anaemia. In essence, the red blood cells burst, thus depriving the entire body of oxygen.

All forms of onion are dangerous, including dehydrated, raw or cooked onions, whether eaten alone or as ingredients in other dishes. Pizza, Chinese dishes and some commercial baby foods have toxic concentrations and should be avoided.

Symptoms usually do not appear until days after ingestion, and may include:

  • Gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea
  • Little to no interest in food
  • Overall dullness and weakness
  • Pigment from the ruptured red blood cells will appear in the urine
  • Breathlessness (from the lack of oxygen circulating throughout the body)

Poisoning can occur from a single meal of large amount, or with repeated over several days ingestion of smaller amounts of onion (garlic is less toxic and requires larger quantities), and anemia is likely to develop. The condition improves once these toxic food items are removed and kept from the dog.

Macadamia Nuts

Raw or roasted Macadamia nuts can be a danger to your pet as well. Not as a choking hazard, but because an (as yet) unknown toxic compound has been shown to cause locomotory difficulties (muscle tremors, paralysis/weakness).

Symptoms include:

  • Tremors of skeletal muscles
  • Hindquarter weakness or paralysis
  • Swollen and painful limbs

As few as 6-40 unshelled nuts have been known to affect pets, as well as feeding Macadamia butter.

While a painful condition, resulting muscle weakness/paralysis seems to be short in duration and all dogs known to have ingested these nuts have recovered. (Paper by Dr. Ross McKenzie, Veterinary Pathologist, Department of Primary Industries)

So, be sure to put that Valentine's box of chocolates up where your pet can't reach it; keep your dog from garbage surfing for last night's sausage/onion/mushroom pizza; and pick up any macadamia nuts if you have a tree in your yard.