Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

As a pet owner, you want to make sure your furry friend is getting all the nutrients they need. However, some human foods can be harmful or even toxic to pets.

Knowing what not to feed your pet is just as important as knowing what to feed them. In this article, we’ll explore the top foods you should avoid feeding your cat or dog.

Why Certain Foods Are Harmful for Pets

Pets have different nutritional needs and digestive systems compared to humans. Their bodies aren’t designed to process certain foods and ingredients the way ours can.

Feeding your pet the wrong foods can lead to digestive upset, allergic reactions, toxicity, and even organ damage or failure in some cases. Here’s an overview of why these effects occur:

  • Toxicity – Some foods contain ingredients that are toxic to pets, like xylitol in sugar-free gum or chocolate. Even small amounts can be deadly.
  • Allergies – Pets can develop food allergies and intolerances to ingredients like dairy, wheat, eggs, and certain proteins. This leads to itchy skin, digestive upset, and other reactions.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues – Fatty, spicy, or rich foods may cause vomiting, diarrhea, gas, or abdominal pain in pets.
  • Choking Hazards – Bones, raw veggies, and other hard or chunky foods pose a risk for choking or intestinal blockages.
  • Nutritional Imbalances – Pets require certain vitamins and minerals in appropriate amounts. Too much or too little of some nutrients can cause health issues.
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Top 15 Foods You Should Never Feed Your Pet

To keep your furry friend happy and healthy, avoid feeding them the following foods:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to pets. Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, heart arrhythmias, and even death. Darker chocolates contain more of these dangerous compounds and are most toxic.

2. Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum, candies, baked goods, and some peanut butters. It can cause a dangerous blood sugar crash in pets, leading to seizures and liver failure.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol poisoning can occur in pets, causing central nervous system depression, decreased coordination, coma, and difficulty breathing. All forms of alcohol should be kept away from pets.

colorful cat taking food from automatic cat feeder

4. Avocados

Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can damage heart, lung, and other tissue in dogs and cats. The pits also pose a choking hazard.

5. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, vomiting, hyperthermia, swollen limbs, and muscle tremors in dogs, potentially leading to paralysis. Keep all nuts away from pets.

6. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins, even in small amounts, can cause kidney failure and be fatal to dogs. Experts still aren’t sure exactly why, but it’s recommended to avoid feeding grapes or raisins to any pets.

7. Onions and Garlic

Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives can damage red blood cells in pets, causing anemia. Garlic is considered even more toxic than onions to pets. Cooking does not remove the toxins.

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8. Caffeine

Caffeine from coffee, tea, energy drinks, or chocolate can overstimulate pets’ nervous systems and heart rate. Signs of toxicity include hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and cardiac symptoms.

9. Raw Meat, Fish, and Eggs

Raw meat, fish, and eggs can harbor bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that cause food poisoning in pets. Cooking these foods destroys disease-causing pathogens.

10. Bones

Bones can easily splinter and block or puncture pets’ digestive tracts. Never give pets bones from fish, poultry, or other meat sources.

brown dog eating a bone

11. Dairy Products

Like humans, many pets are lactose intolerant and unable to digest milk and dairy well. This leads to digestive upset, gas, and loose stools.

12. Fatty Foods

Fatty meats, butter, oils, sauces, and fried foods can cause acute pancreatitis, which is extremely painful and potentially fatal.

13. Onions and Garlic

Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives contain compounds that can damage red blood cells in cats and dogs if ingested. They can cause hemolytic anemia, which is the destruction of red blood cells. Onions are toxic even in small amounts. Garlic is considered even more toxic than onions for pets.

The allium compounds in these foods are not eliminated by cooking. It’s safest to keep all foods containing onions or garlic out of your pet’s reach.

14. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes, raisins, and currants, even in small quantities, can cause kidney failure in cats and dogs. These fruits can be extremely toxic to pets, potentially leading to death. Experts are not sure exactly why grapes and raisins cause this reaction, but even a few bites should be treated as an emergency. Never feed your pet grapes or raisins.

15. Avocados

The persin toxin found in avocado fruit, pits, leaves and bark can be dangerous for cats and dogs. It can damage heart, lung and other tissues if ingested. Avocado pits are also a choking hazard. It’s best to avoid feeding both the fruit and the pit to your pets.

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Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning in Pets

Food poisoning and toxicity can make pets extremely sick. Here are some tips to keep your furry friends safe:

  • Store human food safely out of your pet’s reach, such as in cabinets or containers. Never leave food unattended.
  • Do not feed table scraps, leftovers or human food to your pet without checking with your veterinarian first.
  • Know which human foods are toxic for pets like chocolate, xylitol, alcohol, coffee/caffeine, fatty foods, raw dough, moldy foods, nuts, seeds and pits.
  • If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, contact your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear.
  • Keep the number for your veterinarian and the ASPCA Poison Control helpline handy in case of emergencies.

Keeping pets away from dangerous human foods is crucial. Always supervise mealtimes and avoid feeding your pet table scraps or leftovers. If you have any questions about your pet’s diet, consult with your veterinarian. With proper precautions, your furry friends can remain happy, healthy and safe.

What Human Foods Can Pets Eat?

While the above foods should be avoided, there are many safe, pet-friendly food options. Lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products can be added to a pet’s diet in moderation if cooked thoroughly and approved by your veterinarian.

Some pets can also tolerate small amounts of fruits and vegetables like bananas, apples, carrots, and green beans. But introduce new foods slowly and watch for any signs of GI upset. It’s always best to check with your vet before changing your pet’s diet.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to pet nutrition, moderation is key. While the occasional slip up likely won’t harm your pet, feeding them the wrong foods repeatedly or in large quantities can be dangerous.

Follow your vet’s feeding instructions carefully and keep human foods that are toxic to pets out of reach. With a proper, species-appropriate diet, your furry friend will live their healthiest, happiest life. Learn here more about pets health and wellness.