Don’t kill your dog with kindness (please read)

by Elizabeth on February 27, 2008 · 8 comments

in Harry, Life, Stuff

Never feed your dog the following foods: grapes, raisins, sultanas, onions, macadamias, chocolate, garlic, coffee or fruit pips.

To find out more, read on.

It’s a rare pet owner who doesn’t slip his critter the occasional treat. Our pets add so much to the quality of our lives that we look for ways to return the kindness, or to at least impart some measure of thanks for all they do. Yet though the urge to do good is there, the mechanism often isn’t.

Humans and the pets they keep have widely differing views on what constitutes welcome rewards or recognitions. Your dog, for instance, wouldn’t think much of a thank-you card, nor would your cat feel properly appreciated were he the recipient of a dozen roses presented in a nice vase. (Likewise, you would probably feel far less than delighted by the gift of a headless mouse.)

Yet food transcends the species. Almost every creature we would think to keep as a companion appears to take some delight in eating, so a gift of tasty yet out-of-the-ordinary ingestibles becomes a workable way of communicating “I love you,” “Well done!” or just “Thanks.” Unfortunately, good intentions can have deadly consequences when pet owners make the mistake of assuming all their favorite snacks are also suitable for their animals.

via Snopes

Word is spreading that dogs and onions don’t mix. Even so, Harry and I had to learn this the hard way after a big meal of bolognaise sauce a few years ago. There’s nothing like seeing your living room floor covered in blood-filled pee to make you remember that rule.

Harry was fine, although he risked acute renal failure and was very anaemic for about a week. Had I hesitated before taking him to the vet he might not be with us.

Somehow after 18 years of dog ownership no vet had ever warned me about the dangers of onion. This week I discovered a few more human foods that are also potentially fatal to dogs.

Please read the list, and pass the information on to any dog owners that you know. I’m living proof that a responsible pet owner can be completely ignorant, and risk making a horrible mistake.

It doesn’t take much onion to kill a small dog, and repeated small doses are just as harmful as a single large dose.

Onions and garlic are other dangerous food ingredients that cause sickness in dogs, cats and also livestock. Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger.

Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body.

At first, pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhoea. They will show no interest in food and will be dull and weak. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected animal’s urine and it becomes breathless. The breathlessness occurs because the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number.


This was news to me until a few days ago. Harry always whines at me when I eat grapes, so I’ve slipped him quite a few over the years. Once again, I had absolutely no idea that I was feeding something that could cause his kidneys to fail.

The database showed that dogs who ate the grapes and raisins typically vomited within a few hours of ingestion. Most of the time, partially digested grapes and raisins could be seen in the vomit, fecal material, or both. At this point, some dogs would stop eating (anorexia), and develop diarrhea. The dogs often became quiet and lethargic, and showed signs of abdominal pain. These clinical signs lasted for several days – sometimes even weeks.

When medical care was sought, blood chemistry panels showed consistent patterns. Hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels) was frequently present, as well as elevated levels of blood urea nitrogen, creatinine and phosphorous (substances that reflect kidney function). These chemistries began to increase anywhere from 24 hours to several days after the dogs ate the fruit. As the kidney damage developed, the dogs would produce little urine. When they could no longer produce urine, death occurred. In some cases, dogs who received timely veterinary care still had to be euthanized.


It’s crazy that an everyday fruit can have such dire consequences for a domestic animal. I wonder how many people know about it? That article goes on to say that pesticides, heavy metals and fungal contaminants have been ruled out as the cause of grapes’ toxicity, so it’s something to do with the grape itself.


The toxic compound is unknown but the affect of macadamia nuts is to cause locomotory difficulties. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Some affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated.

Dogs have been affected by eating as few as six macadamia kernels (nuts without the shell) while others had eaten approximately forty kernels.


Most dog owners already know that dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate, but here’s why. Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic.

When affected by an overdose of chocolate, a dog can become excited and hyperactive. Due to the diuretic effect, it may pass large volumes of urine and it will be unusually thirsty. Vomiting and diarrhoea are also common. The effect of theobromine on the heart is the most dangerous effect. Theobromine will either increase the dog’s heart rate or may cause the heart to beat irregularly. Death is quite possible, especially with exercise.

After their pet has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours.

Cooking chocolate and cocoa are the most toxic forms of chocolate to a dog, so something like mud cake is a real landmine. A dog has to eat a fair amount of milk chocolate to be affected, but I have a policy of never buying “doggy chocolate” treats so that he doesn’t develop a taste for it.

According to Petalia, these are some of the other human foods and household items that are especially toxic to dogs:

  • Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches and apricots, apple core pips (contain cyanogenic glycosides resulting in cyanide posioning)
  • Potato peelings and green looking potatoes
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Mouldy/spoiled foods (duh!)
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast dough
  • Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine)
  • Hops (used in home brewing)
  • Tomato leaves & stems (green parts)
  • Broccoli (in large amounts)
  • Cigarettes, tobacco, cigars

The Pet Center adds the following:

  • Mothballs, potpourri oils, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent & batteries could be dangerous for your pet.
  • Be aware of the plants you have in your home and yard. The ingestion of azalea, oleander, sago palm or yew plant material by your pet can be fatal. Easter lily, day lily, tiger lily and some other lily species can cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Be alert for antifreeze/coolant leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste and ingesting just a small amount can cause an animal’s death. Consider using animal-friendly products that use propylene glycol rather than those containing ethylene glycol.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! Don’t forget to tell other pet owners about this post, so that we can raise awareness of these foods. It’s not my usual style to embark upon a crusade like this, but what’s more important than protecting the animals who can’t take care of themselves?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lewis July 27, 2010 at 7:23 am

This reminds me of a finding a few years ago in which it was determined women’s hair dye was poisonous and the manufacturers countered with the fact a woman would have to DRINK several bottles for it to harm her!

Are you for real? grapes, raisins, sultanas, onions, macadamias, chocolate, garlic, coffee or fruit pips will NOT hurt — and certainly will not kill — a dog! Perhaps if you fed your dog a steady diet of any one of these items, and nothing else, the dog would eventaully die of malnutrition, but these items will no more hurt a dog than they will hurt a human.

I have owned dogs all my life and fed them all these items at one time or another. I had a beagle that drank coffee with milk every morning of his life and he lived to be 16 and my daughter used to feed him raisins and chocolate, and he regularly ate garlic on leftover Italian food. Every other dog we’ve owned has done the same and none has been sickly or died an early death. Get a grip, people, and stop believing all this garbage!


Mabermon November 10, 2012 at 2:20 am

You, sir, are a fool.

Your comments, I realize, are 2 years old, but still foolish and potentially dangerous. They’re also up there with “My gran chain-smoked 3 packs a day and lived to be 100 years old.” Just because some don’t suffer adverse reactions, have longevity and die of unrelated causes doesn’t mean that it isn’t toxic or bad for you. 

Dogs and humans are not the same. Different foods affect different species differently (plenty of animals eat things that would be highly toxic to animals, and obviously vice versa), and even if you’ve had dog who has eaten things that can be toxic for it without any ill effects, that makes you lucky, that doesn’t make it a fact. *Causation does not imply correlation*. 

It’s much better for people to be aware that there are human foods that are bad for their pet, with potentially fatal effects, so that they can avoid those situations to begin with, and if something does happen they are at least aware of what it could be and seek veterinary assistance immediately, rather than lose precious time.


Marieke November 10, 2012 at 2:24 am

Err, that would be “plenty of animals eat things that would be highly toxic to HUMANS”. Oops typo.


Elizabeth July 27, 2010 at 7:48 am


Your comment is very frustrating. I have seen first-hand the damage that one meal of bolognaise sauce did to my dog, and he was very lucky to survive. The following morning I woke to find my living room floor covered in a sea of red urine, which was the result of the red blood cells in his body exploding and being rejected by his body. For a few days we weren’t sure whether he would make it.

Did you catch that? One meal with onion and we nearly lost him.

This article clearly states that not every dog is affected by these foods. In fact, my previous dog used to eat all of our leftover stews and sauces filled with onion because we just didn’t know better. She lived a long life and was obviously a dog who was not affected by the thiosulphate.

I’m glad to hear that your dogs are fine, but your argument is based solely on your own experiences. I think it’s really irresponsible of you to label my article as “garbage” without providing a shred of evidence to support your claim.

If you want to discuss this further I’d be happy to give you the number of the vet who saved my dog’s life.


2lacy July 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

I feed my dogs left-over pizza and other things with onion all the time and none has ever had a problem. Elizabeth, I’m not doubting you, but just like people are often misdiagnosed, so are dogs and it’s possible your dog’s problem was totally unrelated to his ingestion of onion. It is also possible for veternarians to make mistakes just like other doctors make mistakes.

Dogs are NOT the fragile creatures people like you want to believe they are. I feed my dogs scraps from the table, what all dogs were fed up until around the 1950s and ’60s because there wasn’t any dog food available in most locations and dogs were a heck of a lot healthier back then than they are today.

I’m sorry about your dog, but that is a single occurrence. Some children are allergic to peanut butter. But just because one child is allergic and has a serious recation, or even dies, would not be grounds for telling parents not to feed peanut butter to children under any circumstances. That is what you are doing and it is irresponsible of you to do so based on a single experience.


Elizabeth July 28, 2010 at 11:19 am


Please understand the difference between allergy and toxicity before commenting on this topic any further. I am not going to enter into debate with somebody who won’t take the time to understand the subject.

Furthermore, I think it is unfair to suggest that I am basing my argument on a single experience. My dog’s situation prompted me to learn a great deal on the topic, and I have supported my argument with evidence.

I’d be happy to review your evidence just as soon as you provide some.


edward October 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

No experience with onion, but my dishwasher with alkaline detergent overflowed and wetted dog biscuits – my dog ate 8 or so of them over 3 days and presented with autoimmune hemolyic anemia – he died in just 3 days during a blood transfusion – this is serious stuff. You cannot be too careful if you love your pet


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