Common Food and Household Item Toxicity for Cats and Dogs

As pets have become more a part of the family over the years, treating them to delicious foods has become more and more prevalent. This means that pet owners need to learn what types of food are suitable to share with your furry friend. They also spend more time with us in and around the house, exposing them to household toxins. You may want to share your plate and home with them, but some items may do them harm. 

Read on to learn about the common foods and household items that are toxic for cats and dogs.




Most people are aware that chocolate is harmful to cats and dogs. Although most pet parents will not willingly feed it to their pets, it may happen by accident. Some pet parents may leave chocolate on countertops or on tables unattended. They may also forget a pack of candy around the living room. When their pet finds it, they curiously tear through the wrapping and ingest the chocolate (and sometimes the wrapper, too).

When a pet ingests large amounts of chocolate, it could be fatal depending on the size of the dog. Their symptoms can range from gastrointestinal upset to heart abnormalities to seizures and death. Part of prompt medical attention is determining what level of toxicity to expect in your pet.




This is a compound that manufacturers use as a sugar substitute in candy, sugarless pastries and confectionary, gums like Orbit, and chewable vitamins. It is hazardous to dogs.


When ingested, the dog’s body mistakes xylitol for its own blood sugar, leading to a surge in insulin levels and then dangerously low blood sugar. Consequentially, this causes lethargy, weakness, and even seizures. High doses of xylitol can also cause liver damage. 


Symptoms can occur as soon as 15-30 minutes after ingestion, so if you suspect your pet ate some, then they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Xylitol can be fatal if not managed appropriately. 


Raisins and Grapes


Grapes and raisins are one of the most dangerous foods a dog or cat can eat. Scientists and vets cannot determine what makes them so toxic to pets, but in some dogs even a small amount will cause damage to the kidneys. Pet owners should be aware that many foods contain raisins, such as trail mix, breads, cereals, etc. 

Pets that ingest grapes or raisins often have to be hospitalized on IV fluid therapy for several days, as it can take up to 72 hours to know if toxicity has occurred. However, studies have shown that hospitalized care can lessen the damage to kidneys so prompt veterinary attention is recommended.


Onions, Garlic, and Powders

These two ingredients are common in almost all human-cooked food. The main compounds in garlic and onions harmful to pets are sulfoxides and disulfides. They damage the red blood cells, which leads to anemia. 


Of the two, onions are more dangerous, but you should avoid both. When you prepare a meal with these and would like your pet to have a similar meal, you can make a different batch for your pet.




Different species of mushrooms are variably toxic to dogs. The species of mushroom determines the type of visible side effects: gastrointestinal signs, muscle tremors and seizures, liver failure, etc. Many can cause shock and death. A good rule of thumb is to not allow your dog to eat any mushrooms, as it can be difficult to tell the difference between the species. When you notice them growing in your backyard, root them out before your dog takes a bite of them. If you suspect your dog has ingested mushrooms, take photos of the mushrooms for identification, and bring your dog to the vet immediately.


Sago Palm


Sago Palm is one of the most common plants in Texas landscaping. Unfortunately, it is incredibly toxic to dogs, cats, and even humans. While the seeds contain the highest concentration of toxin, the entire plant and the dirt around it are toxic. It only takes very small amounts to cause gastrointestinal upset and fatal liver failure in dogs. Dogs that ingest sago palm require at least 3 days in the hospital to try and mitigate the damage to the liver. 


If you have a sago palm on your property, we recommend contacting a professional to remove it as soon as possible. Remember to remove the entire plant as well as the surrounding dirt. 




As marijuana becomes more prevalent in society, dogs and cats have a higher and higher chance of exposure. All forms (e-cigarette, edibles, liquid) can cause pets to show signs of toxicity. Symptoms range from sedation and incoordination to dribbling urine and over-reacting to stimuli. While marijuana is often not life-threatening to pets, we recommend consulting with a veterinarian if they ingest it, as very high doses or secondary ingredients can cause risks to their health.  


Prescription/OTC Medications


All prescription and over-the-counter medications have the potential to be harmful to pets. Unfortunately, accidental administration and overly curious pets can lead to life-threatening ingestions. Examples of commonly ingested prescriptions are: ADD/ADHD medications, blood pressure medication, albuterol, anti-depressants, NSAIDs, and even antibiotics. If your pet ingests any prescription medication, please seek veterinary attention immediately. 


Rat Bait


Rat bait is one of many common toxins in most households. Rat bait can be lethal to dogs, especially when treatment is not prompt. There are 4 types of rat bait sold on the market, and all cause different life-threatening symptoms. If rat bait must be used on a property, we recommend placing it where pets do not have access and in protective containers. Please reach out to a veterinarian for more suggestions on how to safely place around the property. 


Lily Toxicity


While lilies are beautiful flowers to have around the home, they are incredibly toxic to cats. Most curious cats will sample any fresh flowers around the house (and the water they reside in). Small amounts of lilies cause kidney failure and death in cats. Cats that ingest lilies are typically hospitalized for 2-3 days to lessen the blow to the kidneys, but not all cats can be saved. There are many varieties of lilies (some even go by different names) so any flowers brought into the house should be screened to make sure they are not in the lily family.


For more on pet food and household item toxicity for cats and dogs, contact True Animal Vet.

Dr. Kathryn Salcetti
Director of Urgent Care
True Animal Vet

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