Moldy Foods

Molds that grow on food often produce mycotoxins – chemicals whose sole role is to protect the mold from being ingested. Mycotoxins protect the mold by making causing sickness in the animal that ingests it. The tremorgenic mycotoxins are the most dangerous to dogs and cats as they cause varying degrees of muscle tremors, ataxia (uncoordinated movements), and convulsions. Severity of signs can vary from mild to severe, depending on the particular strength of the mycotoxin ingested.


It is important to seek treatment for your pet after tremorgenic mycotoxin ingestion. Your vet will minimize absorption through decontamination (emesis and activated charcoal), control tremors and seizures with methocarbamol, and providing supportive care for your pet. With early aggressive treatment, your pet’s prognosis is good. In order to treat properly a definitive diagnosis can be confirmed by stomach content or ingesta analysis.


MMmmmm who can resists yummy chocolate? Your dogs need to – chocolate can cause increased heart rates, tremors, and excitation, depending on the type and the quantity of chocolate ingested. Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa beans and cocoa butter, which contain the methylxanthinescompounds theobromine and caffeine. Unfortunately, dogs are sensitive to the effects of methylxanthines, which can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and eventually death if sufficient quantities are ingested. Other effects seen with chocolate overdoses are vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urination, and lethargy.

The amount of methylxanthines present in chocolate varies with the type and quality of the chocolate. The general rule is that the more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine as milk chocolate, while white chocolate (a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, butterfat, milk solids, and flavorings without cocoa beans) contains negligible amounts of methylxanthines.

In general, mild signs can be seen at doses over 20 mg/kg, moderate effects are seen over 40 mg/kg, and severe effects are seen at doses over 60 mg/kg. Early treatment, including decontamination by emesis and activated charcoal, cardiovascular monitoring, and supportive care, is extremely helpful with chocolate poisoning.


Onions can be harmful to dogs and cats. Pieces of onion, onion powder, or even cooked onion can cause damage to red blood cells, which could result in anemia. Onion and garlic are members of the genus Allium. The primary toxic principle is n-propyl disulfide, which is thought to cause oxidative damage to erythrocytes, resulting in hemolysis. Toxicosis from fresh, dried, or powdered plant material has been reported in dogs and cats. In addition, feeding commercial baby food containing onion powder has caused toxicity in cats.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts may cause problems if ingested by dog, causing weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, and hyperthermia. In most cases, dogs developed clinical signs within the first twelve hours post ingestion. The exact cause for this is unknown. Treatment includes decontamination, including emesis and activated charcoal, supportive care, and monitoring. The prognosis in most cases is extremely good. Most dogs return to normal within 24 to 48 hours.

Avocado (Persea americana)

Avocados can be deadly for birds. The toxic principle in avocado is persin. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of the avocado have been reported to be toxic to birds and various other species. Several varieties of avocado are available but not all varieties appear to be equally toxic. In birds, clinical effects seen with avocado toxicoses include respiratory distress, generalized congestion, hydropericardium, anasarca, and death. Onset of clinical signs usually occurs after 12 hours of ingestion with death occurring within 1 to 2 days of the time of exposure. Small birds such as canaries and budgies are considered to be more susceptible; however, clinical signs have been observed in other species. Treatment for recent avocado ingestion includes decontamination with crop lavage and activated charcoal. In addition, bulking diets may help prevent absorption. Close monitoring for cardiovascular and pulmonary signs should follow. With symptomatic animals, treatment with humidified oxygen and minimal handling may be required with dyspneic animals and diuretics may be helpful with pulmonary edema.

Ingestion of Rising Bread Dough

This can be life threatening to dogs. The animal’s body heat will cause the dough to rise in the stomach. Alcohol is produced during the rising process and the dough may expand several times its original size. Signs seen with bread dough ingestion include severe abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, lack of coordination, and depression.

Grapes and Raisins

Some types of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause kidney failure in dogs when eaten in quantity. The basis for kidney failure following consumption of grapes or raisins is unclear, but this is being studied closely in the veterinary community.


Tobacco products contain varying amounts of nicotine with cigarettes containing 13-30 mg and cigars containing 15-40 mg. Butts contain about 25 percent of the total nicotine content. For dogs, approximately 50% of dogs will die with ingested nicotine levels of 9.2 mg/kg.

Signs often develop quickly (usually within 15 to 45 minutes) and include excitation, tachypnea, salivation, emesis, and diarrhea. Muscle weakness, twitching, depression, tachycardia, shallow respiration, collapse, coma, and cardiac arrest can follow the period of excitation. Death occurs secondary to respiratory paralysis.


Xylitol is a sugar alternative that is used in many commercial sugar-free candies, gum, and other food items. Xylitol has been shown to cause severe hypoglycemia and hepatotoxity in dogs.