I have lost count of the number of times I have rescued a cellophane wrapper or a sliver of tin foil from being ingested by our dogs, in particular Rocky, a Labrador cross, who sadly lost his life after eating a sock earlier this year - we didn’t miss it, and it didn’t show up until an x- ray revealed the cause of his distress, but unfortunately he didn’t survive his surgeries.

But there are food items that are often missed as being dangerous for dogs, and here are a few to be aware of.

Xylitol - a type of artificial sweetener found in some sweets and in chewing gum, which can lead to insulin release and liver failure, seizures and brain damage.

Chocolate, caffeine and coffee – these all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are very dangerous to a pet’s health. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate, and white chocolate has the lowest level, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Onions, Garlic and Chives - in all forms (powdered, raw, cooked etc.), these foods can cause gastrointestinal irritation in pets and could lead to red blood cell damage. So beware of leaving raw onions or the odd clove of garlic in your vegetable rack if you have a food thief in the house.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones – this was surprising, but raw meat and eggs can often contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can be harmful to both pets and humans. Raw eggs also contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Bones can splinter and pierce your dog’s throat or cause choking.

Grapes and Raisins - watch that glob of fruit salad you dropped on the ground, and keep the oatmeal and raisin cookies out of reach, beware of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and even Mince Tarts. Although experts haven’t nailed down exactly what the toxic substance is in grapes and raisins, they say it’s best to avoid giving them to dogs, as they can cause kidney failure.

Nuts – some of these grow here! Almonds, pecans and walnuts all contain high amounts of oils and fats, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even pancreatitis in pets; macadamias in particular are especially dangerous for pets, as they can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia. There is a difference between horse chestnuts and the edible sweet chestnuts, so be careful to know the difference.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods
It’s very easy to slip the odd crisp or pretzel to your dog who is sniffing out your snacks and looking at you lovingly, but salt-heavy snacks can lead to excessive thirst and urination, and even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Some signs that your pet may have consumed too much salt include vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

Avocados - contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause serious health problems - even death - in many animals. Persin is present in the avocado fruit, pits, leaves, and the actual plant, so all of these parts are potentially poisonous to your dog.

This has the same effect on your dogs’ liver and brain as it does on humans — but it only takes a little to do a lot of damage. If a dog consumes just a small amount of alcohol, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, central nervous system depression, problems with coordination, difficulty breathing, coma and maybe even death.

While these aren’t foods, common medications can cause serious health problems for your pets, so it’s important to keep them locked in a safe place. If common medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are ingested by your dog, they can cause serious damage.
Don’t give stuff to your dog unless your vet says it is ok to do so.

All in all, remember that although your beloved dog might be a valued member of your family, they shouldn’t eat what the family eats, so you will be doing them a big favour by feeding him or her food specifically designed for dogs!