Phillip Portman

May 25, 2020

It can be hard to resist those puppy dog eyes staring at you from below the table, or a feathery friend that’s extremely curious about what you’re eating at dinner time.

While our favourite snacks and treats are safe for human consumption, they could be lethal for your fur babies and other animals – as you’ll discover below. This list includes some of the most commonly owned pets from around the world so if we haven’t included yours this time, chat with your vet about the best foods to feed them.

*Please note: This is not an extensive list and there may be other human foods that are dangerous for your pet or animals not included. There may also be cases where the severity of symptoms will vary between species and even breed of pet. Always talk with a vet about the best diet to feed your animals.

A tasty treat on toast for Millennials, avocado can be harmful to an array of pets. It contains a chemical called persin12, which, depending on the size, species and breed of your pet, can cause worrying symptoms and even death. You may want to reconsider sneaking your pup some guac or letting your bird nibble on your avo toast!

In some species of cats and dogs, ingesting any part of an avocado (including pits, bark or leaves) may cause them to vomit, experience diarrhoea, struggle to breathe and become congested.1

It can also result in fluid build-up around the heart and possible death in both species, although serious poisoning in dogs is rare. 2, 3

Avocados may cause cardiac arrest and death to some pet birds, while they can also prove deadly for many breeds rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs. 4, 5, 6, 7

You should seek medical advice if your pet has consumed any quantity of avocado, as even a small amount could be harmful.


Bread is a complete no-no for fish in the wild and it shouldn’t be given to your pet fish either. While they’ll usually happily eat it, bread is essentially junk food for fish and may cause them to consume extra calories that can leave them malnourished and sick.8

Bread can also cause fish to defecate more regularly than usual, which could increase bacteria in the water and potentially harm other animals the fish shares an environment with. Keep this in mind if your scaly mate is curious about the foods you’re eating.

With rabbits, bread can cause severe stomach problems and life-threatening cases of enterotoxemia – a condition which causes harmful bacteria to grow in the digestive tract.5

Meanwhile, dog and cat owners should be cautious of feeding their furry friends uncooked yeast dough, as this can result in gas building up in their digestive system, potentially causing their intestines and stomach to burst.1 There’s a lower risk of this occurring with cooked dough, but it’s still worth feeding your puss or pooch more nutritious food options.

It may come as a shock, but cow’s milk can be harmful to some cats, dogs and birds.15, 16

This means giving your pooch or cat a sneaky lick of your ice cream, a bite of cheese or a taste of your yoghurt could also be dangerous for them.

These animals are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t break down the lactose found in cow’s milk. This can cause side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting and other tummy troubles.15

Individual animals may have specific thresholds to milk, so it’s best to keep them away from dairy products to avoid any harm.

You may be able to purchase milk that’s specifically designed for your pets to consume safely but check with a vet if this is ideal for your companion

We all love to treat and reward our pets from time to time, but chocolate can potentially harm or kill them. Cocoa contains a chemical called theobromine and can be toxic depending on how much your pet ingests, the size of your animal and the type of chocolate they’ve consumed.9 It can be poisonous for a range of pets including dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds. 10, 11, 12, 13

Dark chocolate, baking chocolate and cocoa powder contain higher levels of theobromine, so are potentially more dangerous to pets than milk chocolate.9

A dog can die from just 50g (1.7oz) of chocolate, so a smaller amount may be lethal for tinier critters.14

Also keep this in mind for smaller breeds of dogs and cats (a square of chocolate may be deadlier to a chihuahua than a golden retriever).

Theobromine can cause a release of adrenaline in pets, resulting in symptoms including increased heart rate, other heart problems, comas, seizures and possible death. Other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, increased urination and hyperactivity may also be warning signs that you need to get your pet to the vet ASAP.14

A bit of onion can spruce up even the blandest of human dishes, but it’s something that can potentially poison many breeds of dogs, hamsters, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.2, 10, 11, 16, 17 Onions contain thiosulphates and disulfides, which can result in diarrhea, vomiting, rapid heart rate and breathing, small gastrointestinal issues and potentially lethal haemolytic anaemia.3

Be wary that no matter if an onion is raw, cooked, dehydrated or in powder form, it may still be harmful,3 so you’ll also need to be cautious if feeding your pal anything that contains onion.

The size of your pet and how much they eat can typically determines the severity of symptoms they’ll experience. When it comes to dogs, for example, just 2.5g (0.08oz) of onion per one kg (2.2lbs) of body weight can be harmful.17

So, a pug that weighs around eight kg (17.6lb) could be poisoned by as little as 20g (0.70oz) of onion. On the other hand, a bigger dog such as a rottweiler that weighs around 50kg (110lb) may notice symptoms if they consume 125g (4.4oz).

Of course, it’s still not recommended you feed your pet any amount of onion, as it could still make them extremely ill.

It seems like a no-brainer, but alcohol shouldn’t be given to any pet. Just as humans become intoxicated when they drink, booze can also affect your pets in different ways.

It might seem cute to watch your moggy or canine sip your cocktail or craft beer, but be aware pets can also become intoxicated and experience further issues such as breathing and stomach problems. In the worst-case scenarios, they may fall into a coma and could even die if too much alcohol is consumed.1

Keep in mind that alcohol can also be found in many cleaning products, mouthwash, hand sanitiser and make-up products, so also try and keep your pets away from these items.

Many people can’t start their day without a morning coffee, but caffeine is another major no-no for many pets. Any food or drink containing caffeine such as caffeinated soft drinks, coffee, tea and energy drinks could be lethal to dogs, cats and birds and other small mammals.12, 16

Like other foods and drinks, dosage tolerance will vary between species and breeds, but smaller amounts are generally more toxic for smaller animals.

Caffeine poisoning may cause seizures, restlessness, rapid breathing and muscle tremors.3 In cats and dogs, there’s no cure for this poisoning, so it’s best to seek professional help ASAP if you think your pet has consumed any amount of caffeine.12

While iceberg lettuce is something many humans add to their diet when looking to eat healthier or lose weight, it’s something that could potentially harm some rabbits. It contains lactucarium – a chemical which, in large quantities, can cause serious problems for your bunny’s health.5

This type of lettuce also provides little nutritional value to your bunny’s diet, so it’s instead best to feed it other leafy green veggies such as broccoli, spinach leaves, Asian greens and celery.18

Grapes may be a healthy and tasty snack for humans, but even just one for your kitty or pooch could end in disaster. While it’s not known what’s in grapes that harms cats and dogs, the tiny fruit can result in kidney damage and failure.12

Currants, raisins and sultanas are also no-go items for your pets, as well as any food that contains them. Keep this in mind if you’ve got a pet and you’re partial to fruit loaf, Christmas pudding and raisin toast.

While rats aren’t lactose intolerant and can eat some types of cheese, blue cheese, brie, camembert and other cheeses that contain mold could be lethal.6

This mold is toxic to rats, mice and other rodents, and even the smallest morsel could prove toxic.

Because cats, dogs and birds are already lactose intolerant, these moldy cheeses would also be harmful for them. 15, 16

Safe human alternatives for pets


While there are many human foods that are harmful to your pets, there are also tasty snacks you’ll be able to feed them without causing them harm. Again, a vet will be able to give you a more extensive list, but this is a starting point if you’re looking to add some variety to your pet’s diet.

Protect your cat or dog if the worst happens

Despite our best efforts to protect our cats and dogs from dangerous foods, we know they’re curious critters with minds of their own.

If they happen to indulge in that chocolate you’ve had stashed away or guzzle your coffee when you’re not watching, having relevant pet insurance could help cover the cost of medical treatment they require.

Get a quote today using our free pet insurance comparison service.



  1. Victoria State Government Agriculture – ‘Human Foods to Avoid for Cats’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  2. Victoria State Government Agriculture – ‘Human Foods to Avoid for Dogs’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  3. Australian Animal Poisons Centre – ‘Most Common Animal Poisons’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  4. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – ‘People foods to avoid feeding your pets’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  5. Peta Australia – ‘Avocado, Cereal & Other Foods You Should Never Feed Rabbits’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  6. Walkerville Vet – ‘Feeding rats and mice’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  7. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my guinea pigs?’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  8. Campbelltown City Council – ‘Why bread is bad for our local wildlife’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  9. RSPCA Australia – ‘Why is chocolate toxic to dogs and other pets?’ – Accessed 27/2/2020
  10. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – ‘Hamster care
  11. Victoria State Government Agriculture – ‘Toxic Foods and Plants for Rabbits
  12. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my guinea pigs?’ – Accessed 27/2/2020
  13. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my pet bird?’ – Accessed 27/2/2020
  14. RSPCA Queensland (14 April 2019) – ‘Chocolate Warning For Pets’ – Accessed 27/2/2020
  15. Inner West Council Sydney – ‘Dangerous foods and plants’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  16. Victoria State Government – ‘Owning a Bird’ – Accessed 26/2/2020
  17. Walkerville Vet – ‘Help! My Dog Ate Onion’ – Accessed 27/2/2020
  18. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my pet rabbits?’ – Accessed 28/2/2020
  19. Victoria State Government – ‘Rats and mice’ – Accessed 28/2/2020
  20. Victoria State Government – ‘Fish’ – Accessed 28/2/2020
  21. RSPCA Queensland (31 August 2018) – ‘No-nonsense nutrition for pet birds’ – Accessed 28/2/2020
  22. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my dog?’ – Accessed 28/2/2020
  23. RSPCA Australia – ‘What should I feed my cat?’ – Accessed 28/2/2020

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