I have dogs that will eat anything….. simply anything that falls on the floor has their name on it, even lettuce I have carelessly dropped maybe while making a salad, and I am sure that there any many dogs out there that think anything remotely crunchy, smelly or juicy should be gobbled up before it hits the floor, but there are food items that are often missed as being dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate, caffeine and coffee – these all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are not good for a pet’s health. When ingested by pets, they can cause - amongst other things – panting, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death. Dark chocolate is worse than milk or white while baking chocolate is the worst of all. A substitute dog chocolate treat that is safer is made from carobs – yes, the very same carobs we have growing everywhere in Portugal. You've probably seen carob as an ingredient on dog treat labels and perhaps stayed away from them because it looked too much like chocolate for your liking. But the good news - carob is perfectly safe for dogs to eat. One of my dogs eats the actual carobs when they start falling off the trees - I have to be quick to pick them up before she gorges herself on them.

Onions, Garlic and Chives - In all forms (powdered, raw, cooked, etc.) – these can cause gastrointestinal irritation in pets and could lead to red blood cell damage. 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 which can be harmful to both pets and humans. Raw eggs also contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin, which is good for their skin. Raw bones are considered safer than home-cooked ones because they don't splinter as easily. Many bones - lamb, beef, or even oxtail can be safe raw bone options for your pet if they like them and if you are happy with your pooch chewing them, but they must be raw and uncooked, as they won’t be drained of their nutrients, and can be a natural source of calcium and phosphorus. But any bones can splinter and pierce your dog’s throat or cause choking, so be careful.

Grapes and Raisins – keep an eye on your fruit or cake you might drop, and keep the oatmeal and raisin cookies out of reach. Come Christmas time, beware of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and even mince pies. Experts have finally solved the mystery of why grapes, raisins and sultanas are poisonous to dogs - apparently, the tartaric acid in grapes can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, kidney damage or failure.

Nuts – Almonds, pecans and walnuts should be no-no’s for pets as all contain high amounts of oils and fats, with macadamias, in particular, being the worst for pets. Horse chestnuts should also be avoided as they contain toxins that could make your dog ill.

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.

Salty Snack Foods – it’s very easy to slip the odd savoury snack to the dog sniffing out your munchies, but salt-heavy snacks can lead to excessive thirst and urination, and too many could cause sodium ion poisoning in pets.

Avocadoes (all bits including the pits and leaves) - contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause serious health problems - even death - in many animals.

Alcohol and Medications – while not necessarily foods, they can both cause serious health problems to dogs. Don’t give paracetamol or ibuprofen to dogs unless the vet says it is ok to do so.

Cow’s Milk - surprisingly, both cats and dogs are lactose intolerant, meaning regular cow's milk can upset their GI tract. Most dogs and cats lack the enzyme needed to break down the sugar in regular milk. Lactose-free milk can be substituted for cow's milk as an occasional treat.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan