Chocolate espresso cake + dogs = No-No!

No matter where you live or what your religious beliefs, press *7 if your end-of-year festivities includes way too much over-indulging in festive foods.

I thought so….my switchboard’s jammed with your star-sevens.

Xmas Parade

On Christmas Eve for the past 29 years a “Magical Christmas Caroling Truck” with Santa and dancing elves drives through our neighborhood

Though this post is about *food* I’m not going to share my mother-in-law’s recipe for shortbread, or explain why I prefer the British over the American version of Christmas cake,  or discuss whether you also believe a cheese fondu  the perfect New Year’s Eve dinner,  I just want to make you aware – while you’re feasting –  that not everything YOU eat is safe for your pets.

In 2009 the ASPA’s Animal Poison Control Center took over 17,000 calls about pets ingesting and being poisoned by “people” food.

 Foods that are dangerous for your pet

  • Chocolate, coffee and caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Yeast dough
  • Raw/under-cooked meat, eggs and bones
  • Xylitol (a sweetener in many products)
  • Onions, garlic and chives
  • Milk (including yoghurt)
  • Salt

For the ASPCA’s complete list click here

You may not know xylitol in the above list. According to the official xylitol website the benefits of using this sweetener are:

  • Delicious sweet taste… with no unpleasant aftertaste
  • Helps reduce the development of dental caries
  • Reduces plaque formation
  • Increases salivary flow to aid in the repair of damaged tooth enamel
  • Provides one-third fewer calories than sugar
  • May be useful as a sugar alternative for people with diabetes (on the advice of their healthcare providers)

I know that some people use xylitol because it’s a diabetic-safe, good for your teeth sweetener, but I also know that it’s fatally toxic to dogs.  Luki, a healthy six-year-old Labrador retriever belonging to my daughter’s friends, Shana and Greg, died about a year ago, shortly after he ate a pie sweetened with xylitol.

public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons

Why we are eating something that is so toxic to dogs?

My daughter’s friend Stephanie, who is a vet, knew about the toxicity of xylitol for dogs, and explained that one of the main problems with toxins in foods for pets, is the relative dosage size.

“Chocolate is not more toxic to dogs than it is to people, but when a small dog eats a whole Toblerone which is equal to a human eating ten chocolate bars,  he’ll get theobromine poisoning.”

A small human would most probably experience liver toxicity if she consumed a quarter cup of xylitol (which was in the pie), but it wouldn’t be life-threatening.

“While Xylitol stimulates insulin secretion, it seems to do so much more rapidly in dogs than in people, leading to rapid life-threatening hypoglycemia.”

Do you have a package of chocolate-covered-espresso-beans sitting under your Christmas tree? A bowl of grapes on the coffee table? A pie sweetened with xylitol cooling on your kitchen counter?

Amaryllis (public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The ASPCA also lists plants that are poisonous for pets:

  • Lillies
  • Tulip/narcissus bulbs
  • Azalea, rhododendron
  • Amaryllis
  • Oleander
  • Cyclamen
  • Kalanchoe
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English Ivy
  • Peace lily
  • Pothos
  • Schefflera

Click here for the full list.


Last month, our friend Gere had a party to celebrate the anniversaries of the adoption of her dog Chori, our dog MontyCarlo, and her cat Chandini.


MontyCarlo waiting for his piece of cake

She bought a special cake for the animals (in the photo above) from Three Dog Bakery.

I don’t know what kind of cake it was, but when you look at the slice below, it looks like a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.


 MontyCarlo couldn’t eat his piece of cake in one gulp, as it was rather “chewy”…


He sat next to the table his tummy bursting, hoping for another slice…


  • It’s a good idea to print up the list of dangerous foods for your pet and keep it on your fridge.
  • Do you use Xylitol?
  • If you leave a cake cooling on your kitchen counter can your dog jump up and get it?
  • Are there packages of chocolate under your Christmas tree?

If you think that your animal may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.


About dearrosie

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40 Responses to Chocolate espresso cake + dogs = No-No!

  1. Our cat only seems to prefer his food and water. However, when we leave the house we have to put a kitchen pot over the kitchen sink fixtures as he can jump up, lean on the handle and turn on the water! Unlike our dog who we had to keep away from the kitchen garbage can and put things up high on the counter or bar, T-Bob thankfully isn’t interested. My good friend who is a dog trainer and instructor, shared some of this information with us. I didn’t know about Xylitol.

    • dearrosie says:

      I’ve never heard of a cat that could turn on the tap! Have you taken a video of T-Bob getting his water? It’s remarkable to think that a cat who likes to drink fresh water learned how to turn on the tap for himself.
      Whenever he gets a chance our MontyCarlo loves getting into our recycling garbage. He also takes our dirty socks out of the washing basket and puts them in his bed….

      I’d never heard of xylitol until Luki died. It was so sad.

  2. Liz says:

    great post Rosie!! So good for people to know. Thank you for sharing!

    • dearrosie says:

      I knew dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate and coffee, but didn’t know food like grapes and milk and avocado were also on the list.
      Thank you for commenting Liz 🙂

  3. sybil says:

    Helpful info Rosie. How awful to lose a beloved pet through one’s own actions. For those in northern climes, antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be lethal to dogs.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for joining in the conversation Sybil. It was the saddest day when we heard that Luki had died. He was such a lovely dog, and such an important part of their family.

      I would imagine that antifreeze would be something one must keep away from children and pets.

  4. aFrankAngle says:

    In the season of much food to provides ample opportunities for willing pets, this is a great reminder for all. Well done Rosie! BTW …. something for your calendar …. Holiday Party at my place … Christmas Eve …. and you friends here are welcome as well!

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for your great comment Frank. It is important not to forget the four legged members of our families.
      Oh boy thanks for the invitation to your holiday party. You’d love the Christmas Caroling Truck that drives through our neighborhood on Xmas Eve.

  5. shoreacres says:

    First, I have to ask a question. What does *7 mean? I’ve never had to press that, and can’t remember ever reading about it. Complete mystery.

    I’m surprised poinsettia isn’t on the list of poisonous plants. While it probably isn’t going to kill a full-grown cat or dog, it can cause problems for kittens or puppies.

    I don’t use Xylitol – I’ve never heard of it, as a matter of fact. I know there are a few products that use sorbitol, and I don’t like what that does to my system, not one bit. Better living through chemistry is ok, but not with my food, thank you. I’d rather eat real sugar, real butter and real cream, but do it less frequently.

    My squirrel used to turn on the tap. Dixie Kitty doesn’t do that, but she will open the sliding glass door and let herself out if I don’t keep the door locked!

    • dearrosie says:

      *7 is just my private joke at the buttons we have to press when we’re waiting to get through to a live person. I don’t think I’ve ever had to press it. Sorry to confuse you Linda.

      Poinsettia is on the full list linked above i.e.
      i.e. Toxic to Dogs, Toxic to Cats
      Clinical Signs: Irritating to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting, but generally over-rated in toxicity.

      I belong to the same school as you. If I want a sweetener I use sugar, if I want butter on my bread I would never use margarine…

      How did your squirrel learn to turn on the tap? Do you have a photo?
      Wow your Dixie Kitty is darn smart if she can open a sliding glass door – how does she do it? It must involve several steps.

      • shoreacres says:

        LOL on the *7. You know, somewhere there’s a site that has all the “press this, press that” routines for finding live people in places like Bank of America, etc. etc. I had it and lost it.

        I only have two photos of the squirrel. I didn’t have a digital camera at the time, and rarely took any photos at all. My loss. As for the door, it’s easy-peasy. She just goes to the bottom corner of the door, hooks her claws into a little indentation there, and works at it until there’s a tiny space between the door and the frame. Then, one or two more shoves, and she can get her whole paw in the space. Voila! Out she goes. The first time she did it, I didn’t even know where she’d gone because she had closed the door once she got outside. I swear. That cat terrifies me.

  6. nrhatch says:

    We have a deal with Tigger . . . we don’t eat his food or treats . . . and he doesn’t eat ours. 😉

    Thanks for this PSA, Rosie.

  7. munchow says:

    Food for thoughts, so to speak. It’s quite shocking that we ourselves eat so much crap and actually poisoned food, that our pets can’t have simply because of size. As to xylitol, I have always stayed away from sweetener. I know sugar is bad (of course I know), but I still think it’s better – or less of a health risk – than any artificial sweetener.

    • dearrosie says:

      It is shocking how many people in this country eat all that chemically enhanced, colored, fast-food crap. Although I’ve never been there I imagine food in Norway to be more wholesome and real. Am I right?

      I also use sugar if I need a sweetener. Aspartame has such a nasty taste I can’t imagine why people would add it to their coffee or tea.

      • munchow says:

        I don’t think food is necessarily so much better in Norway. We don’t have the really low end, unhealthy food as you can get in the States, but then on the other hand you also have a much better variety at the other end of the scale.

  8. I don’t have pets, so I don’t have to worry about them ingesting poisonous stuff, but the post was fascinating nevertheless. Who knew????

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome back from Ecuador dear Betty 🙂
      You don’t have pets but you never know when or where you’ll see a dish of chocolates and a dog just about to eat one, or worse yet, an pet owner giving her dog a piece of chocolate…

  9. Poor Luki! What a terrible end… It’s so sad that no one knew of the danger before he ate the pie sweetened with xylitol. Thank you for all this important information, Rosie – awareness can mean the difference between life and death. We haven’t had pets for many years, but are looking forward to adopting two cats in the near future. We will be on the lookout for these dangers now. I guess the best rule of thumb would be to only give our pets food that was specifically prepared for them. I’m another one that avoids artificial food in all its forms…

    • dearrosie says:

      Barbara it was a very sad day when Luki died, because Shanna thought that by using xylitol instead of sugar she was giving her family the healthier option.

      Good to know that you also avoid all artificial foods. When I’m standing in the check out line at the supermarket I pass the time by looking in the neighboring carts and I’m always fascinated by the amount of junk food and plastic!

  10. magsx2 says:

    Really great information, I knew of some plants that was poisonous to dogs, but when I clicked on the link you kindly provided I was floored by just how many there was just amazing.
    Also great information about the food as well, I am always very careful about what our dog may be able to get to when we are not around.
    Loved the dog cake, I didn’t know there was a place that makes that type of thing, and it seems the dogs loved it.

    • dearrosie says:

      So lovely to see you here again Mags. Welcome back dear friend 🙂

      The list of plants and foods that are poisonous to pets is much longer than any of us realize. I was shocked to discover it included foods like Avocados and grapes! I keep a list with the ASPCA phone number on the fridge …

      There are pet bakeries all over the United States. If you don’t have any in Australia you should open one. I’m sure you’d do well.

  11. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s dog, Rosie. How awful. This is a good list to post, and a good reminder — and above all, you asked a good question: why are we eating things which are toxic to animals? I hope your holidays and your furry loved ones are happy and safe and I’d like to share my best wishes for you and your family for the New Year.

    • dearrosie says:

      Do you have pets Melissa? I think every pet owner should keep a list of the most dangerous foots and plants on the refrigerator.

      I’d love to know your thoughts on why we are eating foods that are toxic to our pets?

      Why thank you for the lovely holiday greeting. I wish you and your lovely family a Merry Christmas and very happy New Year.

  12. Amy@SoulDipper says:

    This is good news indeed! If I had to share my dark chocolate with Duc le Chat… well… that would be just the same as letting him drive my car! 😀

    • dearrosie says:

      You are so funny Amy but there is much wisdom in your words.

      I’m always astonished when I’ve gone into little tea shops in England because dogs are permitted to sit at the table and eat tea and scones with their owners. I’m sure those dogs are fed chocolates and perhaps they drive the car too… 😀

  13. I did not know this. Thanks for sharing a very important information.

  14. Robin says:

    I did not know this about xylitol. Good thing I don’t use it, but my father-in-law (a diabetic) does and he often gives us some of his baked goods when we visit. I’m going to print out and keep the list handy for when my sons and their dogs come to visit. I’m not sure it will be necessary since my cats will eat pretty much anything so we have to keep it cat-proofed around here, and that generally means it’s dog-proofed too. Thank you for the info. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I don’t think many people know about xylitol being deadly for pets… every dog and cat owner should be told about the “forbidden foods” when they bring home their pets.

      We don’t have cats but I understand how difficult it must be to keep everything edible out of their reach…

  15. Interesting and important post! I didn’t know about grapes and raisins and neither about xylitol. Thank you for sharing! Something I do know is that if your dog is in pain because of a broken claw or something – don’t give it medicine for humans to ease the pain! It could cause severe liver problems and might even kill the dog!

    • dearrosie says:

      That is very interesting and most important to remember to NOT give our pets human painkillers. I’ll have to do a post on that. Thanks for your comment lagottocattleya.

  16. I pressed “7” right away!
    I had no idea about dogs and junk food (especially chocolate) until a few years back when a friend of mine lost her pooch 😦 Great post, and important too!

  17. Even if dogs are poisoned because they eat higher doses of something than what would be toxic for humans, it seems even we humans shouldn’t be eating those things at all! So sad about pets dying from eating these things that we wouldn’t even think would cause problems.

    • dearrosie says:

      My daughter’s friend thought she was giving her children a healthier version of cake if she didn’t bake it with sugar.
      So if we want to sweeten our food we should use sugar (unless someone in the family’s diabetic and then I don’t know what I’d do…)

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