Skip to main content
Canada’s Dog Ban: Click here to find out how you can help.

Adopted Goldens, particularly in their initial days in a new home, can be prone to hazards until the family is better able to predict behavior and the Golden has had the opportunity to adjust to their new surroundings. Efforts must always be aimed at keeping your Golden safe and so we have provided a list and descriptions of poisonous foods and potential hazards found throughout the home. You might find some of these surprising:


Chocolate contains a substance, theobromine, which can be toxic to pets. Baking chocolate has the highest amount of theobromine, followed by semisweet chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and chocolate-flavored treats. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyper-excitability, nervousness, vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Dogs can become sick after eating a relatively small amount of chocolate. Early treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and supportive care such as IV fluids.

Other Foods

Some types of grapes and raisins have been shown to cause kidney failure in dogs when eaten. The basis for kidney failure following the consumption of grapes or raisins is unclear. The quantity of grapes or raisins that may cause renal failure is also unclear so any amount could potentially be dangerous. Treatment consists of inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and 48 hours of IV fluids. Ingestion of rising bread dough can be life-threatening for dogs. Their body heat will cause the dough to rise in the stomach. Ethanol is produced during the rising process and the dough may expand several times its original size. Signs seen with bread dough ingestion are associated with ethanol toxicosis and foreign body obstruction and include severe abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and depression. Alcoholic beverages, coffee, moldy or spoiled foods, onions, garlic, fatty foods, and salt can all be problematic for your Golden as well. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute that is found in many sugar-free gums, candies, and other foods. Dogs appear sensitive to xylitol, as fairly small amounts can result in rapid, life-threatening hypoglycemia. High doses have been associated with acute liver failure and blood clotting problems. Treatment is supportive.

Christmas Hazards

Christmas tree water can contain fertilizers, which, if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can also lead to vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Electric cords may result in severe burns to the tongue, respiratory distress, and death from electrocution if chewed. Glass ornaments, garlands, and pins may cause damage or intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Batteries contain corrosives. If ingested, they can cause ulceration to the mouth, tongue, and the rest of the gastrointestinal tract. Batteries may be small enough to pass but if punctured require immediate surgery.

Mistletoe can be very toxic and even fatal if ingested by pets. Holly is considered moderately toxic, with vomiting and diarrhea most often seen in a pet that has ingested a small amount. When a large amount is ingested, holly can be fatal. The Christmas rose is moderately toxic, with vomiting and diarrhea most often seen. While many pet owners think that poinsettias are poisonous to dogs, this plant most often only causes stomach and intestinal irritation, with vomiting and diarrhea.

Hazards at Home

Antifreeze is a common cold weather hazard. It has a pleasant taste and even very small amounts can be lethal. As little as four teaspoons can be dangerous to a 10-pound dog. Thoroughly clean up any spills, store antifreeze in tightly closed containers, and store in secured cabinets. Propylene glycol is a safer form of antifreeze and is recommended for use in pet households. Liquid potpourris are popular household fragrances commonly used during the holiday season. Pets are often exposed to liquid potpourri by direct ingestion from simmering pots or spills or by rubbing against leaky bottles or simmer pots containing the potpourri or from spilling the containers on themselves. Exposure to some types of liquid potpourris can result in severe damage to the mouth, skin or eyes. Ice melting products can be irritating to the skin and mouth. Dogs are prone to picking up and eating small toy parts that are left around the house. These parts are often too large to be defecated and can cause life-threatening intestinal obstructions.

Tennis Balls

For many people, Goldens are synonymous with visions of dogs retrieving tennis balls in parks, lakes, and beaches. Did you know that tennis balls are actually very dangerous for dogs? Firstly, the ‘fuzz’ on tennis balls can gradually wear and tear your Golden’s teeth and gums. The more serious threat, however, comes from the risk of the ball becoming lodged at the back of their throat, which once lodged, cannot be removed by the owner. Oprah Winfrey tragically lost her precious dog, Gracie, after she choked on a tennis ball. Please do not give your Goldens tennis balls or any balls the size of a tennis ball. Larger toys and balls, and soft frisbees are a much safer bet! And there’s nothing wrong with chasing after a stick.

Walking Off-Lead & Recall

Particularly with rescue dogs, it is prudent to not let them off leash, whether it be at the park, cottage or walking, until you are completely sure that their recall is solidified and reliable. With rescues, our foster homes never let them off-leash so we have no way of knowing whether they have good or poor recall. It will take many months if not years (and sometimes never) to ascertain what a trigger might be to bolt. Until you can reliably predict your Golden’s reaction in every situation, you do not want to risk a dog bolting while it chases prey, runs from a car or simply follows their nose. With time and training, these reactions and recalls will be more predictable. And when you do start to experiment letting them off-lead, tie a long line to them and test their recall by calling them. If they do not immediately come back, step on the line and continue their training.


While many Goldens live for the water, care must always be taken to ensure they are safe. Do not leave your Golden unattended around the pool or lake, particularly in the winter when dogs risk walking onto thin ice. For younger Goldens and Goldens with a history of seizures, life jackets should be employed in case your Golden gets tired, turned around or loses consciousness. As with young children, enjoy the water with your Golden but do be safe!