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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.

Select a topic below to learn more. 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!

Human Foods that Dogs CAN & CANNOT Eat

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting down to eat dinner and just like clockwork, your canine friend is looking up at you with his big brown eyes making you feel as though he hasn’t eaten in days and you’re the only one who can end his suffering. As tempting as it might be to toss him a few morsels, there are a few things to consider in regards to what foods your dog CAN and CANNOT eat. Some human foods can actually make your dog sick with potentially fatal consequences.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about chocolate, garlic, and grapes not being safe, but certain ingredients such as Xylitol (a sweetener found in in gum, baked goods, and toothpaste) is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts may cause hypoglycemia, seizures, liver failure, and death. Some peanut butter brands contain Xylitol, therefore careful reading of the label is urged before giving to your pet. Other foods to avoid are alcohol, avocado, caffeine (coffee & tea), fat trimmings, raisins, mushrooms, milk, certain nuts (macadamia and walnuts), yeast and dough, rhubarb, raw potatoes and skins, onions, and any salty foods, as these can cause a number of health issues including liver damage, kidney failure, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea…to name a few. Kitchen pantry items such as baking powder and baking soda are also highly toxic, as well as nutmeg and some spices, so keep these out of reach.

On the other hand, the following may be given safely and can provide beneficial nutrients ~ apples (minus the seeds), bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, carrots, cheese, cooked chicken, cooked eggs, green beans, honey, kiwi, mango, oatmeal, peaches, peanut butter (without Xylitol), pears, pineapple, cooked potatoes, pumpkin, rice, sweet potato, and yoghurt. Be careful giving peaches or other fruit with seeds or pits. Not only can they cause intestinal blockages, peach and plum pits also contain cyanide, which is poisonous.

If you suspect that your dog has consumed any of these toxic products, contact your vet or animal poison control centre immediately. Keep emergency numbers handy and in plain sight, but hopefully you’ll never need to use them. In knowing what is safe for your pet, it should help to achieve a long and happy life together.

‘Tis the Season

By Lynda Kitson, Owner, Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres

It’s that time of year again when we need to be extra vigilant about keeping our Goldens safe during the holiday season. If your Golden is new to decorations and festivities or likes to get into mischief, then the best way to make sure they remain safe is through management.

Adult dogs have the maturity level of a two-year-old. Most of us know how curious and excited two-year-olds get when the tree goes up, decorations are everywhere, and presents appear under the tree. It’s an exciting time and it only happens once a year so it’s why our pets also find it exciting.

If you have a rescue and it’s their first holiday season with you, they may never have experienced this strange ritual of events. If you bring a real tree into your home and you have a male Golden, don’t be surprised if he thinks he should ‘christen’ the tree. After all, that’s what he would do if it was outside. We brought Tula home at the age of eight weeks in November. When the tree went up, the first thing we did was put an x-pen around it; however, if you like to decorate your tree with balls, you’ll want to move those up higher because an adult dog may try to push the x-pen closer to the tree so that they can take a ball. After all, the balls on trees look just like the ones we throw to them. X-pens also come in different heights so you could go for a taller one.

Another thing you may want to do is remove all the hanging hooks on the decorations and replace them with string or wool. You would be making a trip to the emergency clinic if your dog got hold of a decoration and accidentally ingested the wire hook. Tinsel is another culprit and something you don’t want to hang on a tree. Tinsel can get caught in their intestines and cause all sorts of havoc.

You’ll also notice in the photo that we have a gate across the room where the tree is. Anytime one of us isn’t in the room, we remove Tula (and our other two Goldens) from the living room and close the gate so that none of them have access to the tree or the presents.

Speaking of presents, that’s another major curiosity for many dogs, especially if you’ve ever given them goodies from any type of bag. They don’t know the difference between wrapping paper and paper or plastic bags. All they know is there might be something in the package they’d like. The unfortunate part is that there could be something in the package that could result in a trip to the emergency clinic.

Whenever anyone gives me a gift, I always ask if there’s chocolate in it (everyone who knows me knows I love chocolate). If there is, that gift doesn’t go under the tree, but somewhere safe where the dogs can’t get it. It might ruin the surprise, but that’s better than your Golden getting sick.

There are many things that are extremely toxic to your dog. These include chocolate (yes, white included), raisins, xylitol, macadamia nuts, poinsettias, holly, lilies, mistletoe, pine sap, cannabis, nicotine, alcohol…and more. If you think your Golden has eaten anything and you’re not sure if it’s poisonous, contact your vet, the emergency clinic or the

Then there’s the turkey. If your stuffing contains onions, that’s also toxic to your dog. I’m sure you all know that cooked turkey bones are extremely dangerous. They splinter and can cause severe damage to the stomach and intestines.

When it comes to this time of year, management is key. Keep garbage in covered containers so your pets can’t get into them and use crates, x-pens, and gates to keep them safe.

Another thing we need to think about at this time of year is making sure our Goldens are protected during the cold winter months. Our Goldens all have winter coats which they wear when the temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius. Now you might think, c’mon, they’re dogs! Yes, they are; however, they live in centrally heated homes. They don’t live outside. Their undercoat isn’t as thick as a dog who lives outside. If your home is anything like ours, the temperature is set to around 22.5 to 23 degrees Celsius. That’s a significant difference from -10 or more. Our favourite coats are Shedrows. Our dogs also wear boots. Yes, I’ve heard “oh, I can’t get them on their feet or they try to kick them off”. Of course, they will but once they learn that they don’t get to go for a walk unless they wear them, they will adapt. Here are a few reasons why you need to protect their feet. First of all, it protects their feet from the salt that is on both the sidewalks and the roads, which not only sting but burn their feet. Another is that a sharp edge of ice can slice their paw open and the paw pad is one of the hardest areas to heal. Boots also provide traction on slippery surfaces, especially important for any Golden with mobility issues. Finally, their pads can get frost bite from being on cold surfaces too long. Our favourite boots are Muttluks.

Now, if you’re like me and not a fan of walking the dogs every day in the winter, then why not do something fun and sign up for a class? There are a lot of choices. Obedience is always good, but if you want to have some fun, take a class in Tricks, Rally Obedience, Scent Detection, Freestyle, Triebball, Agility or Flyball. Did you know that 15 minutes of mental stimulation for your dog is equal to a 30-minute walk? Keeping our Golden seniors mentally stimulated is important for their wellbeing. It’s also a nice alternative to walking them once or twice a day in the cold.

‘Tis the season to keep our Goldens safe and warm!