The media has done a very good job of advising pet owners not to give their pet’s jerky treats or any treat made in China, because they have been causing illness and death for a number of years now. However, it is equally important for pet owners to be aware of common ‘people foods’ and products that should never be given to pets, because they digest them differently than humans do. A simple seasoning, plant, herb or fruit that seems harmless to us can cause serious health issues in animals and can potentially lead to death.

Below are the top foods and other common household products pets should avoid at all costs:

Onions: Onions can wreak havoc on blood cells, causing anemia, liver damage, breathing issues and death.

Garlic: While this popular food seasoning contains the same compounds as onions, it takes a larger helping of garlic to do damage.

Chives, Leeks, Shallots: If consumed by pets, these herbs and plants are dangerous and potentially as toxic as onions.

Grapes, Raisins, Prunes, Currants: A small serving of these fruits can cause kidney failure and severe liver damage. Do not feed even a few to your pet.

Avocados: This pear-shaped fruit contains a toxin called ‘persin’ that is on the fruit, the seed, the bark and even leaves of the avocado tree. Ingesting persin may lead to breathing problems, fluid build-up in the chest and abdomen, heart disease and death.

Chocolate: Baking chocolate can be fatal, even in minuscule amount. Dark chocolate also is pretty toxic, causing cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, coma and death. Milk chocolate is less toxic, but still can cause gastrointestinal (GI) problems and, in large amounts, can lead to the same health issues as dark chocolate.

Caffeine: Coffee and coffee beans are basically a poison for pets, just like chocolate.

Tobacco: Nicotine is far worse for pets than humans; although, it is toxic to both. Nicotine not only will damage a pet’s digestive system, but also will affect the heart and nervous system, leading to a rapid heart rate that can cause animals to faint and possibly never recover.

Xylitol: Most commonly found in sugar-free gum, this artificial sweetener also is used in other sugar-free foods, such as candies and baked goods. Even small amounts can cause pets to have low blood sugar in a little less than half an hour. Symptoms, which include vomiting, weakness and trouble walking, quickly can escalate to seizures, liver failure and death.

Fat: Large amounts of butter, margarine, fat trimmings from meat and cooking oils will upset the GI tract and may lead to pancreatitis. Even worse, consumption of fat can lead to the failure of multiple organs and death.

Peaches, Cherries, Plums, Pears, Apples, Apricots and Persimmons: The seeds of these fruits, as well as the stems and leaves of the tree, contain cyanide, which is very dangerous. The large pits and seeds of some of these fruits also can cause GI obstructions.

If you think your pet has eaten something toxic, please call your local veterinarian immediately or contact the National Animal Poison Control Center by calling 1-888-426-4435.