The popular adage goes, “you are what you eat.” We, as humans, understand this warning for our bodies. We know that fitting into last season’s bathing suit usually means declining those morning donuts or that tantalizing side of fries. We are aware that avoiding a trip to the ER typically equals saying no to raw cookie dough and remembering to make careful sushi choices. In a nutshell, our health is largely dependent upon what passes “through the teeth and over the gums”! Unfortunately for our canine companions, they do not possess the same characteristic of self-control nor the ability to differentiate between good and bad food choices. Dogs are notorious for begging, but part of being a great dog owner is understanding what is harmful and what is beneficial for your pup’s gut. We have broken down the 8 most toxic foods for dogs along with some healthful alternatives, and guidance on what to do if your pet does ingest anything potentially poisonous.
Top 8 Toxic Foods for Dogs
Ah, chocolate. Ranking as a national favorite, Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year! It is a welcomed staple for many household pantries but the number one toxic food for dogs. Chocolate contains methylxanthines, such as caffeine and theobromine, which can be lethal if consumed by your dog. Both ingredients are known to increase heart rate and stimulate the nervous system. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher the concentration of these chemicals. How ill your dog might become depends on the type of chocolate, the amount ingested, and the bodyweight of your animal. For perspective, only about two ounces of milk chocolate can be poisonous for a 10-lb puppy. Overeating chocolate may result in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased urination, excessive thirst, seizures, and even death. According to the Veterinary Record Journal, dogs are more likely to eat chocolate during the holidays, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on Fido during festive seasons.
Alternative: Carob is a chocolate substitute that is perfectly safe for dogs. You may have seen this ingredient in higher-end dog treats but hesitated to purchase them due to the striking resemblance to chocolate. Rest assured, carob treats are a dog-friendly “go-to” when you’d like to spoil your canine a bit.
2. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamias provide a delicious source of fiber for humans, but dogs should steer clear of this golden goodie. Although not commonly fatal, these nuts can cause serious canine complications. Clinical signs of poisoning may include muscle tremors, weakness in the back legs, vomiting, fever, and fast heart rate. If this toxic food affects your dog, you will see symptoms within 12 to 48 hours. Passing the 48-hour mark in good health is an indication that he’ll be just fine. Proceed with caution, however, and put those specialty cookies on the top shelf.
Alternative: Stick to the occasional nut butter, like peanut butter or almond butter, for a quick snack. Choose brands with 2-3 ingredients and contain no artificial sweeteners (such as Xylitol, discussed below).
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many common products (including candy and some peanut butter). Sugar replacements have been a controversial topic over the years. Xylitol, like most sugar alcohols, can be troubling for the digestive system and cause even more severe issues for your pup. When dogs consume it, they experience a sudden increase in insulin release that can rapidly turn into hypoglycemia. If this happens, lethargy and repeated vomiting are likely to occur. Seizures and liver failure may develop within just a few days. Dogs are known to rummage, so in case Fido confiscates some gum from your handbag, read the package ingredients and watch him closely.
Alternative: None. Sugars are bad for doggos!
4. Grapes and Raisins
It’s not just the straight-up fruit and jellied versions of grapes that should be taken into account. Raisins are a common snack food found in trail mixes, cereals, muffins, and other baked goods. The active ingredient causing illness is unknown, but both grapes and raisins (even in small amounts) may cause liver damage and kidney failure. They are certainly a toxic food for dogs so you’ll probably want to rethink planting that backyard vineyard and go with some raised garden boxes instead.
5. Onions, Chives and Garlic
Speaking of gardening, there are several veggies you’ll want to exclude from the menu lineup. Onions, chives, and garlic are typical flavor enhancers for human dishes. They might seem harmless, but in reality, are amongst the most toxic foods for dogs. These hearty dirt dwellers contain a chemical compound known as N-propyl disulfide, which irritates canine digestive tracts and can cause red blood cell damage. All onion derivatives are harmful in any form (including dried, powdered, and cooked) so don’t be fooled. Your dog won’t be too keen on chomping through crunchy raw layers, but scarfing them down in some beef stew would be no problem. As a rule of thumb, think about what you threw in the pot before you decide to share it or not!
Alternative: Any of the following veggies (in FRESH form) are safe options for your dog … broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, cucumber, green beans, peas, potatoes (only if cooked), spinach, and sweet potatoes. Luckily, that’s a pretty extensive list!
Avocados are a super healthy human food. They contain more potassium than bananas and are full of heart-healthy fatty acids. Sadly, these green goddesses are on the list of dangerous foods for your pup. If you happen to have an avocado tree nearby, make sure your dog doesn’t roam around it. Avocado pits are relatively large and pose a major choking risk. The leaves, bark, and peels of avocados also contain a natural antifungal substance known as Persin. This toxin leeks into the body of the fruit from the pit and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes heart congestion in animals. This is essential information, but don’t stress TOO much should you drop a slice of avocado while making your world-famous guacamole. The Pet Poison Helpline states that, unless ingested in large amounts, cats and dogs are rarely seriously affected by Persin. We still recommend avoiding it as there are better alternatives to nourish your furry friend.
Alternative: Speaking of healthy, chicken is an excellent source of protein and the main ingredient in many dog food brands. Fresh, boiled chicken (alongside cooked white rice) is often a remedy for doggos with upset stomachs.
7. Blue Cheese
Dairy products are generally difficult for dogs to digest, but cheeses can be especially tricky. In moderation, there are plenty of varieties considered safe, but others contain added ingredients that exasperate beyond your typical lactose intolerance. Blue cheese is the stand out “no-no” when it comes to cheese choices. The fungus used to make it (yes, blue cheese is basically moldy cheese) produces a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs can be sensitive to when ingested. Signs of sensitivity include vomiting, diarrhea, high temperatures, and even seizures.
Alternatives: Only allow plain types of cheese, such as cheddar or mozzarella, around your dog. Remember, even though these are deemed safe, dairy still comes with risk. Cheeses should be infrequently peppered into your pup’s regular diet plan.
8. Other Fruit Seeds
So we passed on the grapes, but a piece of juicy, cold fruit on a summer afternoon is still enticing. Many fruits are fine to sample, but some do require caution. Did you know that the pits or seeds of apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums all contain a form of cyanide? Much like avocados, the stems and leaves can also be toxic foods to dogs. The actual flesh of most fruits are safe for consumption but, as always, should be fed in moderation. The most common symptom of cyanide poisoning in dogs is difficultly breathing. You may also notice dilated pupils, bright red gums, and signs of shock.
Alternatives: Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon (seedless), cantaloupe, mangoes, oranges, pears, and pineapples all make deliciously safe fruit choices. They are even better frozen, especially if your pup is teething!
Our pets are members of the family, and as such, we love to treat them accordingly!
It’s hard to ignore big ole’ puppy eyes as they longingly watch your every bite. It is always best to feed your dog a balanced diet of natural pet food, designed with them in mind; however, sneaking in a few bonus table scraps can be perfectly safe when adequate knowledge is in place. This article is a great resource, but it doesn’t replace the advice and directive of your qualified veterinarian. Always check with a licensed professional if questions or concerns should arise.
**Note: In an emergency, when you cannot reach your veterinarian, immediately contact your local animal emergency clinic or call one of these hotlines to speak to specialists who are available 24/7. These services charge a small fee of $59-75 per incident. Be prepared to provide your dog’s age, weight, medical history, what he was exposed to, amount, when it happened, and his current symptoms.