Since dogs share our homes, they often show an interest in all kinds of “human” food. You may be in the kitchen making yourself a sandwich when your dog looks at you with pleading eyes, begging for…a pickle? Yes, a pickle. Or fruit. Or vegetables. Or a piece of chocolate cake. What should you do? Is it safe to give your dog some of these foods?
Can you give your dog pickles?
When it comes to pickles, remember that they were originally cucumbers. It’s fine if you want to give your dog some sliced cucumbers (in moderation). Pickles are a little different, however. They have been soaked in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and spices. Most pickles, such as ordinary dill pickles, are not harmful to dogs, especially if your dog just eats one or two small bites. They are high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Plus, they contain some vitamins and minerals. However, if your dog eats some other pickles, they can cause problems, depending on the spices used.
Pickles that have been seasoned with onions can be dangerous for dogs. Onions contain something called thiosulphate which can lead to Heinz body anemia in dogs. Heinz body anemia affects an animal’s red blood cells. In severe cases it can be fatal. Symptoms include dark-colored urine, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. If your dog shows signs of these problems, see your veterinarian right away.
Pickles also contain a great deal of sodium because of the salt or brine used for pickling. Dogs normally get all of the sodium they need from their kibble or canned food each day. Getting some additional sodium from a snack once in a while won’t hurt your dog. However, if your dog consumes a lot of pickles (or another salty snack), he can develop a condition called hypernatremia. This means he has a sodium intake problem – too much sodium in his bloodstream causing dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Signs of hypernatremia include increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and possible seizures. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, see your veterinarian immediately.
If your dog eats salty snacks such as pickles on a regular basis, he can consume too much salt. This can lead to high blood pressure (yes, dogs can have high blood pressure). This could cause your dog to have a stroke or heart attack.
So, while eating the occasionally bite of pickle won’t hurt your dog, it’s best not to make it a regular part of your dog’s diet. If your dog really loves pickles, you could try giving him a few bites of sweet pickles instead. Sweet pickles are not quite as salty as dill or other pickles. The brine is less concentrated. However, they are still “pickled” and contain lots of sodium so don’t give your dog too many too often.
If you give your dog slices of pickles as a snack, try rinsing them off first. This will remove some of the brine and sodium from the pickles.
Slices of pickles are also a better idea for another reason. If you give your dog a whole pickle, they can be a choking hazard for some dogs.
Giving your dog brine or pickle juice to drink is not recommended either. Although some people like to give this “juice” to their dogs as a way of dealing with electrolyte imbalances, even if it’s diluted with water it contains a lot of sodium which can be harmful to your dog. If your dog is dehydrated or has an electrolyte problem, see your veterinarian.
Are there other foods to avoid?
There are also some other foods to avoid giving your dog for safety reasons. You have probably seen this list before but it doesn’t hurt to post it again. This is not a comprehensive list. You can find new things all the time that you should avoid giving to dogs. There was recently (October 2018) a news story about the dangers of letting dogs eat acorns. Who knew dogs were even tempted to eat acorns? But the foods on this list are well-known and most people agree about their danger for dogs.
Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana – Keep your dog away from these products. Dogs don’t usually seek them out on their own but they may come in contact with them if they are lying around. If your dog accidentally ingests something harmful, see your veterinarian.
Apple seeds – Your dog would have to eat a lot of apple seeds to be affected by the cyanide in the seeds but it’s still a good idea to remove the seeds before giving your dog apple slices
Avocados – The green flesh of the avocado is delicious and perfectly fine to give your dog. However, the pit of the avocado is dangerous. It’s a choking hazard. Always remove it before letting your dog have any avocado. Several well-known pet foods use avocado in their recipes.
Candy, chewing gum, mouthwash, and human toothpaste – These products can contain an ingredient called xylitol which is dangerous to dogs. It’s often used as a sugar substitute today. You can even find it in some peanut butters and other foods so read the labels.
Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. Both of these ingredients can speed up your dog’s heart rate and affect his nervous system. The darker the chocolate, the more it will affect your dog. It only takes a small amount of dark chocolate to affect a small dog. Keep chocolate away from pets!
Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks – Caffeine can increase your dog’s heart rate and raise his blood pressure, among other things. It will make him nervous and can lead to seizures and even death.
Cooked bones – Cooked bones become brittle and they will easily break when your dog chews them. They can splinter and puncture your dog’s esophagus or other places in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. In case you were wondering, raw bones are softer and don’t splinter. They are safer for your dog.
Corn cobs – Corn cobs can become a terrible obstruction in your dog’s gastrointestinal system. Even if your dog successfully eats a cob, he may have to vomit it back up.
Fat – Too much fat, such as fat trimmings, can lead to pancreatitis and other GI problems.
Garlic – Garlic in very small amounts probably won’t hurt your dog. It is sometimes used in herbal treatments. However, in larger amounts it can be dangerous. Garlic is part of the onion family. Like onions, using it can lead to anemia.
Grapes and raisins – Grapes and raisins, even in small amounts, can be toxic to dogs. Eating them can result in kidney failure. There are various theories about why they cause problems for dogs but the exact cause still hasn’t been found.
Hops – Hops are an ingredient in beer. If your dog consumes hops it can lead to vomiting, panting, raised heart rate, and other serious health issues.
Macadamia nuts – Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. They can even be fatal.
Onions and chives – As previously mentioned, onions contain thiosulphates which can cause Heinz body anemia in dogs.
Persimmons, peaches, plums – These are all fruits that contain pits. Do not give your dog foods that contain pits because of their potential choking hazard.
Raw fish – Be careful about giving your dog raw fish. Some raw fish contains a parasite that can cause problems for your dog. It’s fine to give your dog fish that has been cooked.
Rhubarb and tomato leaves – These leaves contain oxalates which can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, tremors, and blood in the urine. Leaves of spinach also contains oxalates which can cause bladder stones. Other foods high in oxalates include beets and green beans.
Salt – Avoid giving your dog foods, treats, and snacks that are high in salt. Too much salt can be dangerous for your dog.
Sugar – Avoid giving your dog foods, treats, and snack that are high in sugar.
Xylitol – As mentioned previously, xylitol is often used today as a sugar substitute. While it’s harmless to humans, it can be toxic to dogs. It’s found in gum, candy, mouthwash, toothpaste, and baked goods. It’s even used in some peanut butter today. Be careful not to let your dog eat anything that contains this ingredient.
Yeast – Don’t let your dog eat yeast dough. Dough rises and if your dog eats the dough, it will expand in his stomach, releasing gas and causing your dog great discomfort. If your dog eats raw yeast dough, take him to a veterinarian for treatment.
It probably seems like you can’t give your dog anything at all to eat but in most cases, if you use a little common sense, you’ll know what you can and can’t give your dog.