Top 10 Foods You Shouldn’t Give a Dog

Picture of a black and white dog

Dogs are, by nature, scavengers. When you take your dog for a walk, you have probably seen the way he wants to investigate every morsel and tidbit lying on the ground. Whether you have a puppy or a senior dog, he’s likely to try to taste just about anything he finds to see if it’s edible. As long as your dog is home, eating a normal diet, he probably won’t get into too much trouble with his appetites. However, dogs are still curious in your home so sometimes they can eat things they shouldn’t. And sometimes we can be tempted to give them some of our foods that they shouldn’t have. This can lead to dire results.

Here are the top 10 foods you should never give your dog. Remember, dogs think LOTS of things are edible, even when they aren’t. A friend’s dog just had surgery to remove a piece of fabric from her intestines that was causing a blockage. So this list is by no means complete.

Only 10?

Before we go any farther, you’re probably wondering why there are only 10 items on this list. There are lots of similar lists online that name several dozen dangerous foods for dogs. Fair enough. That’s because lots of foods can be dangerous for dogs to some degree. They might cause an upset stomach or diarrhea. They could be a choking hazard. Or they could be harmful if your dog ate a bushel of the food. In some cases, frankly, the danger of certain food items has been exaggerated. The foods listed here are definite dangers to any dog.


Picture of a cup of coffee

Dogs are much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than humans are. A cup of strong coffee might wake you up in the morning but it could land your dog in the emergency room. If your dog eats coffee grounds or tea bags he could be in real trouble. An 8-ounce cup of coffee typically contains about 95 mg of caffeine. For a 2.2 pound puppy, 150 mg of caffeine is lethal. Even bigger dogs that consume caffeine – coffee, soft drinks, tea, energy drinks – will suffer some affects. Caffeine will make your dog jittery and cause their heart to race. It only takes about 30 minutes to start to see the effects of caffeine on your dog’s system. Hyperactivity, vomiting, panting, and sometimes tremors and seizures may occur.

Smaller dogs will be affected more than larger dogs, depending on the amount of caffeine consumed.

A single caffeine tablet can contain 200 mg of caffeine – enough to kill a small dog. Diet pills and some over-the-counter headache medicines and painkillers also contain high amounts of caffeine.

If your dog takes a couple of laps of your coffee or tea, it’s probably nothing to worry about. (This happens to lots of us with dogs.) However, if your dog gulps down an entire cup of coffee, an energy drink, or eats a caffeine pill, you should get him to the vet quickly, regardless of size. Your vet will try to induce vomiting to prevent your dog’s body from absorbing more of the caffeine. S/he will probably give your dog an IV to help flush the substance from his system and prevent irregular heart rhythms, as well as slow a rapid heart rate and control any tremors.

You can help keep caffeine products away from your dog by keeping coffee beans, tea bags, medications, and drinks out of their reach at all times.


Picture of chocolate

Chocolate is a big no-no if you have a dog. Not only does it contain caffeine (see above), but it also contains a substance called theobromine. Humans metabolize theobromine without any problem but dogs metabolize it much more slowly and it has a much stronger effect on them. It can build up to toxic levels in their system. While a small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog diarrhea or an upset stomach with some vomiting, a large amount of chocolate can cause a dog to have muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding, or even a heart attack.

Theobromine poisoning is usually indicated if your dog starts showing hyperactivity after consuming chocolate.

Small dogs are more at risk for the adverse effects of theobromine poisoning than larger dogs but even big dogs can be affected if they consume enough chocolate.

Different kinds of chocolate do have different levels of theobromine. Cocoa, cooking chocolate, and dark chocolate have the most theobromine. Milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest levels of theobromine. It only takes a small amount of dark chocolate to poison a dog. For a dog that weighs 44 pounds, it can take less than an ounce of dark chocolate to produce a poisonous reaction.

If your dog has eaten chocolate and you suspect a bad reaction, take him to the vet immediately. Your vet will try to induce vomiting within two hours of ingestion. Even if there are no symptoms, if you have a small dog that has eaten a box of chocolates, take him to the vet right away for evaluation.


Picture of Garlic

Many people are confused about garlic and dogs. That’s because there are a number of folk remedies that call for using garlic. Small amounts are used as a flea repellent, for example. It’s also used in some remedies as a wormer. It’s even used in a few dog foods. However, garlic is a member of the allium family, like onions. It contains a substance called thiosulfate which is toxic to dogs.

Thiosulfate causes damage to the body’s red blood cells which leads to hemolytic anemia. This means that the body is attacking its own blood cells and destroying them. Symptoms include pale mucous membrances, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, jaundice, and dark-colored urine. Toxicity from garlic can also cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, a loss of appetite abdominal pain, depression, and dehydration.

It takes about 15-30 grams of garlic per kilogram of body weight to cause harmful changes in a dog’s blood. One clove of garlic from a grocery store usually weighs between 3 and 7 grams. That means your dog would have to eat a lot of garlic to get sick. However, some dogs appear to be more sensitive to toxicity from garlic than others. Consuming a toxic dose that’s spread out over several days can also cause problems.

A small amount of garlic, such as the amounts used in folk remedies, probably won’t hurt your dog, but you should not feed your dog garlic as part of his diet. Nor should you give your dog treats and snacks or human food that contain garlic. It’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog at-home remedies that contain small amounts of garlic, just to be safe.

If your dog does consume a large amount of garlic, you should take him to the vet. One large overdose of garlic is unlikely to be fatal, but your dog could need some supportive care. If your dog develops hemolytic anemia, you will need to work with your veterinarian to help your dog.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs though the exact cause is not yet known. Peeled and seedless grapes are also toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of these foods can be fatal to dogs. Some dogs are affected to a great degree and others are not. Serious complications can include severe kidney damage leading to sudden kidney failure with a lack of urine production.

Symptoms usually include some combination of the following:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, often within a few hours of consumption. Vomit and fecal contents may contain pieces of the grapes or raisins.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy, weakness, unusual quietness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Oliguria (passing only a small amount of urine)
  • Anuria (complete cessation of urine)
  • Foul breath
  • Oral ulcers
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If your dog eats grapes or raisins you should consider this an emergency situation and take your dog to the vet immediately. If he ate the grapes or raisins in the last two hours you need to induce vomiting as soon as possible, before the toxins are absorbed. Do NOT induce vomiting if your dog is unconscious, having trouble breathing, in serious distress or shock, or you’re not sure what he ate. If your dog has already vomited, don’t try to make him vomit anymore. Call your vet for advice. This is a life-threatening situation so follow your vet’s recommendations.

If you buy grapes and raisins, keep them well out of reach of your dog. Never give them to your dog as a treat. If you  have grape vines on your property, you must keep this area secure so your dog cannot gain access to it.

Macadamia Nuts

Picture of Macadamia Nuts

Lots of people worry about giving their dogs nuts. Actually, only one or two nuts* are really toxic to dogs and the macadamia nut is one of them. These delicious nuts that often come from Hawaii and Australia are perfectly fine for humans but for some reason as yet unknown, they can be very harmful to dogs. It usually takes about two grams of macadamia nuts to affect a dog; or 1/10 of an ounce per 2 pounds of body weight. There is no antidote for macadamia nuts if your dog should eat some but supportive care, provided quickly, usually saves a dog. Dogs seem to be the only species affected by this toxicity.

Symptoms to look for after your dog has eaten macadamia nuts include:

  • Vomiting
  • Ataxia or weakness
  • Fever
  • Muscle tremors
  • Depression

If you suspect that your dog has eaten  macadamia nuts, take him to the vet right away.

One of the problems with macadamia nuts is that even if you don’t buy the nuts, they can be included in many other products such as cakes, cookies, muffins, and even trail mix. Check the ingredients of the foods you buy and don’t leave these foods sitting out where your dog can get to them.

*The other kind of nut that can be hazardous for dogs is the black walnut. Fortunately, the walnuts sold in grocery stores are usually English walnuts which are not toxic to dogs. Still, it’s usually best not to let your dog have them simply because they are very fatty. You should never let your dog eat moldy nuts found on the ground of any kind, if you are walking your dog. Moldy nuts can have mycotoxins which can be dangerous for your dog. And you should avoid letting your dog eat nuts that are still in the shell since they can be choking hazards.


Picture of nutmeg

If you don’t bake you may not be familiar with the spice nutmeg but it used to be in every cupboard. It’s still used in many cakes and other dessert products that you can buy in stores. Nutmeg is toxic to dogs because of a substance called Myristicin.

At high doses, nutmeg can lead to disorientation, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, raised blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and seizures. Most dogs won’t eat enough nutmeg to have all of these reactions, but they are possible. These symptoms can last for 48 hours.

As usual, smaller dogs are at greater risk and larger dogs.

If your dog eats something that you might share with him, such as part of a muffin that contains nutmeg, you may not see any side effects, or only some mild ones such as vomiting or diarrhea. The same is true if your dog steals a cookie off your desk. Most recipes don’t call for large amounts of nutmeg. However, if your dog should eat an entire batch of cookies that you made with nutmeg or if he eats the bottle of nutmeg, he could be in more trouble.

Keep baked goods and other foods that contain nutmeg out of your dog’s reach. If you suspect that your dog has eaten more than a bite or two of something that contains nutmeg, contact your veterinarian for advice.


Picture of onions

Onions, like garlic, are a member of the allium family. They contain disulfide compounds and thiosulfates which don’t bother humans but which can break down your dog’s red blood vessels, leading to a certain kind of anemia known as hemolytic anemia. All parts of the onion are toxic to dogs, along with onion powder and onion juice. Both raw and cooked onions are harmful to dogs.

About 100 grams of onions (one medium onion) per 20 kilograms of a dog’s weight is enough to cause toxic effects. That’s a dog that weighs about 45 pounds. If you have onion rings or an onion casserole in your home, you must take care that your dog can’t reach it since many dogs will happily consume these foods.

While you probably wouldn’t give your dog any raw onion, it’s important to realize that many products contain powdered onion as an ingredient. Onion powder is even more potent than raw onions. Soup, baby food, salad dressings, gravies, and many other foods use powdered onion as a seasoning. Be sure to check the label on the foods you purchase to see if they contain onion powder. Keep these foods secured where your dog won’t be tempted by them and don’t let your dog have any leftovers from these foods.

Symptoms of onion toxicity can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Fainting
  • Reddish urine

If you notice these signs – especially if your dog has eaten any onions recently – you should take him to your veterinarian right away. Onion toxicity can be fatal so the sooner you get your dog to the vet, the better.

Pitted Fruits

Picture of an Avocado

Pitted fruits include peaches, plums, and persimmons. But they can also include other fruit with stones/pits such as apricots, cherries, and avocados. The primary problem with all of these fruits is that the pit is a choking hazard for many dogs since dogs are apt to gobble down an appealing plum or cherry without stopping to chew or spit out the pit.

Pits can also cause internal blockages in some cases which can lead to serious problems. Your dog might need surgery to have the pit removed, for example, if it forms a blockage in the intestine. Pits can also cause gastrointestinal inflammation if they are eaten.

Some pits can contain cyanide compounds. This is not unusual in fruits. Even apple seeds contain cyanide, though you or your dog would have to eat a huge number of seeds to feel any effects from them.

Avocado pits, along with the skin and leaves of the fruit, contain a substance called persin which is mildly toxic to dogs. The major concern with avocados is the pit as a possible choking hazard. Livestock and birds, however, can have more serious problems with avocados.

With all of these fruits, you can give your dog some if you slice the fruit for your dog. Just take care to keep the fresh fruit which contains the pits/stones away from your dog.

If your dog is choking on a pit (or any other food or object), there is a Heimlech Maneuver for dogs.


Picture of candy

Xylitol is a sugar substitute which is widely used today in candy, gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, cough syrup, and other common products. One thing to be particularly aware of today is the use of xylitol in some peanut butters. Many dog lovers use peanut butter as a treat for their dogs or as a training reward. It’s a popular ingredient in homemade dog cookies. Make sure you read the ingredients on the peanut butter you buy since some companies have begun to use xylitol instead of sugar.

Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans but, unfortunately, it very toxic to dogs. Symptoms can appear within 30 minutes after a dog ingests xylitol.

Dogs react very strongly to xylitol. It only takes 1/10 of a gram of xylitol per kilogram of dog weight to cause a dangerous drop in a dog’s blood sugar level, leading to hypoglycemia.

Symptoms in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination or difficulty walking or standing
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

In severe cases a dog may develop seizures or liver failure.

There is no antidote for xylitol poisoning but if you can get your dog to the vet soon after he ingests xylitol, your vet may be able to provide aggressive treatment to prevent the development of severe problems.

Uncooked Yeast

Picture of yeast

If you like to bake bread then you’re familiar with using yeast. Yeast is added to dough to make it rise. When the dough rises the first time, the dough is punched down so it can rise again, depending on what kind of bread you’re making. Of course, if you have a dog in the house, this entire process is fraught with danger! Any time you turn your back or leave the kitchen is an opportunity for Rover to sneak up to your dough and eat some – or all – of your yeasty bread. What follows is a miserable dog with an ever expanding stomach. Yep, the dough will continue to rise inside your dog. What’s even worse, the yeast from the bread produces ethynol during the process so your dog can actually get drunk from the raw dough he consumed.

This situation is slightly humorous – I dare you not to laugh if your dog is in this sad predicament – but the obvious solution is to take your poor dog to the veterinarian if he eats your raw yeasty dough.



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