Food is life and the temptation is real. We know this statement is true for many of our canine friends.
Most dogs love food and when a dog likes food, they are not hard to please! Happily eating almost anything - especially what their owners are eating.
A lot of dog owners opt to share their food, in fact, many of us do too. There are many foods that are ok to feed your dog in moderation but if you decide to do this make sure you consider what you’re feeding them, how much you’re feeding them, and the best feeding method. You want to help your little friend keep healthy with a balanced diet and, most importantly, avoid common human foods that are toxic to dogs.
You can ‘treat’ your dog to human food or make homemade dog food, however, it is best not to routinely feed them scraps from your plate or under the table because it will lead to bad habits such as begging and overfeeding. When opting to feed your dog human food as a treat make sure it is no more than 5-10% of their total diet. Human food that is ok to feed your dog includes; lean meats, cooked egg, rice and pasta, vegetables such as carrots, green beans, and potato, and fruits such as berries, bananas, mandarins, and apple slices. Peanut butter is a good treat for them too.
Although there are many common foods that are great to incorporate into a dog’s diet, there are also a bunch of foods that are harmless to us humans but are dangerous for dogs to consume. Depending on the amount eaten and your dog (i.e. breed or size), some foods can even be lethal. It’s important not to feed your dog these human foods and keep them out of their reach. Unfortunately, most dogs can't resist the temptation of food and will eat it if they find it.
Common foods that are toxic and can potentially kill dogs include; grapes, raisins, avocados, chocolate, xylitol (an artificial sweetener), fruit stones and pips (including apple cores and plums), onion, garlic, macadamia nuts, raw eggs, alcohol, caffeine, bread dough, liver, raw fish, milk and cheese.
Foods A Dog Should Avoid
Below we take a closer look at the reasons why these foods aren’t good for dogs, what can happen, and what signs to look for if they have.
Even in small amounts alcohol can be harmful to your dog, so don’t offer them a taste, and be careful where you leave your glass as some dogs are attracted to it or the mixers with it. Alcohol will intoxicate your dog leading them to vomit, diarrhea, and can cause serious damage to the central nervous system.
Hops used to make beer are also very toxic to dogs. It can cause a severe, usually fatal, malignant hyperthermia in dogs, where the body overheats uncontrollably and rapidly, with some breeds such as greyhounds being particularly susceptible.
Avocados contain persin which can cause a dog myocardial necrosis (heart damage) within 24-48 hours. Lethargy, panting, coughing, cyanosis, exercise intolerance, and death are symptoms a dog will have after eating an avocado. The high-fat content can also set off pancreatitis.
3. Bread Dough
Most dogs can safely eat bread once it is cooked, but the uncooked dough is dangerous for them. Bread dough will expand in the warmth of your dog’s stomach (causing bloating and pain) and release alcohol as it rises (causing disorientation and depression). Your dog may initially try unsuccessfully to vomit, before deteriorating.
Dogs should avoid caffeine in drinks such as coffee or energy drinks. They can be enough to cause restlessness and vomiting and accelerate your pet’s heartbeat to dangerous levels, so while a lick or two may be okay, don’t let them get any more than that.
Chocolate contains theobromine, which adversely affects the heart, kidneys, and central nervous system. When a dog eats chocolate it will initially cause vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, and anxiety, then tremors, hyperactivity, rapid irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma, and even death. Symptoms may take 6-12 hours to show, with darker chocolate being more dangerous than milk chocolate and white being the least. Smaller dogs are more vulnerable if they eat chocolate.
6. Fruit Stones & Pips
Dogs should not eat fruit such as apple cores and apricots and plums because they contain cyanogenic glycosides which can cause cyanide poisoning, with dilated pupils, vomiting, panting, and rapid irregular heartbeats (the stones can also cause intestinal obstruction). Another fruit you need to be mindful of is Feijoas. While the pulpy content of the feijoa is ok for dogs to eat, the skin of a feijoa can be toxic and dogs should not eat it.
7. Grapes & Raisins
There is an unknown toxin in grapes and raisins that can cause acute kidney failure and liver damage. Some dogs can eat grapes or raisins without a problem, while others show symptoms after only a handful. It is best to avoid giving your dog grapes or raisins, including cakes, biscuits, and cereals they are often found in. Affected dogs will vomit within a few hours, and show signs of renal failure in 3-5 days.
While nutritious and safe in small amounts, liver contains a high level of vitamin A. The level is too much to feed a dog in large amounts or more than 1-2x a week – this can lead to bone problems, weight loss, and anorexia.
9. Macadamia Nuts
Even in small amounts, when a dog eats macadamia nuts it can cause weakness and difficulty walking, with muscle tremors, panting, distress, and elevated body temperature, due to an unknown toxin. This is usually nonfatal, resolving in 24-48 hours.
10. Milk, Cheese & Milk Products
Milk, cheese, and other products containing milk can be fine for your dog occasionally, however, many dogs are lactose intolerant. The enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk and cheese can cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. If you do decide to feed them milk products, do it in small amounts, and remember to avoid products containing chocolate, coffee, raisins, and nuts.
11. Onions, Garlic & Chives
Raw, cooked, or powder forms of the onion family are toxic to dogs. Foods in the onion family can cause red blood cell damage with symptoms initially including vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and inappetence. The symptoms can then progress (sometimes taking several days after ingestion) to dark urine, pale gums, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath due to Hemolytic anemia.
12. Raw Eggs
Dogs should avoid eating raw eggs as they can contain bacteria, such as Salmonella, and also contain avidin which in excess decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), potentially leading to skin, coat, and growth problems. Cooked eggs are safe.
13. Raw Fish
Raw fish fed to a dog regularly can result in thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency, shown as a loss of appetite, weakness and unsteadiness, neck ventroflexion (bending downwards), and seizures. Though this is more common in cats.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many products for people including sugar-free gum, confectionery, and toothpaste. Xylitol can cause a dog to have low blood sugar (by causing a rapid release of insulin), seizures, liver failure, and even death.
Other Common Foods To Avoid
Other common foods you should not feed your dog include fatty trimmings (contribute to obesity and can cause pancreatitis), cat food (not balanced for dogs), corncobs (can obstruct intestines if the core is swallowed), cooked bones (splinter and break easily - raw bones better), large amounts of salt (watch that homemade playdough) or mouldy foods (tremorgenic mycotoxins can cause serious illness).
Small amounts of these human foods and drinks may only cause mild digestive upsets, but more serious problems can occur depending on how much is eaten and the size of your pet – a bite for us is like a full meal for a little dog! Smaller dogs are more sensitive to stomach upsets from eating human food.
Exact toxic doses of these human foods are often not known – meaning safe amounts aren’t clear either. Symptoms may be immediate or develop over several hours, but if you know your dog has eaten something it shouldn’t – either from seeing it being eaten or finding evidence such as ripped up empty packaging or seeing the food in vomit - don’t delay in seeking advice. Inducing vomiting, if indicated, is much better than treating poisoning.
Don’t be afraid to feed dogs ‘safe’ human food, just be conscious of what you feed them and what is in your pantry. No guacamole with flavoured crackers, no licking out chocolate icing bowls, and no helping themselves to the rubbish bin!
Learn more about the 5 key nutrients dogs need from their food and the AAFCO pet food standards, how to choose the right food for your dog, wet vs. dry dog food, three common ways to mix feed your dog, and how to take control of your pet’s weight in our dog feeding guide series.