What Can Dogs Not Eat? 11+ Foods To Never Feed Your Pup
Plus, foods that are dangerous for dogs ... sometimes.
As the loving pet parent you are, you probably find yourself tempted to share some of your favorite foods with your pup.
But there are just so many foods out there, and it can feel impossible to keep track of which ones are good for him and which ones are actually dangerous.
So, what can dogs not eat?
We spoke with Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a consultant for FiveBarks, to find out the answer to the question: What can dogs not eat? (And what you should do if your pup eats them anyway.)
Toxic foods for dogs
There are quite a few foods that are toxic for dogs, which means your pup should never eat them.
If you think it’s harmless to let your dog sneak a sip of your beer, think again. Alcohol is toxic for dogs and can cause symptoms like vomiting, difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. Alcohol toxicity can be fatal, and it can only take 30 minutes for symptoms to show up.
Chives are part of the allium family, which is made up of bulbous plants with green shoots. Members of the allium family are toxic to dogs, thanks to a substance called thiosulfate, and include foods like shallots, scallions, leeks and onions.
“These ingredients, when consumed in very high amounts or over time, can cause a type of anemia called Heinz body anemia,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo.
Heinz body anemia is a potentially fatal condition that essentially destroys your dog’s red blood cells. So you’re going to want to keep chives away from your pup.
Never give your pup chocolate because cocoa contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.
“Chocolate contains theobromine, which causes signs including restlessness, panting, irregular heart beats, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures,” Dr. Simon said. “Dark chocolate is the most dangerous to your pet.”
The caffeine in chocolate is also a major problem (more on that below).
Coffee contains methylxanthines, which can cause caffeine toxicity in dogs. Caffeine toxicity can result in tremors, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death. So make sure not to share your morning cup of coffee — or caffeinated tea — with your pup.
Garlic, like chives, is another member of the allium family, so it can cause anemia in dogs by damaging their red blood cells.
Some pups get sick from just a small amount of garlic, so it’s safest to keep it away from your BFF entirely.
Even a small amount of grapes can be toxic to dogs, so definitely steer clear of these. Eating grapes can cause your pup’s kidneys to fail — and it happens fast. If your dog eats grapes, kidney failure will typically develop within 48 hours.
“Signs of kidney failure include excess thirst, excess urination and lethargy,” Dr. Simon said.
Leeks are also part of the allium family, so if your dog eats this vegetable, it can destroy his red blood cells and cause anemia the same way garlic and chives can.
Macadamia nuts are very toxic to dogs. Eating macadamia nuts can cause weakness, tremors, diarrhea and fever. While some cases are more mild than others, it doesn’t take many macadamia nuts to cause toxicity.
“[0.1] ounce per 2 pounds of body weight is generally quoted as being the toxic dose, though each individual can react differently and some will be more sensitive,” Dr. Simon said.
Onions are also in the allium family and can cause anemia if your dog eats them. All parts of the onion are toxic, so make sure you don’t give your pup anything made with onions, even if they’re raw, cooked or in powder form.
Raisins are literally dried grapes, so they’re just as dangerous as fresh grapes. (The same goes for sultanas, aka golden raisins, and some currants.)
Like grapes, raisins can cause kidney failure within 24 to 48 hours.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol that’s commonly used as an artificial sweetener, especially in sugar-free products. It’s also highly toxic to dogs.
“Even small amounts can cause serious and sudden drops in blood sugar,” Dr. Simon said. “In some dogs, liver failure can occur. Signs can include shaking, collapse and seizures.”
Xylitol can be found in foods like:
- Peanut butter
- Non-fat yogurt
- Ice cream
- Baked goods
- Barbecue sauce
- Pancake syrup
- Protein powder and bars
- Flavored water
There are a ton of other things — including a lot of household items and over-the-counter medications — that contain xylitol, and, if you have to have them in your home, you should keep them way out of reach of your dog. (Xylitol is in a ton of stuff, so make sure you pay attention to those ingredient labels.)
If your dog eats something with xylitol, you need to get him to the vet ASAP.
“Immediate treatment is required to raise the dog’s blood sugar levels by administering fluids and dextrose as well as providing supportive care,” Dr. Simon said.
Other dangerous food for dogs
Even foods that aren’t toxic to your dog can still be dangerous, so you should avoid feeding your dog these ingredients, too.
Every cartoon dog ever has loved gnawing on bones, but you should definitely avoid giving them to your pup.
“Whether cooked or raw, bones can cause a range of issues, including tooth fractures, lacerated food pipes and gut obstructions,” Dr. Simon said.
Basically, on top of being a choking hazard or the potential cause of an intestinal obstruction, bones can splinter and cut your dog’s esophagus as he swallows them. (Chicken bones, for example, can splinter pretty easily.)
Raw eggs and fish
Raw or undercooked eggs can expose your dog to bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. Raw fish can also lead to salmonella in dogs, and even expose him to parasites. For example, if your dog eats raw salmon, the Neorickettsia helminthoeca parasite can cause salmon poisoning, which is fatal if untreated.
So if you want to feed your dog eggs or fish, make sure they’re fully cooked first.
Bread dough made with yeast can be super dangerous for dogs. Yeast is what makes bread dough rise, so if your pup is snacking on raw dough, it’ll actually rise in his stomach, which can be incredibly painful and cause bloating.
Plus, the yeast will also release alcohol, which is toxic to dogs.
Foods that are sometimes dangerous
While there are plenty of foods that are always dangerous for dogs to eat, there are also quite a few that are only dangerous sometimes.
Almonds aren’t technically toxic to dogs, but it can be really easy for them to get lodged in your pup’s esophagus. And in addition to being a major choking risk, almonds are high in fat and calories, so they can cause your dog to gain weight or upset his gastrointestinal system.
Avocados are full of nutrients, but they also contain a toxin called persin. Persin’s a bigger issue for birds, horses and goats than it is for dogs, but your dog can still develop persin toxicity. However, it’s unclear just how much persin can make a dog sick.
That being said, a couple thin slices of avocado should be safe for your pup.
“Dogs are not sensitive to persin and would need to eat a huge amount before becoming unwell,” Dr. Simon said.
Just make sure you aren’t giving him any avocado pits, leaves or skin, because those have higher concentrations of persin than the flesh does.
In addition to containing persin, the pit’s also a major choking hazard because it’s so smooth that it’d be very easy for your dog to accidentally swallow.
The actual fruit of a cherry is OK for dogs to eat in moderation, and is actually a good source of vitamins, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
However, all parts of the cherry contain cyanide, which is poisonous. The cherry pits, stems and leaves contain the most, and while the cherry fruit still has some cyanide, it’s not enough to make your dog super sick.
The cherry pit’s especially dangerous, since it’s also a choking hazard.
So if you do want to give your dog cherries, make sure they’re pitted and only give him small amounts cut into bite-sized pieces. And don’t give him canned or preserved cherries because those have way too much sugar for him to handle.
Corn on the cob
Individual kernels of corn are fine to give your dog, but tossing him an entire ear of corn is a big problem because that cob’s dangerous.
“Not only can dogs choke on it, it is indigestible and is notorious for obstructing the gut,” Dr. Simon said. “Surgery would be needed to remove it once lodged in the gut.”
Store-bought mushrooms — like baby bella, portobello, shiitake and white button mushrooms — should be safe for your dog to eat, as long as they aren’t prepared or packaged with toxic items like garlic or onions.
However, there are a lot of wild mushrooms that are poisonous to dogs, so you shouldn’t let your pup graze on any random mushrooms he comes across when he’s outside or on a walk.
Peaches are packed with nutrients, and small quantities of the flesh are totally safe for your dog to eat.
The pit, however, should be completely avoided. The pit, stem and leaves all contain cyanide, and chewing the pit actually releases more of the poison. Not to mention, your dog could choke on the pit or, if he swallows it, wind up with an intestinal blockage.
Dogs technically can eat raw meat like beef and chicken if it’s handled properly — meaning it’s not left out of the fridge for very long before dinnertime, and whatever your pup doesn’t finish is immediately covered up and popped back in.
However, most vets and organizations, like the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association, don’t recommend feeding your dog raw meat. But if you really have your heart set on a raw diet for your dog, there are certain guidelines you can follow to make sure you’re doing it safely.
If your dog manages to lick some salt you spilled on the table, you don’t have to stress out. Salt only becomes a problem if your pup consumes a large amount of it, particularly if he doesn’t have any water nearby.
If your dog ingests too much salt, he can develop salt poisoning, which can cause seizures, tremors and even death.
What to do if your dog ate a dangerous food
Depending on what sort of dangerous food your dog ate, there are certain things you can do to help.
If your dog ate something poisonous
If your dog eats a poisonous food — or even if you just suspect he did — you need to go to the nearest vet or emergency hospital ASAP, because these toxins can be fatal and it often won’t take very long for symptoms to set in.
“When it comes to your dog ingesting toxic foods, time is of the essence,” Dr. Simon said. “If seen within the first few hours, we can often safely induce vomiting and minimize the risks.”
As a pet parent, make sure you always have the ASPCA poison control number, (888) 426-4435, and the Pet Poison Helpline, (855) 764-7661, handy in case of emergency.
If your dog is choking
Your dog might be choking if he starts coughing a lot after swallowing something or has difficulty inhaling.
If your dog’s choking, the first thing you should do is carefully open his mouth and see if you can remove whatever he’s choking on.
If you can’t, you should try to give your dog the Heimlich maneuver. If that doesn’t work after a few tries, rush your pup to the nearest veterinary ER.
If your dog has a gastrointestinal blockage
Your dog might have an intestinal blockage if he’s vomiting, has no appetite or has abdominal pain. If you notice these symptoms, bring your pup to a vet ASAP because he may need surgery to remove the blockage.
If your dog has salmonella or E. coli
If your dog ate something that might be contaminated with salmonella or E. coli, call your vet. He’ll most likely need antibiotics or even hospitalization to make sure he’s getting the proper supportive care and fluids.
So now you know which foods dogs can’t eat and what to do if your dog does eat them by accident. While some foods are more dangerous than others, it’s always best to call your vet if you’re ever unsure about something your pup ate.
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