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dog parent basics
Little dog with food toxic to him

🚨 If you think your dog has ingested something toxic, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

We took a closer look at some of the most dangerous foods to watch out for and explained why they’re harmful to your pet. But keep in mind that this isn’t a full list. If you ever have questions about what to feed your dog, be sure to check with your veterinarian. And, if you’re looking for an alternative, make sure to check out our guide to safe foods for dogs

Chocolate. Never let your dog have chocolate. It contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which are methylxanthines. These chemicals can cause dangerously high heart rates and seizures in dogs. Chocolate is also high in fat, and anything with a high fat content can cause issues for your pup, like weight gain and even pancreatitis.

Xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that can be found in candy, bubble gum, toothpaste, and a number of pantry staples. While there’s no reason to give your dog candy, always be sure to read the label on anything you feed your pup since this sweetener can be found in such a wide range of products. And be extra careful if you’re buying peanut butter as a treat for your dog. Some brands use xylitol as a sweetener, and ingesting it can be life-threatening for your dog. Pups that consume it can experience severe drops in blood sugar, which can lead to seizures and liver failure.

Grapes and raisins. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) acknowledges that veterinarians don’t know exactly what makes these foods so toxic to dogs. What’s certain, though, is that grapes and raisins can be lethal to canines. Our vet, Dr. Erica Irish, explains that as few as one to three grapes can cause an idiosyncratic reaction in dogs. While some dogs will be fine, others can go into kidney failure.

Caffeine. Caffeine is part of the reason chocolate is so dangerous for dogs, but it’s also pretty harmful on its own. Along with a raised heart rate, caffeine causes symptoms in dogs that can range from hyperactivity to seizures. Be sure to keep coffee, tea, coffee grounds, tea bags, and any beverages containing caffeine out of your dog’s reach.

Alcohol. Dogs suffer alcohol poisoning a lot easier than humans do. This typically has to do with their size and the way that they metabolize alcohol. It takes less alcohol to harm a dog than it does to harm an adult person. In both cases, ethanol is the toxin that can be life-threatening.

Cannabis. Cannabis edibles are more prevalent with new laws, and dog owners should use caution when using these products around their pups. Edibles often contain THC, which can cause adverse effects such as sedation, stumbling, and changes in heart rate and body temperature in your dog. In raw form, marijuana leaves are also bad for dogs, so keep all cannabis products away from your pets.

Macadamia nuts (aka black walnuts). While veterinarians aren’t sure what makes macadamia nuts bad for dogs, they are clear about one thing: You should never feed them to your dog. Dogs that ingest macadamia nuts (even in small amounts) can become paralyzed and lose the ability to walk. Remember that macadamia nuts can hide in things like baked goods, trail mix, and other foods. Always check the ingredient list on these items before sharing a snack with your pooch.

Onions, chives, and garlic. These three common kitchen staples are all in the allium family, which means they contain n-propyl disulfide in both their raw and cooked forms. Ingesting n-propyl disulfide can lead to life-threatening anemia, which happens when red blood cells rupture. Dogs that eat onions, chives, or garlic might also vomit, have diarrhea, and experience abdominal pain. In addition to keeping these foods away from your dog, be sure to watch out for onion powder, a common ingredient in a lot of recipes.

Corn cobs. Dogs that eat the cob of an ear of corn could experience an intestinal blockage. Because they’re so hard, they’re difficult (if not impossible) for a dog to digest. If you want to give your pup corn, it’s always best to cut it off the cob.

Toxic foods for dogs include avocados, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts, chocolate, garlic, and more.

Milk and dairy. Not all dogs have the same tolerance for lactose, so milk and dairy products can cause digestive issues in some dogs. Keep in mind that puppies have a lot of the enzyme lactase in their systems, which helps them digest their mothers’ milk. Adult dogs don’t produce as much lactase, making digesting lactose more difficult. While some people argue cheese is fine to feed dogs, be sure to do so sparingly. Cheese is also high in fat, so consuming too much of it can lead to pancreatitis in pups.

Cat food. Cat food is higher in meat-based protein than most foods formulated for dogs. While most dogs do OK with high-protein foods, some pups with certain health issues can experience a problem. Owners of dogs with liver or kidney disease should keep their dogs away from high-protein foods. Dogs with food allergies should avoid cat food for this same reason.

Raw eggs. Just as people should be wary of salmonella, so too should dogs. Cooked eggs are actually great for dogs. We’ll discuss them further down in our superfoods section.

Fruit pits and seeds. Some pits and seeds, like that of cherries, contain the poison cyanide. If they’re nonpoisonous, pits and seeds from fruits like peaches and plums have been known to cause bowel obstructions in dogs.

Raw or undercooked meat and fish. Bacteria thrive in raw and undercooked meats. Just as bacteria can cause serious problems for people, the same is true for dogs. The risk of a bacterial infection is what makes raw food diets a bad idea for pets. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages the feeding of raw meat to cats and dogs for this very reason.

Bones from meat or fish. Bones are choking hazards, and you should keep them away from dogs. Even large bones that seem OK can be broken down into pieces that can get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract.

👉 Check out betterpet’s list of vet-approved bones to find an alternative that’s safe for your pup.

Fatty foods. Too much fat can cause pancreatitis in dogs. While many dogs love fatty foods, they’re not the best choice for your pup — even if they beg with those big puppy-dog eyes. There are plenty of alternatives out there that are better for your dog’s long-term health.

Yeast dough. Dough can continue to rise in a dog’s stomach, causing them to experience discomfort, bloating, and gas. Bloating can also lead to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation volvulus or GDV. If that weren’t enough, raw dough can also lead to alcohol poisoning since the dough tends to ferment as it rises.

Baking soda and powder. Dogs that get into large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can experience electrolyte imbalances. These imbalances can lead to muscle spasms and heart issues. In general, these ingredients are OK for your dog to eat if used properly in a dog-friendly recipe. Just remember that, in large quantities, they can be dangerous to dogs.

Nutmeg. Nutmeg is another common baking ingredient that’s toxic to dogs in large doses. Even small amounts can cause gastrointestinal upset, so this is something to avoid.

Old leftovers. It’s never a good idea to give your dog old food, and moldy foods are a particular concern. Some molds are neurotoxins, meaning they can wreak havoc on your dog’s central nervous system.

Sugary foods. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and even diabetes in dogs. In general, sugary treats are best reserved for the humans of the house.

Salty Foods. In addition to causing dehydration, too much salt can lead to sodium ion poisoning, which can be fatal.

What to do if you think your dog has ingested something harmful

If you think your dog has eaten something potentially toxic, call a vet immediately. There are also other pet poison hotlines you can call if you have any questions or concerns. We also recommend posting your veterinarian’s phone number somewhere that’s easy to find, like on the refrigerator. This is helpful in case a visitor such as a dog walker or pet sitter requires the information.

Here are the numbers to keep in your phone:

👉 Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7611

👉 ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435

Frequently asked questions

What are the worst foods for dogs?

Some of the worst foods for dogs, like grapes, onion, and garlic, are probably already hiding in your fridge and pantry. Since dogs can have a tendency to swipe food from the counter, you’ll have to use caution when cutting up an ingredient that’s bad for your dog or serving up a meal that contains a toxic or troublesome food.

Is it bad to let my dog eat human food?

The best food for your dog is one that’s specially formulated for them. That said, there are some healthy human options, like apples, carrots, and bananas, that can be quite good for pups. Like all things, though, be sure to feed your pup human foods in moderation.

Why are some foods harmful to dogs but not humans?

Foods like grapes and raisins are perfectly fine for most humans but can be extremely toxic to dogs. This is in large part because dogs’ digestive systems are different from our own. Since their body breaks down and processes certain nutrients differently than ours does, some foods that are great choices for us can be extremely harmful to our pets.

Can dogs eat spoiled food?

You probably shouldn’t eat spoiled food, and neither should your pup. When something’s gone bad, there’s a risk that it contains mold or harmful pathogens, making it unsafe for humans and pets alike.

What kind of foods can dogs and people eat?

A lot of human food isn’t healthy for pups because of the sodium and fat content. That said, there are some great, healthy options that both pets and people can enjoy, like certain fruits, vegetables, and even lean meats or fish. Just be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s daily diet. And when in doubt, be sure to double-check that a food is safe for your pup.