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dog parent basics

A huge list of foods that are bad for your dog, and more

We compiled 22 people foods bad for dogs, 14 healthy snacks, and 29 toxins found around the home

Updated October 14, 2020

Created By

Kristen Bobst,

🚨 If you think your dog ingested something toxic call the pet poison hotline immediately: 855-764-7611

Foods that are bad for your dog

You might have heard about some of these foods, and others may surprise you. If you ever have any questions about what is OK to feed your dog, be sure to check with your veterinarian. We selected the most common, most dangerous foods for you to watch out for and explained why they are harmful.

🍫 Chocolate. Never let your dog have chocolate because it contains caffeine and theobromine, which are a type of methylxanthines. These chemicals can cause dangerously high heart rates and seizures in dogs. Chocolate is also high in fat, which is very bad for dogs as it can lead to pancreatitis.

⚛︎ Xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener. You can find it in things like candies, chewing gum, toothpaste, and even peanut butter. There’s no reason to give your dog candy, anyway, but always be sure to read the label on anything you feed to your pup. 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. Dogs who consume xylitol can experience severe drops in blood sugar, which can lead to seizures and liver failure.

🍇 Grapes & raisins. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. The AKC acknowledges that veterinarians don’t know the precise chemical in these foods that cause problems. What is certain is that grapes and raisins can be lethal to canines. Our veterinarian advisor, Erica Irish, explains that as few as one to three grapes can cause a reaction in dogs. She describes it as an idiosyncratic reaction, meaning that some dogs will be fine, whereas others will go into kidney failure.

☕️ Caffeine. Caffeine is not dangerous just in the form of chocolate. It’s bad for dogs by itself. Along with a raised heart rate, caffeine causes symptoms from hyperactivity to seizures. Be sure to keep coffee, tea, coffee grounds, tea bags, and any beverage containing caffeine out of your dog’s reach.

🍷 Alcohol. Dogs suffer alcohol poisoning a lot easier than humans. This is because they have smaller body weights and metabolize alcohol differently than people do. 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. Therefore, dog owners must become more careful about them. Edibles often contain THC, which will cause adverse effects such as sedation, stumbling, and changes in heart rate and body temperature in your dog. Marijuana leaves in raw form are also bad for dogs, so keep all cannabis products away from your pet. Be sure to tell your friends about the dangers of cannabis when it comes to canines, as many people are not yet aware.

Macadamia nuts (a.k.a black walnuts). While veterinarians aren’t sure what makes macadamia nuts bad for dogs, they are clear about one thing: NEVER feed your dog macadamia nuts. Even small amounts of macadamia nuts are bad for dogs. Some dogs that ingest macadamia nuts suffer the paralysis of their back legs and cannot walk. Remember that macadamia nuts can hide in things like baked goods, trail mix, and other foods. Always check ingredients before sharing a snack.

Onions, chives, garlic. These three common kitchen staples are all in the same family, the allium family. They can all adversely affect your dog’s health. Both raw and cooked allium family foods contain N-propyl disulfide. Ingesting N-propyl disulfide can lead to life-threatening anemia, which is caused by red blood cells rupturing. Dogs who eat onions, chives, and garlic might also vomit, have diarrhea, and experience abdominal pain. In addition to keeping these allium family foods away from your dog, be sure to look for “onion powder” as an ingredient to avoid. It’s found in a lot of recipes.

🌽 Corn cobs. If a dog eats the entire cob, she could suffer from an intestinal blockage. Because of the particular structure of the corn cobs, they are harder, if not impossible, for dogs to digest.

🥛 Milk/dairy. Not all dogs have the same tolerance for lactose. Some milk and dairy products can cause digestive issues for 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, so digesting lactose is hard for them. While some people argue cheese is fine to feed dogs, be sure to do so sparingly. Cheese is also high in fat, and too much fat consumption can lead to pancreatitis.

🐈 Cat food. Cat food is higher in meat-based protein compared to a food formulated for dogs. While most dogs do okay with high protein foods, other dogs with certain health issues do not. Owners of dogs with liver disease or kidney disease should keep their dogs away from high protein diets. Dogs who have food allergies should not be on high protein diets either.

🥚 Raw eggs. Just as people should be wary of Salmonella in raw eggs, 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 contain cyanide, which is a poison. Cherry pits, for example, are among fruits to avoid because of the cyanide in their pits. Pits and seeds from fruits can also obstruct a dog’s bowels. Peach pits and avocado pits have been known to cause obstructions. And, yes, an avocado is technically a fruit.

🍣 Raw or undercooked meat and fish. Bacteria thrive in raw and undercooked meat and fish. Just as bacteria can cause serious problems for people, the same is true for dogs. Keep in mind that bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella are dangerous and thrive in raw and undercooked meats and fish, so a raw food diet for dogs is a bad idea because of all the bacterial risks.

🦴 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.

Fat cut from meat and fatty foods. Too much fat or too many fatty foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs. While many dogs love fatty foods, keep her health in mind, even if she is begging with those big puppy-dog eyes. It’s called “tough love” for a reason!

🍞 Yeast dough. When a dog eats dough, the dough will still rise in the dog’s stomach and will release a lot of gas, causing her high levels of discomfort and bloating. Bloating can lead to flipped stomachs in a life-threatening condition called GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus). Ingesting raw dough can also lead to alcohol poisoning because dough ferments as it rises.

Baking soda/baking powder. If your dog gets into large amounts of baking soda or baking powder, she can experience electrolyte imbalances. These imbalances can lead to muscle spasms and heart issues. These ingredients are OK for your dog to eat if used properly in dog-friendly recipes. Just remember that they can be dangerous if your pup gets into the pantry and helps herself to a large quantity.

Nutmeg. Nutmeg is another common baking ingredient that is toxic in large doses. Small amounts can still cause gastrointestinal upset.

Old leftovers. It’s never a good idea to give your dog old or moldy food as you cannot be sure how the mold will affect your dog. Some molds are neurotoxins, meaning they can wreak havoc on your dog’s central nervous system.

🍭 Sugary foods. Just as in humans, eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain or even diabetes in canines.

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

Foods that are healthy for your dog

🍉 Watermelon. Your dog can eat small doses of watermelon (seeds removed). Like lots of other fruits, it’s great for vitamins and even hydration. Watermelon is highly healthy, but it does contain sugar, too, which should always be consumed in moderation. Be sure to keep the seeds and the rind away from your dog, as those can cause intestinal blockages.

🥦 Broccoli. Dogs can enjoy small amounts of broccoli. Be sure to cut it into easy-to-chew pieces as raw broccoli can be quite tough. Track the amount you feed your dog, as there is too much of a good thing. Broccoli contains isothiocyanates, substances that can lead to stomach irritation in large doses.

🥕 Carrots. Carrots are a great treat alternative for your pup. Not only do they taste delicious, but raw carrots also serve as an edible chew toy for pups who are into that sort of thing. For the more refined palate, cooked carrots could be just the ticket.

🥒 Cucumbers. While not all dogs are ready to hop aboard the cuke train, some dogs love cucumbers, and that’s awesome! Cucumbers are very low in calories, and lots of dogs delight in the crunch factor. Just be sure to cut your pup’s cucumbers to the appropriate size for her to avoid choking risks.

🍚 Cooked white rice. This food is especially useful if your dog is recovering from tummy troubles. Cooked white rice is an easy-to-stomach meal that is full of necessary carbs. Cooking white rice in a low-sodium chicken broth will also make it more palatable to your pup.

dog eating fruit

📷 by Rarnie McCudden

Superfoods that are the healthiest super snacks for your dog

🍌 Bananas. Peeled bananas are a great option for your dog because they are high in healthy nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamins. Just be sure not to overdo it, as they do also contain sugar like most fruits.

Green beans. As long as they are plain, green beans in any form are a great treat for your dog. They are high in vitamins while being low in calories. Ohh doggy, we should all jump on the green bean bandwagon! Just make sure that the pods are soft, so your dog doesn’t have a hard time digesting them.

Blueberries. Loaded with healthy vitamins, blueberries are an ideal snack for your pooch. It’s also handy that they are pre-packaged in the right size as a tiny little ball of healthy deliciousness. Instead of giving your pup a dog treat, toss her a blueberry. She’ll be doing tricks for blueberries in no time!

🥩 Lean meats. Cooked, lean meats like boneless skinless chicken and turkey breasts are great for dogs. Lean meats are high in protein and amino acids. PetMD notes that whitefish is a great option, too.

🐟 Cooked salmon. Salmon is super high in omega-3 fatty acids and is a great way to add fish oil into your dog’s diet without having to give your pup a smelly pill. Fish oil is great for helping boost your dog’s immune system and skin health.

🥔 Sweet potatoes. You hear about sweet potatoes amongst dog people in the know, and there are a few good reasons why. They are high in fiber and contain cancer-fighting antioxidants. They are good as a treat once in a while, however, and not as a replacement for the bulk of a dog’s diet.

🎃 Pumpkin. Pumpkin is a great source of fiber and nutrients, and a good staple to keep around in case your dog ever suffers from constipation. Just be sure to buy the plain pumpkin if you’re purchasing it canned, and be sure not to overfeed it to your dog. According to the AKC, feed your dog one to four tablespoons of pureed pumpkin in her food. Always start with a smaller amount to see how your dog handles it.

🍳 Cooked egg whites. High in amino acids and protein, egg whites are a great healthy treat for your pup. They also have a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Bonus: Eggs are easy on the digestive tract, so if your dog is in recovery, cook up some eggs! However, remember that egg yolks are high in fat and cholesterol, so it’s better to just use the whites because too much fat and cholesterol consumption increases your pup’s risk of pancreatitis.

🍎 Apples.  Seeded and cored apples contain lots of fiber, and the crunch factor helps clean dogs’ teeth. They’re an ideal treat supplement or replacement if you’re concerned that your dog is getting too many puppy cookies.

A note about lean ground beef: While it has “lean” in the name, lean ground beef is not entirely fat-free; it actually still has some fat mixed in, so it is bad for dogs who are at risk of pancreatitis. Keep in mind that too much fat is bad for any dog — because it can lead to pancreatitis.

Other hazards of which you might not be aware

Now you know what to avoid in the kitchen as well as what foods are vet-approved. Let’s venture into the rest of your home, room-by-room, to list the hazards that could threaten your dog’s safety. Note that when products say “keep out of reach of children and pets,” they mean it.

Dangers in the bathroom

Both over the counter and prescription medicines can be toxic to dogs. Note that even supplements and ointments like estrogen cream are harmful to dogs.

Vitamins. Like medicines, vitamins that are made for people can be extremely dangerous for dogs. It’s easy for dogs to overdose on common fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

Soaps. Some bath products smell delicious to a dog’s nose, so never let your dog have access to your shower supplies.

Nicotine patches. Nicotine is toxic to dogs, and a curious hound might be inclined to chew on them. Be sure to keep them safe in a cabinet and dispose of them in a dog-proof trash can. Also, be sure to keep cigarettes and chewing tobacco out of your dog’s reach!

Sunscreen, lotion, and bug spray. Many skin care formulas can be toxic to dogs, so keep products for human skin away from canine mouths.

Bathroom cleaners. Of course, you should always dog-proof any cabinet that contains cleaning products. Chemicals in cleaning products are highly toxic. Keep your dog away from recently-cleaned wet surfaces, too. Always make sure to close toilet lids after cleansing the commode.

Threats in the garage, laundry, and utility rooms

The garage is a minefield for pets. Here are just some of the things you should keep out of Fido’s reach:

  • Household chemicals
  • Glues and adhesive strips
  • Rodenticide
  • Insecticide
  • Bleach
  • Detergent
  • Lint
  • Dryer sheets

Perils in the yard

There are numerous plants that are toxic to dogs. Some of the most common ones are listed below. However, if you are looking to landscape or you just want to make sure your yard is safe plant-by-plant, the ASPCA provides an exhaustive list of plants. It includes toxic plants as well as ‘safe’ plants.

Sago palms. While Sago palms are native to Japan, they are very prevalent in many parts of the world, especially in tropical and subtropical climates. You can find them in the wild, in yards, or even indoors as potted plants. All parts of the sago palm are dangerous for dogs.

Tulips and hyacinths. Tulips and hyacinths are both very popular flowering plants, but they can be quite dangerous. Their bulbs are where the toxins are concentrated, so be aware if your dog is a digger, and always keep bags of bulbs out of her reach.

Oleander. Oleanders have a reputation as harmful to humans, but the same is true for dogs. Oleanders are often found in warm climates in the wild, in yards, or as part of flower arrangements.

Cyclamen. Cyclamen are commonly used as houseplants, but can also be found as part of landscaping and in the wild.  Pet Poison Helpline explains that cyclamen contains saponins, which are a type of toxic compound concentrated in the plant’s tubers and roots.

Kalanchoe. You’ve probably seen these in your local supermarket marketed as pretty houseplants. They are nice to look at, but kalanchoes are also bad for dogs. They contain bufadienolides, which are toxins that cause cardiac problems.

Dieffenbachia. Dieffenbachia is a tropical flowering plant that can be found both outside and also indoors as houseplants. When a dog bites into the plant, calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves may cause irritation to the mouth. If a dog brushes a dieffenbachia with her face, she could experience severe eye pain. She can suffer skin irritation, too, if her body comes into contact with the plant. The dieffenbachia is also harmful to dogs if eaten.

Rhododendrons and azaleas. All parts of rhododendrons and azaleas are highly toxic to dogs. Pet Poison Hotline points out that a dog would only have to consume 0.2% of her body weight to get poisoned by these highly common plants. There are over 1000 species, and rhododendrons and azaleas can be found pretty much everywhere.

Wild mushrooms. Never let your dog near wild mushrooms. While most are harmless, some are lethal, and only experts know the difference.

In addition to plants, there are other hazards to be aware of in your yard or on neighborhood walks with your dog.

Fertilizers. Be aware that most fertilizers are toxic, so know when your lawn is being fertilized. Be sure to keep your dog off of it until it is safe. Most fertilizers or lawn companies can offer you this information if you ask. The same goes for weed killers.

Frogs, lizards, snakes, bugs, and other wild animals. If you can keep your dog away from these critters, you’ll both be better off. Some species are venomous and can hurt your dog by biting them. Others are poisonous, meaning they are toxic when consumed by your dog. New invasive species are showing up all the time, too. Remember that if your dog catches and eats something like a rabbit or squirrel, she might have issues with the animal’s bones causing bowel obstructions. So always be vigilant when your dog has caught something she shouldn’t have.

Rock salt and antifreeze. These two culprits are often found in cold weather climates. Not only are they tough on your dog’s feet and skin, but they are also toxic.

Pup problems in closets, bedrooms, kids rooms, and beyond

Small toys and other objects. Any small figurine or toy component can be a choking hazard or a potential cause for bowel obstruction. This is also true for things like buttons and plastic pieces. Some dogs will even eat coins, so lock your change down. Pennies can be extra-problematic because pennies that were minted after 1982 are made mostly of zinc. Zinc is a major culprit of heavy metal poisoning. So if you see a penny, pick it up — so Fido doesn’t.

Batteries. Like with kids, we want to make sure things like batteries aren’t easy to find and eat. Round lithium batteries, for example, can burn through the esophagus and stomach if swallowed.

Mothballs and other moth deterrents. Keep in mind that mothballs (and moth cakes, flakes, powder, etc.) are pesticides by nature, so they are toxic if consumed.

Essential oils. These compounds are highly concentrated tinctures that can burn your dog’s mouth and skin. They can also be absorbed through the skin, where they’ll wind up in your dog’s liver. It’s easy for a dog to overdose on these essential oils because they’re so strong, so be sure to keep them out of reach. Tea tree oil is one to take special notice of when safety-checking your home. While tea tree oil is often found in low concentrations in some pet care items, products with 100% tea tree oil are very dangerous for your pup.

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

If you think your dog has eaten something potentially toxic, call the vet. Do it.

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 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 Helpline: 888-426-4435