Toxic foods for dogs

Let’s face it, sometimes those puppy dog eyes are just too hard to resist.

But it may surprise you to learn that letting your dog have an occasional ‘human food’ treat or feeding them scraps from the table could be harmful to their health. 

Some types of food can even be fatal to dogs, so it’s important to know which foods should be kept well out of reach and know the symptoms to look out for if your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t.


Alcohol

Just like in humans, alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, causing your dog to become drowsy and disorientated. Alcohol is absorbed by a dog’s body much quicker than a human’s, and if your dog is exposed to high levels of alcohol, they may suffer from alcohol poisoning and experience vomiting, dehydration, breathing problems and loss of consciousness. Alcohol isn’t just found in beer, wine and liquor; some foods, cough syrups, perfumes and even mouthwashes can all contain alcohol, so be sure to keep all these items well out of reach of your dog.  


Avocado

Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which is found in the leaves, the pit and bark, as well as the fruit. Persin is poisonous to dogs in large quantities and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. An avocado pit is also a choking hazard, and can also easily become lodged in your dog’s stomach or intestines, so it’s important to dispose of your avocado pits in a dog-proof trash can and visit your veterinarian straight away if you think your dog may have swallowed one. 


Bones

Believe it or not, feeding your dog leftover bones can often do more harm than good. Not only are they a choking hazard, but cooked bones splinter easily and can damage your dog’s teeth, tongue or mouth, and even puncture their digestive tract. Smaller bones can also get stuck in your dog’s intestines, and consuming large amounts of bone can cause constipation, so it’s best to buy a recreational bone from the pet store if you want to give your pup something to gnaw on.


Chocolate

As most pet owners know, chocolate is a big no-no for dogs. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, or more serious issues such as heart problems, seizures and even death, depending on the size of your dog and the amount they’ve eaten. The toxin found in chocolate, theobromine, is more concentrated in dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but it’s important to get in touch with your veterinarian for advice if you think your dog has consumed any type of chocolate, no matter how small the amount.


Citrus fruits

While they may be a great natural source of vitamins and fiber, citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges are actually toxic to dogs. The high levels of citric acid can cause vomiting, diarrhea and sensitivity to light. Fruits such as apples, bananas, pears and pineapple are much safer alternatives, however always be sure to remove all cores, skins and rinds before letting your pup tuck in.


Coffee

Coffee contains caffeine, which can be fatal to dogs in high doses. The symptoms of caffeine poisoning include increased heart rate, restlessness and vomiting, and in more serious cases, your dog may even collapse or experience seizures. Energy drinks, tea, cold and flu medicines and coffee-flavored products can also contain just as much caffeine as your morning coffee, so be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian for your advice if you believe your dog has ingested something containing caffeine. 


Corn on the cob

While a corn on the cob may seem like a healthy treat for your dog to chew on, dogs often struggle to digest them, and corn cobs can cause an obstruction in your dog’s gut. Signs of intestinal obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and discomfort, and so it’s best to get in touch with your veterinarian if your dog shows any of these symptoms and they’ll advise you on the best course of action. 


Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins are dangerous to all dogs, even in small quantities, and the toxins found in these fruits can even cause kidney failure. If your dog has accidently eaten grapes or raisins, or you suspect they may have, then look out for signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration and get in touch with your veterinarian for advice. Remember that foods such as mince pies, hot cross buns and fruit cake all contain dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, so be sure to keep them well out of reach.


Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts are high in fat, which can give your dog an upset stomach, and they also contain a similar toxin to grapes and raisins. Sensitivity to macadamia nuts varies between dogs, but as little as six raw or roasted macadamia nuts is enough to make your dog unwell. If your dog experiences weakness, particularly in their hind legs, tremors, depression and vomiting, then seek advice from your veterinarian.


Milk, cheese and dairy

Milk, cheese and other dairy products contain enzymes which your dog’s digestive system struggles to break down. Dairy products which are high in fat can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, and blue cheeses such as Stilton and Roquefort contain a substance called Roquefortine C which can also make your dog sick and cause tremors, twitching, seizures and a fever if eaten in large doses. Dairy products can also trigger allergies in dogs, so it’s best to avoid treats such as ice cream and cheese altogether.


Onions and garlic

Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives are all poisonous to dogs, and are equally dangerous in all forms, including raw, cooked, dried or powdered. The toxins found in these plants can cause damage to your dog’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia, organ damage and, in extreme cases, even death. Look out for signs of weakness, lethargy, dark colored urine and occasional vomiting and diarrhea, as any of these symptoms could be an indication of garlic/onion toxicity.


Peaches, plums and cherries

The issue with peaches, plums and cherries is that their pits, leaves and stems contain a toxin called cyanide, which is poisonous to both humans and dogs in large doses. The pits can also become lodged in your dog’s digestive tract and cause intestinal blockages, particularly in smaller dogs, so keep an eye out for symptoms including vomiting, constipation and decreased appetite if you believe your dog has swallowed one of these fruits.


Raw fish, meat and eggs

While many pet owners believe raw diets are beneficial to their pet’s health, raw eggs, meat and fish contain bacteria which causes food poisoning. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are common in raw eggs, while raw fish such as salmon, trout and sturgeon contain parasites which cause “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning”. If your dog experiences symptoms including fever, vomiting and enlarged lymph nodes, consult your veterinarian straight away.


Xylitol

Xylitol is a sweetener which is commonly found in foods such as candy, sugar-free gum, baked goods, toothpastes and diet foods, and it’s extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol affects your dog’s blood sugar levels and can even cause liver failure. The symptoms of xylitol toxicity include vomiting, weakness, lack of coordination and seizures. Liver failure can occur within a matter of days, so seek help from your veterinarian straight way if you think you dog has eaten something containing xylitol.

 

No matter how cautious you and your family are, there’s always a chance your dog may end up eating something they shouldn’t. If you think your dog may have swallowed something toxic, call your veterinarian for advice or get in touch with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible.