What Can Dogs Not Eat?.. And Safe Alternatives
by Tudor Nikolas on Jul 09, 2023.
Knowing and understanding what foods are harmful to your beloved four legged companion is not just about preventing an occasional upset stomach—it can save your pet's life.
Unlike human digestion, a dog's digestive system is designed to only process certain types of foods. This is mostly to do with the different gut microbiome, the different enzymes available and also the way substances are metabolised by the liver and kidneys.
A dog's diet ultimately plays a critical role in maintaining overall health, longevity, and well-being. Let’s take a look at some of the plants and other foods toxic to dogs.
If you believe that your dog has ingested these foods and you are worried about them, it’s always best to give a call to your vet. No information available online should replace a direct consultation with your local vet.
Common Human Foods Dogs Should Never Eat
Beloved by humans, chocolate is perilous to dogs. Although beneficial to humans, both Theobromine and caffeine, present in chocolate, are harmful stimulants that dogs cannot efficiently metabolize. The concentration of Theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate, but roughly it’s something like this:
Type of Chocolate
Approximate amount of Theobromine (mg/oz)
Symptoms: Ingesting these substances can lead to symptoms like restlessness, increased urination, rapid breathing, muscle tremors, seizures, and even death.
2. Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, even in small quantities. The exact toxic substance in these fruits remains unknown.
Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration.
3. Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic, in all forms—cooked, raw, or powdered—can cause damage to a dog's red blood cells, leading to a condition known as hemolytic anemia.
While avocados are healthy for humans, they contain a substance called persin. This can cause an upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
The large pit also presents a choking hazard.
Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in various products like sugar-free gum, candy, and some types of peanut butter, can cause a rapid and severe insulin release in dogs, leading to hypoglycemia.
Alcohol affects a dog's central nervous system in different ways to us humans. It should always be avoided as it can cause symptoms such as vomiting, loss of coordination, and in severe cases, coma or death.
Can dogs eat caramel? Well, although caramel itself is not toxic for dogs, it's very unhealthy for them. This is because of its high sugar content and low nutritive value.
Other than sugar it doesn't contain any useful vitamins and minerals. To make things worse, it often comes mixed or coated with chocolate which would make it toxic for dogs.
Dangerous Food Practices
Bones and Raw Meat
Bones, particularly sharp or large poultry bones, can splinter and cause choking or internal injury. Pork bones should also be avoided. Raw meat presents a risk of bacterial contamination like E.Coli or Salmonella.
Diarrhoea from Salmonella is often very severe and can cause to severe dehydration and even death if left untreated.
Furthermore, if your dog is infected with Salmonella, this can be easily spread to other animals and to us humans too.
Eating raw fish, or raw fish dishes such as sushi can also be dangerous to dogs.
Raw Salmon and raw Trout in particular can contain a bacteria called Neorickettsia helminthoeca which can infect dogs. The incubation period for this is about 14 days post ingestion. If infected, your dog can develop something called Salmon Poisoning Disease (SPD). The symptoms include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and your dog can subsequently become dehydrated, weak and lethargic. Without prompt treatment, such as antibiotics and possibly IV fluids, dogs may die from this infection.
High Fat Foods
High fat foods, like bacon or fatty cuts of meat, can lead to pancreatitis. This is a painful and potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas.
Feeding Dogs Leftovers/ Takeaway food
Leftovers from take away food or fast food often contain high amounts of salt and seasonings, which are unhealthy for dogs.
Regular feeding of leftovers can also lead to obesity and related health issues. Remember that weight control is an important factor in the healthy aging and longevity of your dog.
In addition to all those, here is a list of other human foods toxic to dogs
- Raw Potatoes
- Tomato Plants
- Macadamia Nuts
- Yeast Dough
- Raw Bread Dough
What Human Food Can Dogs Eat?
There are plenty of dog-friendly foods that can be used as alternatives to those mentioned above.
Here are a few, together with safety precautions where required and their nutritional benefits:
|Carrots||Low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins. Also great for your dog's vision due to its high vitamin A content!|
|Apples||A good source of vitamins A and C, and fiber. Remove seeds and core can be had raw or cooked.|
|Blueberries||Packed with antioxidants, safe in moderation.|
|Bananas||High in potassium and vitamins, but also high in sugar, so feed sparingly.|
|Broccoli||Can be a healthy snack in small quantities, but in large amounts can cause stomach upset due to high isothiocyanate content in the florets.|
|Pumpkin||High in fiber and vitamin A, good for digestive health. Be sure to use pure pumpkin, not sweetened and avoid any spices. Some other nutritionists strongly advocate regular use of pumpkin powder as a prebiotic to improve gut health.|
|Green Beans||Low calorie and filling; a good source of protein and calcium.|
|Sweet Potatoes||Rich in dietary fiber, vitamin A, and other nutrients. Must be cooked and served in small portions.|
|Watermelon||A hydrating treat. Remove seeds and don't let dogs eat the rind.|
|Peas||A good source of vitamins, but avoid canned peas due to high sodium content.|
|Chicken||An excellent source of protein. Make sure it is cooked and unseasoned.|
|Turkey||A lean protein source. Cooked, unseasoned, and remove any bones.|
|Salmon||Rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Cook thoroughly just as you would for humans and ensure there are no bones. Avoid giving it raw. Salmon is also a key component of various dog foods.|
|Rice||Can be a good bland diet addition for dogs with upset stomachs.|
|Quinoa||A good source of protein and carbohydrates.|
|Oatmeal||High in fiber and good for dogs with irregular bowel movements. Avoid flavored oatmeal.|
|Peanut Butter||A good source of protein, but also has to be in moderation due to high fat content and also make sure it does not contain xylitol.|
|Parsley||Good for improving dog breath and is a good source of vitamins.|
|Spinach||Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, but feed in small amounts due to high calcium oxalate content|
|Cucumbers||A low-calorie, hydrating snack for overweight dogs.|
Packed with vitamins C and B, fiber, and lots of antioxidants
My Dog Ingested Something Known To Be Harmful
If your dog ingests something harmful, look out for symptoms of food poisoning like vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drinking, and lethargy. If that’s the case, or even if he or she is asymptomatic but you’re still worried, seek immediate veterinary attention even if just for reassurance.
Treatments after swallowing anything that's possibly harmful may include inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal (this works best if administered as quickly as possible after ingestion), or more intensive care depending on the substance ingested and the severity of the symptoms.
What if my dog has swallowed a solid toy?
If your dog has swallowed a toy, the symptoms are going to vary depending on the size of the toy and the size of your dog. Initial symptoms could include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain or unusual behaviour changes.
Your dog may also lose appetite and show increasing signs of discomfort or distress, like pacing, drooling, or attempting to vomit.
Most toys will travel through and pass out on their own, if they are small enough. However, if the toy causes a blockage, symptoms could escalate to include severe abdominal pain, bloating, unproductive vomiting, or total loss of appetite.
If you suspect your dog has swallowed a toy, it's important to seek veterinary attention immediately. Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home, as this could cause more harm, especially if the toy is large or has sharp edges, says Dr Loren, our resident vet. She adds: "Your vet may need to first check the position and the size of the toy with an x-ray or further investigations."
Further treatment such as inducing vomiting, or endoscopic removal +/- surgery depending on where the toy is in the intestinal tract, may be required at this stage. For example, endoscopic removal may be possible from the oesophagus or the stomach, but surgical removal is usually necessary if the foreign body and the blockage is further down, such as in the small intestines. It's best to be guided by the professional who has reviewed your dog.
Generic symptoms recap
Just to recap some of the symptoms you should look out for, I will split these into four categories:
- Gastrointestinal upset: This can be a combination of vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, loss of appetite, or noticeable abdominal discomfort manifesting in restlessness.
- Behavioral changes: Your dog may seem more lethargic, unsteady, or disoriented. Other changes can include agitation, or apparent confusion.
- Physical symptoms: These may include excessive thirst or urination, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, or changes in body temperature.
- Neurological signs: Seizures, tremors, or loss of coordination can be symptoms of toxic ingestion and urgent medical care should be sought, particularly in this situations.
In conclusion, remember there are lots of alternatives that will ensure your dog gets a healthy and varied diet, while also avoiding any human foods dogs shouldn't eat.
I hope this article has been a good starting point to help you discover your own dog's food preferences and dislikes, which may even surprise you!
Take a look at our dog health blog for more useful articles on how you can add variety to your dog's meals!
Get the Facts about Salmonella. US Food and Drug Administration. July 2020.
FDA Investigates Contaminated Pig Ear Pet Treats Connected to Human Salmonella Infections. US Food and Drug Administration. July 2019.
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E.C. Crossley, ... D.H. Walker, in International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2008