Dogs don’t need human food to survive. Our domesticated dogs are fundamentally carnivores, although they do enjoy plant based food, as anyone with a dog that devours grass can attest. There are thousands of Instagram videos of dogs enjoying bananas, broccoli or spaghetti noodles, and just as many hilarious videos of dogs making faces when confronted with a pickle or lemon. 

The compulsion to share food with beloved pets is real and it is fun to watch a dog eat something new. Other foods, like supplements, fruits and veggies, can add a nutritional boost to a dog’s diet and most vets and dog experts recommend adding to your dogs meat intake. Commercially produced kibble or dehydrated food often includes a serving of veg, and some raw dog food comes pre-mixed with a combo of fruits and veggies. 

But there are human foods that are ultimately harmful for your dog that you should avoid giving them, the most well known of which is chocolate.

Chocolate is highly toxic

Chocolate is notorious for being bad for dogs, but something they nonetheless manage to get into, especially during holidays when it might be wrapped under a Christmas tree, or left out for guests. If your dog manages to consume some, it’s important not to panic. 

If your dog is still acting normally by the time you realize what has happened, the first step is to call your vet or animal hospital. 

Before calling, try to determine:

  • How much chocolate your dog ate
  • What kind of chocolate your dog ate (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, etc.)
  • How much your dog weighs

Vets may be able to determine, over the phone, the risk to your dog. Depending on the size of your dog and how much it consumed, you might not even need to go in for an emergency visit. Larger dogs can consume more chocolate than a small dog before they are impacted healthwise. 

A small amount of chocolate may only end up in diarrhea or vomiting, but large amounts cause more serious symptoms like muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal breathing or a heart attack. If your dog is acting hyperactive and this isn’t normal, let your vet know this when you call. Increased thirst, panting, and excessive urination are also symptoms of poisoning. Symptoms may take hours to become visible.

Why is chocolate bad for dogs?

Chocolate contains theobromine, which humans don’t have trouble metabolizing, but dogs do. It builds toxicity in their systems. 

Every type of chocolate contains different amounts of theobromine. Dark chocolate is more dangerous, while milk chocolate contains lower amounts of theobromine per ounce. According to an article by vet Ahna Brutlag the Associate Director of Veterinary Services at VCA Hospitals, many dogs can consume small amounts of milk chocolate without any harm. The article, ‘Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs,’ states that white chocolate “barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning.” White chocolate does contain fat and sugar, so is not recommended for dog consumption.

The most toxic forms of chocolate, according to the American Kennel Club are

  • cocoa powder
  • unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • semisweet chocolate
  • dark chocolate
  • milk chocolate

Chocolate in any form should never be offered as a treat for dogs, even in baked goods. However, if you drop a crumb of a double chocolate cookie and your dog gets to it before you do, it’s likely your dog will be fine.

Caffeine and coffee aren’t dog friendly

You may need your cup of coffee to get going in the morning, but dogs are significantly more sensitive to caffeine than humans. Caffeine, like chocolate, contains theobromine. The Pet Poison Helpline notes that moderate amounts of coffee grounds, tea containing caffeine, or diet pills, can cause death in small dogs. 

Symptoms of caffeine poisoning appear in one to two hours and include severe hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated heart rates, elevated blood pressure, varied heart rhythms, tremors, increased body temperature, seizure and collapse. 

If your dog has consumed caffeine or coffee, induced vomiting within the first hour can be critical, but you can also contact your vet for support or instructions.

Grapes and Raisins are highly dangerous

This might be the most toxic fruit for dogs. Grapes and raisins can cause a dog to develop sudden kidney failure. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides a case study outlining the dangers.

According to a paper published by Frontiers in Veterinary Science, grapes and their dried versions (raisins, sultanas and currants) have been reported to cause renal failure in dogs. The report, which is available on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, notes that the number of grapes required to cause poisoning can vary widely. It’s often dependent on the dog, which is why no amount is safe for consumption.

Contact your vet immediately if your dog has eaten grapes or raisins. Symptoms of poisoning include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, panting and excessive thirst.

Onions and garlic contain damaging compounds

Garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, chives, purple, white and yellow onions: all of these are toxic for dogs. They can damage your dog’s red blood cells and prevent the cells from being able to carry oxygen through your dog’s body. Dogs can suffer from anemia, internal organ damage or failure, which can lead to death. Watch for lethargy, weakness, uncoordinated muscles, pale gums, red or brown urine, hyper salivation and signs of gastrointestinal upset. Pet MD notes a dog only needs to eat 0.5 per cent of its weight in onions to show onion toxicity. There are sources that recommend garlic for dogs and suggest that a dog would need to eat about 60 cloves at once before it would become ill.

Macadamia nuts are not a healthy snack

While some nuts are fine for dogs, macadamia nuts are high in fat, which means your dog could be on the wrong end of an inflamed pancreas after eating them. Most common symptoms of macadamia nut poisoning are weakness in the back legs, vomiting, and diarrhea. The ASPCA Poison Control Center states that usually symptoms are mild and can be managed at home with vet support. Serious cases should be handled directly by a vet.

Mushrooms may not be good for your dog

Store bought mushrooms may be perfectly fine for Fido, but if your dog likes to eat things while it’s exploring the wilderness, try to prevent them from eating mushrooms. An article on the Pet Health Network by Dr. Justine A. Lee notes that there are only about 100 types of poisonous mushrooms and the most dangerous one is the Amanita mushroom, which contains toxins of the same name. Some wild mushrooms cause neurological distress, seizures, and gastrointestinal issues

Hallucinogenic mushrooms are also not recommended for dogs. These might not be life threatening, but create an unpleasant experience for your dog and can cause abnormal eye movement.

Dr. Lee recommends taking your dog to a vet immediately if it has eaten a foraged mushroom from the great outdoors. 

Mushrooms available in grocery stores are considered safe for pet consumption.

Some herbs and spices cause tummy irritation

According to the American Kennel Club, cinnamon is not recommended because its oils can irritate the inside of your dog’s mouth or can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, changes in heart rate, or liver disease. However, some dogs do just fine with cinnamon baked into gourmet dog treats. 

Be careful not to let your dog inhale any spices or herbs in a powdered form — this can lead to choking and coughing.

Use caution with fruit

Many fruits are just fine for dogs to eat, as long as they have been washed, peeled, and de-pitted or de-seeded. Pits in tree fruits like cherries or peaches can contain cyanide and can cause intestinal blockages if eaten, which means an expensive trip to the vet. Always remove seeds and pits and make sure your dog doesn’t lick the outside of melons that haven’t been washed, as the exterior of fruits can be covered in bacteria.

Avoid anything containing Xylitol

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a popular sugar replacement that is often found in the ingredient list for sugar free gum, mints and products like toothpaste. It is used in baked goods too, and is becoming more and more common in sugar free food products — everything from ketchup to protein bars. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has a long list of types of products that may contain Xylitol. 

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols contain fewer calories than plain sugar, and despite the name, they don’t contain any ethanol, which is the ingredient in booze that makes people drunk. 

Read labels before bringing products home, and if you are a regular consumer of Xylitol, keep it well out of reach of your dog. 

Why is Xylitol so bad for dogs?

The FDA warns that xylitol is quickly absorbed into a dog’s bloodstream which can result in the pancreas releasing insulin. A quick release of insulin can lead to hypoglycemia within 10 minutes, although it can take up to 60 minutes. This can be life threatening for your dog. 

Symptoms of a sudden decrease in blood sugar include lethargy, weakness, staggering, bad coordination, and seizures. These serious symptoms may not manifest for 12 to 24 hours. The FDA also recommends taking your dog to the vet immediately if you think it has consumed Xylitol.

Other substances to keep from your dog

Alcohol isn’t for animals

Don’t give your dog beer, wine or spirits. There is no nutritional benefit for your dog, and some pet advocates suggest giving your dog alcohol is tantamount to animal cruelty. The Pet Poison Hotline says small amounts of alcohol “can cause life-threatening toxicity.” The negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption for humans is well documented — there’s no reason to expose your beloved dog to alcohol. 

During parties or celebrations, your dog may accidentally consume booze that has been left out or spilled. If that happens, watch for signs of your dog is buzzed. Early symptoms include  increased thirst and urination, lethargy, and disorientation. The good news is most dogs don’t like the taste of alcohol. 

Marijuana isn’t healthy for dogs

While not strictly a food, the ongoing legalization of marijuana in Canada and across the United States has made it more readily accessible in homes and dog exposure is increasing. This is not a healthy green for your pet. Pet Poison Helpline has experienced a 448 per cent increase in marijuana cases and dogs can be poisoned by consuming edibles containing it, or by second hand smoke. Your dog can get high—and it’s not safe for it to do so.

Marijuana poisoning can be hard for experts to diagnose if pet owners aren’t honest about the fact that their pet may have been exposed. People may be afraid to tell the truth about if their dog may have had access to the drug, but it’s critical to let your vet know if your dog has been in contact with marijuana. 

Symptoms of marijuana poisoning in dogs include lethargy, dilated pupils, glassy eyes, changes in body temperature, urinary accidents, tremors, seizures or coma. 

CBD oil is different from leafy marijuana. It doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is considered safe for pet consumption, but check with your local pet supplier for pet friendly products.

If you are concerned your dog has eaten anything in this list of potentially dangerous foods, be sure to seek your vet’s advice.