30 Jan What Foods are Toxic for Dogs?
Unfortunately, dogs don’t come with a handbook on their care. We at AskVet are here to help you with information on what human foods are safe for your pet to eat.
Luckily, there is more information than ever before about pet care (and there’s yet more to be discovered). This article will break down the information you need to know about the do’s and don’ts of foods to feed your dog, including:
- Toxic food to never feed your dog
- Unsafe foods that aren’t toxic, but you should still avoid
- Foods that are okay in moderation
Toxic Food to Never Feed Your Dog
It’s important to know what foods are toxic to dogs as they can be fatal or cause serious chronic health problems. So, be sure to never feed your dog the following foods:
- Alcohol – There are three types of alcohol that can cause toxicity in pets which include, ethanol, isopropanol (rubbing alcohol), and methanol. Alcohols are generally absorbed very quickly from the digestive tract and are eliminated by the kidneys. Clinical signs can start within 30-60 minutes of ingestion. These are the effects of alcohol toxicity in pets: lethargy, disorientation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression of central nervous system, difficulty breathing, muscle tremors, coma, or death.
- Avocado Skin – Although avocado meat is often high and fiber and beneficial to dogs, the skin and pits can be toxic. These parts of the avocado contain a toxin called persin which can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, oxygen deprivation, or even death.
- Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is very dangerous for dogs. Methylxanthines, caffeine, and Theobromine are all components of this chocolate that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, elevated heart rate, and even death.
- Milk Chocolate – Milk chocolate is diluted with milk and sugar, and while not as toxic as dark chocolate, can cause inflammation of the pancreas as well as diarrhea in dogs. Sugar-free chocolate candies can also have a sugar substitute like xylitol in them which is even more toxic to pets. Methylxanthines, caffeine and Theobromine are also contained in other foods like coffee, tea leaves, and some sodas. You should keep chocolate and other caffeinated foods far away from your dog’s reach.
- Fruit pits – The danger with pitted fruits (i.e. peaches, plums, and apricots) are the pits themselves. Peaches and apricots are safe for dogs as long as they don’t eat the pit (or stone) in the middle. The pits contain a sugar-cyanide compound called amygdalin that is toxic and pits can also form a blockage in the digestive tract. Plum leaves and roots are very toxic to dogs. The flesh of the plum is not toxic. As with any fruit fed to your dog, only small amounts should be fed. Fruits are normally high in natural sugars and can cause diarrhea. Humans know not to eat the stone in the middle of fruit but dogs don’t, so if you plan to feed your dog small pieces of fruit make sure not to feed them any stones or seeds.
- Garlic, onions, and chives – Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks all belong to the species of plants known as Allium and ), are toxic to dogs. When raw onions, garlic, chives, or leeks are eaten by dogs they can cause acute vomiting and diarrhea. Consumption of small amounts of cooked Allium plants over a long period of time will cause defects in the red blood cells. The injured red blood cells are removed by the liver causing anemia. The injury to the red cells is known as Heinz bodies and can be seen one day after ingestion of 30grams of onions/kg of body weight. While onions and garlic can make human foods very tasty, you’ll have to avoid getting your dog’s opinion. If ingested, the anemia these foods trigger can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, elevated heart rate and arrhythmias, or collapse. Avoid feeding your dog any foods containing onions, garlic, chives, or leeks in any form (powdered, cooked, or raw).
- Grapes, currants, and raisins – Although the toxic mechanism is not well understood, grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. Symptoms of toxic ingestion include: frequent urination, drinking more than normal, excess salivation, loss of appetite in dogs, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, or abdominal pain. If your pet has ingested grapes, currants or raisins even if they have ingested only one this is an emergency situation and your pet should be seen immediately by a veterinarian.
- Macadamia nuts – The macadamia nut is extremely toxic to dogs and the mechanism of toxicity is not known. These nuts can affect the nervous system and cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, and lethargy. Be sure to keep your macadamia nut bowl very far from your dog.
- Xylitol – Xylitol is a sugar substitute widely available and is used in many products like baked goods, candy, chewing gum, toothpaste baking mix, jelly, condiments, syrup, flavored drinks, drink powders, peanut butter, nut butter, protein bars, protein powders also oral hygiene products, medications, medication bases (e.g. elixirs, syrups), vitamins, supplements, cosmetics, deodorant, skin gels, sunscreen, and hair care products Xylitol is also available in bulk for home bakers. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and can trigger hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, seizures, or death, even in small amounts. The symptoms of xylitol ingestion poisoning happen right away (within 10-30 minutes of ingestion). These symptoms include: loss of appetite, restlessness, vomiting, weakness, trouble standing, tremors, seizures, or coma. If your pet has ingested gum or xylitol-containing products, even if they have ingested only a small amount, this is an emergency situation and your pet should be seen immediately by a veterinarian for care and treatment.
Unsafe Foods to Avoid
Just because something isn’t toxic doesn’t mean it is completely safe for your dog. These are non-toxic, but still harmful foods for dogs:
- Almonds – Dogs shouldn’t eat almonds because they can block or tear the esophagus if not chewed thoroughly. Salted almonds are double-dangerous for a dog because like potato chips they can cause sodium toxicity. It’s important to note it can sometimes take up to an hour or more for sodium chloride toxicity to cause electrolyte imbalance in the blood. Once the toxicity sets in, you’ll notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, muscle fasciculations, muscle tremors, and seizures.
- Bones – It’s a very common misconception that feeding dogs bones is perfectly safe. While bones are not toxic for dogs, they are hazardous when swallowed whole or splintered and large pieces swallowed. Bones can form blockages in the esophagus or anywhere along the digestive tract. Cooked chicken and pork bones can split off into sharp pieces and become stuck between your dog’s teeth. If sharp splintered pieces are swallowed they can damage your dog’s esophagus or stomach. Some raw diets include poultry bones and if they are not cooked chicken necks and back or ground bones can be safely consumed. Some raw or freeze-dried diets include ground bone as part of the formula as well. If you are worried about your dog’s need to chew or dental hygiene, chew toys and dental treats can serve a similar purpose to bones. With any chew toy or dental chew always monitor your pet while they are chewing to make sure they do not swallow large pieces. Always introduce new chew treats slowly to prevent potential gastric upset.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon powder could cause your dog to choke or have difficulty breathing. Cinnamon in food can make your dog sick by lowering their blood sugar leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and abnormal heart rate.
- Ice cream –Ice cream is high in both fat and sugar so can cause vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases pancreatitis. It is best not to offer ice cream to your dog even as a treat.
Foods That Are Okay in Moderation
If your dog is persistent in begging for human foods, you may find yourself (happily) sharing some snacks from your own plate. When it comes to these foods though, try not to give in too often and they should not comprise any more than 5% of your dog’s total diet:
- Bread – Baked or cooked bread is ok for your dog, but it isn’t really healthy either; it’s just a source of calories. Raw bread or pizza dough is very dangerous and can cause intoxications and intestinal obstructions. Bread offered as a treat is fine as long as it is a very small amount.
- Cheese – As long as your dog isn’t food allergic to milk products, you can treat your dog with cheese in moderation. Because a lot of cheese can be high in fat, consider lower fat cheeses like cottage cheese or mozzarella or cheese treats made for your pet
- Ham – Is high in fat and high in sodium so it should not be fed to pets. It can cause pancreatitis as well as sodium toxicity if not fed in moderation.
So, What Should You Feed Your Dog?
While it’s perfectly fine to feed your dog mainly kibble, canned, or freeze-dried diets, sometimes you want to treat them.. As long as these foods are unseasoned and only account for 5% or less of your dog’s total diet, here’s a list that should fit right into a healthy dog food diet.
Proteins and Fats
Protein is essential in building muscle, growing hair, and forming new skin cells. Fats provide a concentrated form of energy for your dog and support the development of muscles, cells, and nerves. Quality sources of protein tend to also be quality sources of fat, including:
- Wild game meat like elk, venison, antelope
- Fish with no bones
Carbohydrates are important for providing your dog with energy. Too many carbohydrates can lead to weight and, in sensitive pets, digestive problems. Quality carbohydrates combined with adequate exercise are important for keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Here are some carbohydrates you can safely feed your dog in moderation
- Corn — Corn is a common ingredient in many dog food brands, but is not easily digestible. Although corn is not toxic some pets are sensitive to corn and cannot eat it. Corn is also high in sugar so it can be fattening. Corn cobs are dangerous to pets because they often cause intestinal foreign bodies.
- Quinoa — Quinoa can be found in some high-quality dog foods. It is a strong source of nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, and even some protein.
- Rice — Rice is often used in bland diets and is easily digestible. Mixed 50:50 with a lean protein source, it can make a good warm bland diet for a pet recovering from surgery or a pet that has diarrhea.
- Wheat & grains – Wheat can be a great source of protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber for your dog. Some dogs are sensitive to the proteins in wheat and need an alternative carbohydrate source.
- Russet Potatoes—are another common ingredient in pet foods and can provide a good source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, minerals and protein.
Vegetables can be a useful part of a dog’s diet to provide fiber and vitamins. If you’re wondering what to feed a dog with an upset stomach, many have been known to use vegetables. Vegetables are often included in homemade diet formulas as a source of low calorie fiber. Your dog can safely eat these vegetables:
- Broccoli—Broccoli is a good source of fiber as well as a tasty treat some dogs enjoy. Broccoli should be blanched or cooked slightly and may need to be cut into smaller pieces.
- Carrots – Carrots are low calorie, high in fiber, and provide vitamin A. Carrots can be fed raw if your pet will chew them but some dogs prefer them cooked or in smaller pieces.
- Celery – Celery provides vitamins A, B, and C, and is also known to freshen dog breath!
- Peas – You can feed your dog peas on occasion. They have a good profile of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Canned peas can have added sodium, but you can safely stick to frozen or fresh.
- Green beans—Green beans can be given as treats also on occasion. Some pets like to eat fresh green beans while others prefer them cooked. As with peas, canned green beans are very high in sodium.
Several of the sweet treats humans eat contain ingredients that are hazardous or unhealthy for dogs (i.e. cinnamon, chocolate, and sugar substitutes). However, many fruits can be sweet treats you can share with your dog on occasion (like a doggy birthday). These fruits are safe for your pal in moderation:
- Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries – Are all safe for pets to eat occasionally. Berries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
- Strawberries – Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C.
- Pears and Apples—Small pieces of pear and apple are ok to feed to your pet but avoid giving the seeds of these fruits or the core of the apple or pear.
- Watermelon — As with other treats fruits should only be given in moderation since they can cause diarrhea and upset the flora in your dog’s gut.
Pet Parenting Can Be Hard; AskVet Makes it a Little Easier
When food is a pet owner’s way of showing love, it takes a stern pet parent to say no to a furry face begging for indulgent snacks from the table. Feeding your pet in another room, blocking access to the table where humans are eating, and providing positive reinforcement for good behaviors will help prevent begging behaviors. It takes a vigilant pet owner to keep toxic human food far away from a dog’s reach.
That doesn’t mean you have to make these decisions alone.
If you’re unsure about foods to feed your dog, AskVet offers licensed veterinary advice, day or night.