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Fact Checked By
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
Feeding your dog a treat from the table may lead to the bad habit of begging, but did you know that it can also be very dangerous?
Many foods we eat as humans are perfectly fine in moderation for our furry friends and can even be used as treats or incorporated into a dog’s weight loss plan.
However, some foods are toxic and can have serious, even fatal, consequences if given to a dog.
These ten foods should never be fed to a dog.
Danger in the Kitchen: Foods to Avoid
Everyone loves a party, and no one is more of a party animal than a dog. But alcoholic beverages should only be consumed by humans of legal drinking age.
Dogs are unable to metabolize alcohol in the same manner that humans do, which leads to gastrointestinal upset, a “drunken” state, respiratory depression, and in severe cases, coma, and death.
Dogs are sensitive to the effects of alcohol, and it often does not require a very large quantity to produce adverse effects (1).
A dog that has ingested alcohol needs veterinary care right away.
An old wives’ tale claims fleas can be repelled by feeding your dog onions and garlic.
The thought is that the skin will taste and smell unpleasant to the parasites.
Sadly, fleas are voracious bloodsuckers that don’t have a very discerning palate and will bite your dog whether they smell bad or not.
However, both onions and garlic are toxic and can result in anemia in dogs (2).
The effect tends to be dose-dependent, meaning the more that is eaten, the more anemia will result.
There is no established safe level, so onions and garlic should stay on your table and away from your dog.
Dogs have receptors on their tongues for tasting sweet things, making them love soda, energy drinks, and sugared coffee.
Unfortunately, all these beverages are loaded with caffeine which a dog’s liver cannot metabolize.
Signs of caffeine toxicity include pacing, panting, a racing heartbeat, shaking, and vomiting (3).
This toxicity is a medical emergency, and dogs should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
As mentioned before, healthy human food, such as fruits and vegetables, can make an excellent snack for your dog.
However, two fruit snacks that are never safe are grapes and raisins.
Grapes and raisins cause severe kidney failure, and even small amounts can be fatal.
For many years the mechanism of toxicity for this fruit was unknown, but scientists have recently discovered that tartaric acid is to blame (4).
Varying levels in different varieties and seasons of grapes may explain why some dogs are more severely affected than others.
If your dog ingests grapes or raisins, call your veterinarian immediately.
Macadamia nuts make an excellent addition to cookies, but stick to dog treats when you are looking for a treat for your dog.
Macadamia nuts are toxic to all dogs, though the toxicity is dose-dependent, so smaller dogs tend to be more severely affected (5).
Dogs who eat macadamia nuts show signs such as shaking, weakness, paralysis, vomiting, fever, and excessive panting.
Prompt veterinary attention is a must in these cases, so don’t delay taking your dog to the veterinarian.
As society moves towards healthier trends and away from sugary snacks, sugar alcohols as sweeteners are making their way into more and more products.
One sweetener that is extremely dangerous for our four-legged friends is xylitol.
Xylitol is found in many foods, candies, and gums. When a dog ingests xylitol, its body is fooled into believing that the sugar alcohol is actually sugar, resulting in insulin release from the pancreas (6).
However, with no glucose present for the insulin to push into the cells, the dog becomes dangerously hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), which can be fatal.
Sadly, xylitol has more harm to inflict. If the dog survives this early phase of hypoglycemia, a dog with xylitol toxicity will suffer liver damage in the next few days, often dying from liver failure.
Xylitol ingestion in a dog is always an emergency requiring urgent medical attention.
Widely recognized as being toxic to dogs, chocolate remains on the list of foods that should only be enjoyed by the two-legged creatures in your house.
Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine) which a dog is unable to metabolize (7).
When ingested by a dog, these substances result in drooling, vomiting, a rapid heartbeat, shaking, seizures, and possibly death.
The degree of toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount of methylxanthines contained in the chocolate, and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.
Raw potatoes, as well as their peelings, are toxic to dogs.
The toxic chemical in potatoes is solanine, and ingestion may lead to gastrointestinal upset, lethargy, weakness, and confusion (8).
A safer way to include potatoes in your dog’s diet is to cook them thoroughly.
Yeast in dough causes a double whammy when ingested by a dog.
First, the unbaked dough begins to rise when it encounters the warm environment of the dog’s stomach.
This results in severe bloat and gastrointestinal pain. While the yeast is causing the dough to rise, it will also ferment, producing alcohol, leading to secondary toxicity (9).
Dogs ingesting raw yeast dough should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
Another two-for-one troublemaker, fruit pits are both toxic and an obstruction risk.
Pits of fruits such as peaches, plums, avocados, and cherries contain cyanide which can lead to toxicity when eaten by a dog (10).
The pits also cause issues with digestion, from mild gastrointestinal upset to life-threatening esophageal and intestinal obstructions.
Dogs should be kept away from fallen fruit in yards and orchards and not allowed to ingest pits.
You love your dog and want to give him lots of love and treats.
But make sure to check this list of toxic foods to ensure that the snack you’re rewarding your furry friend with isn’t a dangerous toxin in disguise.
As always, if you have questions about feeding your dog, or what to do if your pet has ingested a toxin, contact your veterinarian for advice.
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