Foods not to give your dog

Foods not to give your dog

We love to share everything with our dogs, including our food. However, there are several food items that are safe for us humans, but can be deadly toxic for our dogs. Thus, it is important to familiarize yourself with foods not to give your dog.

IMPORTANT: If you suspect your dog has eaten any of the below items, it is vital you take your dog to a vet for a check up and treatment.

1. Chocolate


Many dog owners know this: chocolate is not good for dogs. But why?

Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine. Theobromine is easily metabolized by humans, but not by dogs. A small amount of theobromine will likely only cause an upset stomach in your dog, but because theobromine acts as a nervous system stimulant it can in large amounts cause muscle tremors, seizures, salivation, irregular heart beat or even a heart attack.

The highest amounts of theobromine are found in cocoa, dark chocolate and cooking chocolate, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest amounts of this compound.

The severity of chocolate poisoning will depend on the type of chocolate ingested as well as the size of your dog. Small crumbs of chocolate will likely cause no harm, but to keep your dog safe, keep them away from chocolate completely.

2. Caffeine

Like chocolate, caffeine also contains theobromine and is thus toxic for dogs. Caffeine is not just found in coffee, but also in tea (including tea bags), energy drinks, soda and some diet pills.


If your dog has a sip of your coffee or tea, this will likely not cause a toxic effect, however ingesting ground coffee, tea bags or diet pills can be severely toxic, even deadly for your dog.

The symptoms of caffeine poisoning include hyperactivity, restlessness, elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, elevated body temperature, vomiting, seizures and collapse.

If your dog has caffeine poisoning, the vet will likely treat it by giving IV fluids and sedatives to help with excretion and help your dog calm down. Caffeine may also be reabsorbed from the bladder using a urinary catheter.

3. Alcohol

This should be a given, alcohol should not be given to your dog. However, some dogs (mine included!) would happily drink alcoholic beverages, such as beer or wine, if given the chance. Because of this, some dog owners need to keep a watchful eye when alcoholic beverages are around.

Wine glass

The reason alcohol is toxic for dogs is because dogs’ bodies are not physiologically made to break down alcohol. In addition, dogs are much smaller than humans, thus even a small amount of alcohol can have an adverse effect in dogs.

The signs of alcohol poisoning in dogs include lethargy, drooling, incoordination, vomiting weakness as well as low blood sugar, low blood pressure and low body temperature.

It is good to remember that alcohol can be found in unexpected places, such as uncooked bread dough (where alcohol is generated by fermenting yeast), fermenting or rotting fruit and mouthwash to name a few.

Luckily, the smell of alcohol is often off-putting for dogs, however, some dogs are not bothered by this, meaning extra caution is required from owners.

4. Grapes and raisins

Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants form another food group that should not be given to dogs. If your dog has eaten these, he or she may exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea and salivation. However, the most serious symptom is acute kidney failure.

Green grapes

Dried raisins and sultanas are more harmful than fresh grapes. It is important to remember that raisins can be found in fruit cakes and buns, which can contain enough raisins to cause a harmful effect. Other sources of grapes and raisins include cereal, trail mix and granola mix. All types of grapes (red/green, seedless or with seeds) are toxic for dogs.

The toxicity of grapes to dogs is a relatively recent discovery, thus it isn’t fully known what causes it. One hypothesis is that the toxic effect of grapes and raisins is caused by a mycotoxin that exists in the fruit and another hypothesis suggests a salicylate (aspiring-like) compound is found in the fruit, which causes toxicity.

Nevertheless, if you suspect your dog has eaten grapes or raisins, take them to a vet immediately. Generally dogs are induced to vomit and given charcoal to absorb any toxins.

5. Xylitol

Xylitol is a naturally occurring compound that is often used as a substitute for sugar. It is most often used in oral care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash as well as in sugar-free gum, some candies, mints and pharmaceutical products.

Chewing gum

The use of xylitol is increasing as it tastes as sweet as normal sugar (sucrose), but contains fewer calories. In addition, research has shown that xylitol is good for oral health preventing plaques and cavity formation.

Unfortunately xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure and even death in dogs. In contrast to humans, xylitol induces a quick release of insulin from the pancreas in dogs, which in turn results in rapid decrease of blood sugar levels.

The most common cause of xylitol poisoning in dogs is sugar-free gum. With the amount of xylitol varying between chewing gum brands, it is difficult to estimate the toxic amount for dogs. Brands that contain high amounts of xylitol may be harmful after 1-2 consumed pieces, while gum brands that contain low amounts of xylitol might only be toxic after ingestion of 20 or so pieces.

If you suspect your dog has eaten xylitol containing chewing gum (or any other xylitol product), the safest option is to contact your vet.

6. Onion, garlic and macadamia nuts

Some plant products are toxic for dogs, including onion, garlic and macadamia nuts. I have written about these in my article dangerous plants for dogs, which you can access through the included link.

Human food for humans, dog food for dogs

This article is a good eye-opener that many foods that we safely enjoy, are not meant for dogs. Unfortunately dogs are not always aware of what’s best for them, so they need the help of humans to stay safe.

As a rule of thumb, keep your dog away from any processed human foods as well as the fruit and vegetables listed here and in my article about dangerous plants for dogs.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

To many healthy and happy barks & walks,