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16 Human Foods That Are Poisonous to Dogs...and What to Give Them Instead

Marcela OteroMar 30, 2017

Though feeding your dog table scraps may seem like a treat or an act of love, a surprising amount of foods can cause canine stomach upset or be downright toxic. A small bite of gravy-soaked stuffing at Thanksgiving, for example, can cause life-threatening anemia from the garlic and onions, while the butter and oils can provoke pancreatitis.

Dangerous Foods for dogs

Let’s find out what other dangerous foods for dogs there are out there:

  1. Chocolate - Chocolate should never be fed to dogs. If there’s one single food most people know not to feed their dog, this is it, hands down. But do you know the reason? Chocolate contains caffeine-like stimulants called methylxanthines, which ingested in large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, an irregular heartbeat and even death.

  2. Raisins and grapes - Recently, raisins and grapes have been found to induce kidney failure in some dogs, which can be permanent and life-threatening. Though some animals have been eating grapes for years with no adverse effects, the toxicity doesn’t seem to relate to the volume of ingestion, and not all animals are affected. When in doubt, best keep your pup away.

  3. Xylitol - Xylitol is a sweetener found in many sugar-free human food, from gum to cookies, and should never be fed to dogs. A relatively small amount can provoke low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and death. These symptoms can show up as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but can also take up to twelve hours to manifest. Treatment must be aggressive and swift, or xylitol can prove fatal.

  4. Avocado - Avocado can cause stomach upset in some dogs, as well as be be highly toxic to species like horses, cattle, goats, and certain birds. The reason for this is that the leaves, fruit, seeds, and bark contain a toxin called persin, which tends to dissipate as the fruit matures. The main issue, just as with any other stone fruits, is ingestion of the pit, which can cause serious gastrointestinal problems due to its size. So, if your dog has been having the other half of your avocado every week without any problems, by all means continue peeling, de-pitting, and feeding it to him. Be on the lookout, though, for any signs of upset stomach.

  5. Turkey - Though turkey is often a key ingredient in many dog foods, this is very different from feeding your pup a piece of the Christmas roast. The issue isn’t the bird in itself, but all the seasonings and fats it’s cooked with. These are the real culprits that can cause an unpleasant gippy tummy at best, and pancreatitis at their worst. Bones are, of course, another concern. Cooked avian bones splinter easily, and your dog can then have his stomach or intestine ruptured or damaged. Raw bones are perfectly fine, however, as they are relatively soft.

  6. Shrimp - Though a few cooked shrimp or prawns can actually provide health benefits, raw shrimp is a totally different story, and you should never feed them to your dog. They’re full of nutrients dogs need, like B12, niacin, phosphorus and antioxidants—but they are high in cholesterol, so too many can have deleterious effects. Uncooked shellfish of any kind contain dangerous pathogens and parasites that can be harmful to your pup. Shrimp shells can also be a choking hazard, especially in small breeds.

  7. Alcohol - Never give your dog alcohol. It seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who think it’s funny to see a drunk dog. Alcohol has the exact same effect on a dog’s liver and brain as it had on people, but due to their smaller size, even just a bit of booze can provoke vomiting, diarrhea, coordination and breathing problems, coma, and even death. The smaller the dog, the less amount necessary to cause serious problems. Bottom line—don’t give your dog alcohol under any circumstances.

  8. Caffeine - Dogs and cats are both much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than people. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning are uncontrollable shaking, hyperactivity, panting, agitation, nervousness, hypothermia, and even seizures. Be very careful to never leave your soda, tea, energy bars, or coffee unattended, as even a relatively small amount can be problematic.

  9. Milk and other dairy - Some dogs have no problems with ingesting milk and cheese, whereas others are lactose-intolerant, and dairy provokes the same symptoms as it does in humans—upset tummy, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can also trigger food allergies and skin rashes. If you’re not sure whether your dog has a lactose sensitivity, best not risk it. The one notable exception to this is yogurt, which when free of artificial sweeteners like xylitol and stimulants like cacao, can be very beneficial, with its probiotics actually helping out your dog’s digestive system.

  10. Macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts - Keep your dog as far away as possible from macadamia nuts and products with macadamia nuts in them. Just six roasted or raw macadamias can cause muscle shakes, vomiting, fevers, and weakness in the back legs. Moldy pecans, black walnuts and regular walnuts contain tremorgenic mycotoxins which can cause seizures and other neurological symptoms.

  11. Raw dough - The raw yeast in dough can ferment in a dog’s stomach and become toxic. As it rises, it distends the organ and can be very painful, as well as cause an inordinate amount of gas or even a potentially ruptured stomach. Another side effect is that the fermentation itself can create alcohol in your dog’s tummy, leading to possible alcohol poisoning. Cooked bread can be fed in small amounts, so long as it doesn’t have any raisins or spices—cinnamon can lower their blood sugar and lead to upset stomach. It won’t provide any health benefits, but it won’t be harmful either.

  12. Tomato plants, raw or green potatoes, and rhubarb - Dogs shouldn't ever be fed or allowed to eat tomato plants, raw or green potatoes, or rhubarb. We grouped these together because they contain the same type of toxin, oxalates. These can cause abnormalities with the digestive tract, nervous system, and kidneys. Symptoms include tremors, seizures, and heart arrhythmia.

  13. Fruit pits and seeds - The pits of stone fruits and the seeds of others—like apples, pears and cherries—can be highly toxic to dogs, as they contain cyanide, a highly potent poison. The seeds themselves can also cause intestinal obstructions. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include dilated pupils, hyperventilation, shock, vomiting, panting, tachycardia, arrhythmia, and skin irritation. Obstructions cause lethargy, swollen stomach, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Almonds, also part of the stone fruit family, can be problematic, but only by virtue of possibly causing obstructions in your dog’s digestive system. Dogs don’t really chew their food as well as humans do, so this type of problem pops up with many different small, hard foods that in and of themselves aren’t toxic.

  14. Raw eggs - Though cooked eggs are a great source of protein for dogs, the same risks humans take with undercooked eggs apply to canines. Though there haven’t been any pet health scares involving raw eggs, best to be safe rather than sorry, and the intrinsic nutritional value is the same for both cooked and raw eggs, provided they're not cooked in fat. A surprising thing we learned is that the clean, crushed shell of an egg can be an excellent source of protein and calcium for your pet. If you’re concerned about salmonella, you can boil the shell first. In fact, if you do decide to feed eggs to your dog, we recommend they be hard boiled so as not to use any additional fats, and you can simply crack the shell all over and feed it as is. That way, your pup gets all the health benefits from the egg and the shell. Be wary of feeding more than one egg a day, though, as moderation is key.

  15. Popcorn and other salty, fatty foods - Plain, air-popped, unsalted and unbuttered popcorn is fine to feed your dog in small amounts, so long as you make sure no unpopped kernels find their way into your dog’s bowl, as they can lodge in the digestive tract and cause an obstruction. The problem with popcorn is that we rarely ever have it in its most clean form, preferring the high-sodium and high-fat version. Both of these can cause problems for your canine friend. High fat content isn’t easily digested, and can provoke pancreatitis. High sodium can provoke salt poisoning, especially if it doesn’t have access to lots of good, clean water. The same issues can occur with virtually any type of chip or salted nut, so be sure to try and avoid exposing your dog to excessively salty foods. Even bacon isn’t safe, thanks to its high fat and sodium content.

  16. Mushrooms - Wild mushrooms can be toxic for dogs, just as they can for humans. Though only fifty to a hundred of the 10,000 species of mushrooms are known to be toxic, they can prove fatal to your dog. Washed button, portabella, or shiitake mushrooms from the supermarket shouldn’t present a problem, though, if your pup ingests them.

What human foods are good for dogs to eat?

The list of dangerous foods for your dogs can be daunting and a little scary, as there are so many items to remember. Don’t let it worry you. Your best bet is to keep feeding your dog its regular kibble and not mess around with table scraps. On the other hand, there are lots of human foods that you can feed to your dog as a treat. These are just a few:

  1. Peanut butter - Dogs love peanut butter. They just can’t seem to get enough of it. Peanut butter contains lots of things that are great for your dog—protein, vitamins B and E, niacin, and heart-healthy fats—, just make sure that it’s raw, unsalted, and doesn’t contain any xylitol.

  2. Cooked chicken or turkey - As we mentioned above, both cooked chicken adn turkey are a great source of lean protein for dogs. The only issue here is seasoning—which should be kept to a minimum, if used at all—and fattiness. If you’d like to give your pup a bone for a treat, just make sure it’s raw, since cooked avian bones can splinter and cause tears or lesions in your pet’s digestive system.

  3. Carrots, Green Beans, Cucumbers and Celery - These are all fine for your dog, especially when it’s on a diet, as they’re all exceptionally low in calories and high in fiber. Carrots can provide a good source of fiber and vitamin A, and if they’re raw, are great for your pup’s teeth. Just like with human diets, carrots are a great snack for managing weight concerns. Green beans and cucumbers are likewise very high in fiber but very low in calories, just make sure they’re salt-free. Finally, celery can also be beneficial for overweight dogs, due to its low fat and cholesterol content. An added bonus is that it can make your dog’s breath a touch fresher, and that’s always a good thing. Simply be sure to cut it up in bite-sized pieces so it’s not a choking risk, and keep in mind that excessive consumption can lead to  higher than normal frequency of urination.

  4. Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries and Raspberries - Berries are exceptionally healthy treats for both humans and dogs, as they're generally low in calories and contain high amounts of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. You can keep a bag in the freezer and give your dog a few for a crunchy treat. If you’re feeding them berries for the first time, though, keep a close eye on your pup, to make sure there are no untoward side effects. Berries contain xylitol in small amounts, so it’s best to practice moderation.

  5. Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and Honeydew -  Melons are generally safe and healthy for dogs, but consult your vet before feeding them any of the more exotic varieties. Not only are they chock-full of fiber, but they’re also rich in vitamins, folic acid, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and niacin.

  6. Apples, Oranges, and Pears - Though we mentioned above that apple and pear seeds can be toxic, sliced apples or pears are a great source of fiber and vitamins A and C for your dog. They also help clean off the residue on dog’s teeth, resulting in fresher breath. Oranges are excellent sources for vitamin C, iron, potassium and calcium as well, but be sure to peel and de-seed them, since the essential oils can be too strong for your dog’s digestive system and the seeds can pose a choking hazard.

  7. Tropical fruits like mangoes, bananas, papayas and pineapples - Bananas are some of dogs’ favorite fruits across the board. So long as you peel them, you can even make them frozen banana treats for the hot summer months. Mangoes and papayas are delicious to both humans and dogs, as well as very healthy, providing a wealth of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Just be sure to de-seed. Finally, ripe, raw pineapple is yet another great treat for your pooch. Besides being a good source of fiber and vitamins, pineapples also contain bromelain, an enzyme that facilitates protein absorption.

  8. Corn - Corn is one of the most common ingredients in dog food, especially low-quality ones, for the simple reason that it’s very cheap. When fresh, the cob can be hard for them to digest, though, and can cause intestinal blockage. If you cut the kernels off, and serve it without fat or salt, you shouldn’t have any issues with your dog. The crux of the issue is that it’s not particularly nutritious, so even though it’s not likely to cause problems, it’s not doing your pooch any favors either.

  9. Leafy greens - If your dog will eat leafy greens raw, by all means, slip him a lettuce, cabbage, kale or spinach leaf. They’re all low in calories and high in fiber, so there’s really no downside to feeding them to your pet.

  10. Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes - Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are great for your dog, as they're both high in fiber, vitamin A and other nutrients and are very mild. Some doctors even recommend that you feed your dog a few spoonfuls of pureed pumpkin or sweet potato for upset stomach—with no fat, spices, or salt, of course. This can work for both constipation and diarrhea.

  11. Coconut - Fresh coconut, coconut water and coconut oil are all perfectly fine to feed your dog. When ingested, the oil can help improve digestion and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as eliminate body odor and bad breath. Applied topically, it can prevent fungal infections, clear up dermatitis, and ease rashes or eczema. As a plus, it also makes your pup’s coat shiny and delicious-smelling. Fresh coconut meat is a great source of fiber, contains all the benefits from the oil, and can also help strengthen the immune system. Finally, coconut water works for dogs just as it does for humans. The electrolytes can help a sick dog with dehydration, but be sure to have plenty of regular, fresh water available as well, as coconut water may have a high sodium content.

  12. Oatmeal - When made with water or a non-dairy milk, sugar-and-spice-free cooked oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber, which can be especially helpful for senior dogs with bowel irregularity issues. It’s also packed with vitamins and minerals, and a great alternative grain for dogs that have gluten sensitivity.

  13. Broccoli and Cauliflower - Cauliflower and broccoli are both an excellent source of fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamin K for dogs. Though they can be fed raw, cooked or frozen, some raw veggies can produce a lot of gas. When introducing new foods, then, be sure to monitor your dog’s behavior and present them cooked instead of raw.

Choosing to raise a dog is a responsibility and a privilege. It means you’ve welcomed another living being into your home, your heart, and your family. Just as with a human, when poor quality food is consumed, overall nutrition suffers and general health goes down. The most essential thing to remember when introducing human food into your dog’s diet is that the goal is to provide it with a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. Any treats, whether they’re fresh fruits and veggies or store-bought and premade, should comprise no more than 10 percent of your dog's daily caloric intake. Most importantly, consult your veterinarian before incorporating any changes in your dog’s diet.