We’ve all shared a little of our “people food” with our dogs as a special treat from time to time. Often this is fine; however, there are some foods which are safe for us but are actually toxic for dogs. Some common toxic foods for dogs include chocolate, grapes/raisins, and the artificial sweetener xylitol, among others.
What are most toxic foods for dogs?
- Anything with Xylitol
- Grapes, Raisins, Sultanas, Currants
- Raw Bread Dough
- Macadamia Nuts
- Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Chives
- Cooked Bones
Before we get to the details, we want to stress that some toxic foods are so dangerous that you should just go straight to the animal ER if your dog eats them. The level of toxicity will depend on how much they ate and how big your dog is. But, to be safe, call your nearest emergency veterinary clinic or ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.
To help you figure out how serious the toxicity level of a certain food might be, and if your dog needs any additional treatment, the responder will need to know approximately how much your dog weighs, what they ate including brand (save the package if possible), and how much of the food your pup ate.
Toxic Foods for Dogs
The most toxic food for dogs is anything with xylitol.
Xylitol (birch sugar) is an artificial sweetener which is added to many human foods since it’s safe for people and replaces sugar in products. It’s commonly found in sugar free gum but can be found in many foods such as peanut butter, baked goods, cake mixes, candy, jelly, mints, protein bars, and even yogurt. Xylitol is in many other foods as well, so when it comes to any packaged or processed food, it’s always best to double check the label for xylitol.
Xylitol causes severely low blood sugar in dogs which can make them drowsy and weak and can lead to seizures. Xylitol at higher doses can also cause severe damage to the liver which can result in liver failure and possibly death.
If you know or think your dog may have eaten food with xylitol, even a small amount, you should go to an emergency vet immediately.
Another common food which can be pretty toxic to dogs is chocolate. There are many kinds of chocolate and it’s actually the darkest chocolate which is the most dangerous. Things like cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and dark chocolate contain more of the toxins so smaller amounts of these are more toxic than larger amounts of things like milk chocolate. White chocolate has almost none of the toxins in it.
The toxic part of chocolate is the compounds theobromine and caffeine. Both of these cause symptoms of GI upset (vomiting, diarrhea) at lower doses and at higher doses can cause neurologic symptoms and actually affect the heart as well. In severe cases there can be seizures and the heart can stop. Coffee (including beans and grounds) also contains caffeine so it has similar effects and toxicity.
How serious eating chocolate is really depends on how big your dog is, what kind of chocolate they ate and how much of it they ate. If you think your dog may have eaten any amount of any kind of chocolate (or coffee since it’s similarly toxic) it’s best to call a pet poison hotline or an emergency vet right away so they can help figure out how toxic that may be. It could be not toxic at all or extremely toxic so you should always have a vet check.
3-6. Grapes, Raisins, Sultanas and Currants
Grapes, raisins, sultanas, and currants are another set of foods which can be toxic to dogs. Since raisins and sultanas are dried grapes they’re also toxic, and currants often contain the same toxins.
Other dried fruits like dried cranberries, apricots, etc. are not toxic and grapeseed extract is not toxic.
Grapes/raisin toxicity can be extremely variable. The toxin is suspected (although still not known for sure) to be something called tartaric acid, and how much tartaric acid is in a grape can vary greatly, so even if a dog only ate a small amount of raisins there could still be a lot of the toxin in them and it could be serious. Because of the variability in toxicity, some dogs may have no symptoms at all, but in some dogs even a small amount of grapes or raisins can cause severe damage to the kidneys which can lead to kidney failure.
Since there’s no way to know how much toxin a dog has eaten even if we know how many grapes or raisins they’ve eaten it’s best to err on the side of caution and go to an emergency clinic if you think your dog may have eaten any grapes, raisins, sultanas, or currants.
Less common toxic foods
There are some other foods which can be toxic to dogs as well however they are either not common or the toxicity is less severe than those major ones above. This includes things like hops, raw bread dough, macadamia nuts, and garlic/onions.
While it’s not really a food and it’s not really common, for anyone who does any home beer brewing it’s important to make sure your dog doesn’t eat the hops, whether fresh or used. In dogs, hops can cause a condition known as malignant hyperthermia where there is severe fever and it can be fatal even with treatment. If your dog eats or even may have eaten hops go to an emergency vet immediately.
8. Raw Bread Dough
It’s not the bread itself that’s the issue, but the yeast in the bread’s raw form that’s the problem. If a dog eats raw yeast dough, the heat of the body activates the yeast.
Yeast can make the dough rise and expand so much that it actually affects blood flow and ability to breathe. The yeast also produces ethanol (alcohol) and this can lead to basically alcohol poisoning.
Symptoms can include distended abdomen, difficulty breathing, weakness and stumbling. In severe cases there can be coma and even death. Smaller dogs are more likely to be more severely affected. For dogs less than about 40 lbs if they eat raw bread dough they should go immediately to an emergency vet. For larger dogs it may be ok to start by calling a pet poison hotline or emergency vet to discuss whether your dog can be treated at home or may need to go into a clinic.
9. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts can be toxic to dogs. No one knows what it is in the macadamia nut that’s actually poisonous to dogs and no other types of nuts are poisonous to dogs. The symptoms can be GI upset (vomiting, diarrhea) and nerve problems like weakness, difficulty walking, or tremors.
There aren’t any reports of macadamia nut toxicity being fatal in dogs. If your dog may have eaten macadamia nuts you can contact a pet poison hotline or emergency vet to discuss whether your dog is likely to have any symptoms or need any treatment.
10-13. Garlic, Onions, Leeks and Chives
Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives are all part of a family of plants called Allium which contain many different sulfur compounds. These sulfur compounds can cause GI upset (vomiting and diarrhea) and can affect the red blood cells. In very severe cases they can affect enough red blood cells to cause anemia and the damage to the blood cells can affect the kidneys.
More concentrated Allium products are more toxic, so garlic and onion powder are more toxic than raw garlic or onions. Cooking doesn’t affect the toxicity. Garlic is the most toxic; leeks and chives are the least toxic. Garlic supplements which are “odor free” have had the sulfur compounds removed and are not toxic.
However it takes a large amount of any garlic, onion, or other Allium, even in a concentrated form, to cause any symptoms of toxicity. It’s typically only a concern if a small dog eats a very large amount of concentrated garlic or onion powder. The amounts used in typical cooking are unlikely to cause any issues. But it’s always best to be safe so if your dog eats garlic, onions, or other alliums like leeks or chives you can contact a pet poison hotline or an emergency vet to discuss whether your dog is likely to have any symptoms or need any additional treatment.
Persin, present in avocados, can cause dogs who consume too much to vomit or have diarrhea. Keep your dog away from your avocado plants if you grow them at home. It’s not just the fruit like humans eat that’s the problem as persin is also present in the leaves, seeds, and bark. Be very vigilant if you have avocados in the house, as obstructions from an avocado seed in the intestines or stomach could be lethal.
15. Cooked Bones
While bones are an excellent source of nutrients, and are a great way to prevent the buildup of plaque on your dog’s teeth and gums, pet parents must be very vigilant in regard to what types of bones are safe for dogs.
NEVER give your dog cooked bones. While it might seem like cooked bones might be soft, they in fact become brittle. And when chewed, cooked bones become sharp shards that can easily rip and tear tissue as they make their way down the gastrointestinal tract.
15a. What about raw bones?
Raw bones are generally safer than cooked bones, but you still must maintain oversight of your dog as he works on the raw bone. As soon as any small piece breaks away from the main part, it’s time to move on, as one tiny, sharp piece can get lodged in the G.I. tract, or cause tears in the tracts.
The best advice if one insists on allowing their dog to chew on bones is to find a Raw Meat Bone that is approximately the same size as the dog’s head. This will help to make sure that the dog won’t easily chew it into much smaller pieces quickly.
Foods That Aren’t Necessarily Toxic, But Still might be dangerous
Any food that’s new to your your dog, especially food that is high in fat, dairy, or spices. These foods could potentially cause an upset stomach (vomiting and diarrhea) simply because their body isn’t used to it. In these cases, these foods aren’t technically toxic to dogs, but indeed can cause gastric distress. However, as a caring pet owner, if you’re not sure if it might be poisonous it’s best to call a pet poison hotline to be sure.
Dog nutrition can be a tricky subject. While most “human food” or “people food” is fine for dogs there are some things we eat which are actually very poisonous to dogs. The most toxic are foods with xylitol, chocolate, and grapes or raisins.
Less common human foods that can be dangerous to dogs include hops, raw bread dough, macadamia nuts, and garlic or onions.
The best course of action for any pet owner is to stick with dog food made for dogs. Or better yet, prepare your dog’s food yourself, choosing fresh, whole foods from natural sources, like chicken or beef, rice, potatoes, carrots and green veggies.
Want to take the guesswork out of the DIY dog food route? Get fresh, whole food nutrition delivered to your pup’s door from our friends at The Farmer’s Dog or if you and Fido are feeling a little more wild & adventurous, check out We Feed Raw.
Above all, love your dogs with all your heart, every day!