What Can Dogs Not Eat – Which Foods Are Not Safe To Share?

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what can dogs not eat

What can dogs not eat? We separate the facts from the myths so you can have peace of mind.

There are many substances that are poisonous. We keep them out of reach of our dogs and babies from day to day. However, there are some surprisingly common human foods that can be highly toxic to dogs.

Some you will probably have heard of. Others might come as a bit of a surprise.

But how important is it to avoid these potentially dangerous foods? How much of a gamble is it to risk your pooch’s health?

The issue is complicated because not all dogs react in the same way to the same substance. So, you’ll find one person saying a food is harmful, and another saying it isn’t.

But my friend says it’s okay!

Most people have heard that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but tend not to believe the rumors. They might even know friends that give their dogs chocolate without ill-effects.

They also see how much their Labrador enjoys munching on a square of chocolate and think it can’t be doing him any harm when he’s clearly enjoying it.

We have a tendency to assume that if something hasn’t caused problems in the past, it is fine to do it again. And on a larger scale.

But this can have devastating results. Let’s take a closer look at chocolate.

Is Chocolate Harmful to Dogs?

So is chocolate toxic to dogs or isn’t it?

Well, the fact is that there is an ingredient in chocolate that most certainly is toxic to dogs.

It is called theobromine.

Theobromine is present in higher quantities in dark chocolate than in the milky variety.

what can dogs not eatChocolate is toxic to dogs in differing quantities

However, like all poisons there are levels of theobromine which are harmful, and levels which are unlikely to have any ill effects.

The problem is, it is very difficult to determine what those levels are because they vary from dog to dog depending on a number of factors, including his weight and metabolism.

It is important to seek veterinary attention immediately if your dog has managed to get hold of a bar of chocolate and ‘scoffed’ the lot. This is also the case if he has eaten even a small quantity of dark chocolate, or cocoa powder.

If a large dogs steals a small square of milk chocolate, he is probably not going to suffer any ill effects. This, however, is not a guarantee. The only safe dose of chocolate, is ‘no chocolate at all’.

In sufficient quantities, as any vet will tell you, chocolate can and does kill dogs. Our view is “why take the chance?” After all, your dog doesn’t need it, and neither do his teeth.

Is Coffee toxic to dogs?

If you’re concerned that your dog has taken a slurp from your coffee cup, it’s best to call the vet. Caffeine is toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea in small doses.

Larger doses can cause your dog heart problems and seizures. So, make sure you keep your cup out of reach of curious snouts.

Are Onions toxic to dogs?

Not so many people are aware of the dangers of onions.

This vegetable contains thiosulphate, which is also toxic to dogs. It causes the unpleasant disease “haemolytic anaemia” where the red blood cells are damaged.

Like us, dogs depend on their red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Without enough healthy red blood cells they can become very ill indeed.

Just like chocolate, when it comes to “how much is harmful” it is all a question of quantity.

If you dog eats a tiny bit of chopped onion that you drop on the floor he will probably be ok. But you should avoid feeding table scraps with onion in, as these could make him unwell.

Is Garlic toxic to Dogs?

In the same way that onions can harm your dog, so can garlic. Both onions and garlic are part of the allium family of plants. Dogs are susceptible to allium toxicosis. This means that any member of the allium family is harmful to your dog.

Not only garlic and onions, but leeks and chives are part of the same family and should definitely be kept away from your dog.

Are Macadamia nuts toxic to dogs?

As with chocolate and onions, the quantity of macadamia nuts that is toxic to dogs varies widely from dog to dog.

Poisoning can cause ataxia, vomiting and other symptoms so it is important to keep these nuts away from your dog.

Is Chewing Gum toxic to dogs?

Dogs can not eat chewing gum.

Xylitol is a sweetener found in chewing gum and other human foods.

Unfortunately, it too, is toxic to dogs, so keep your gum well away from your pooch!

Look out for Xylitol in peanut butter!

It’s also important to recognize that xylitol is sometimes put in other human foods that we might be tempted to share with our dogs.

Peanut butter is a key example.

People often use nut butters for making Kong fillers or baking homemade dog treats.

Not all peanut butters contain xylitol but some do. So read the label very carefully!

Is Alcohol poisonous to dogs?

It might seem ridiculous that we feel this is worth mentioning. The sad truth is that I have actually spoken to several people who needed to hear this. Unfortunately, they thought it was funny to give their, otherwise delightfully well cared for, dogs beer.

Dogs are far more sensitive to alcohol than humans are. Even tiny amounts can cause vomiting and disorientation in the best case scenario. In the worst case, alcohol can result in seizures, coma or even death.

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Never let a dog have access to alcohol in any quantity.

Is Avocado toxic to dogs

If you like to slice some fresh avocado into your salad, make sure that your dog doesn’t get hold of any of it.

Although the effects of avocado on dogs are not as bad as they are on some other species, it is still known to cause a nasty case of vomiting and diarrhea.

Are Currants toxic to dogs?

Never feed a dog currants, even in small quantities.

They are toxic to dogs, and in the worst cases have even resulted in renal failure.

Last but not least, Raisins.

Who would have thought the innocuous raisin or grape could hurt a dog?

While the most serious cases of grape poisoning involve the dog eating half a pound or more, even a small handful of either can make a dog very ill.

My dog ate chocolate! What should I do?

If your dog eats something on this list, you need to contact your vet.

There’s no need to panic. Phone the vet and report the amount of chocolate your dog ate, or that you think he might have eaten. This goes for any other food that is toxic to dogs mentioned in this article.

So your dog ate chocolate - here's what to do
If your dog ate chocolate phone your vet for advice

The vet will want some idea of the size of your dog – a rough estimate will do. You don’t need to weigh him.

Because dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate, he’ll probably ask what kind of chocolate your dog ate.

The vet will then be able to advise you on whether you should bring the dog in, or just wait and observe the dog closely in case there are any effects.

If you would like more information, you can check out our article on dogs eating chocolate.

What to do if your dog likes eating something toxic or poisonous items

If you are reading this and feeling a little fed up on your dog’s behalf, then don’t worry for his sake.

Labradors are well known for being greedy dogs. This doesn’t mean that they are not getting everything they need from their meals. Dogs don’t need treats to stay happy.

You can still give him treats as long as you are careful. Provide him with items that are either produced specifically for dogs, or you know for certain will do him no harm.

Some great dog treats that are totally safe include: pieces of sausages, roast chicken breast meat, or a bit of cheese.

If you want his diet to be wider and more interesting, you could even consider switching to raw food.

The safe side

So, whilst you may know of people that get away with giving their dogs foods intended for humans and monkeys, it is probably best not to take a chance.

Stay on the safe side and keep the fruit and nut chocolate bar for yourself!

Importantly, this is just a review of the most common foods known to make dogs ill, and even kill them.

It is not an exhaustive list. If your dog has a propensity to eat things he shouldn’t, it is a good idea to discuss this problem with your vet.

If in doubt, or your dog has eaten something suspicious, give your vet a ring and ask for his advice.

More Information

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300We hope we’ve answered the question “what can dogs not eat” for you. If you’ve any concerns do check out our fantastic guide to a whole range of different foods with clear information on their nutritional value.

You can find out whether or not they are safe to share with your dog.

And in what quantities.

For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Resources and further reading

Anna Brutlag DVM “Chocolate poisoning in dogs”

Gugler K1, Piscitelli C, Dennis J. Hidden dangers in the kitchen: common foods toxic to dogs and cats. Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2013

Crnić, A. P, Šantek, E, Šuran, J, “Foodstuffs toxic to dogs: macadamia nuts and onions” Veterinarska Stanica, 2018

Kovalkovičová N1, Sutiaková I, Pistl J, Sutiak V. Some food toxic for pets.Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009

Buoro IB1, Nyamwange SB, Chai D, Munyua SM. Putative avocado toxicity in two dogs Onderstepoort J Vet Res. 1994

Cortinovis Cristina, Caloni Francesca, “Household Food Items Toxic to Dogs and Cats”, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2016

This article has been revised and updated for 2019.

30 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 7 year old yellow that eats green beans everyday. Mostly the canned ones but we go to the farmers market on sat. We get fresh beans there. They have never hurt my lab, but from now on I’ll stick to the canned ones. No salt variety!

  2. Pippa,
    My dog was licking some chocolate earlier and I thing he ate about half a small square . Should I get hime Tito the vet?
    -dragon

    • My ten month old Labrador pup at an entire bag of fun sized Reese’s peanut butter cups, foil wrapping and all. Other than scooping up bits of foil in her poop, she seems unaffected. She will be four years old at Christmas.
      My vet says dark chocolate is the bad guy.

  3. My lab Lucy has developed a very standoffish Oder coming from her body. It often overpowers a single room. After a good bath from a kennel visit, the Oder was much weaker. It has since come back with avengence. Could it be a gland issue? She is 6 years old; too pretty to have strong oder?

  4. My lab eats every morning 1 tomato, dry food (Acana) and 1 banana and every afternoon dry food and 1 apple. He is 2 years old and he eats with great pleasure pumpkins too. What do you think about it, Pippa?

    • My lab eats the same loves het apples bananas which she peels beautifully and tomatoes.. Hope it’s Ok and won’t make her sick,

  5. My 13 week old puppy started drooling really really bad today,He had never drooled before.Then he threw up 3 x (HUGE piles) and then he started shaking really bad.I have no idea what he got into.He is better now.He drank a ton of water and I think he actually flushed it out…but what could it have been? Are there flowers Labs are allergic to?Lord knows he tries to eat everything!

  6. We’ve always given our retrievers and now labs cabbage/broccoli stump or raw sprouts. Good crunch, but some interesting ‘vapours’ later.

    • Our two older labs LOVE broccoli!! We had to put a fence around our garden which didn’t work until we added a 18″ row of chicken wire to the top to keep them out. So, so, so true about them “vapors”!

  7. Please be watchful, warm winters allow a mould to grow on nuts, especially walnuts, Other animals spread fallen nuts about, the mould is highly toxic to dogs. My two have unfortunately found nuts here and there, twice now. They were both very ill and it was an expensive lesson.

  8. We have three labs; two black males and a chocolate female. The two males love baby carrots as a treat and the female loves peanuts right from the shell. She’ll actually sit and salivate while we open the shells to get the nuts our.

    Do either the carrots or the nuts have anything bad?

  9. Our 5 year old chocolate Lab got into the kitchen – she’s not allowed !! – and polished off a whole 1lb bag of currants 🙁 Fortunately I found her licking out the bag and got her to the emergency vets within 20 minutes – Why do they always do these things on a Sunday afternoon. They immediately gave her an emetic to make her sick and she was then on a drip for 30 hours to make sure there was no damage. £150 to cross the threshold, £100 for the emetic. All in all it came to £800 😮 But at least she is well because we acted quickly. She is now back to work as a hospital therapy dog and still trying to steal food 🙂

  10. my sons gifted me a 3months old lab pup to vanish my loneliness. i didnt imagine even in my dreams that i would have a pet in my life!!! but it happened!!!day to day she is becoming a part of my life…. my niece shahana named her ZELDA… nice?

  11. thanks for this info..
    now Max willl be more safe..
    i just gave him rice and cooked meat, and dog food..
    he’s 2 months old now..
    am i doing it right?

  12. Also, stay away from raw green beans. They have “Phasin” (German, in English I believe it is Lectine) which is highly toxic for dogs. Pork, be it raw or processed can cause death. Pits from all fruit is highly toxic, too. Walnuts shouldn’t be fed either etc.

    • I’ve just read this and am now worried as we gave our Lab some pork that I’d cooked for dinner. Should I be really worried????

  13. I have a puppy Lab of 51 days , he has teething problem I believe,loves to bite especially when I am with him he comes in my lap and starts biting twice while playing with me , unknowlingly , i got hurt by its tiny teeth and bled little. Do I need to take some precuation.Please suggest;.

  14. You must also be aware of the seeds in apples and pears, these too have similar toxins as grapes so while as a healthy snack/ treat apples & pears are great, make sure the core is removed. Also the stones within fruits such as Mango, peaches & plumbs also are toxic, another is Corn cobs the corn its self is harmless enough but the cob isn’t.

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