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.
Chocolate 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.
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.
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.
We 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.
Resources and further reading
Gugler K1, Piscitelli C, Dennis J. Hidden dangers in the kitchen: common foods toxic to dogs and cats. Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2013
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
This article has been revised and updated for 2019.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website