There are many substances that are poisonous – we keep them out of reach of our dogs and babies, but 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, and how much of a gamble are you taking when you decide that your dog’s pleasure is worth the risk?
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 rumours because they know so many 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 is having that much fun.
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 Labradors?
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.
And it 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.
In sufficient quantities, as any vet will tell you, chocolate can and does kill dogs.
If your dog has managed to get hold of a bar of chocolate and ‘scoffed’ the lot, or if he has eaten even a small quantity of dark chocolate, or cocoa powder, seek veterinary attention without delay.
If a large dogs steals a small square of milk chocolate, he is probably not going to suffer any ill effects. But no-one can give you any guarantees on that. The only safe dose of chocolate, is ‘no chocolate at all’.
Our view is “why take the chance?” After all, your dog doesn’t need it, and neither do his teeth.
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. In fact 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, and without enough of them 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 while cooking he will probably be ok, but you should avoid feeding table scraps with onion in, as these could make him unwell.
Are Macademia nuts toxic to dogs?
As with chocolate and onions the quantity of macademia 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 Labradors?
Xylitol is a sweetener found in chewing gum and other human foods.
It is unfortunately 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 home made 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, but I have actually spoken to several people who thought it was funny to give their otherwise delightfully well cared for dogs beer.
Dogs are far more sensitive to alcohol than humans are, and even tiny amounts can cause vomiting and disorientation in the best case scenario, and in the worst 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 avacado 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 vomitting and diarrhoea.
Are currants toxic to dogs?
Never feed a Labrador 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?
The fact is that whilst 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 shall I do?
If your dog eats something on this list, you need to contact your vet.
There’s no need to panic, just give phone the vet and tell him how much chocolate (or raisins or whatever) your dog ate, or that you think he might have eaten
The vet will want some idea of the size of your dog – a rough estimate will do, you don’t need to weigh him
And 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.
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 Labrador’s behalf, then don’t worry for his sake.
Labs are well known for being greedy dogs, but this doesn’t mean that they are not getting everything they need from their meals. Dogs don’t need treats to stay happy.
However, you can still give him some as long as you are careful and 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!
It is probably important to add, that this is just a review of the most common foods known to make dogs ill, and even kill them, if sufficient quantities are consumed.
It is not an exhaustive list, and if your dog has a propensity to eat things that dogs clearly shouldn’t eat, it is a good idea to discuss this problem with your veterinary surgeon.
If in doubt, or your dog has eaten something suspicious, give your vet a ring and ask for his advice.
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 Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
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
Ogawa E, Akahori F, Kobayashi K. In vitro studies on the breakdown of canine erythrocytes exposed to the onion extract. Nihon Juigaku Zasshi. 1985
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 2017.