What foods can dogs not eat?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 3, 2024

While dogs are often considered to be man's best friend, their dietary needs and restrictions can differ significantly from humans. Feeding your dog the wrong foods can lead to health issues ranging from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening conditions. This comprehensive guide will delve into the various foods that are unsafe for dogs, providing detailed information to help you keep your canine companion healthy and happy.


Chocolate is one of the most well-known foods that dogs should avoid. It contains theobromine, a compound that dogs metabolize much more slowly than humans. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, theobromine can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and even seizures. Dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine and are particularly dangerous.


Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free gum, candies, and some peanut butters. In dogs, xylitol can cause a rapid release of insulin, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, loss of coordination, and seizures. In severe cases, it can cause liver failure and death.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs, though the exact substance causing the toxicity is still unknown. Even small amounts can lead to acute kidney failure. Symptoms of grape or raisin toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Immediate veterinary care is crucial if your dog ingests grapes or raisins.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic, whether raw, cooked, or powdered, contain compounds that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and damage to red blood cells in dogs. This can lead to hemolytic anemia, characterized by weakness, lethargy, and breathlessness. It’s important to note that many foods, including baby food and pre-packaged meals, may contain onion or garlic powder.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are another food that poses a significant risk to dogs. Even a small amount can cause symptoms such as weakness, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia (elevated body temperature). The exact toxin in macadamia nuts is not known, but the effects can be severe and require veterinary attention.


Alcohol can have a much more significant impact on dogs than on humans. Ingesting even small amounts can lead to ethanol poisoning, resulting in symptoms like vomiting, disorientation, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, coma or death. It's crucial to keep alcoholic beverages and foods containing alcohol out of reach of pets.


Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some medications, is another stimulant that dogs should avoid. Ingesting caffeine can lead to restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, and seizures. Keep all caffeinated products away from your dog to prevent accidental ingestion.


Avocados contain a substance called persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. While the flesh of the avocado is less toxic than the pit, skin, and leaves, it’s still best to avoid feeding this fruit to your dog. Additionally, the large pit poses a choking hazard.

High-Fat Foods

Foods high in fat, such as bacon, sausages, and fatty cuts of meat, can cause pancreatitis in dogs. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the pancreas and can lead to symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Chronic pancreatitis can result in long-term health issues, so it’s best to limit your dog’s intake of fatty foods.

Dairy Products

While some dogs can tolerate small amounts of dairy, many are lactose intolerant. Ingesting dairy products can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea and upset stomach. Cheese, milk, and ice cream should be given sparingly, if at all, to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.

Raw Eggs

Feeding raw eggs to dogs can pose a risk of biotin deficiency due to the presence of avidin, an enzyme that inhibits biotin absorption. Additionally, raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. Cooked eggs are a safer alternative if you wish to include them in your dog’s diet.

Raw Meat and Fish

While some proponents of raw diets argue that raw meat and fish are natural for dogs, they can carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. Raw fish, particularly salmon, can contain parasites that cause "salmon poisoning disease," leading to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If you choose to feed your dog raw meat or fish, it’s essential to source it from reputable suppliers and handle it with care.

Artificial Sweeteners

Beyond xylitol, other artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin may also pose risks to dogs. While not as acutely toxic as xylitol, these substances can still lead to digestive upset and other health issues. It’s best to avoid feeding your dog any products containing artificial sweeteners.

Salty Snacks

Foods high in salt, such as potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn, can lead to excessive thirst and urination in dogs. In severe cases, high salt intake can cause sodium ion poisoning, characterized by symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. Moderation is key when it comes to salty snacks.

Yeast Dough

Unbaked yeast dough can expand in a dog’s stomach, causing painful bloating and potentially life-threatening torsion. Additionally, the fermentation process can produce alcohol, leading to ethanol poisoning. Always keep raw dough out of reach of your pets.

Stone Fruits

Fruits with pits, such as cherries, plums, and peaches, pose multiple risks to dogs. The pits can cause choking or intestinal blockages, and they also contain cyanogenic compounds that can lead to cyanide poisoning. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, and red gums. Always remove pits before feeding these fruits to your dog.

The world of canine nutrition is fraught with pitfalls and dangers, but armed with the right knowledge, you can steer clear of these hazards. A vigilant eye and a well-informed mind can ensure your dog’s meals are both safe and nutritious.

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