What Can Dogs NOT Eat?

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
By Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on Jun. 25, 2023
woman sitting on the kitchen counter and giving her dog a treat

As you sit down for dinner, your dog plops by your side, waiting for a bite. You may know that some human foods are safe to share while others are toxic to dogs or best kept to a minimum. But which are which? Here are some common food dogs should not eat.

Food That Is Toxic for Dogs

If your dog has eaten any of the items on this list, a phone call—and likely a visit—to a veterinarian is needed.

1. Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine

All of these products contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds. When ingested by a dog, methylxanthines can result in:

These toxins are dose-dependent, meaning small dogs or dogs who consume a large amount are more sensitive. When considering chocolate toxicity, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is (with baking chocolate having the highest concentration of methylxanthines and white chocolate the least).

If your dog eats chocolate, coffee, or anything containing caffeine, call the vet immediately to talk about next steps.

2. Xylitol

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, such as candies, gum, and even toothpaste. It’s also extremely toxic to dogs.

Xylitol can result in insulin release, which ultimately can lead to liver failure. This insulin release lowers the blood sugar, and affected animals may vomit, have seizures, or show signs of lethargy and loss of coordination.

3. Macadamia Nuts

Many people delight in adding macadamia nuts to their recipes; these crunchy, slightly oily nuts add flavor and texture. However, dogs should never eat them.

It is unknown what component of the nut is toxic, but we do know that even a small number of macadamia nuts can result in weakness, vomiting, tremors, depression, and elevated body temperature in dogs.

4. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes are capable of causing fatal kidney failure in dogs. The exact root of the toxin has not been found, and some dogs who have safely eaten grapes in the past have been subsequently poisoned. It’s best to consider grapes and raisins toxic and avoid feeding them to your dog entirely.

5. Garlic, Onions, and Chives

Although cats are more sensitive, dogs can be affected by eating products from the Allium group: garlic, onions, chives, leeks, and related plants.

Sulfur-containing compounds in these plants can affect red blood cells, resulting in a form of anemia called Heinz body anemia. This can result in weakness, exercise intolerance, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in respiratory and heart rate, red urine, collapse, and death.

6. Alcohol

Although most dogs aren’t crazy about the taste of alcohol, some dogs will drink it if offered. But this is definitely a no-no. 

All alcoholic beverages have the potential to cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, tremors, coma, and even death in dogs. Keep all alcohol and products containing alcohol out of reach of your pup.

7. Yeast Dough

While most fully baked bread is fine for dogs to eat, yeast dough can cause large amounts of gas to accumulate in the intestinal tract. This is not only painful for dogs, but it can also lead to a potentially fatal condition called gastric bloat and torsion

Additionally, the yeast in bread dough produces ethanol, which can cause your dog to become intoxicated, similar to signs you might see with alcohol ingestion. Even small amounts of yeast-containing dough can be problematic for dogs.

Other Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs

Though some foods aren’t considered toxic for dogs, they can still cause problems. These foods are best avoided, even if your pup has previously eaten them with no signs of side effects.

If your dog does eat any of the items below and does show signs of illness, contact your veterinarian right away.

1. Milk and Dairy Products

We tend to think of dairy as part of a balanced diet, but this isn’t the case for our canine friends. Many dairy products are high in fat, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset in dogs and trigger inflammation in the pancreas—a condition called pancreatitis—which can be severe or even fatal.

Additionally, many animals lack the enzyme lactase, which helps break down the sugars in dairy products. Dogs who ingest dairy can experience vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal upset.

2. Salt and Salty Snacks

Although a large amount of salt is indeed considered a toxin, most dogs are not likely to eat salt or salty snacks in a large enough quantity to be poisoned. However, dogs who are prone to high blood pressure or have heart or kidney disease are more sensitive to the effects of salt.

Salty foods can lead to excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. In severe cases, these signs can progress to tremors, seizures, and death. So, while the occasional potato chip dropped on the floor is unlikely to cause a problem, it shouldn’t be a regular part of your dog’s diet.

3. Raw Meat, Raw Eggs, and Bones

Although many people feel these are “natural” foods for dogs to eat, they should be avoided. Raw meat and eggs may contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. These can make your dog (and you!) sick.

Raw eggs also have an enzyme called avidin that can decrease the absorption of some B vitamins, leading to skin and coat problems.

Bones can lead to choking, intestinal blockage, or intestinal perforation.

4. Citrus

If eaten in large amounts, the essential oils in citrus may cause gastrointestinal irritation as well as central nervous system depression in dogs. The peels, seeds, and leaves tend to contain larger amounts. An occasional snack of lemons, limes, and oranges is likely not to be a problem, but these fruits shouldn’t be a regular part of your dog’s diet.

5. Coconut and Coconut Oil

Although small amounts of coconut-containing products are not likely to cause serious harm to your dog, they may trigger diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset. Additionally, coconut water is high in potassium, which could cause electrolyte problems in dogs who have heart or kidney problems.

6. Nuts

Some nuts are safer for dogs than others. But all are high in calories, and many are high in oils and fats that can potentially trigger vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening pancreatitis.

Macadamia nuts and black walnuts are toxic to dogs and should be completely avoided. Almonds and pecans are not toxic but should also be avoided. Other nuts should be fed in limited amounts and with caution—and only after researching their safety.

What Foods Can Dogs Eat?

Some human foods are generally considered safe for dogs. But when sharing with your pup, always do so in small amounts (less than 10% of your pet’s daily calories) and after talking with your veterinarian.

Some dog-safe foods are:

Keep in mind that commercial dog food is well-balanced to meet the needs of your pup; overfeeding a dog people foods can upset this balance and result in malnutrition. So stick with safe human foods and keep them in small amounts.

Featured Image: iStock/Moyo Studio

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields...

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