a dog begs for food at a dinner table
Pet Safety

10 Foods that are Toxic to Dogs

Feeding table scraps needs to be managed with an understanding of foods that can be potential dangerous to your dogs health.

Anyone who’s owned a dog has been there: we slip our dog a morsel from our plate during a meal, or they’re brazen enough to get on the table, counter, or other platform and steal a treat for themselves. While a lighthearted gesture and annoying slip of the mind, respectively, it’s worth knowing some of the foods that are toxic to your dog.

Even if you can’t break your or your dog’s bad habit, at least you’ll know they’re eating foods that aren’t going to hurt them or result in a hefty veterinarian bill. Its never bad table manners to kennel a dog when the family eats anyways. If they learn this behavior and kennel training as a puppy things will be easier to manage down the road.

Dr. Lindsay Vega, DVM, of Cheat Lake Animal Hospital outside of Morgantown, W.Va., was kind enough to sit down with me and explain 10 of the worst foods to feed your dog. Learn the effects they can have and avoid them in the future.

Grapes and raisins

Why? Vega notes that it’s not known exactly what causes grapes and raisins to be toxic to dogs, but the ramifications are serious.

What happens? If a dog ingests grapes, it can go into kidney failure. This will look different in every animal, but the could look like lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, or lethargy.

“The major concern with grapes is that in some dogs a single grape could cause acute kidney injury,” Vega said. “Which may or may not be something they can recover from. Because the toxic mechanism is unknown, and the possible inherent factor within a dog that causes such variation in clinical outcomes, some dogs can eat a ton of grapes and another can eat one and develop kidney failure.”

Garlic and onion

Why? Garlic and onions, which are part of the same family, host the compound thiosulfate which is incredibly toxic to dogs.

What happens? According to Vega, signs of thiosulfate poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea to weakness and rapid breathing. This is the result of anemia, as the compound will attack a dog’s red blood cells and cause them to rupture. According to an American Kennel Club report, 15-30 grams of garlic per kilograms of body weight is enough to cause anemia. The AKC puts it into perceptive that a common clove is between 3-7 grams, so a dog will need to eat a lot of garlic to get sick – although this is on an individual basis and could differ from dog to dog.

Chewing Gum

Why? Our dentists will often suggest chewing sugar-free gum due to it containing xylitol – a sugar substitute that doesn’t hurt our teeth. The compound, however, is dangerous to dogs and can lead to severe health concerns.

What happens? Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is rapidly absorbed and stimulates insulin release. That insulin release leads to a sudden change in blood sugar and that can potentially cause tremors, depression, lethargy, and even seizures. High enough doses can cause acute liver failure. According to Vega’s Veterinary Information Network, the prognosis for dogs with low blood sugar is excellent provided they have the appropriate therapy, however, dogs with hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) have a more uncertain prognosis.

“I see it between 5-10 times a year that warrants hospitalization,” Vega said. “And it’s usually the dogs that are mischievous and will root around in their owner’s purse or belongings. It can be very serious to treat and they could have permanent liver damage.”

Pitted fruits

Why? Pitted fruits aren’t outright toxic to a dog, however, if a dog ingests a pit it can cause obstructions in the GI tract. Further, the inner seed of a pit also contains cyanide, though it would take a large amount of this seed to cause serious harm to a dog.

What happens? Gastrointestinal obstructions will lead to a decreased supply of blood to the affected portion of the GI tract, which could lead to tissue necrosis or intestinal wall perforation. This can then lead to GI bacteria entering the abdominal cavity, which then leads to septic peritonitis and possibly death.

Bone-in meat

Why? Cooked bones are a serious health hazard to dogs due to their weakened state. Unlike a raw bone or thick bone treats like deer antlers, cooked bones can shatter and do damage to a dog’s esophagus or intestines. They can also choke to death.

What happens? Vega notes that bones can cause partial outflow obstructions. One sign of an outflow obstruction can be long-term, intermittent vomiting.

“Just because the dog hasn’t had a problem before doesn’t mean it won’t in the future,” Vega said.

Dairy products

Why? Dogs don’t have the same enzymes humans do to process dairy products, so they can develop different illnesses.

What happens? Vega notes that a small amount is unlikely to cause a problem, but rich dairy products or a large quantity of dairy could result in severe diarrhea, vomiting, or pancreatitis.

Chocolate

Why? According to VCA Hospitals, while rarely fatal, “chocolate can result in significant illness.” Both theobromine and caffeine reside inside chocolate, which are toxic to dogs. Darker chocolate is more dangerous, as is baking chocolate due to higher concentrations of theobromine – the worse of the two compounds.

What happens? Vega reports that signs of chocolate toxicity can be vomiting, diarrhea, gastric ulceration, pancreatitis, agitation, vocalization, restlessness, high heart rates, and blood pressures, and abnormal heart rhythms. In rare cases, chocolate toxicity can result in seizures, and heart failure.

Raw dough

Why? The Pet Poison Hotline notes that the largest culprit of illness in the raw dough is yeast. Common effects of ingesting raw dough include a distended stomach and potentially a twisted stomach (gastric-dilation volvulus or GDV) and alcohol poisoning.

What happens? When yeast is introduced to moisture and warmth, it expands. Signs of GDV include non-productive retching, restlessness, collapse, and death. In the case of alcohol poisoning, when bread rises it releases alcohol. Signs of alcohol poisoning are vomiting, drops in blood sugar and blood pressure, and ataxia. If enough alcohol is absorbed, it can cause respiratory failure.

“If a dog has a raw dough ball that’s expanded in its stomach and become a gastric foreign body or GDV, it will require emergency surgery,” Vega said.

Moldy foods

Why? Mycotoxins harbored by mold don’t just negatively impact humans, but can also do serious damage to dogs.

What happens? Wagwalking.com lays out the different mycotoxins and their symptoms. Some cause vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, while others lead to jaundice, pain, and, if enough is ingested, death.

Macadamia nuts

Why? The specific reason behind macadamia nut poisoning in dogs is much like grapes and raisins – it hasn’t been pinpointed. However, the AKC notes that small amounts can do significant damage; as little as 1/10 of an ounce per 2 pounds of body weight.

What happens? The AKC notes that signs of macadamia nut poisoning are weakness, lethargy, GI signs, tremors, and fever. Long-term symptoms include shaking, high fever, and the inability to walk.

“I’ve never seen macadamia nut toxicity,” Vega said. “Maybe because it’s an uncommon snaking nut.”

Conclusion on Dangerous Foods for Dogs

Vega concluded that if you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, contact a poison control center, specifically the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Poison Control at 888-426-4435. The helplines have professional toxicologists that will give you expert advice on what the steps are following ingestion of a toxic substance.

“We understand what’s toxic in it [the food] and how best to treat them, but we don’t have the numbers or calculations on what your dog’s toxic dose is. We’re going to get specific treatment guidance if there are complications. The toxicologists may even tell you that it’s not a concern and to save yourself a trip and money at the emergency clinic.”

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