A Guide to Harmful and Toxic Foods for Dogs

A Dog Owner's Guide to Foods Toxic to Dogs

As dog owners, we often treat our furry friends as part of the family. It's tempting to share our meals and snacks with them, especially when they give us those irresistible puppy eyes. However, many human foods that are perfectly safe for us can be harmful or even fatal to our canine companions. This blog post aims to educate dog owners about the dangers of certain human foods and why it's crucial to be vigilant about what our dogs consume.
In the following sections, we'll explore why dogs can't process certain human foods, provide a comprehensive list of toxic and harmful foods, and offer guidance on what to do if you suspect your dog has ingested something they shouldn't have eaten. By understanding these risks, we can better protect our beloved pets and ensure they lead happy, healthy lives.

Why Dogs Can't Digest/Process Certain Human Foods

Dogs and humans have evolved alongside each other for thousands of years, but our digestive systems and metabolic processes remain quite different. Several factors contribute to why some human foods are toxic to dogs:


  • Different digestive systems: Dogs have shorter digestive tracts compared to humans, which means they process food differently. Although their bodies are designed to digest meat more efficiently, it doesn't mean they can't consume fruit/veg and plant-based foods, however, there are some that they can struggle with, along with complex carbohydrates.
  • Unique metabolism: Dogs metabolise certain compounds differently than humans. For example, they lack the enzyme needed to break down theobromine, a compound found in chocolate, which can lead to toxicity.
  • Size and weight: Dogs are generally smaller than humans, which means that even small amounts of certain foods can have a more significant impact on their systems.
  • Evolutionary diet: While dogs have adapted to eat a variety of foods, their bodies are still more suited to a balanced, unprocessed diet. Some human foods, especially those which are highly processed and high in fats or sugars, can be very difficult for them to process.
  • Lack of certain enzymes: Dogs lack specific enzymes that humans possess, making it challenging for them to break down certain foods. This can lead to digestive issues or more severe health problems.

    Understanding these fundamental differences is crucial in recognising why we can't simply share all our food with our canine friends, no matter how much they may beg.

    Harmful or Toxic Foods for Dogs

    Now, let's explore some of the more common human foods that are toxic or potentially harmful to dogs. It's important to note that while some of these foods may cause mild discomfort, others can lead to severe illness or even be fatal. Always err on the side of caution and keep these foods out of your dog's reach:

    •  Chocolate (especially dark varieties): Highly Toxic. Contains theobromine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, and even death.
    • Grapes, Currants and Raisins: Can cause kidney failure in dogs, even in small amounts.
    • Onions and Garlic: These, along with other members of the allium family like leeks and chives, can damage a dog's red blood cells, potentially leading to anaemia.
    • Xylitol also known as Birch Sugar: This artificial sweetener, found in many sugar-free products, can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure. Look out for it as it can be added to Peanut Butter.
    • Macadamia Nuts: Can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, and hyperthermia in dogs.
    • Avocado: Contains persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs.
    • Alcohol: Even small amounts can cause intoxication, leading to vomiting, disorientation, and potentially central nervous system depression.
    • Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, and some sodas, it can be fatal to dogs in large quantities.
    • Salt and Salty Snacks: Large amounts can cause excessive thirst and urination and, in severe cases, sodium ion poisoning.
    • Yeast Dough: This can continue to rise in a dog's stomach, potentially causing gas to accumulate and leading to dangerous bloat.
    • Dairy Products: Many dogs are lactose intolerant and may experience digestive upset.
    • Fruit Pits and Seeds: Apple seeds, cherry pits, apricot pits, plum pits, persimmon pits and peach pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs (and humans alike).
    • Mushrooms: Some varieties can be toxic to dogs, causing various symptoms from vomiting to organ failure.
    • Nutmeg: This can cause hallucinations and elevated heart rate in dogs.
    • Human Medications: Not technically a food but no less important. Common painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol can be extremely dangerous for dogs.
    • Corn on the Cob: While the sweetcorn kernels themselves aren't toxic, the cob can cause intestinal blockages if swallowed.
    • Cooked Bones: Can splinter and cause choking or internal injuries.
    • Fat Trimmings and Fatty Foods: Can lead to unhealthy weight gain and pancreatitis in dogs.
    • Raw Potatoes and Green Tomatoes: Contain solanine, which is toxic to some dogs. (Mashed, baked, or boiled potatoes are fine. Fried or roast potatoes are not suitable! Only feed your dog potatoes as a treat or food topper, not as a main component of their diet)
    • Mustard Seeds. These contain toxic compounds which can lead to gastroenteritis. (inflammation of the stomach and/or intestinal tract)
    • Rhubarb (especially the leaves) - highly toxic and can cause pain, irritation and kidney failure.
    • Nuts (other than peanuts in peanut butter) It is generally not recommended to feed nuts to dogs as they are hard to digest, present a choking hazard and can cause intestinal blockages. They are also high in fat which can cause pancreatitis. It is worth noting that Pecans can cause gastrointestinal distress and Black Walnuts are very toxic to dogs, causing tremors and seizures.
    • Grapefruit - whilst not toxic it is very irritating to a dog's gut.
    • Jalapenos. Again, these are not toxic but a a dog can't eat them without experiencing adverse side effects.

      Remember, this list is not exhaustive, and it's always best to consult with your veterinarian if you're unsure about a particular food item.

      What to Do if You Think Your Dog Has Consumed Something Toxic

      If you suspect your dog has ingested any of the foods mentioned above or any other potentially harmful substance, it's crucial to act quickly. Here are the steps you should take:

      • Stay calm: Your dog will pick up on your anxiety, which may make the situation more stressful for them.
      • Remove any remaining toxic food: Ensure your dog can't access any more of the harmful substance.
      • Do Not induce vomiting unless instructed: In some cases, inducing vomiting can cause more harm. Always consult a professional before taking this step.
      • Collect information: Try to determine what your dog ate, how much, and when. If possible, keep the packaging or a sample of the food.
      • Contact your Veterinarian: Call your local vet immediately. If it's outside of normal business hours, contact an emergency veterinary service.
      • Animal Poison Line: In the UK, you can also call the Animal Poison Line on 01202 509000. This service is available 24/7 and can provide expert advice (for a fee)
      • Follow professional advice: Your vet or the poison helpline will guide you on the next steps, which may include monitoring your dog at home or bringing them in for immediate treatment.
      • Bring your dog to the vet if advised: If you're instructed to bring your dog in, do so promptly. Time can be critical in poisoning cases.
      • Provide details: When you reach the vet, give them all the information you've gathered about what your dog consumed.
      • Monitor your dog: Even if your dog seems fine, keep a close eye on them for the next 24-48 hours and report any unusual symptoms to your vet.

        Remember, prevention is always better than cure

        Keep toxic foods out of reach, educate family members and guests about what not to feed your dog, and always supervise your pet during meal times and outdoor activities.

        As responsible dog owners, we must ensure the safety and well-being of our furry companions. While sharing our food might seem like a way to show affection, it's crucial to understand that many human foods can pose serious health risks to dogs.

        By familiarising ourselves with the list of toxic foods and understanding why dogs can't process them, we can create a safer environment for our pets. Remember, dogs have different nutritional needs than humans, and their bodies are not equipped to handle many of the foods we enjoy.

        Always err on the side of caution when it comes to your dog's diet. Stick to high-quality dog food, plus natural chews and treats specifically formulated for canines. G&W have a great range of treats and chews  which can provide your dog with safe, healthy and natural ingredients. Juan the Jalapeno, Audrey the Avocado, Gary the Garlic. Lenny the Leek and Pam au Chocolate the Eco Toys are the safe versions your puppy or dog can play with and chew on too!

        If you're ever in doubt about whether a food is safe for your dog, consult your vet or a canine nutritionist.

        Knowledge is Key!

        Lastly, share this knowledge - with fellow dog owners and with those who don’t have dogs and may not realise the consequences of feeding certain foods. The more we spread awareness about the potential dangers of certain foods for dogs, the better equipped we'll be as a community to keep our beloved pets safe and healthy.  After all, a well-informed dog owner is a dog's best friend!