5 Toxic Foods for Dogs

Do you give your dog a bite of your food every now and then? It’s likely something that most dog owners do — after all, it can be so hard to resist those sweet doggie eyes! 

Whether you have a hard time saying no when your dog asks for a taste of your food, or if your dog has a habit of getting into things they shouldn’t, it’s important that dog owners are aware of the common foods that are poisonous for dogs. 

Here’s a list of five ingredients that most people have in their home that can cause severe illness — and in some cases, death — in dogs. 

Note: If you know, or even suspect, that your dog has ingested any of these items, call your veterinarian or take your dog to the nearest emergency clinic.

1. Chocolate

There are two major components in chocolate that make it toxic to dogs, both of which are classified as methylxanthines. The first is theobromine and the second is caffeine; small doses of either component can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive panting, and hyperactivity in dogs. Chocolate toxicosis can occur when dogs consume large amounts, with the lethal dose being approximately one ounce of chocolate per pound of body weight. Chocolate toxicosis results in tremors, abnormal heart murmurs, seizures, and ultimately death.

2. Onions and Garlic

Onions, and other vegetables in the Allium spp. genus (i.e. garlic, leeks and chives), contain high levels of sulfur-containing oxidants. These have been associated with hemolysis, a condition affecting the red blood cells. The onset of hemolysis is often slow, but can lead to anorexia, increased heart rate, weakness, and ultimately death.

3. Grapes

Consumption of grapes (and raisins) is associated with kidney failure in dogs; however, it is unclear what component in grapes causes this. Death has been documented in dogs after consuming a minimum of 3-5 grapes. Dogs may experience abdominal pain, weakness, drowsiness, dehydration and tremors.

4. Macadamia Nuts

As with grapes, is not known how macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs; however, within 12 hours of consuming macadamia nuts, a dog may show clinical signs of toxicity such as anorexia, vomiting, nausea, muscle weakness, and tremors. Death is not usually an outcome of macadamia nut ingestion, and most signs disappear after 24 or 48 hours.

5. Citrus Fruits

The high levels of citric acid in citrus fruits can cause stomach upset and digestive issues in dogs when consumed in large quantities. At extreme levels, damage to the central nervous system can occur. 

Things to Remember

Keep all food items out of reach for your dog, whether it’s harmful or not. If your pup eats extra food or food they aren’t used to — even if it’s safe — they can still experience digestive upset.

If your dog has consumed a food item that is not on this list, or if you are unsure about whether an ingredient is harmful for dog, you can use the ASPCA website to verify. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7611.

“People Food” Dogs Can Eat

There is some good news! If you’re looking to feed your dog “people food”, check out Tom&Sawyer’s meals for dogs. Our meals are gently cooked and made with human-edible cuts of meat, fresh fruits and veggies and created by chefs, balanced by nutritionists and thoroughly tested for safety. In fact, our fresh cooked meals are so good, you could eat them too!

Phone numbers to keep on hand in case of an emergency:
  1. The Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661 | www.petpoisonhelpline.com  
  2. ASPCA: 888-426-4435 | www.aspca.org  
  3. Your local veterinarian 
  4. Your local emergency veterinarian for emergencies that occur after-hours

Written by: Hannah Godfrey 
Animal Nutritionist
BSc.H. | MSc. Animal Nutrition

Merck Veterinary Manual