10 Foods NOT to Feed Your Dog

Who can resist those big puppy eyes and that cute doggie face? Can a little treat from the table really hurt your dog? Well, that depends on what it is and what’s in it. Although some human foods are safe for dogs to eat (such as plain, boiled chicken, green beans and carrots), there are a lot of common “people” foods that can be downright dangerous for your dog.

It’s important to understand which human foods dogs should never be allowed to eat so that you can protect your dog and prevent them from having access to any of these foods in your home. Let’s take a look at ten of these unsafe foods now.

Onions, garlic and chives

Any sort of onions (including garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, etc.) are toxic to dogs and should not be eaten. Cooked onions, juice, broth and powder are equally harmful. Onion and garlic powders are even more potent than fresh onions and are used in many recipes and store bought foods, so always check labels.

Onions belong to the genus Allium and contain a toxic compound, N-propyl disulfide, which is known to damage your dog’s red blood cells, making them unable to carry oxygen through the body. In severe cases, this can result in organ failure and death. Onions are even more toxic to cats than they are to dogs. 

Grapes or raisins

Dogs should never eat grapes or raisins (which are dried grapes) in any amount, they are known to be highly toxic to dogs and cats. This includes all kinds of grapes like red, green, white and grape jelly or jam. Consuming grapes can cause severe reactions like kidney failure and death in dogs.

Is it bad if my dog ate playdough?

Most playdough contains a high amount of salt which can lead to salt poisoning, which we’ll discuss later. But new research shared in an interview with AAHA NEWStat has discovered that playdough may also contain cream of tartar (containing tartaric acid), the same substance believed to cause toxicity in grapes. Playdough is a common toy found in households with children and it’s important to keep it away from your pets.


Chocolate is toxic to dogs and can cause significant illness. Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines (specifically caffeine and theobromine), which dogs are far more sensitive to than people and cannot metabolize them as well. The darker and more bitter the chocolate the greater the danger.


Avocados contain a substance called persin, a fungicidal toxin which can be harmful to dogs. There is more persin in the leaves and skin of avocados, and different varieties can contain more or less of this toxic substance. It’s best to avoid the risk and keep your dog away from avocados and the guacamole dish during the game.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and just a few nuts can lead to severe illness, depending on the dog’s size. The most common signs of macadamia nut poisoning is weakness, especially in the hind legs, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, and fever.

Gum, Candy and Xylitol (artificial sweetener)

Gum and candy should never be given to dogs as they can cause choking or blockages in the digestive system. 

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. It is a substitute sweetener used in many foods, including gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, and peanut butter. Life threatening effects can occur as quickly as 10 – 60 minutes after ingestions like low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizure, and liver failure. Always check the ingredients of anything that might contain xylitol before giving it to your dog.


Too much salt, whether it’s on potato chips, popcorn, pretzels or other snacks, or in fast food meals, ocean water or rock salt used on icy roads and sidewalks, can cause health issues for your dog. While some sodium is vital to your dog’s health, it’s important to know that most commercial dog foods are formulated to meet this daily requirement and exceeding this amount can lead to salt poisoning, or hypernatremia. Hypernatremia in dogs is potentially life threatening and should be treated by a veterinarian right away.


While it might seem harmless to let your dog take a tiny sip of your wine, beer or mixed drink, the bottom line is that it’s never OK to let your dog drink alcohol. This goes for beverages, foods (like raw bread dough) and household products that may contain alcohol (like hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, detergents and soaps). Even small amounts of alcohol can be toxic to your pet potentially causing central nervous impairment, metabolic acidosis, hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal distress. Keep all forms of alcohol stored out of reach of your dog and never leave alcoholic beverages unattended.

Spoiled Foods

Even though the canine stomach is much sturdier than ours, spoiled food may contain parasites, bacteria, fungi and other toxins that can cause food poisoning in dogs. Spoiled meat is a breeding ground for pathogens like e-coli, Clostridium botulinum, Penitrem-A, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and others. Although most dogs recover from food poisoning, the experience can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness and sometimes more severe reactions, so it’s best to not put your dog at risk and don’t feed them spoiled food.

What to do if your dog ate something he shouldn’t

If your dog ate something he shouldn’t have, stay calm and evaluate the situation. Remove anything your dog is still trying to eat from their mouth and, if possible, determine how much your dog consumed – this will be beneficial to share with your vet. Save any wrappers or a sample of the material.

Call your veterinarian right away. They will be able to determine the best treatment plan based on what your dog has eaten. If it’s an emergency or after hours, call your local emergency vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Lisa Beagan

Lisa Beagan

Dr. Lisa Beagan is a 1995 graduate of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. After working in an equine practice then a small animal clinic, she opened Mobile Pet Vet in 2003. Dr. Beagan has also completed a veterinary acupuncture certification through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

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