What Foods are Toxic to Dogs?
Many human foods are irritating, toxic, and even possibly fatal to a dog. Here are some of the most common substances to watch out for.
Xylitol, or sugar alcohol, is extremely toxic to dogs. it is used a s a sweetener in candy, pastries, gum, and toothpaste. Some brands of peanut butter and children's vitamins also contain Xylitol. Often these products are identified as "low calorie". In most dogs, Xylitol causes very high insulin release, which in turn results in very low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Signs of toxicosis include loss of coordination, vomiting and lethargy. Seizures can occur, and fatal liver failure can be the end result. Since manufacturers are not required to disclose the amount of Xylitol in their products, you should treat any ingestion as an emergency. A half ounce of Xylitol is all it takes to constitute a fatal amount for a 70 pound dog.
For an (as yet) unknown reason, some substance contained in grapes is highly toxic to dogs. As grapes are often left out in a bowl, it is important to make sure your dog cannot access them. Symptoms of grape toxicity include tenderness in the abdomen, vomiting or diarrhea, and lethargy or weakness. If left untreated, it can result in kidney failure and death. Take action quickly if you suspect your dog of ingesting any of this fruit.
3. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are among the most dangerous of human foods for dogs. As with grapes, the specific toxin is unknown, but the effects are severe. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, ataxia (loss of balance and muscle control), depression, and hyperthermia (an uncontrolled rise in body temperature. Symptoms can present within 12 hours of ingestion and extend to 48 hours. As little as .10/oz per 2 lbs. of body weight can cause a reaction.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol (like vanilla extract, cooking wines, or malt vinegar) can cause loss of coordination, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other complications may be breathing problems, slowed neurological function, shakes/tremors, coma and possibly death. Never let your pet ingest any amount of alcohol.
5. Coffee/Caffeine and Chocolate
Both coffee beans and cacao beans (from which chocolate is made) contain methylxanthines. While these substances are produced naturally withinn the body by many animals, we humans metabolize them relatively quickly. Pets such as dogs cannot process them as quickly, so their effects are more pronounced. Methylxanthines can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, vomiting and diarrhea, high thirst and frequent urination, hyperactivity, seizures and death. As darker chocolate (such as baking chocolate) has a higher concentration of cacao than milk chocolate, it is more dangerous. While small amounts may not have adverse effects, if your dog does ingest any chocolate, this Chocolate Toxicity Guide may help determine if a visit to the vet is in order.
6. Nuts/Salty snacks/Salt
Some nuts should not be given to dogs due to the content or to the size of the nut itself. The high fat content of nuts can cause vomiting and diarrhea in some pets. Cashews, peanuts, and almonds are generally okay for dogs. Whole pecans and walnuts can cause obstructions due to their large size. Also be cautious that dogs are not given moldy nuts or nuts that have been sitting outside, as some molds can give dogs seizures. Also, the nuts should not be salted, as too much salt can make your dog extremely thirsty, or even cause sodium ion poisoning. Avoid salted popcorn, chips, and pretzles.
7. Citrus peels, stems, seeds
These parts of citrus plants contain higer amounts of citric acid than the flesh portions, which can cause irritation and even central nervous system depression if enough has been eaten. Also, citrus peels are very difficult for a dog's digestive sytem to process and can cause distress.
8. Coconut and Coconut Oil
Large amounts of coconut flesh or fresh milk contains medium-chain trigylcerides, which can cause loose stools, diarrhea, and stomach problems. While small amounts are usually just fine, be cautious. Coconut water has lots of potassium, and dogs with conditions such as hyperkalemia or hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's Disease) should not be given additional potassium.
9. Milk and Dairy
Some dogs may have trouble digesting dairy products due to the absence of lactase, which most dogs cannot produce. This makes them lactose intolerant, which can result in severe intestinal problems and vomiting. Low-lactose products like cheese, which has about 1g of lactose per serving, may be fine for your dog. Whole milk, which has a much higher lactose content (about 11g per serving), may cause issues.
10. Raw Bread Dough
Raw bread dough containing yeast presents two major problems for dogs. When the raw dough is consumed, the yeast is still active, and flourishes in the warm, damp environment of the dog's digestive system. The yeast then produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, which does not pass out of the system easily. This can become painful and can cause severe bloating (also called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or GDV), and potentially twist or even rupture the stomach, developing into a life-threatening emergency. Also, the yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog eating raw bread dough can become intoxicated (See alcohol).
11. Onions, Garlic, Chives
They can irritate the stomach and intestines, and while small amounts won't usually cause any problems, large amounts can lead to hemolytic anemia, which is damage to the red blood cells. While cats have a lesser toleration, dogs are also at risk. Note that the toxins can build up slowly over time to dangerous levels, which can be fatal. Dogs will probably not like the taste anyway, which may prevent serious exposure.
What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned
If you think your pet has been poisoned or exposed to toxins, you should call for help right away. Resources that may be helpful include:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA-APCC) at 888-426-4435. Help is provided by veterinary toxicologists and specialists with access to the most extensive toxin database. Help is available 24/7, every day of the year. There may be a consultation fee applied. They also produce an Animal Poison Control smartphone app which identifies over 300 hazards, not limited to poisonous substances.
Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) at 800-213-6680. Staffed by veterinarians and veterinary technicians, toxicologists, and emergency & critical care specialists. Also available at all times on all days. The fee is $59 (which includes unlimited follow-up). PPH also has a smartphone app (iOS only).
As will all dangers, the first step is prevention of an emergency. We hope this list helps you provide a safe environment for your pet. To learn more about critical care for pets, check out our Pet First Aid and CPR training course, offered at our Seattle training facility.
Published on July 11, 2019