Letting Buddy lick off the last bits of gravy from your dinner plate might feel generous and loving, but not everything on your plate is kosher for your dog. Some of your favorite (and healthiest) foods can actually be mildly to quite toxic for dogs, due to ways their digestive systems are different from ours. (Here are tips for proper nutrition for dogs.)
When it comes to your canine, a good rule of thumb is to be selfish with your dinner—at least until you’ve checked and double-checked its safety for dogs. And it’s always a good idea to ask your vet about which foods may be OK to give your dog as a treat. But for starters, you can put these 13 common human foods on your “definitely not” list.
Aromatics like onions, garlic, and chives. These foods are even worse for cats but can also be toxic for your pup in large amounts. Garlicky, oniony foods can irritate a dog’s digestive system and damage red blood cells, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). And yep, that includes table scraps of your garlicky lasagna.
Alcohol. This is technically poison for both you and your pets, and there is no reason to give your dog a lick of your gin and tonic. For dogs, the hops used to make beer are also toxic on their own. A 2009 study in Interdisciplinary Toxicology reported the signs of alcohol poisoning in dogs as inability to control bodily movements (known as ataxia), lethargy, hypothermia, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, liver failure, coma, and even death.
Avocado. While this beloved, buttery fruit is particularly known for poisoning birds, cases of mild avocado poisoning have been reported for dogs and cats as well. Common signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine. These foods contain methylxanthines, which are toxic enough to be life-threatening. Small amounts can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, and frequent urination; more toxic doses can cause abnormal heartbeats, internal bleeding, heart attacks, seizures, coma, and even death. An average-sized dog could experience symptoms with just 240 grams of dark chocolate, which might not be hard for Fido to find around the house during Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or other chocolate-filled holidays. The smaller the dog, the more seriously they will be affected by even small amounts of chocolate or coffee.
Milk and other dairy products. The only milk your doggy can handle is the one coming from his own mom. Cow’s milk contains lactose, which pets don’t have enough enzymes to break down. Sure, they may love to lick your ice cream cone, but it can cause diarrhea or upset stomach.
Nuts, especially macadamia nuts. The high fat content of walnuts, pecans, and almonds can cause diarrhea and vomiting for your dog. Macadamia nuts may lead to more serious poisoning, presenting symptoms like swollen, stiff, or painful limbs, hyperthermia, rapid heartbeat, and tremors.
Coconut and coconut oil. Although not deadly, the oil from coconuts can cause digestive problems like upset stomach and diarrhea. Why put your fur baby through that?
Grapes and raisins. Within about six hours of digestion, grapes and raisins are notorious for causing vomiting and diarrhea for dogs, and they may also lead to weakness, dehydration, tremors, lethargy, and kidney failure.
Raw or undercooked meat or eggs. Raw cookie dough is a bad idea for anyone (two- or four-legged) in your household. Just like in humans, dogs can fall victim to dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
Bones. Yes, animals do chomp on bones in the wild, but this seemingly natural snack can be a choking hazard to domestic pets and can even puncture their digestive tract, according to the American Kennel Club. If your dog has stolen and eaten some bones, watch for signs of internal bleeding: lethargy, constipation, bloody stool, abdominal bloating, vomiting, or lack of appetite. See a veterinarian ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms.
Raw, yeasted dough. The gas produced from yeast can cause painful bloating in your dog. Yeast also produces ethanol, which can cause drunkenness for Rufus and be as poisonous as your whiskey sour.
Salty foods. Pretzels, popcorn, potato chips, and processed TV dinners or canned soups contain more sodium than your pup can handle. Salt poisoning may cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst, frequent urination, and even tremors, seizures, coma, or death, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Keep an eye out for other sneaky salt sources, like play dough or rock salt for de-icing sidewalks.
Xylitol, an artificial sweetener. This zero-calorie sweetener causes an insulin release in most species and can lead to liver failure, according to the ASPCA. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and poor coordination, and toxic levels can lead to seizures. This ingredient can sneak into “sugar-free” products like gum, candy, mints, protein bars, flavored water, and some baking mixes.
Accidents happen, especially when it comes to dogs and their oh-so-curious snouts. If you suspect your doggy has eaten a toxic food and is showing symptoms of poisoning, immediately call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661.
More of a cat person? Learn about the houseplants that are toxic to cats.