The People Foods a Dog Shouldn’t Eat — and Why

If you know the reasons certain foods are off limits, it’s easier not to make a critical feeding mistake.


Chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions. We’ve all heard that these foods are absolutely verboten for dogs. But can having even a morsel of these items — and certain others — really create a life-or-death situation for your pet? In certain cases, yes. In others, it depends. Take a look at this list of off-limits foods for dogs to determine just how concerned you should be if your canine companion happens to get a bite of any one of them. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Avocado. Avocados contain a toxin called persin that in large enough amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly even heart damage. A “large enough” amount to cause serious damage has not been nailed down. On the plus side, the highest concentrations of persin are in the leaves and skin of the fruit (yes, avocados are fruits) rather than in the flesh. On the minus side, some dogs are indiscriminate eaters and will eat any and all parts of a food, including the pit, which also contains persin.

Of course, the pit can cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract — a completely different kind of problem. Furthermore, avocado flesh is composed almost entirely of fat, and too much fat can cause a bout of pancreatitis in a dog — a serious and potentially life-threatening illness in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. For all these reasons, we agree with the ASPCA on this one: Keep avocados away from your dog. He’s not going to get sick before your eyes if he licks up a bit of guacamole from your plate, but why tempt him with a food that could cause him harm?

Chocolate. Chocolate is most assuredly not good for dogs. It contains a caffeine-like chemical called theobromine that can cause signs of a major caffeine overdose like agitation and over-excitement and, if the dose is high enough, seizures. But with this food, the devil is in the dose — and the type of chocolate.

It would take an entire pound of the sweet stuff to prove toxic for a small dog of 20 pounds — if that pound were milk chocolate. But just 2.5 ounces of dark chocolate — easy enough even for a small dog to scarf down — can wreak havoc on his health. Our advice: Don’t leave any chocolate where your dog might be able to reach it. A dog of most any size can scarf down a box of bon bons pretty quickly.

Grapes and Raisins (dried grapes). A single grape or raisin will not kill a dog. But just a few of either fruit can prove deadly by leading to sudden kidney failure and the inability to produce urine. That leads to toxins building up in the blood and making their way to every tissue of the body. It’s for that reason that we suggest not getting your dog used to the taste of raisins or grapes by offering him one or two here and there when you’re taking some for yourself. There’s just too little room for error.

Macadamia nuts. This one’s a “just say no” food when it comes to dogs. The American College of Veterinary Pharmacists points out that as little as one macadamia nut for a 20-pound dog can prove toxic and as few as four nuts for a dog of 50 pounds. “Toxic” in this case means symptoms ranging from weakness to depression, vomiting, elevated body temperature, and increased heart rate. But that’s not all. Issues with moving around occur, too: lack of muscle control, tremors, joint pain, difficulty walking, and hind limb weakness. The signs usually occur within 12 hours of ingestion, sometimes as few as
2 to 3 hours.

Onions, garlic, and chives. All members of the Allium genus, these foods can cause a form of a disease called hemolytic anemia, which leads red blood cells to die prematurely. Without enough red blood cells, oxygen cannot get to all the body’s tissues, and that can cause severe illness.

The onions or related items don’t have to be raw to do harm. A lick of onion- and garlic-flavored spaghetti sauce probably won’t cause problems, but onion rings, onions sautéed with mushrooms — items like these can make a dog sick.


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