With an estimated 89.7 million dogs currently living in the United States, these affectionate and loyal pets are an important part of many American families. We care for them deeply and do our best to keep them happy and healthy, but are you aware of all the risks currently present in your kitchen?
We have all been warned that we likely shouldn’t be feeding our dogs table scraps for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it can lead to obesity, did you know that some of our favorite human foods are highly toxic for man’s best friend? The secret to keeping your pet safe and healthy is simply education – knowing the risks and how to avoid them!
Beware these 30 things your dog should never be allowed to eat:
#1 – Bones
It’s one of the most recognized associations in our world, the dog and its bone, but experts are warning you may want to think twice before handing over just any bone. Chicken bones, turkey bones and any bone that has been cooked for any length of time is prone to splintering and breaking. These pieces can have an incredibly negative health impact. This can cause cuts in the mouth or throat, choking, intestinal blockages, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. While raw bones are safer, you should still avoid pork bones, rib bones of any kind and any bones that are smaller than the dog’s mouth.
#2 – Rhubarb
While the stems of a rhubarb plant, the part that we generally cook with, is completely safe for your dog to consume, if you have a rhubarb plant growing on your property, you may want to be careful. Eating just a few rhubarb leaves is toxic enough that it can have an incredibly negative impact on your pup’s health and well-being. Symptoms of rhubarb poisoning include loss of appetite, tremors, weakness, unusual drooling, lethargy, changes in urination or changes your dog’s drinking habits.
#3 – Chocolate
You likely already know that chocolate is a huge ‘no, no’ when it comes to feeding your dogs. However, many dog owners don’t realize why, or just how big this risk can be. Chocolate contains theobromine, the toxic ingredient. In large doses, this compound can cause internal bleeding, seizures, tremors, irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. While larger dogs may be able to consume small amounts without a problem, it certainly isn’t a risk that you should be taking! If you are at all suspicious that your dog has ingested chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately.
#4 – Grapes and Raisins
This is one food that baffles veterinarians a bit as we have never been able to identify exactly what it is in grapes and raisins that is toxic to dogs. What we do know is that their consumption has been found to cause kidney damage and, ultimately, kidney failure, even in very small doses. Signs of exposure include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, weakness, tremors, seizures and foul breath.
#5 – Coffee and Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that many of us rely upon to get ourselves up and moving in the morning, but the impact of this substance on our dog’s health can be profound. Consider the cartoons in which someone drinks way too much coffee causing them to become completely hyperactive. This is what happens in dogs, and it can have terrible side effects. Caffeine toxicity is associated with feelings of jitteriness or restlessness, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, tremors, and seizures. Left unmanaged, it can lead to coma or death.
#6 – Tomato Plants
Ripe tomatoes aren’t a concern, but if your dog ingests the leaves of a tomato plant or green tomatoes, this can lead to big problems. Lower levels of exposure can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. If, however, your dog consumes a larger amount, it can result in more serious complications. Symptoms at this stage include confusion, changes in heart rate, weakness, dilated pupils, and lethargy. Your best approach, if you are growing tomatoes at home, is to keep them safely fenced away from your dog.
#7 – Raw Eggs
Now, before you go defending the fact that you read you should put a raw egg on your dog’s food for the purposes of a healthier, shinier coat – having potential benefits doesn’t mean that something can also come with risks. Eggs can be a great treat for your pet (speak with your vet to determine how many they can safely consume), but there are risks to consider if the eggs that you are looking at feeding haven’t been cooked. Raw eggs can carry harmful bacteria like salmonella, a danger to both the dog and the owner that is preparing the snack. Raw egg whites also carry their own risks, potentially leading to a biotin deficiency due to an enzyme that they contain which prevents the absorption of biotin within the body. If you want to feed your dogs eggs, it is recommended that they are cooked first.
#8 – Apple Seeds and Cores
While apples themselves are a great, healthy snack for your pup, you want to be careful what part of the apple you are giving them. The seeds of an apple contain cyanide which is highly toxic. While the toxin is always present, it’s particularly intense when the apple is rotting. Signs of exposure to apple seeds includes bright red mucous membranes, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, excessive panting and shock. Seek medical help immediately as this can be fatal.
#9 – Milk and Dairy
Drinking milk has been embraced as a ‘normal’ thing in our society, but what many people don’t realize is that humans are one of the only mammals that continue to consume dairy as an adult. While there will be some dogs that can handle digesting dairy products, most are unable to produce the enzyme lactase allowing them to break down the lactose in these foods. As with humans that are lactose intolerant, this can make your dog very sick.
#10 – Salt and Salty Snack Foods
This is one that many dog owners are guilty of, handing over treats like chips when they are enjoying them themselves. However, if you were aware of the risks of sodium consumption you may think twice. Sodium is necessary in your pet’s diet; however, high-quality commercial pet foods are formulated to meet this requirement. Excess sodium in your dog’s blood can lead to an electrolyte imbalance characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, confusion, and disorientation. If left untreated, this can lead to seizures, coma or death.
#11 – Raw Potato Leaves, Stems, and Skin
If you have boiled or baked potatoes for your dog to consume, then go ahead and let them enjoy (in moderation), however, you should avoid letting your dog consume raw potatoes, potato skins, stems, and leaves. Raw potatoes contain a compound called solanine which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, tremors, seizures, or problems with the central nervous system.
#12 – Apricot Stems, Leaves and Pits
As with apples, the apricot fruit itself is a great addition to your dog’s diet. However, the stems, leaves, and pits contain cyanide. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include dilated pupils, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, bright red mucous membranes and shock. This toxin is most present when the fruit is rotting, and/or the leaves are wilting.
#13 – Sugar
Consumed in high quantities in our society, you would be surprised just how much sugar can be found in the foods and beverages that you consume on a daily basis. While it ’s not necessarily healthy for us by any means, this sweet treat is something you should avoid allowing your dog to consume. Think back to the last time you ate far too much sugar, and how sick you felt. This is certainly one of the many risks that your dog faces due to their smaller stature. Risks of sugar consumption include nausea, cavities, obesity, diabetes and changes to your dog’s metabolism.
#14 – Mustard Seeds
This is an item that most of us will overlook completely, but it can definitely make your poor pup really sick! There are compounds in mustard seeds that upset a dog’s gastrointestinal system leading to diarrhea and vomiting. In fact, some veterinarians will even use mustard powder to induce vomiting when necessary, so that should tell you something!
#15 – Xylitol
This is an artificial sweetener that many companies use in the production of their ‘sugar-free’ products, which is highly common in chewing gum and peanut butter. Even the smallest exposure can lead to xylitol toxicity. This can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and, in the more serious cases, it can even be fatal. While peanut butter is a regular ingredient in homemade dog treats, experts stress that you must read the ingredients before purchasing peanut butter for this purpose to ensure that it doesn’t include this toxic ingredient.
#16 – Coconut and Coconut Oil
With the recent rise in using coconut oil for everything, we are starting to see more people recommending it’s use in treating not only our own ailments but that of our pets. While it’s certainly not as toxic as some of the items on this list, there are some health concerns to worry about. Coconut water is high in potassium, which is dangerous at that level for your dog’s system. Furthermore, the flesh and milk of coconuts contain oils that are known to cause digestive problems including loose stool, diarrhea, and nausea.
#17 – Hops
Used in the process of brewing beer, hops are incredibly toxic to your dog. The actual cause of the toxic reaction is largely unknown, but experts warn that they have confirmed the risk itself. Signs of hop poisoning include a racing heart rate, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, increased breathing, and hypothermia. Exposure can lead to abnormal clotting within the body, or, if left untreated, death. If you enjoy home brewing, be careful what ingredients your dog may have access to.
#18 – Chamomile
Chamomile is an important one to discuss on the list as, in smaller doses, it can actually be incredibly beneficial for your dog. It is often used to calm a dog, smooth muscle pain and reduce inflammation both as a topical treatment or orally. However, large doses or repeated exposure over a long period of time can lead to chamomile poisoning. The side effects of this type of toxicity include an increased risk of internal bleeding, or gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Medicinal use of chamomile should be done under the care and supervision of a veterinarian.
#19 – Citrus Fruits
While there are many fruits that carry great benefits for your dog, even the smallest exposure to citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit can leave them feeling incredibly ill. Even exposure to essential oils made from citrus fruits can have a negative effect. In small doses, this will likely result in gastrointestinal irritation, such as nausea or vomiting, however, larger or long-term exposure can actually cause damage to the central nervous system.
#20 – Onions and Chives
The damage caused by onions and chives is much less severe than that of some other items on this list. It’s not that they don’t pose a risk, simply that they would have to consume a large amount before reaching the point of toxicity. That being said, the damage from onions and chives can be significant, as it directly impacts the red blood cells. They can also cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. It’s safer to avoid consumption altogether than to try to track and predict where the limit for your dog would lie.
#21 – Yeast Dough
When we add yeast to a dough, the purpose is to cause a chemical reaction that results in the dough rising when it is baked. Unfortunately, if your dog consumes the dough a similar reaction can occur, causing the dough to rise in your dog’s digestive system. This can lead to a considerable accumulation of gas which can be incredibly painful. Furthermore, too much gas in your dog’s system can lead to bloat, an often fatal condition in which the pet’s stomach twists.
#22 – Raw or Undercooked Meat
This is one that is up for debate, as many dog owners that choose to feed their pets a raw diet will contest any risks. However, there are concerns worth noting and therefore we are going to include it on this list for the purpose of full disclosure. Raw meats can carry potentially harmful bacteria including salmonella and E.coli. This is a risk both to the dog consuming it as well as the owner during the process of preparation. Studies have also found that dogs fed a raw meat diet are more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than dogs that are fed a diet of conventional dry or canned foods. It is recommended that owners do their research before selecting this dietary option.
#23 – Peach Stems, Leaves and Pits
Much like apples and apricots, the stems, leaves, and pits of a peach contain cyanide, and exposure can lead to cyanide poisoning. However, the fruit itself can be a great, healthy snack full of vitamins. Signs of exposure include dilated pupils, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, bright red mucous membranes and shock. If left unmanaged this can be fatal, so contact your veterinarian immediately if you believe your dog has been exposed.
#24 – Avocado
Known as a ‘superfood’ within our own diets, avocado is one of the items that you should keep out of your pup’s diet. There are a lot of rumors surrounding the presence of persin, however, experts advise that isn’t toxic to dogs the way it is to birds and larger animals like cattle. However, just because they aren’t toxic doesn’t mean that they are safe for consumption. The biggest concern with avocado for dogs is that it is known for causing obstruction. Signs to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea and a lack of stool production. If you notice these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.
#25 – Macadamia Nuts
As with grapes and raisins, experts haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is in macadamia nuts that make them toxic to dogs, but they are well aware of the risks that they pose. Even the smallest exposure can have serious health implications. Symptoms include weakness (especially in the hind legs), vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia. If you suspect your dog has had even the smallest amount of macadamia nuts, it is important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible as this can be fatal.
#26 – Other Nuts
While macadamia nuts are by far the biggest risk, warranting their own mention, other nuts including walnuts, almonds, and pecans can also make your dog sick. Nuts are known to contain high levels of oils and fats, which can upset their gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. In larger doses, they can also lead to pancreatitis from the high fat content.
#27 – Garlic
There has been a long-standing debate regarding the safety of garlic in a dog’s diet. Some dog owners will encourage the addition of garlic to a dog’s diet as it is an effective flea and tick repellent, along with a number of alleged benefits. However, if you are weighing the pros and cons you may want to consider the presence of thiosulfate, a substance that, while safe for humans, is toxic to dogs. As with onions and chives, consuming garlic can lead to damage of the red blood cells. Signs of garlic toxicity include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and dehydration.
#28 – Alcohol
While I would like to think that this is common sense, it poses a great health risk for your pup and therefore deserves to be included on the list. Consumption of any form of alcohol including beer, wine, and liquor can have a seriously negative impact on your dog’s health due to the alcohol content in relation to their size. Consider the risk of damage stemming from binge drinking in humans. Even a small amount of alcohol can have a similar impact on your pup. Signs of alcohol toxicity in your dog include muscle tremors, paralysis, lethargy, disorientation, confusion, shallow breathing, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
#29 – Cherry Stems, Pits, and Leaves
As with the other fruits listed, the stems, pits, and leaves of cherries contain cyanide. Signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, bright red mucous membranes, and shock. Left untreated, it can be fatal. Contact your veterinarian if you have any reason to suspect that your dog is suffering from cyanide exposure.
#30 – Licorice
This is a substance that is often debated, as an extract from the licorice plant has long been recognized for its medicinal uses in the treatment of upset stomachs and sore throats. However, licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin which has been connected with increased blood pressure in dogs following exposure. Furthermore, licorice, like most candies, often contains far more sugar than your dog should be digesting. Symptoms of exposure may include muscle weakness and vomiting.
Image via Noah’s Bark