Dangerous Human Foods Dogs Can't Eat

Dangerous Human Foods Dogs Can’t Eat

Some vets recommend feeding dogs table scraps to help improve digestive tolerance, but there are still plenty of human foods that dogs can’t eat.

You might be surprised to know that after many midnight trash-barrel binges, there’s a variety of foods that dogs can’t eat—although there are also many that they can! Anne Rylestone, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., D.V.M., and holistic veterinarian at Canterbury Tails Veterinary Clinic in Massachusetts, tells her clients that it’s not only OK but recommended to mix up your dog’s meals throughout the day. She says that sticking to the same dog food actually increases their likelihood of getting sick when they get into the trash or eat something they’re not supposed to.

If your dog is a picky eater, like many poodles, golden retrievers, and other breeds (let’s call them foodies), then you may sigh some relief at this advice.

You’ve probably heard a traditional vet tell you in the past that you should stick to one type of dog food; however, regardless of the advice you’ve received, one thing is probably true: you’ve fed table scraps to your dog at some point in their lives. And if you haven’t, then your kids or your guests have. Surely Fido hasn’t been without some grilled chicken in his dog years.

If you’re wondering which foods dogs can’t eat, here is the short list. If your dog eats any of these foods, bring your dog straight to the vet or your local vet ER or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 (a $65 fee may apply). 

Dangerous Human Foods Dogs Can’t Eat


Onions are one of the most lethal foods to dogs.  Onion toxicity can cause sudden anemia, but it can also occur over weeks or months when eaten in small doses, says Sophia Yin, DVM. She says, “one fourth of a cup can make a 20-pound dog sick while several cups may be needed to make a large dog sick. Cats are even more sensitive.”

Onion toxicity can become fatal quickly and may require a costly blood transfusion if it isn’t caught in time. Garlic and chives can cause the same symptoms but usually aren’t easily consumed in large enough quantities. You may also find that there is onion powder in many baby foods.


Most dog owners know chocolate is high on the list of foods dogs can’t eat. You may have heard about the time your friend’s pooch ate a whole candy cane-shaped tube of M&M’s over the holidays and lived to tell the tale. What they may not have told you is that their pooch was 140 pounds and the chocolate was milk chocolate.

If they dove into the can of pure cocoa (most dangerous) or box of pure baker’s chocolate (second most dangerous) in your cabinet, the tale might not have been told with laughs. The Merck/Merial Manual for Veterinary Health says that chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine. Both of these substances stimulate the nervous system and heart rate of your dog, and dogs don’t process them like humans do. The rule of thumb on lethal doses of chocolate per pound of your dog is as follows:

  • Cocoa powder: 1/16 oz. per pound of dog
  • Baker’s chocolate: 1/9 oz. per pound
  • Dark chocolate: 1/3 oz. per pound
  • Milk chocolate: 1 oz. per pound

White chocolate isn’t included in this list because it has much less theobromine and is thus much less toxic.

Coffee (Caffeine)

For the same reason you shouldn’t give your dog chocolate, you also should avoid giving them caffeine. Dogs just don’t process caffeine like humans. A rapid heartbeat can quickly become lethal for dogs.

Grapes or Raisins

With all the adorable “vineyard dogs” coffee table books you see around, you might be surprised to know that grapes are on the list of foods dogs can’t eat. ASPCA’s poison control center says that just 7 grapes or raisins could kill your dog. That means no wine-sipping at Thanksgiving; alcohol isn’t well-tolerated by pups, either!

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “The most common early symptom of grape or raisin toxicity is vomiting, usually within a couple of hours after ingestion. Next, the dog may develop diarrhea, excessive thirst, excessive urination, or lethargy,” and “acute kidney failure from a toxic dose of grapes or raisins will usually develop within 1-3 days.”


Many gums contain xylitol, which is a sugar alcohol. The VCA says that “even small amounts of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death in dogs.” The toxic level is 50 mg of xylitol per pound of body weight. They also claim that xylitol is about 100 times as toxic as chocolate.

Other foods dogs can’t eat

While onions, chocolate, coffee, grapes, and gum are top five foods dogs can’t eat, The Merck Veterinary Manual and other resources claim you should also keep your dogs away from macadamia nuts. Dr. Scott Nimmo, MRCVS, BVMS, says that toxic ranges are between 2.4 – 62.4 grams of macadamia nut per kg of the dog’s body weight.

And, despite how healthy avocados are for humans, dogs should avoid them. The same goes for apple seeds. Apples are harmless to dogs, outside of having a lot of sugar in them, but the seeds contain amygdalin, which creates cyanide when digested. All you need to do is core them before feeding apples to your dog.

Although this is not a complete list of every food that could make your dog ill, our final inclusion in this important list of foods dogs can’t eat (or drink, rather!) is alcohol. Dogs don’t process alcohol like humans do, so they may become intoxicated and ill very quickly. That means onion-beer soup is not on the menu for Fido tonight or ever.

As you probably know, a vet trip can get costly quickly. With all the shenanigans our pups get into while we’re away or in the next room, it’s best to get pet insurance to cover accidental illness or injury. For the sake of your furry friend, look into pet insurance.

Has your dog eaten anything on the toxic foods list? What did you do? Let us know in the comment section. 

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