Foods That Are Surprisingly Toxic for Dogs

Who doesn’t love taking time to run around and play with their beloved pets?  And when you’re tired and worn out from all that playing, of course, it’s time to reach for a refreshing snack to replace the energy you just spent. When treating yourself to a yummy snack, it can be tempting to include your furry friends in on all that deliciousness, right?  Well, maybe not!  Some foods and beverages that we think of as treats might be very dangerous for dogs.  Here are some common food items that we love to enjoy every day that could spell potential trouble if you feed them to your dog.


Chocolate is the most widely known dangerous food for dogs.  It’s toxic because it contains the compound theobromine, which dogs are unable to metabolize effectively. The amount of chocolate a dog can eat without showing symptoms varies drastically with their weight.  According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), mild effects of theobromine poisoning can be seen at a dose of 20 mg/kg.  Severe signs of poisoning can begin to show at about 40 mg/kg and seizures can begin with 60 mg/kg.  Note that these dosage levels are measured in terms of a dog’s weight, so a low dose for a large Husky could be lethal for a Toy Poodle.  If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, be on the lookout for some of the more common symptoms such as heavy panting, excessive water consumption, fast heart rate, vomiting and tremors.


The onion family includes garlic and chives, and all are toxic to dogs regardless of whether they are dried, cooked, or raw.  Keep these foods away from your dogs (and even your cats who are even more sensitive to them).  Consuming them can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia because they can kill off the red blood cells.  Even one incident can cause immediate poisoning, although the symptoms can take a few days to show up.  Some of these symptoms are weakness, vomiting, and trouble breathing.


Not a lot is known about why grapes and raisins are so toxic to dogs but even a small amount can make a dog sick and larger amounts can cause liver damage and kidney failure.  Even a small amount can make your dog sick.  Signs of this toxicity are frequent vomiting and a decreased activity level.  Raisins are sometimes hidden in other foods so it’s important to be vigilant when feeding people food to your dog.

Nuts (Especially Macadamia Nuts)

The nuts that we love to bake with (like almonds, pecans, and walnuts) contain a high-fat content.  Too much fat taken in at one time can cause vomiting and diarrhea and can lead to pancreatitis.  That’s bad enough, but Macadamia nuts contain a toxin that can affect your dog’s muscles and nervous system.  Ingestion of these nuts can cause weakness, lethargy, vomiting, and lameness in the hind legs.    

Coffee, Tea, Caffeine

Caffeine can be fatal.  Watch out for coffee grounds, tea bags, and even coffee beans. Stand guard over your yummy iced latte! Caffeine is in the same family as the dangerous substance, theobromine, found in chocolate (see above). Caffeine is also an ingredient in certain cold medicines and pain killers.  This kind of poisoning can be very serious.

Avocado (Guacamole)

Pay special attention on taco night that your fur baby doesn’t sneak into the guacamole bowl.  Avocados are another poisonous food for dogs.  In fact, the whole avocado plant is poisonous because it contains a substance called persin.  Persin is found in all parts of the plant, especially the fruit, leaves and skin.  In moderate amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in large amounts can cause heart damage.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener and most people have heard of it from being in chewing gum.  Now seriously, I know not many dogs enjoy chewing gum!  But some dogs have been known to dig inside of purses and pockets when no one is looking, and sometimes the scent of the gum is too much to resist.  It’s also found in toothpaste, candy, baked goods, and even peanut butter.  Always check the label.  It can cause a dog’s level of insulin to spike, which can lead to liver failure.  Initial symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination, but can escalate quickly to include seizures.

Emergency Instructions

So, what should you do if you suspect your dog has gotten into one of these foods?  Your best option is to check with Animal Poison Control (1-888-426-4435 in Canada and the U.S.). If you have a smartphone, you can download the ASPCA/APCC app for free.

If your dog ate one of these foods and is showing symptoms (or is pregnant, a young puppy, or has health concerns) you should get them to a veterinarian or animal hospital right away.  Keep in mind, sometimes symptoms don’t show up right away so as soon as you notice symptoms, do not waste any more time in getting them medical attention.

We all love our pets. Hopefully, this article gives you some additional knowledge to help keep your fur babies enjoying a long happy and healthy life with you.

Diana Colbert lives near Pittsburgh PA Married with twins (son and daughter) who are 21 years old and still love to travel with their parents. She and her family have owned dogs and/or cats for most of their lives. She works in financial services and would love to live in Mexico someday.

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