Most people just assume if a food is safe for them to eat, it is also safe for their dog to eat. This is not at all true. While people and dogs can eat many of the same foods, some “people food” is actually quite toxic to dogs. In fact, some people food is so toxic to dogs, it can kill them or make them very sick.
The size of the dog is important when considering what to feed them. If you have a small dog, you will need to be even more careful with the “people food” you give to your dog. This is because it takes less quantity of a toxic food to kill a smaller dog than a larger dog. However, the same could be said about poison and you certainly wouldn’t want to give poison any dog, including a large dog. Large dogs have died from being given the wrong people food as well.
I’ve heard people jokingly say things like, “my dog will eat anything” or “my dog is a canine garbage disposal.” Well, you need to know that dogs don’t automatically know what’s toxic to them. If it smells good and tastes good they may eat it even if it will make them very sick or even kill them. This is especially true if it’s given to them by a trusted human.
I’m not going to give a comprehensive list but I do want to give you some examples of common “people food” that is highly toxic to dogs:
Grapes and Raisins
I know this one may surprise you but grapes are extremely toxic to dogs and will cause kidney failure. Just one to six grapes can kill a small to medium dog. It is important for you to realize that you may not see any signs of toxicity right away. In fact, the effects can be delayed as much as 24 hours. This is one of the reasons dog owners don’t always realize what made their dog so sick or what made their dog die. Don’t be fooled by the size of a raisin. It is a concentrated grape and is just as toxic. If your dog accidentally eats grapes or raisins, you should call your vet or an animal poison hotline immediately.
Chocolate, Coffee, and Tea
Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine which causes rapid heart beat, tremors, and heart attacks in dogs. Chemically, it is related to caffeine which is also highly toxic to dogs. Baker’s chocolate has about 10 times more cocoa, and therefore theobromine and caffeine, than milk chocolate so it is especially toxic. In general, higher quality chocolates and dark chocolate is more toxic than cheaper chocolates and milk chocolate since they contain more cocoa.
Considering how toxic caffeine is to dogs, it is important that you don’t let your dog get into the coffee grounds or tea bags in the garbage and that you clean up any spills of coffee or chocolate right away. Don’t let them drink out of the coffee cup as they may be tempted to do, especially if you put in cream and sugar.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetner that has become increasingly more prevalent in our food. Originally, it was found primarily in gum, mints, and candies but now it is found in all kinds of processed foods. It can show up in yogurt, can goods, and many low carb or sugar free products.
Don’t take this one lightly. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause complete liver failure and death. The toxic effects will usually show up within 30 minutes of ingestion. It causes a rapid increase in insulin and a sudden and dramatic decrease in blood sugar. The symptoms include vomiting, ataxia (stumbling around with uncoordinated movements), and general weakness, seizures, and coma.
Xylitol is also commonly found in toothpaste and mouthwash so be sure not to brush your dog’s teeth with your “people toothpaste” or cure their bad breath with “people mouthwash.”
Onions and Garlic
Most of the time dogs don’t eat enough onion or garlic to kill them but it can if they really pig out or the food has a really high concentration of it. Onion is more toxic than garlic but both should be strictly avoided, as well as any other vegetable from the same family such as shallots. Even small amounts of onion given over time can cause acute anemia and your dog may require a transfusion.
Please note that baby foods often contain onion powder or garlic powder for flavoring so if you feed this to puppies or older dogs that have lost their teeth, be sure to read the ingredients.