Foods That Are Bad for Dogs Know Your Dog Feeding No-Nos

Dogs and cat looking at food on a table
expert or vet photo
vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

While we tend to stock our cupboards with foods we like, many of our favorite dishes contain ingredients that are bad for dogs. That means before you share anything, you should first know what might give your pet a bad reaction. This list will help you identify problem foods, so next time you feel like being generous, you can do so safely.

Food -- one of the simplest pleasures in life. A good meal could change the course of an entire day, so why wouldn't you want to share that joy with your pooch? Well, as luck would have it, many of our favorite flavors come from foods that are bad for dogs, meaning that sharing that last scrumptious bite might be less generous than you think.

Before you scoop those last couple morsels into your pup's dish, check out this list of foods to know what should be avoided when it comes to splitting dishes with our furry friends.


Whether it be in coffee, tea, or cocoa, caffeine is a chemical compound that can result in mild or severe heart complications in your dog. While a sip may not poison your dog, if they get into the coffee grounds or some loose tea, they might exhibit symptoms of caffeine poisoning, such as hyperactivity, throwing up, rapid heartbeat, seizures, or a collapse.


Chocolate is no good for dogs mainly because of the chemical theobromine, an alkaloid in chocolate that dogs are not able to metabolize, resulting in potentially major complications, such as seizures, heart attacks, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. While chocolate is dangerous to both cats and dogs, cats generally do not have a taste for chocolate, while dogs may develop a taste for sweets, making the risk for chocolate poisoning higher.

Garlic, Onions, Shallots, Scallions

All of these delicious dish enhancers are quite dangerous to dogs, since every relative of the onion contains sulfoxides and disulfides, which are chemicals that are extremely poisonous to dogs, and can result in anemia. This includes any form of these foods too: raw, cooked, or powdered. Symptoms of onion poisoning are pale gums and a lack of energy due to a reduced amount of red blood cells.

Gum and Toothpaste

A key ingredient in gum and toothpaste (as well as many foods designed for diabetic patients), xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener, and can be quite serious if ingested by your dog, often resulting in liver failure. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning are lethargy, low blood sugar, vomiting, seizures, jaundice, coma, and possibly death. Should you suspect that your dog has ingested anything with xylitol, get them to the vet immediately, as the reaction can set in within 10 minutes.


Dogs are not able to metabolize alcohol as well as people, which means that they are much more susceptible to alcohol poisoning. While the symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs is much the same as it is in people (drooling, vomiting, dry heaving, coma, death), it takes substantially less to put them over the edge; so much so that even the consumption of a rum cake or unbaked dough with yeast in it can send your dog reeling. Since the effects set in quickly, if you have reason to believe that your dog got into the sauce, get them to the vet.

Raisins and Grapes

Strangely enough, the actual cause for why grape-based foods affect dogs is unknown, but the fact of the matter is that dogs that eat them end up rueing that decision. Occasionally resulting in acute kidney disease, eating enough grapes or raising can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.

Macadamia Nuts

While not as lethal as the other entries on this list, macadamia nuts can cause your dog a considerable amount of pain, often resulting in weakness in the rear legs, pain, tremors, and a low grade fever. Luckily, the symptoms of this condition will pass, usually within 48 hours, and your dog will be up and walking around like nothing happened.

Bread Dough

Aside from the potential alcohol poisoning (noted above) that could result from the yeast in dough fermenting in the stomach, the dough may also begin to expand, putting a strain on the stomach lining, diaphragm, and other innards. This expansion can cause breathing difficulties, blood flow issues, and even tissue death.


While this may go without saying, don’t feed your dog moldy food. Occasionally people get the notion that a dog has a steel-lined stomach. They do not. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your dog (except for dog food and treats, obviously). If you have moldy food, throw it out.


Salt is in many foods, as it is a delicious flavor enhancer, but by itself, consumption of this mineral is too much for our taste. However, dogs don't particularly care how unpalatable we might find straight salt, and have been known to clean of a plate full of the stuff. The real trouble here is that salt is a potent dehydrator that can cause your dog to vomit, lose energy, have seizures, become comatose, or even die. Salt consumption can also result in sodium ion poisoning.

Fruit pits

Dogs will eat anything, which can be a big problem. If they see fruit lying around, chances are they aren’t spitting out the pit. This can become an issue, as many fruit seeds or pits contain cyanide, which is a very potent poison that can be lethal. Fruits with pits known to contain cyanide include cherries, apricots, and peaches. Symptoms for cyanide poisoning include dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gums, and death.

Another fruit pit that can be dangerous to your dog, although it does not contain cyanide, is the avocado, as the seed is incredibly large and has been known to obstruct the movement of a dog's bowels, or block their windpipe causing them to choke. 

If you suspect that your dog has eaten any of the aforementioned foods, contact your vet immediately and follow their instructions.

Video: Safe and Unsafe Foods for Dogs

More on Dog Food

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Is Your Dog Allergic to Certain Food?
How to Change Dog Food

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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