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Dogs love to claim their share of our human food. Once they learn the familiar rustle of a packet of their favourite biscuit, or the crack of a tin of their favourite marrowfat peas, a formerly sleepy dog will spring up and appear by your side as quick as a flash. Many foods, however, may smell appealing to our dogs but definitely aren’t good for them. Today, we will be answering a simple question: what can’t dogs eat?
Though we have gone into depth as to some food items your dog should not eat, we thought it would be useful to compile a comprehensive list of the 18 most common and most toxic foods you should never give to your pup.
This should go without saying, as it is highly common knowledge that dogs should never eat, or be given, chocolate. It is not merely hearsay or an old wives tale that specifies that dogs should not consume chocolate, but based on pure scientific evidence.
Containing a compound that is toxic to dogs, known as methylxanthines, chocolate can put the kibosh on a dog’s metabolic process and central nervous system. A small amount of chocolate - such as raw cacao or dark chocolate - can lead to stomach upset, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
In large amounts, chocolate can be responsible for causing irregular heartbeat and function, seizures and, in some cases, death. For these reasons, you can now see why society has become ubiquitous with the notion and understanding that chocolate should never be fed to dogs.
For more information, please take a read of our article on chocolate.
2. Grapes and Raisins
As a food source that is dangerous to dogs, you may think that grapes and raisins are uncontroversial: after all, your dog may have eaten a few grapes in the past to no ill effect. However, grapes and raisins pose a great threat to your dog - including death.
It does not matter if the grapes are skinless or seedless, grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, causing severe discomfort, lethargy, vomiting and, again, death. Always be sure to keep these foods far away from your dog, and ensure no guests or strangers give your pup any grapes or raisins - not even one.
3. Raw Meat, Raw Fish and Raw Eggs
Although some vets and reputable dog breeders advocate for a raw food diet in dogs, speculating that it can yield significant health benefits, including cleaner teeth and healthier coats, the evidence is not yet clear. The possibility of raw food containing bacteria and parasites should also not be underestimated: this means that you cannot merely purchase raw meat and poultry from your local supermarket and slam dunk it into your dog’s feeding bowl.
You must conduct thorough research into raw feeding, as well as consult with your veterinarian, before commencing with a raw feeding schedule. If, for whatever reason, you look into the raw food diet as an alternative feeding routine - perhaps due to allergies or intolerances - consider taking a look at our comprehensive guide to novel proteins.
It is important to note that dogs should also not be allowed to consume raw eggs. If you wish to give your dog some eggs, for the lean protein benefits, ensure to cook the eggs thoroughly and that they are Red Lion certified.
4. Cooked Animal Bones
Although uncooked bones, particularly thick ones, are generally fine for giving your dog to play with and chew on, cooked bones should be completely avoided. The cooking process reduces the structural integrity of the bone, meaning they can easily splinter and cause significant harm to your dog’s mouth, throat, gut or digestive tract: sometimes being fatal.
5. Bacon and Other Fatty Meats
Although many humans absolutely love bacon, it should never be given to your dog: raw or cooked. Why? Excessive consumption of fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis in dogs.
The highly processed nature of bacon - as well as the excessively high salt content - means that it can put significant strain on your dog’s kidneys and also create extra thirst, which can lead to bloat and even death, if severe. Still to lean, uncured meats for your dog, where possible.
Although cinnamon is not toxic to dogs, the spice and its oils can be highly irritating to your dog’s mouth and sinuses, which can lead to discomfort and vomiting to expel the irritant. Interestingly, ingestion of cinnamon can also lower your dog’s blood sugar, which can cause abnormal heart rate, excessive vomiting or liver disease, in the most extreme cases.
7. Coconut Shell
Coconut in and of itself is not bad for dogs, in fact, the lauric acid found in coconut can contribute to a stronger immune system, as well as neutralising bad breath and skin conditions. What you must ensure is that your dog has no way to get to the shell or the fur of a coconut, which can get caught in the throat.
8. Yeasted Dough
Much like you wouldn’t eat raw, yeasted dough, you should also ensure your dog does not get its paws on it: dogs learn through biting, and the gloopy texture of raw dog will be a texture sensation.
In order for the yeasted dough to rise, it requires heat, and a warm stomach provides that perfect cooking environment. If your dog eats raw yeasted dough, the dough will begin to rise and swell, causing excruciating pain.
Alcohol poisoning can also become a distinct possibility: as the yeast ferments, it produces alcohol, which can secrete into your dog’s bloodstream.
9. Human Medicines
Strictly put, dogs should never be given human medications or supplements. Much like the medicines industry has specific formulae for children, meaning you would not give adult solutions to your child, dogs should not be given human medicines.
Only give medication of any sort to your dog once you have consulted with your veterinarian and received their approval, as common human medical compounds - such as ibuprofen - can be fatal if given to your dog.
10. Onions and Garlic
Dogs should not be given onions or garlic. Part of the Allium family of vegetables, onions, garlic, leeks and chives are toxic to dogs, with garlic at the top of the toxicity scale.
Consumption of onion and garlic can lead to elevated heart rate, lethargy or collapse. Garlic and onion toxicity can often have delayed symptoms, so consistently monitoring your dog is the best practice.
11. Tea, Coffee and Other Forms of Caffeine
Unlike humans, dogs don’t typically require stimulants to hype themselves up: a toy can usually do the trick. Caffeine in moderate quantities can be fatal in dogs.
Coffee beans, ground coffee, teas, colas and energy drinks should be kept far away from dogs, as should any medication that contains caffeine.
12. Corn on the Cob
Though canned corn is fine, you should never give your dog corn on the cob. If your dog consumes the cob, it can lead to life-threatening circumstances.
Not only is the cob a distinct choking hazard, but it is also indigestible. If your dog consumes the cob, it can get caught in your dog’s digestive tract and cause internal damage and sickness, possibly requiring surgical intervention.
13. Xylitol (Found in Sweets/Candy, Toothpaste, Diet Soda)
A commonly used sweetener, xylitol can be hugely dangerous to dogs. As it is found in a large swathe of products - such as diet sodas, sweets, baked goods, and toothpaste - xylitol can lead to an insulin spike, potentially leading to a markable drop in blood sugar, and eventually, liver failure and death.
Some sweetened foods, such as peanut butter, have unsweetened varieties, which forgo the inclusion of chemicals like xylitol, which are safer for your dog to enjoy.
Think of the effect of alcohol on your brain and liver, now multiply that - this is the effect of alcohol on dogs. The main problem stems from the fact that it requires a much lesser quantity of alcohol to poison a dog.
Even a smidgen of beer, wine or other alcoholic beverage can cause discomfort, disorientation, stomach and breathing problems. In the most severe of cases, alcohol consumption can cause your dog to go into a coma, or even die. Consider that these effects are more prominent in smaller dog breeds.
So, disregard what the regular at the pub says about his dog enjoying a pint: this is an anomaly and irresponsible. Your dog should never be given alcohol.
15. Macadamia Nuts
Dogs should never, ever be given macadamia nuts. Part of the Proteaceae family, macadamia nuts are some of the most poisonous foods out there.
Highly dangerous, macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, central nervous system disorders, heightened body temperature, ataxia, weakness, inability to walk, hypothermia, lethargy and depression.
Put the macadamia cookies away and never share them with your dog. Ever.
Avocados are rich in a chemical compound known as persin, particularly in their growing phase. Although dogs are somewhat resistant to the effects of persin, it can still be toxic in high enough doses. Persin levels do indeed drop once the avocado fruit is fully ripened, the level of persin is still high in the seed, back, skin and leaves.
What you must be careful of is if you have an avocado plant at your home. If this is the case, it is a prime environment for your curious pup to sneakily snack on the fruit and leaves, leading to high ingestion of persin. Doing so will lead to complications such as choking and gastrointestinal blockages, which can often be fatal.
17. Salty Foods
Never overindulge in feeding your dog salty treats. Though a little salt is good for all mammals, too much can have adverse effects on your dog’s kidneys and thirst levels, meaning more toilet breaks and, potentially, sodium ion poisoning.
Common symptoms of salt overconsumption include high temperature, depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, seizures and sometimes death.
18. Sugary Food and Drink
Bad for their teeth, bad for their breath and bad for their waistline, you should not give your dog sugar treats and snacks. Much like alcohol, sugar has a similar effect on dogs as it does on humans, just at a much larger scale as the quantity of consumption required is far less.
Too much sugar can cause dental problems, as well as obesity and diabetes.
Advice: What To Do If Your Dog Eats Things They Shouldn’t
As always, should you suspect that your dog has ingested any potentially harmful foods, it is best practice to keep an eye on them in the immediate term, whilst scheduling an appointment or emergency checkup with your veterinarian or out-of-hours veterinary service to raise the probability that your dog will be okay.
What Can Dogs Eat?
Though our four-legged friends are indeed unintentional picky eaters, there are still loads of human foods they can eat as a healthy treat. Here are some of the best fruits and vegetables your dog can eat safely, including bananas, strawberries, apples, watermelon and oranges.
However, always remember that the best food for dogs is dog food, so treats, including human food, should be fed to your pooch in moderation. As a guideline, think of the golden rule - the 90/10 rule - treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily intake. With a nutritionally balanced diet, your furry buddy will live a longer and healthier life.
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