Foods Toxic to Dogs

What You Need to Know:

There are many human foods that are poisonous for dogs. These are often accidentally consumed when a dog finds candy in a pocket book or food left on a counter. They are also known to eat toxic foods when rummaging through garbage, exposing dogs to poisonous foods as well as bacteria, mold and endotoxins (contained in bacterial cells that enter the dog). Do not feed human foods to dogs unless you know that it is safe and well tolerated by your pet.

Look for the common symptoms associated with poisoning such as:

  • appearing listless, lethargy
  • diarrhea  (common)
  • vomiting (common) or retching
  • bad breath
  • abdominal pain (gastrointestinal upset, dog will show a hunched posture when picked up)
  • blood in the dog stool
  • bloat (dangerous condition that makes the stomach hard to the touch due to gas buildup, must be treated immediately)
  • lack of coordination
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • irregular or rapid heart beat
  • muscle tremors or spasms
  • joint pain, lameness, stiffness, lack of coordination
  • pale gums
  • behavioral change (excitement, depression)
  • increase in urination
  • respiratory problems (faster or slower breathing)
  • dilated pupils
  • seizures

Since the symptoms are similar for multiple types of food poisonous to dogs, see your veterinarian if you see any of the aforementioned symptoms. Cases of severe poisoning can result in death so take immediate action.

For immediate help call

  • Pet Poison Helpline: (800) 213-6680
  • ASPCA Poison Helpline: (888) 426-4435
foods poisonous to dogs
Ingredients in Foods Such As Avocado, Caffeine and the Artificial Sweetener Xylitol are All in Foods Poisonous to Dogs

General Treatment Tips for Dog Food Poisoning

If you believe your dog has eaten poisonous food,  the best advice is to immediately contact your veterinarian, and if instructed induce vomiting. 

How to Induce Vomiting in Dogs:

  1. Use hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
  2. Provide 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for every 10 pounds of body weight (4.5 kg). 
  3. Repeat 3x if needed, in 15 to 20 minute intervals (stop after vomiting occurs, no more than 3 doses of hydrogen peroxide)

Syrup of Ipecac is not recommended.

To restore stomach health you can use Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) every 12 hours for 2 days. The dog Pepto Bismol dosage is .5 to 1.5 ml per pound of body weight. Check with your veterinarian to confirm the recommended dosage for your dog. The Pepto can be administered via a syringe. Tablets are an acceptable alternative. 

Also provide water to restore hydration.

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Foods Toxic to Dogs

The following lists those foods known to have toxic food for dogs risks. In general if you believe that your dog has eaten one of the items listed, contact your veterinarian and if advised, induce vomiting.

Click on the links below for information on the specific types of foods poisonous to dogs.

List of Dog Food Poisons and Ingredients

A-D E-M N-Z

Alcohol Poisoning

After a party it isn't impossible for a dog to drink alcohol from beer and other unfinished or unattended alcoholic beverages. Dogs can also get alcohol poisoning from eating bakery dough due to yeast fermentation, rum-soaked cakes, Small amounts of this dog food poison can lead to death.

 Symptoms of dog alcohol poisoning include:

  • staggering
  • weakness
  • depression  

Apples, Plums, Peaches, Apricots

These dog food poison fruits contain seeds or pits that have a cyanide derivative (cyanogenic glycoside) as one of its components. The seeds need to be ingested in large enough quantities. 

Symptoms of apricot poisoning include:

  • shock
  • bright red gums
  • inadequate oxygen levels
  • difficulty breathing
  • dilated pupils

High levels of the toxin cytochrome oxidase can lead to death.

Avocado

For dogs, the avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as Persin. The Guatemalan variety, a common variety found in stores, appears to be the most problematic in canine poisoning cases. Avocado in dog food should not be a problem if in a product manufactured by a known company. Symptoms associated with dog avocado poisoning includes damage to heart and lung tissues, diarrhea, vomiting, nasal congestion, problems breathing, and fluid accumulation in the dog heart.

Beer Hops

Hops, an ingredient in beer, can cause a disease called malignant hypothermia (low body temperature). Greyhounds are most at risk, although all dogs can consume lethal doses.

Bones

The risk from natural chicken or other bones is splintering. Cooked bones are brittle, with pieces breaking off as the dog chews. Sharp splinters can damage teeth and gums, cause choking, or puncture the intestinal tract or stomach. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Face pawing
  • Respiratory issues such as shallow breathing
  • Gasping for air

The calcium content in bones can result in constipation. If you do want to give your dog natural raw (not cooked) bones, limit them to the safer kinds of bones which are beef knuckles and chicken necks.

Bread Dough

Uncooked break dough can expand in a dog's stomach. This can lead to GDV (gastric-dilation volvulus) which is a twisting of the stomach. Symptoms include:

  • Bloat
  • Distended stomach
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Death

Yeast in unbaked dough can yield alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The fermenting yeast can give off alcohol which can cause alcohol poisoning. Related symptoms include:

  • Drop in body temperature
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • low blood sugar
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory failure

Broccoli

Broccoli can cause intestinal irritation in large enough quantities (defined as 10% of the total diet).

Caffeine

Dog caffeine poisoning symptoms appear within 2 hours after ingestion as the result of the stimulating effect of the chemical. The heartbeat can increase to dangerous levels. Symptoms associated with ingesting caffeine include:

  • hyperactivity
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • tremors
  • heart arrhythmia, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), abnormal heart rhythms
  • seizures
  • hypothermia (high body temperature)
  • collapse

If the dog food poison symptoms are severe your vet will administer activated charcoal, intravenous fluids or induce vomiting. If a dog is experiencing mild symptoms, the prognosis for full recovery is excellent after treatment. Call your veterinarian immediately.

Cherries

Cherries is a food poisonous to dogs due to pits which contain cyanogenic glycosides. It can result cyanide poisoning.

Chocolate

Dogs that eat chocolate is a toxic problem due to a chemical in the chocolate called theobromine, and caffeine.  Theobromine is a diuretic (increases urine discharge) and a stimulant that can increase the heart rate to dangerous levels.

Theobromine is at higher levels in baking chocolate and dark chocolate. It can cause diarrhea and vomiting and in more severe cases a heart arrhythmia.

Consumption of higher amounts of chocolate can cause:

  • elevated heart rate
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • seizure
  • tremors
  • agitated behavior
  • collapse

If you dog only consumed a few chocolate chip cookies or M&M's it is probably not a dog chocolate poisoning concern.  Symptoms depend on the weight of the dog.

  • Unsweetened Chocolate: Approximately 1 square of unsweetened chocolate for every 10 pounds of weight is a guide for symptom onset. Unsweetened chocolate is 10 times more toxic than milk chocolate.
  • Milk Chocolate: consuming more than .5 ounces per pound of body weight can put a dog at risk.
  • Dark and Semi-sweet Chocolate: Ingesting more than .13 onces per pound of body weight
  • Bakers Chocolate: Ingesting any amount can result in dog chocolate poisoning.

Call your veterinarian immediately with your dog's weight and type of chocolate ingested.  Chocolate consumption can cause death as soon as 24 hours after it was eaten.

White chocolate is not a problem for dogs as levels of theobromine are small.

Cigarettes, Tobacco, Cigars

Dogs are susceptible to second hand smoke and the risks of smoking.  Dogs that ingest any form of tobacco can get canine nicotine poisoning. 

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning in dogs include:

  • Dog food poison symptoms that can appear within an hour:
    • hyperactivity
    • salivation
    • panting
    • diarrhea
    • vomiting
  • In advanced cases:
    • increase in heart rate
    • cardiac arrest
    • coma
    • collapse
    • twitching
    • muscle weakness

Citrus Oil

When dogs ingest citrus oil it can result in vomiting.

Corn Cobs

Corn cobs from corn on the cob can cause choking in dogs.

Dairy

Dairy products in general are poorly digested by dogs. They lack the enzyme needed to properly digest these types of products such as milk lactose. Symptoms are due to lactose intolerance and include foul smelling diarrhea and gas. If you do give your dog dairy products, limit to cheese and plain yogurt which have lower levels of lactose and are tolerated well by most dogs.

Dough and Yeast

The yeast in dough can rise in a dog's stomach. As the dough produces gas and expands, it takes up a larger area, potentially blocking the bowel or cause the stomach to become distended and then twist (called gastric gilitation and volvulus(GDV). Fermenting yeast produces alcohol which can compound the medical problem with a case of dog alcohol poisoning.

Symptoms from dog food poison cases related to dough poisoning include:

  • Bloat
  • Unproductive vomiting (no liquid)
  • Retching
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
  • Shock
  • Collapse
  • Depression
  • Disorientation

This condition can cause death and requires emergency abdominal surgery.

Eggs (Raw)

A raw egg contains the chemical avidin which can reduce levels of biotin in the dogs body. Biotin is a B vitamin that supports the  coat and growth. Salmonella is also present in raw eggs.

Symptoms of dog egg poisoning include:

  • retarded growth
  • weakness
  • hair loss
  • skeleton deformity

Cooked eggs can be given to dogs as a treat.

Fatty Foods - Meat Trimmings, Meat Scraps, Oils

Fat can contribute to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Small breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles and Terriers are more at risk than other breeds. Cocker Spaniels are also at risk. Symptoms occur in 1 to 4 days after eating the fatty food (avoid - bacon, turkey skin, sausage, hot dogs, plum pudding, fruit cake, all fried foods) and include:

  • lethargy
  • reduced appetite
  • diarrhea (may contain blood)
  • abdominal pain
  • acute vomiting (occurs suddenly)
  • abdominal pain
  • hunched posture
  • abdomen splinting when dog is picked up

In advanced cases treatment includes antibiotics and intravenous fluid therapy.

Garlic and Onions

If your dog consumes the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of garlic for every 10 pounds of their weight (1 teaspoon for a 10 pound dog) can destroy red blood cells (onion destroys red blood cells as well). Damaged cells are unable to carry oxygen, a condition called hemolytic anemia.  Cooking does not make garlic and onions less toxic to dogs.  Note that many baby foods contain powdered garlic or onion and should be avoided.

Grapes and Raisins

Eating 2 ounces per 10 pounds of a dogs weight in grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in a small dog.

Liver

Liver is present in many dog foods and can be beneficial in small quantities. If a dog eats too much liver, they can suffer from Vitamin A poisoning, called hypervitaminosis.

Symptoms of canine hypervitaminosis are:

  • excessive bone growth on spine and elbows
  • anorexia (reluctance to eat, poor appetite)
  • weight loss

In extreme cases hypervitaminosis can result in death.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts cause temporary paralysis in a dogs hind legs. Often dogs will eat candy or chocolate that contains the nuts.  It is not known what causes this condition. 1 ounce of nuts (as few as 6 unshelled nuts) can cause the condition in a 20 pound dog. Symptoms of macadamia toxicity appear in dogs appear in under 12 hours and include:

  • depression
  • joint pain
  • tremors
  • accelerated heartbeat
  • vomiting
  • weakness or paralysis of the hind quarters
  • depression
  • pale gums
  • panting
  • unable to rise
  • swollen limbs
  • limb pain when touched or manipulated

Dogs recover from this condition in a couple of days. Contact your veterinarian who will provide activated charcoal, administer intravenous fluids and possibly induce vomiting.

Mushrooms

Some types, but not all mushrooms are toxic for dogs. The specific type of mushroom that causes many of the problems is called Amanita Phalloides and related species. Eating dog poisonous mushrooms can cause liver disease and neurological problems. If a dog eats this type of mushroom the recommendation is to induce vomiting followed by giving the dog activated charcoal.

Mushroom Toxic to Dogs
Picture Credit: Tomasz Przechlewski

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a hallucinogenic for dogs and can produce the following symptoms (in larger quantities):

  • tremors
  • seizures
  • issues with the central nervous system

Ingestion of nutmeg can result in death if the quantity is large enough.

Nuts

Dogs should not be given nuts. They contain high phosphorus levels that can contribute to health problems such as bladder stones.

Potato Peels, Green Potatoes (uncooked)

Potato peels and raw green potatoes contain oxalates and solanum alkaloids. These can cause poisoning symptoms in dogs such as urinary problems, digestive issues (vomiting, diarrhea) and nervous system problems (tremors). 

Cooked potatoes are not poisonous or toxic and can be good for dogs.

Rhubarb Leaves

Rhubarb leaves that are cooked or raw can induce coma, convulsions or death.

Salt (iodized and salted foods)

Dogs that consume too much salt could suffer from kidney disease or from cerebral edema (brain swelling). Large breeds sometimes overcompensate for the salt by gulping too much water. The water in turn creates stomach issues and bloat. Do not use salt to induce vomiting. DO NOT use salt to induce vomiting in dogs due to these canine health risks.

If bloat occurs IMMEDIATE emergency veterinary care is required.

Tomatoes

An ingredient in tomato, atropine, is toxic to dogs. It can cause dilated pupils, heart arrhythmia and tremors.  The stems and leaves are more poisonous than the tomato itself.

Tomatoes and tomato plants can cause dilated pupils, heart arrhythmia and tremors from the atropine in green tomatoes, leaves and stems.

Xylitol

here has been an increase in canine deaths from ingestion of the artificial sweetener xylitol. This is used in many types of products including sugar-free gum, tooth paste and mints. It is also sold as an ingredient for baking. Sugar-free gum in particular is the biggest dog poisoning risk. Xylitol affects the way dog's release insulin, which controls blood glucose. Xylitol promotes pancreatic insulin release.  In turn the insulin causes blood sugar levels to rapidly drop. This resulting canine hypoglycemia can result in liver failure or damage.  The onset of severe symptoms such as liver failure can occur in less than 2 days.

Dog xylitol poisoning can occur after consuming as little as one stick of gum or one breath mint (between .22 to 1/9 gram of xylitol) if a dog weights 10 pounds.

Symptoms include vomiting after ingestion.  As blood sugar levels drop, you'll see poisoning symptoms in 30 minutes to an hour including weakness and lethargy (acting tired). Next you'll observe problems walking (ataxia), seizures and collapse.  It is possible that symptoms do not appear for a few days.

Treatment for dog xylitol poisoning involves contacting a vet right away. Induce vomiting immediately to remove any xylitol from your dog's system.  A vet will check blood sugar levels and may recommend intravenous glucose infusions.  Dog's that are quickly treated have a good prognosis for recovery.

Note that some dog toothpastes contain a trace amount of xylitol. These levels are too low to cause a problem.

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References

ASPCA Food Poisonous to Dogs (PDF Download)

Dog Toxic Foods (PDF Download)

Foods That Are Toxic to Dogs (PDF Download from Bethlehem Veterinary Hospital)

Food Toxic to Dogs (PDF Download)

Dog Food Poison Helplines:

Pet Poison Helpline: 1.800.213.6680 (There will be a charge for each call via credit card)
ASPCA Poison Helpline: (888) 426-4435 ($65 charge per call)