How to Avoid Toxic Foods for Dogs


With the holidays around the corner, it’s important to be aware of the foods that can be toxic to our furry friends. As much as we may want to share our delicious meals with our dogs, certain foods can pose serious health risks. In this guide, we will explore the common toxic foods for dogs, the potential dangers they pose, and what to do if your dog consumes them. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to keeping your canine companion safe and healthy.

dog staring up at the camera with a chocolate bar on the floor

The Dangers of Chocolate: A Sweet Treat Gone Sour

Chocolate is a beloved treat for many humans, but it can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Theobromine and caffeine, two compounds found in chocolate, can wreak havoc on a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, and heart. Symptoms of chocolate ingestion can include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and muscle tremors. Dark chocolate is particularly toxic, but all forms of chocolate should be avoided.

Caffeine: More Than Just a Morning Pick-Me-Up

Caffeine is a pretty normal morning staple for humans, but it can be life-threatening for dogs. It’s important to keep dogs away from coffee grounds, energy drinks, medications, and other items containing caffeine. Ingestion of caffeine can lead to rapid breathing, restlessness, abnormal heart rhythms, high body temperature, and muscle tremors. It’s crucial to ensure that your dog doesn’t have access to any sources of caffeine.

The Allium Family: Garlic, Onion, and Chives

While garlic, onions, and chives add flavor to our favorite recipes, they contain compounds that can cause oxidative damage to a dog’s cells. While onions are most toxic in large quantities, even small amounts in concentrated powders or soup mixes can be harmful. Ingestion of these foods can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, weakness, pale gums, and discolored urine. Any exposure to these foods should be taken seriously, as they can have long-lasting effects on a dog’s health.

Grapes and Raisins: A Hidden Danger

The exact compound in grapes and raisins that makes them toxic to dogs is still being researched. However, it is known that these fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms may include lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, rapid breathing, vomiting, excessive thirst or urination, abdominal pain, and even coma. It’s important to note that some dogs may not experience adverse effects from grapes and raisins, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid feeding them to your canine companion.

Bread Dough: Rising Danger in the Kitchen

That ball of dough left to rise on your kitchen counter may seem harmless, but it can pose serious health risks to your dog. The yeast in bread dough produces alcohol and gas as it ferments, which can lead to a variety of concerning symptoms. Ingestion of raw dough can cause vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, low blood sugar, incoordination, tremors, seizures, and even death. If your dog consumes raw dough, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary care.

Fatty Meats: Not So Tasty for Dogs

While meats sold for human consumption are generally safe for dogs, repeated exposure to fatty meats can cause health issues. Foods high in fat can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, a condition known as pancreatitis. Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include decreased appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s important to keep “people food” for people and avoid feeding your dog spicy, fried, or fatty foods.

The Danger of Xylitol: A Hidden Sweetener

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in a variety of foods, including gum, desserts, toothpaste, and peanut or nut butters. In dogs, xylitol triggers the release of insulin, which can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning may include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, incoordination, and other signs of low blood sugar. It’s crucial to keep any products containing xylitol out of your dog’s reach.

Thanksgiving Hazards: Foods to Avoid

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important to be mindful of the specific foods that can pose a risk to your dog during this festive holiday. Some common Thanksgiving foods that are toxic to dogs include:

  • Turkey skin and bones: The fatty skin and brittle bones can cause stomach upset, choking, or even serious injuries to a dog’s digestive system. It’s best to keep your dog away from the Thanksgiving turkey.
  • Gravy and sauces: These foods are often high in fat and seasonings that can upset a dog’s stomach and cause digestive issues.
  • Stuffing: Traditional stuffing often contains ingredients like onions, garlic, and herbs that can be harmful to dogs. It’s best to avoid feeding stuffing to your furry friend.
  • Desserts: Many Thanksgiving desserts, such as pies and sugar-free baked goods, contain ingredients like chocolate, xylitol, or raisins that can be toxic to dogs. Keep these treats out of reach and opt for dog-friendly alternatives instead.

What to Do If Your Dog Ingests a Toxic Food

If you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxic food, it’s crucial to act quickly. The first step is to contact your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), or the ASPCA Poison Control (888- 426-4435) for immediate guidance. Be prepared to provide information about the potentially harmful food your dog consumed, as well as any symptoms they may be experiencing.

Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent and the food is still in your dog’s stomach. They may also recommend in-hospital monitoring and treatment, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the amount of food ingested. Remember, early intervention is key when it comes to mitigating the potential dangers of toxic foods.

Prevention is Key: Keeping Your Dog Safe

While accidents can happen, prevention is always the best approach to keeping your dog safe from toxic foods. Here are some tips to help you prevent your dog from ingesting harmful substances:

  • Keep all toxic foods out of your dog’s reach. Store them securely in cabinets or on high shelves.
  • Be mindful of where you leave food unattended. Countertops, tables, and even trash cans can be sources of temptation for curious dogs.
  • Educate your family members and guests about the dangers of feeding your dog table scraps. Remind them to avoid giving your dog any food without your permission.
  • Have dog-friendly alternatives on hand. If you want to treat your dog during special occasions, opt for safe and healthy options like plain cooked meat or dog-friendly treats.
  • Be vigilant about checking ingredient lists. Many foods contain hidden ingredients that can be harmful to dogs. Avoid foods with ingredients like chocolate, xylitol, onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins.

Remember, your dog’s health and well-being depend on you. By being proactive and informed, you can ensure that your furry friend stays safe and healthy.


As dog owners, it is our responsibility to keep our furry friends safe from harmful foods. Understanding the dangers of toxic foods and taking preventative measures can go a long way in protecting their health and well-being. By avoiding foods like chocolate, caffeine, garlic, onions, grapes, and raisins, we can help ensure that our dogs live long, happy, and healthy lives. Remember, when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian for guidance and support.