It’s important for every dog owner to know what foods are bad for dogs. ‘People safe’ does not always mean ‘pooch safe’ and just because you can eat it does not mean that it’s safe for your canine bestie to eat.

Lots of well-meaning pet parents like to share tasty treats from the table with their dog or add family meal leftovers to his supper bowl. We dog lovers know all too well how difficult it is to resist the adorable pleading puppy-dog eyes begging for a delicious morsel of what we’re obviously enjoying.

But some human foods are not only bad for dogs but are downright dangerous. Let’s explore some common people foods that you should never intentionally give to your precious pet.

ChocolateOpen Box of Valentines Candy

Chocolate is a biggie on the list of no-no foods for dogs, and one that many pet lovers are already aware of. This is because it is toxic to dogs (cats too!) and if ingested in large enough amounts, it can be fatal.

The culprit component of chocolate is theobromine. We humans can metabolize this compound with no problem, which is why most of us can satisfy our chocolate cravings with no ill side-effects beyond a spot of acne or a bit of weight gain. But dogs process theobromine much more slowly, which allows it to build to toxic levels in their system.

Different kinds of chocolate contain different concentrations of theobromine. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher the level of theobromine and the more toxic it is for your dog if he ingests it. Cocoa, baking chocolate and dark chocolate have the highest levels. Milk chocolate and white chocolate have the lowest.

So keep the Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas candy far out of sight and smell of your pets. Never offer chocolate to them as a treat or reward in any form, artificially flavored or not. Better safe than sorry.


Next on our list of what foods are bad for dogs is xylitol. You’ve probably heard of it and use products containing it, but what is it exactly?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener with a sweetness comparable to sugar but with 40% fewer calories. It occurs naturally in many vegetables and fruits. The list of products for human consumption containing xylitol continues to grow since it is safe for people and even boasts some human health benefits.

But it is extremely toxic to dogs. When dogs ingest xylitol, their canine bodies mistake it for glucose and start producing insulin in large amounts. Then the dog’s cells begin to absorb glucose from the blood stream resulting in dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and in some cases this could be potentially deadly. High doses of this compound may also lead to liver failure in dogs.

If you are a pet parent, keep any products containing xylitol well out of the reach of your canine kids.

Common Products for Human Consumption that Might Contain Xylitol:

  • some candies, gum, and mintsPeanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • some chocolate, peanut butter, and nut butter spreads
  • some ice creams, yogurts, cookies, desserts, and dessert mixes
  • some jams, jellies, syrups, sauces and condiments
  • some drink mixes and bottled water
  • some toothpastes

There are over 700 products containing xylitol. See a comprehensive list of common products.

Grapes and Raisins

The reason that grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs is still a mystery. Researchers are not sure why, but grapes and raisins (which are dried up grapes), can cause kidney failure in dogs who ingest only a small amount of the fruit. In some cases, acute (sudden onset) kidney failure.

You may have given your dog an oatmeal raisin cookie or two in the past and gotten away with it. Some dogs are not affected but some are; so good advice would be, don’t risk it. Munch that healthy stuff yourself and keep it away from your pet.

Onions, Garlic, and closely related Herbs and Veggies

You might eat onions or garlic at any given meal, and cooking with onions and garlic (in any form – dry, cooked, raw, powdered), is common for our human species. This is also true for closely related ingredients such as shallots, chives, scallions and leeks. Onions and Garlic Bulbs

But the fact is that your cuddly canine companion cannot handle the organosulfoxides in these aromatic flavorful bulbs. They can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), and they actually damage the hemoglobin in your dog’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia. While a small dose of these foods may not do much harm, too much, or regular doses can lead to dangerous health problems for your pet.

Corn on the Cob

I’m putting this one on the What Foods are Bad for Dogs list because I saw the dangers of it happen much too often in my long career as a veterinary technician.

Your dog can eat small amounts of canned or fresh sweet corn mixed in his food bowl for a treat. Corn has nutrients and fiber (just be careful not to overdo it to avoid gas or digestive upset).

But never (I repeat, never), give your dog a corn-on-the-cob. Most dogs are exuberant eaters and it doesn’t take much for any size breed of dog to choke on or swallow a piece of the cob; And if that piece gets lodged in his intestinal tract, you’re looking at either expensive veterinary surgery (if you’re lucky), or losing your Good Buddy. Don’t give your dog corn-on-the-cob and take special care that he can’t raid the trash and get hold of a cob that way.

Macadamia Nuts

A delicious and healthy snack for us humans, macadamia nuts do make dogs very sick, although the method of toxicity is unknown. We don’t know why these nuts make canines sick, and thankfully no reported case has ever proved fatal.

The non-fatal symptoms following a dog’s ingestion of macadamia nuts include depression, vomiting, ataxia (loss of coordination), muscle tremors, and fever. Canines are the only species in which macadamia nut poisoning has been observed and reported.

There is no known specific antidote to counteract macadamia nut poisoning in dogs, but fortunately most all affected animals fully recover with supportive treatment and tender loving care. Supportive treatment would include IV fluids, anti-fever medication, and a mild analgesic.


Most of us are quite familiar with this compound, and many of us drink it every day in the form of coffee, tea, soft drinks, or energy drinks. Some common food items and medications also contain caffeine. As universal as this compound is in our everyday lives, it’s important for those of us with canine kids to be aware that caffeine is toxic to dogs. You may have noticed that your dog just loves to try anything and everything that he sees you enjoying. Cup of Steaming Coffee

We love caffeine for the wake-up energy boost it gives us in the morning, the pick-me-up in the afternoon, or the help-me-stay-awake in the evening. This is because it is a central nervous system stimulant, and while we can metabolize it with only a case of the jitters as a bad side effect, this is not the case for dogs.

Keep all caffeinated products well out of reach of your pet, and if he does manage to lap up a few swallows from a spilled cup, call or visit your veterinarian right away.

What if My Dog Does Eat Something That’s Bad for Him?

If you see your dog ingest something that you know is bad for him, it’s essential that you seek professional veterinary help as soon as possible. If you can’t get your regular vet on the phone, call any veterinary clinic for advice, or an Animal Emergency Center if it’s after hours.

Check to make sure that your pet is acting and breathing normally. Don’t give your dog any home remedy antidotes, and don’t attempt to induce vomiting without consulting a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline.

Pet Poison Helpline is a 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center. The 1-800 # is: 1-800-213-6680 or 1-855-764-7661

Emergency Instructions

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