Admit it — just about everyone has fed a dog something tasty from the kitchen or dining room table at one time or another. But how dangerous is human food for dogs? Some human foods can actually put a dog’s life at risk.
Dog expert and pro trainer Sarah Wilson, the co-author of “Childproofing Your Dog,” advises dog owners to become proactive on this serious health matter. “Educate yourself and choose which foods to bring into your home,” suggests Wilson, adding that owners should pay attention to where and how they store food items, so the pet stays safe.
Sometimes, says Val Heart, the author of “Don’t Screw Up Your Dog,” people don’t know what they’re doing to animals by feeding them human foods. Many of the worst human food for dogs also taste the best to humans, so it’s important to know exactly what you should not feed your dog.
Here are 10 foods considered the worst human food for dogs:
- Products Containing Xylitol
Xylitol, an ingredient in sugar-free gums or mints, might win the contest of the most dangerous substance for your dog to eat, warns veterinarian Dr. Christina Munn of The Pet Hospitalsin Lakeland, Tennessee. It is 100 times more toxic to dogs than chocolate. “Low blood sugar can happen in a 10-pound dog with just one piece of gum (containing xylitol),” explains Dr. Munn. “After a dog eats just 10 sticks, acute liver damage can occur.” If you think your dog’s breath smells minty, you notice a loss of coordination in your dog or your dog develops seizures, rush your pup to your vet right away for poison treatment. Don’t leave mints or gum in a pocket or bag where a dog might get them.
That candy bar that’s delicious to you spells disaster for your dog! Along with caffeine, chocolate contains substances dangerous to dogs called methylxanthines. “The darker the chocolate, the higher the methylxanthine content,” says Heart. Symptoms of chocolate ingestion by a dog may include a racing heartbeat, frequent urination, and cardiac arrest. Just one ounce of dark chocolate can cause serious health problems in a large dog, so keep it away.
- Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic contain a substance called thiosulphate, which, Wilson explains, “can damage red blood cells and cause dogs to develop anemia.” The good news — once your pup stops eating onions and garlic, she will soon recover from the condition. Make sure to pick up any pieces of chopped onion or minced garlic off of the floor while you cook, and keep onion powder and onion-based soups out of reach.
According to Heart, alcohol can cause the same drunken reaction in dogs as it can in humans.. But because it takes so little for a dog to become intoxicated, your dog could quickly develop fatal alcohol poisoning. Symptoms include loss of coordination, slowed breathing and frequent urination. If you think that your dog may have gotten into the liquor cabinet (or lapped up spilled mouthwash or eaten fermented food), call your vet. Treatment can include medication to inhibit the effects of alcohol.
All parts of an avocado plant, including the fruit, contain a substance called persin, which is “highly toxic to dogs and can cause acute diarrhea and vomiting,” says Dr.Munn. Unless your dog has ingested a large amount of guacamole, treatment usually involves giving your dog plenty of fluids to keep her hydrated and allowing nature to take its course. If the gastrointestinal distress is severe, call your vet.
- Grapes and Raisins
Although the harmful substance in raisins and grapes isn’t known, eating just six of these common snacks can cause your dog’s kidneys to shut down. If your dog accidentally ingests grapes or raisins, take him to your vet immediately. Wilson recommends making sure to store grapes in the refrigerator and raisins on a high shelf in your pantry.
- Macadamia Nuts
Unknown toxins in macadamia nuts can damage your dog’s nervous system and can even lead to paralysis. Although you can feed some nuts to your four-legged friend without worry, sometimes bags of mixed nuts contain macadamia nuts. “Permanent damage to your dog’s nervous system can occur from macadamia nuts,” says Wilson, so to play it safe, you may want to avoid all nuts.
- Yeast Dough
The same reaction that happens when bread rises on your counter top can also happen inside your dog’s stomach. The result — severe abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. If enough of the bread dough has been ingested, your dog’s intestines could become twisted, which may require emergency surgery. Take a tip from Heart — if you love to bake fresh bread, make sure your pup can’t reach it on the counter.
- Moldy Food
You might assume that a little mold wouldn’t bother your dog, but some molds contain a toxic substance called aflatoxin that can cause tremors, loss of coordination, gastrointestinal problems, and even liver damage in dogs, Heart says. Talk to your veterinarian if you think that your dog has eaten something moldy. If you wouldn’t eat the moldy piece of bread, your dog probably shouldn’t either.
Many people use nutmeg for baking and cooking, but if your dog eats some of the foods you made using nutmeg, it could make her very sick. A toxic substance in nutmeg called myristicin can cause your dog to “experience hallucinations, develop seizures, have an increase in heart rate, and experience abdominal pain,” says Heart. Luckily, symptoms usually go away within a couple of days.
If you’re worried about feeding your dog something that could potentially hurt him, play it safe! Stick with foods designed specifically for canines, and remind your dog sitter to do the same.
And read about Dog Vomiting: What to Do and How to Prevent It.
Kelly Sundstrom is an award-winning journalist, author, artist and national special needs spokesperson. As the caretaker of two dogs, five cats and a bearded dragon, Sundstrom understands the importance of feeding pets a healthy, safe diet.