Most people just assume that if a food is safe for them, it is safe for their dog. This is not entirely true. While people and dogs can eat many of the same foods, some “human foods” are quite toxic to dogs. In fact, some people’s food is so toxic to dogs that it can kill or make them seriously ill.
The size of the dog is important when considering what to feed them. If you have a small dog, you will have to be even more careful about the “people’s food” that you feed your dog. This is because it takes less of a toxic food to kill a smaller dog than a larger dog. However, the same could be said about poison and you certainly don’t want to give any dog poison, including a large dog. Large dogs have also died from receiving food from the wrong people.
I’ve heard people jokingly say things like “my dog will eat anything” or “my dog is a canine garbage disposal.” Well, you should know that dogs do not automatically know what is toxic to them. If it smells good and tastes good, they may eat it, even if it makes them seriously ill or even kills them. This is especially true if given by a trusted human.
I’m not going to give a complete list, but I want to give you some examples of common “human foods” that are highly toxic to dogs:
Grapes and raisins
I know this one may surprise you, but grapes are extremely toxic to dogs and will cause kidney failure. Only one to six grapes can kill a small to medium dog. It is important for you to realize that you may not notice any signs of toxicity right away. In fact, the effects can be delayed up to 24 hours. This is one of the reasons dog owners don’t always realize what made their dog so sick or what caused it to die. Don’t be fooled by the size of a raisin. It is a concentrated grape and is equally toxic. If your dog eats grapes or raisins by accident, you should call your vet or an animal poisons hotline immediately.
Chocolate, coffee and tea
Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine that causes rapid heartbeats, tremors, and heart attacks in dogs. Chemically, it is related to caffeine, which is also highly toxic to dogs. Bakery chocolate has about 10 times more cocoa, and therefore theobromine and caffeine, than milk chocolate, making it especially toxic. In general, higher quality chocolates and dark chocolate are more toxic than cheaper chocolates and milk chocolate, as they contain more cocoa.
Considering how toxic caffeine is to dogs, it is important that you do not let your dog get into the coffee grounds or tea bags in the trash and that you wipe up any coffee or chocolate spills immediately. Don’t let them drink from your coffee cup, as they may be tempted to do so, especially if you add cream and sugar to it.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that has become increasingly common in our diet. Originally, it was found primarily in gum, mints, and candy, but is now found in all kinds of processed foods. It can appear in yogurt, canned goods, and many low-carb or sugar-free products.
Don’t take it lightly. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause complete liver failure and death. Toxic effects will generally appear within 30 minutes of ingestion. It causes a rapid rise in insulin and a sudden and dramatic drop in blood sugar. Symptoms include vomiting, ataxia (stumbling over uncoordinated movements), and general weakness, seizures, and coma.
Xylitol is also commonly found in toothpaste and mouthwash, so be sure not to brush your dog’s teeth with your “human toothpaste” or cure his bad breath with “human mouthwash.”
Onions and garlic
Most of the time dogs don’t eat enough onion or garlic to kill them, but they can if they actually die or the food has a very high concentration. Onion is more toxic than garlic, but both should be strictly avoided, as well as any other vegetable in the same family such as shallots. Even small amounts of onion given over time can cause acute anemia and your dog may require a transfusion.
Keep in mind that baby foods often contain onion powder or garlic powder for flavor, so if you give this to puppies or older dogs that have lost their teeth, be sure to read the ingredients.