The Top 20 Things Your Dog Should Never Eat

You've probably heard that chocolate and grapes are dangerous for dogs, but there are other common foods and drinks your canine should stay away from.

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Dogs and Toxic Foods

Our dogs love giving us those adorable puppy eyes when begging for food scraps, and they seem to have the stomach to digest almost anything. However, dogs are not equipped to process certain common foods. Consumption of these foods can cause anything from mild side effects to toxic poisoning resulting in kidney or liver failure, coma or even death.

Here are 20 things your dog should never eat (or drink), ways to avoid them, and precautions to take if your darling dog accidentally ingests something they shouldn’t.

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Apple Cores/Seeds

Apple seeds contain a small amount of cyanide, which is released when chewed. Cyanide toxicity is not as common because the seeds are only at their most potent when the fruit is wilted or rotten.

If your pet accidentally eats the core of a fresh apple, he may develop a minor upset stomach resulting in diarrhea or vomiting. In the case of ingesting a rotten apple, your dog may experience dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gums, panting, shock or death. The same advice applies to peaches, pears, cherries, plums and apricots, which are all tree fruits that contain seeds with cyanide.

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Green cocktail
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Consumption of alcohol has the same effect on the canine’s liver and brain as it does on humans. Although your dog may not drink your beer when left unattended, it’s best to keep it away and prevent temptation. Smaller dogs, given the size of their organs, may have severe symptoms.

If your dog accidentally imbibes alcohol with a higher amount of ethanol (especially hard liquor, wine or craft beer), look out for vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties and decreased coordination. In some cases, alcohol poisoning may result in coma or death.

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Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause diarrhea or vomiting and, in extreme cases, death in animals. The toxin is found in the seed, leaves, and bark of an avocado tree. If you are growing avocados, keep your dog away from them. When ingested, the seed could also get stuck in the dog’s stomach or intestine, causing an obstruction.

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Chicken bone
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Chewing bones may keep your dog’s teeth clean, but they can be dangerous to dogs, according to the American Kennel Club. “While dogs might enjoy a nice big bone to chew on, cooked meat bones can actually splinter and cause blockage or lacerations in the gastrointestinal tract necessitating a surgical emergency,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York City.

When giving your dog an uncooked bone to chew, supervise them to make sure the bone isn’t torn into smaller pieces, which can be a choking hazard.

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Bowl of xylitol
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Candy Containing Xylitol

The natural sugar-substitute xylitol, commonly found in chewing gum and candy, can be harmful to dogs. According to the FDA, “When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.” That quickly decreases the blood sugar level, which can be life-threatening.

Other products that contain xylitol include breath mints, cough syrup, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, mouthwash, dietary supplements, over-the-counter medications, some peanut and nut butters and some sugar-free desserts.

Signs of xylitol toxicity in dogs include decreased blood pressure, coordination loss and seizures, Barrack says.

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Citrus fruit
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Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruitsoranges, tangerines and clementines — are fine for your dog in small quantities. However, “they are high in sugars and can potentially cause GI upset if your pet eats too many of them,” Barrack says. These fruits should never be fed, even in small amounts, to diabetic dogs. When giving a citrus fruit to your non-diabetic dog, make sure it’s peeled and devoid of seeds.

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We love chocolate in all of its iterations, but this comfort food is hazardous to dogs. “Chocolate contains methylxanthines such as caffeine and theobromine,” Barrack says. “Dogs are much more sensitive to these than people are.”

Methylxanthines are found in all chocolates to varying degrees. White chocolate contains less than milk chocolate, while milk chocolate contains less than dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Thus, dark and semi-sweet chocolate have the greatest risk of harm to your dog.

Signs of chocolate toxicity include gastrointestinal upset (such as vomiting and/or diarrhea), increased heart and respiratory rates, increased temperature, decreased blood pressure, muscle rigidity, seizures, cardiac failure and coma.

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Don’t let your dog lap up the last bits of your morning coffee, afternoon tea or soft drink. These common beverages and sports/energy drinks contain caffeine, which is harmful to pets. If your canine ingests any of these, they may pace, vocalize excessively or experience increased heart rate and restlessness. Caffeine may also cause damage to the dog’s liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and central nervous system.

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Fat Trimmings

Trimmings of fat from meat, cooked or uncooked, can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. Pork and lamb are especially high in fat. Signs of pancreatitis include a hunched back, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration, lethargy, abdominal pain and fever.

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Red grapes
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Grapes and Raisins

The toxic substance in grapes and raisins is unknown, but it can be deadly for your dog. “If a sweet tooth leads dogs to a bag of grapes or raisins, the situation can turn dire, and these items can cause kidney failure,” warns Barrack. Even a small amount can make your dog ill. If they are vomiting, sluggish or depressed after eating grapes or raisins, rush them to the veterinarian.

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Macadamia nuts
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Macadamia Nuts

Even a small amount of macadamia nuts, raw or roasted, can make your dog sick, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, weakness in the back legs and hyperthermia. Although side effects may be minor and managed at home, seek medical treatment if your pet exhibits severe health issues. Ingestion of macadamia nuts may also result in pancreatitis due to their high fat content.

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Marijuana and Edibles

Dogs can experience severe marijuana toxicity upon ingesting pot or edibles, or inhaling second-hand smoke. That’s because they have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than we do, according to Barrack.

“Most signs of marijuana toxicity are neurological — dogs will become ataxic, disoriented and wobbly,” explains Barrack. “Cardiac, respiratory rates and body temperature can elevate or decrease dramatically.”

In addition, dogs may experience gastrointestinal upset and incontinence, or become hyperactive, lethargic, easily startled or vocal. In some cases, your pet may experience tremors, seizures or coma. In the event of marijuana or edibles ingestion or exposure to inhalation, seek veterinary attention.

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Dairy products
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Milk and Dairy Products

While your cat may lap up milk, your canine could have digestive problems upon consuming dairy products. Dogs do not possess the capability to break down lactose effectively and can suffer intestinal upset. The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance include loose stools, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. So, as tempting as it may be to give your loyal companion some ice cream on a hot day, give him water or a frozen stuffed toy instead.

And the same goes for cheese, which is commonly used in training and when disguising medication. Dogs seem to love this delicious treat, but most can be intolerant of it. The American Kennel Club says that it’s best to give your dog cheese in moderation or avoid it altogether to be safe.

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Mushrooms are typically on lists of foods dogs should never eat, but not all mushrooms are created equal. Barrack recommends people keep their pets away from wild mushrooms. Store-bought mushrooms are fine for your dog to eat; however, Barrack warns that if they are cooked in oil or sauces, mushrooms may be too rich for the dog’s digestive system and could result in an upset stomach.

Consumption of toxic wild mushrooms can result in severe consequences, such as liver and kidney failure, tremors, disorientation and seizures.

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Onions and garlic
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Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic, cooked, raw, or in powder form, can lead to poisoning. If you suspect your dog ate these allium plant species (including onions, garlic, scallions, chives, leeks and shallots) look out for weakness, breathing issues and vomiting.

If consumed in large amounts or over time, they can lead to anemia, internal organ damage or even death. When storing onions, keep them locked in the pantry or in a secured cabinet so your curious pet can’t get to them.

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Raw meat
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Raw Meat and Eggs

Uncooked meat, fish and raw eggs could poison your dog with salmonella or E. coli. Fish, such as trout, sturgeon, salmon and shad can also have a parasite known to cause “fish disease.” Watch for signs of fever and enlarged lymph nodes if you suspect your pet consumed raw animal products.

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If you’re growing rhubarb in your vegetable garden, keep your canine away from the plants. The stalk and leaves contain oxalic acid crystals. “The leaves contain more, making that portion of the plant more harmful to pets, and humans,” according to Barrack. “The crystals can bind with calcium in the body causing an acute calcium drop that can result in acute renal failure.”

If you find your dog chomping on rhubarb in your garden, head to the veterinary clinic immediately.

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Potato chips
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Salty Foods and Chips

Small amounts of foods with salt are acceptable for dogs because they need sodium for an electrolyte balance. But like humans, excessive amounts of salt-rich foods like chips and French fries can cause thirst, urination and a swollen tummy. Sodium toxicity could lead to lethargy, fluid accumulation, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and even death if left untreated.

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Tomato Plant

Ripe, red tomatoes (cooked or uncooked) are acceptable for your pooch to eat. However, the toxins in the leaves and stem of a tomato plant and unripe tomatoes can cause solanine toxicity. If you suspect your dog is getting into the tomato patch for an afternoon treat, look for signs of gastrointestinal upset, loss of coordination, lethargy, weakness, tremors and seizures.

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Yeast dough
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Yeast Dough

Even though feeding your dog small amounts of bread is fine, unbaked dough can rise and cause gas in your pet’s digestive system. Consumption of dough could also cause a life-threatening condition called twisted stomach/gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV). Signs of GDV include an enlarged abdomen, salivation, restlessness, retching and whining when the belly is pressed. Ethanol, a byproduct of yeast, could result in alcohol poisoning.

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In an Emergency

If you believe your dog consumed any of the above products, consult with your veterinarian right away. Have the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number handy if you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic: (888) 426-4435.

“Although ingestion of toxic substances requires rapid intervention, you should never induce vomiting on your own,” Barrack says. “Instead, contact your veterinarian immediately for appropriate medical attention.”

Lavanya Sunkara
Lavanya Sunkara is a NYC-based writer covering travel with a focus on sustainability and conservation. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Cruise Critic, Fodor's Travel, Forbes, and USA Today among many others.