The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly> What Foods Can You Safely Feed Your Dog and Which Ones Must You Avoid?

By Claudia Bensimoun

There’s little doubt that proper nutrition is key to good health in pets. As the understanding of diet and health increases each day, so are the quality of diets available to feed our furry best friends. Today, most of our pets live indoors with us and tend to share readily available table scraps. In this blog, we’re going to discuss how certain human foods can be dangerous for dogs. 

Keep in mind that a few people(safe) snacks fed in moderation may be fine, but snacks like ice cream and potato chips may cause gastrointestinal upset. These can also contribute to obesity and don’t give your pup any nutritional benefits. If your dog has consumed a toxic ingredient like avocado or onions, you’ll need to visit your emergency vet.

Research shows that as many as 40% of US pets are overweight, making obesity a common disease today. Canine nutrition involves the same essential components as human nutrition. Dogs need to consume a well-balanced high-quality diet that is complete and features protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber.

It’s also recommended that dogs get added antioxidants, and nutraceuticals in the form of food supplements, most especially for joint health (glucosamine) and better digestion. (probiotics) Animal Wellness adds that “Major nutrients in a healthy, balanced diet for dogs include protein, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals and water. A well fed dog needs to eat a variety of foods to get a good range and balance of vitamins and minerals.” 

Dogs are curious and are great at begging for table scraps. But before you share a tidbit, here’s what you need to know first:

Chocolate & Cocoa This contains two substances that are dangerous to dogs. Both theobromine and caffeine affect a dog’s nervous system, and dark chocolate results in hyper excitability, excessive urination, vomiting, tremors, and restlessness.

The take with chocolates is to never leave them lying around near dogs. Milk chocolate is also toxic and can result in diarrhea, and the seriousness will depend on the amount of chocolate consumed. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive urination
  • Restlessness
  • Panting
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures

Onions & Garlic: In large amounts, both can cause hemolytic anemia. Onions are more potent, so you should be careful when feeding meat cooked with onions and onion-infused broths like chicken broths with garlic and onion.

If your 30-pound pup had to consume 2.5 ounces of garlic or onion, it would be fatal. Dog and cat breeds from Japan like the Shiba Inu are even more sensitive to onions and garlic. Symptoms may pop up as soon as a day or may take as long as a week. These include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Discolored urine
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyper-salivation
  • Death

Raisins & Grapes: The ASPCA adds that grapes and raisins cause high levels of poisoning. Dogs will experience lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly renal failure later on. Even small servings of raisins result in toxic reactions and should never be fed to dogs, even as a treat. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Increased drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea with or without blood

Fatty foods inclusive of processed cold meats that are high in sulfate preservatives can result in pancreatitis. Other popular human foods like pizza, sausages, fast food, and fried foods can result in obesity and heart issues.


This is a common sugar substitute that is toxic to pets, even in the smallest amounts. This is often found in chewing gum, a few peanut butter brands, some supplements, mouthwash, and many “sugar-free” products. A small piece of gum or breath mint may have as much as 0.22gm or 1 grams of xylitol per piece. Symptoms include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Staggering
  • Seizures & tremores
  • Death

Coffee, Tea & Soda

Many products contain caffeine, like energy drinks, tea, coffee, soda, and some supplements. Because we tend to use these products every day, it’s best to make sure that your dog doesn’t consume them. Caffeine at 70mg per 1 pound of body weight is lethal.

That said, it’s vital to keep in mind that instant coffee has 60 mgs of caffeine per teaspoon which would mean that four teaspoons of instant coffee would be lethal to a 5-pound dog. Caffeine is a stimulant with clinical signs of toxicity popping up as soon as 30-60 minutes after consumption. Symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate & blood pressure
  • Hyperactivity
  • Panting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

Safe Foods for Dogs – now let’s talk about the good stuff you can feed your pups! Now, we always recommend that you only feed them in their own personal bowls. It forms bad behavior when feeding them from the table or other places.

  • Steamed salmon
  • Boiled chicken
  • steamed beef
  • Green beans
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Summer squash
  • Peas
  • White rice
  • Plain organic yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Mangos
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple

Final Thoughts

Dogs should eat fruits and veggies together with their regular dog food. Because dogs can’t eat a variety of human food every day, it’s best not to feed your pup table scraps. If you suspect that your pup has consumed unsafe food, contact the Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian.

If you’re feeding tinned sardines or tuna as a treat, you should rinse it first because of the high salt content. Fish oils are also great for adding on to a high-quality kibble. Keep in mind that feeding one cheese curl to a pet is similar to consuming half a bag of crisps. 


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