Whenever you open up your refrigerator or kitchen pantry to grab a snack, does your fur baby follow? Does he give you that excited look like he’s definitely going to get something? Yeah, my dogs do the same thing! But, often, before we bend down to offer our canine kids a bite, we pause for a moment and ask ourselves: “Can my dog eat this?”
While many human foods are safe (and even healthy) for our furry friends, others should be kept far away from Fido. Since our dogs’ bodies process certain foods differently than yours does, some are considered toxic to dogs. For those foods, just a few bites could leave our pups with anything from a minor stomach ache to a major illness … or, in some cases, even death.
Here is an overview of some Yes/No human foods for dogs!
Alcohol – No amount of alcohol is safe for canines and you should never leave an unattended glass of wine, beer, or liquor around your four-legged family member. If your dog does drink alcohol, ethanol will be absorbed into his system. It’s important to understand that a dog’s metabolism can’t process ethanol as yours can. Your pooch will likely get drunk and experience symptoms such as confusion, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, and even seizures. If your dog consumes alcohol on an empty stomach, you may notice these symptoms as quickly as 30 minutes. If your dog is drunk, call your vet immediately. He will probably need to be treated with activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and put on IV therapy for hydration.
Coffee and Tea – Caffeine is the culprit here and you want to keep it away from your pooch, as many are extremely sensitive to its effects. Caffeine is a stimulant, and, with that said, it makes sense that some symptoms of caffeine overdose in our furkids would be hyperactivity, increased heart rate, shaking, vomiting, possible seizures, collapse, and unconsciousness.
Chocolate – Most dog parents know that chocolate is toxic for our furry friends. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, though, chocolate calls still make up six percent of their total call volume (that’s more than 30 calls a day)! Theobromine and caffeine are two compounds in chocolate that stimulate the nervous system, causing mild to severe symptoms. Some symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, bloat, increased thirst, rapid breathing, abnormal heart rate, change in blood pressure, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and coma. Signs of chocolate toxicity typically appear within about one to four hours of ingestion. The darker the chocolate, the higher the risk. Dry cocoa powder is the most toxic to dogs!
Fat Trimmings – Any dog that ingests a sudden large amount of fat is at risk of pancreatitis. When cooking meat for your dog, either buy a lean cut or trim off the visible fat.
Grapes (& Raisins) – While it hasn’t been identified as to what the exact toxin is that makes grapes dangerous to dogs, it is well documented that even small amounts of grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure and even death.
Lemons – While a little lick likely won’t harm your pup, lemons aren’t good for dogs for a few reasons. First, the highly acidic nature of lemons can cause issues for Fido. Plus, there is a compound called psoralen in lemons (the highest concentration is in the skin, seeds, and pith), which can trigger GI symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea, in dogs. The more lemons a dog eats, the more serious symptoms can become. Sensitivity to light, drooling, tremors, and dizziness are all reported symptoms.
Macadamia Nuts – It’s unknown what causes the toxic effects of macadamia nuts in dogs, but it’s well-established that eating the nut can cause dogs to exhibit symptoms within 12 hours of ingestion. Symptoms can include vomiting, fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, depression, tremors, joint stiffness, and increased body temperature. The high-fat content can also cause pancreatitis.
Nutmeg – Nutmeg contains a toxin called myristicin. While small amounts of this popular spice likely won’t harm your dog, it’s still best to avoid it altogether. Large amounts can cause myristicin toxicity. Symptoms including hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dry mouth, abdominal pain, and possibly seizures. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, these symptoms can last up to 48 hours.
Onions, Garlic, Chives, and Leeks– Onions are highly toxic to dogs and can cause hemolytic anemia, which is damage to a dog’s red blood cells. It can cause them to rupture/burst. Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are all part of the Allium family. Some people argue that garlic is fine for dogs in small amounts. Your vet may have even recommended it for medical purposes. There are pros and cons to its use. Since there is controversy surrounding garlic, though, you’ll never see it listed on an ingredient list in any of my recipes.
Pits and Seeds from Fruit – Many fruit pits and seeds are known to contain a compound that breaks down into cyanide when ingested. Cyanide is toxic to dogs. Additionally, pits and seeds can pose a choking hazard and/or cause an intestinal blockage. In general, if a fruit contains pits or seeds, avoid them!
Potato Skins (Raw) – Raw potatoes can be harsh on the stomach. Plus, raw potato skins (as well as under-ripened potatoes) can contain solanine, which is a glycoalkaloid poison. It can affect your pooch’s nervous system and gastrointestinal system. Solanine poisoning can be deadly.
Rhubarb Leaves – While rhubarb stems are considered safe for dogs to eat, the leaves can be poisonous. That’s because rhubarb greens contain a compound known as oxalic acid, and, when eaten in large amounts, can cause a sudden drop in calcium, loss of appetite, change in thirst and urination, weakness, and tremors. This is an important no-go food to know if you or your neighbors love to garden.
Salt – I think most of us are guilty of sharing a salty snack with our pups. For my Chihuahua, Diego, he goes nuts every time I get McDonald’s fries. So, I always cave and give him one or two as a special treat (it’s a very rare occasion). If your dog does indulge in a salty treat now and then, don’t overdo it. First of all, salty foods will make him thirsty. Second: An excess of salt can lead to sodium poisoning, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.
Sugar – Similar to how sugar affects people, it has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even cancer in canines. For these reasons, I never include refined sugar in my dog treat recipes and I keep natural sweeteners to a minimum. Remember: Sugar is sugar, no matter what form!
Tomato Greenery (Unripe Tomatoes, Leaves, and Stems) – Tomatoes, while often referred to as a vegetable in the culinary world, are technically a fruit. And, taking things one step further, this popular fruit belongs to the nightshade family. Like other nightshades, tomatoes contain a substance called Solanine, which is harmful to dogs in large quantities. But here’s the thing: Solanine is mostly found in the green parts of a tomato. So, that would be the stems, leaves, and unripened green tomatoes. As they ripen and morph from green into a beautiful red, the amount of solanine reduces. That’s why experts say red, ripe tomatoes are generally considered safe for dogs in moderate amounts. Just avoid the green stems and leaves! If you’re a plant mom and have a tomato garden, consider fencing off the plants so your pup can’t get to them.
Walnuts – Nuts in general should be a no-go food for your pooch since most have a high-fat content. High dietary fat in dogs can lead to pancreatitis, which can be fatal. Many nuts are difficult for Fido to digest and can be an intestinal obstruction hazard.
Xylitol (Used in Some Peanut Butter, Gum, and Candy) – While this naturally-derived sweetener is commonly used in sugar-free foods and considered safe for humans, it’s extremely toxic to dogs. If your pooch consumes even a small amount of xylitol, it could lead to a steep drop in blood sugar, liver damage, and even death. If you think that your dog has eaten xylitol, it’s critical to see a vet or animal ER immediately. In as little as 30-60 minutes, the effects of xylitol can be deadly.
Yeast Dough – This refers to unbaked bread dough and it can harm your pooch in a couple of ways. When yeast dough sits in your dog’s stomach, it can expand due to the warm and moist environment. This can cause stomach upset, bloat, twisting of the stomach, or even death. Additionally, the yeast dough can ferment in the stomach, which morphs into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol can quickly become toxic as it’s rapidly absorbed into the dog’s GI tract.
Please note: This is just a small list of human foods your dog can’t eat! If you are questioning a specific food, you can always refer to The Pet Poison Helpline for help!
Apples – When feeding apples to dogs, just make sure to ditch the core (a potential choking hazard) and seeds (which contain amygdalin that can turn into cyanide when crushed/chewed). Find out more about apples for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE!
Asparagus – Before feeding it to your dog, trim off the rough, fibrous end of the stalk and cook until it’s tender. When cooking asparagus for your dog, don’t add any extra butter, cooking oils, or seasonings. Just serve it plain. Find out more about asparagus for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE!
Bananas – According to veterinarians, a good rule of thumb is to give your dog a 1/4″ banana slice for every 10 pounds of body weight per day. Find out more about bananas for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE!
Bell Peppers – This fruit masquerading as a veggie comes in a variety of colors. If you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you’ll likely find green, yellow, orange, and red. While they’re all safe for your pooch to munch on, red is best! That’s because it contains the highest amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. Like any fruit or vegetable, when it comes to feeding bell peppers, moderation is key. In general, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends “large dogs eat less than one-half pepper and that small dogs eat less than one-quarter pepper at a time.” It’s always best to start slow — with just a few bites — to see how your dog responds. Find out more about bell peppers for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE!
Blueberries – This delicious berry is most recognized for its rich amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant-based compounds. Find out more about blueberries for dogs HERE!
Broccoli – Broccoli is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, cruciferous vegetable that touts anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties! It contains sulforaphane, a compound that various studies show to have potent anti-cancer properties. Find out more about broccoli for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Brussels Sprouts – Avoid feeding raw, as they’re hard for dogs to digest. Rather, you’ll want to boil or steam them first. Cut them into small, bite-size pieces to avoid a choking hazard. Also, while you may like to jazz up your serving of sprouts with various seasonings, keep your pup’s helping plain. Find out more about brussels sprouts for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE!
Cantaloupe – Feeding a few small cubes to your dog makes for a great treat. Just know, cantaloupe rinds are a choking hazard, can become impacted in a dog’s digestive tract, and can cause tummy upset. As for the seeds, they are considered non-toxic to dogs. Still, I would recommend only sticking with the fleshy part of this tasty summer fruit. Find out more about cantaloupes for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Carrots – Categorized as a root vegetable, these orange delights are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, key vitamins, and various minerals. Carrots help support a strong immune system and, since they’re high in Beta Carotene (which the liver converts to Vitamin A), they’re famous for maintaining and improving eye health. Find out more about carrots for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Celery – The stalk and leaves are both safe for dogs to eat. You can serve it raw or steamed (steaming is the preferred method of cooking celery because it will retain most of its nutrients). However you serve it, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and remove any stringy parts, so your dog has an easier time with it! If it’s in your budget, opt for organic. Celery is one of those veggies that always makes the dirty dozen list, which means they’re ranked one of the most pesticide-laden veggies on the shelf. Find out more about celery for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Coconut Oil – There’s been some recent debate about coconut oil for dogs, but, when fed in moderation, it can be a great addition to your dog’s diet. This superfood touts antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It’s also been linked to increased nutrient absorption and improved digestion.
Cranberries – Plain raw, cooked, and dried cranberries are all safe to feed to dogs in small quantities. Whether they’ll like the tart taste is another question!
Cucumbers – There are many different kinds of cucumbers, but the most popular are classified into two groups: slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and thicker-skinned … they’re cultivated to be eaten fresh. Pickling cucumbers, on the other hand, are smaller and are intended for the brine jar. When giving cucumbers to our dogs, we want the slicing cucumbers. Dice it up and offer a few bites during training sessions or mix it into your dog’s food bowl for an extra nutritional kick. Find out more about cucumbers for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Eggs – I use eggs in a lot of my homemade dog treat recipes as a binder, but they’re super healthy for dogs! On their own, you can feed eggs either scrambled or hard-boiled. Just make sure to chop them up into bite-size pieces before offering them to your pooch and hold the salt! While you may like to spice up your eggs, leave your pup’s serving plain. Find out more about eggs for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Green Beans – Green beans are incredibly healthy for our dogs. The most important thing to keep in mind: Go plain. If you make them as a side for your dinner and jazz them up with salt and various spices then don’t share them with your pooch. Plus, those holiday green bean casseroles are a no-go, as they’re usually coated in butter, cream, mushroom soup, and onions (foods your dog should stay away from). In moderation, dogs can have plain green beans either raw, frozen, steamed, boiled, canned, or dehydrated. With that said, raw is the hardest for them to digest, so it’s better to cook them first! Find out more about green beans for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Kale – If you home cook for your dog, a little boiled or steamed chopped kale may make a great addition to their food bowl. It’s an ingredient many high-end dog food brands — like The Farmer’s Dog, NomNomNow, and Ollie — include in their recipes. If feeding kale as a treat, I either make homemade plain kale chips (recipe in my cookbook, Proud Dog Chef: Tail-Wagging Good Treat Recipes) or chop up a small amount and add it to biscuits. The only drawback about kale? It contains calcium oxalates, isothiocyanates, and thallium … which can all be harmful to dogs if consumed in large amounts. So, make sure to feed kale in moderation and rotate the veggies that make an appearance in your pup’s bowl. Find out more about kale for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Mango – A few bites of fresh mango makes for a tasty and refreshing dog treat. Just make sure to peel them first, as the skin can be hard for Fido to digest. Plus, toss the pit to prevent a choking risk.
Peaches – Peaches are another refreshing fruit that your pup may enjoy. In modertaion, a couple of bite-size pieces are perfectly fine for Fido. Opt for fresh and avoid canned or preserved peaches, as they contain high amounts of sugar and may also be treated with sweeteners/preservatives that can seriously upset your dog’s digestive system. Plus, ditch the pits. Peach pits are made up of a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when eaten and is toxic to dogs. Some other concerns over pits for dogs: They can cause choking, intestinal blockages, and even damage teeth. Find out more about peaches for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Pineapple – Pineapple is chock full of key nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. While each offers up health benefits to us and our dogs, much of pineapple’s healing powers come from a protein-digesting enzyme called bromelain. Experts claim bromelain has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, along with a long list of health benefits. Opt for fresh or frozen and avoid canned, as the syrup is full of processed sugar that isn’t good for our dogs. Find out more about pineapple for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Pumpkin – When pet parents talk about pumpkin, they usually bring up its digestive benefits. It can help dogs with bouts of both diarrhea and constipation. Cooked and pureed pumpkin is easy for our dogs to eat, digest, and absorb. You can either make pumpkin puree (by cooking and then blending it up) or you can buy a can at the store. Just make sure the can says 100% Pure on it, as pumpkin puree pie filling contains ingredients that aren’t good for dogs. Plus, pumpkin seeds are considered a healthy bite for our pups too. They’re rich in beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants, along with other key nutrients that promote overall health. You can either give them whole as a treat or grind them up and place them in his dish. It’s recommended to give one teaspoon per ten pounds. Find out more about pumpkin for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Spinach – A little chopped and steamed spinach is a great addition to your dog’s food bowl. But, when it comes to this leafy green, moderation is a must. Along with the many benefits, spinach does have one drawback. This leafy green contains oxalates (a naturally occurring substance that is found in other veggies, like kale). Oxalates block the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can aid in the formation of kidney and bladder stones when consumed in large quantities. While many experts agree that a dog would have to eat a very large amount of spinach to cause issues, some dogs should avoid spinach. For example, if your pup is prone to kidney and bladder stones, spinach shouldn’t be on their menu. Find out more about spinach for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Strawberries – Strawberries can be added to Fido’s food bowl or offered as a treat. If your dog loves little nibbles of straight-up strawberries, that’s great! You can also chop them up and add them to homemade biscuits and frozen snacks. Since strawberries are one of those fruits that are always featured on the Dirty Dozen list, if your budget allows, buy organic. Find out more about strawberries for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Sweet Potato – Sweet potatoes offer a lot of key nutrients that benefit Fido. One of the biggest benefits is eye health! Sweet potatoes offer up a nice serving of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your dog’s body and is essential for your canine’s vision. When shopping for sweet potatoes, you may notice they come in orange and purple. While they’re both fine for Fido, according to Dr. Karen Becker, “Sweet potatoes with purple flesh have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk for heavy metals and oxygen radicals.” You can either add a little cooked sweet potato to your pup’s food bowl or use it to make homemade dog treats. Find out more about sweet potatoes for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Watermelon – Watermelon is a whopping 92% water, making it the perfect thirst-quenching, hydrating treat for your pup on a hot summer day. You can either cut a small cube of watermelon and offer it to your pooch as is, or grind it up in a blender to create summertime Pupsicles. Before feeding it to your pup, just make sure to ditch the seeds, skin, and rind. Find out more about watermelon for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Yogurt – Plain yogurt is rich in probiotics, which improve gut health and aid digestion. Yogurt also provides calcium, protein, and healthy fats. Always go for a plain yogurt with live cultures and avoid flavored servings that contain artificial sweeteners and added sugar.
Zucchini – According to The Association For Pet Obesity Prevention, as of 2018, approximately 56% of dogs in the United States were either overweight or obese. Since it’s low in calories and virtually fat-free, zucchini is a great treat swap for overweight or obese dogs. Raw, steamed, or cooked zucchini is safe for dogs to eat. Just make sure it’s plain, with no added seasonings. Find out more about zucchini for dogs in our Food Facts feature HERE.
Please note: This is just a small list of human foods your dog can eat! If you are questioning a specific food, you can always refer to The Pet Poison Helpline for help!
Some Safe Meats
Some Safe Fish
Some Safe Herbs & Spices
- Milk thistle
Find out more about these herbs for dogs HERE.
Fido-Friendly Flours for Treat Making
- Almond flour
- Brown rice flour
- Buckwheat flour
- Coconut flour
- Garbanzo bean flour
- Oat flour
- Quinoa flour
- Tapioca flour