Dog Treats: Do You Know What’s Safe and What Isn’t?

We know it's hard to resist giving treats from your own plate here and there, but do you know what's safe and what isn't? Many common human foods are dangerous or deadly for dogs. While most dog owners know that chocolate is toxic to their four-footed friends, there are other common human foods that are just as dangerous! This is information that can help you keep your pup safe.

Chocolate: I hear this mentioned most often when discussing what to keep dogs away from, but how many of us know exactly why? Two stimulant chemicals- caffeine and theobromine- negatively affect nervous systems. Noticeable effects are hyperactivity, excessive panting and/or urination, and muscle twitches, accompanied by increases in heart rate and blood pressure. The higher the cocoa content, the more severe the effects (darker chocolate is more dangerous than white or milk chocolate); but all chocolate should be avoided. I recently met someone whose dog- small to medium size range- died after getting into a couple chocolate bars.

Coffee: For the same reason as chocolate- caffeine- coffee can be deadly. This applies to anything else with caffeine content, like black tea.

Onions (whole, powdered or cooked): Onions contain thiosulphate, which is toxic to dogs. Thiosulphate can cause Heinz Body anemia in dogs- essentially leading to the breakdown of red blood cells while circulating in the body. The first symptoms to look for are vomiting and diarrhea as well as a lack of appetite. Signs of poisoning may start up to a few DAYS after the dog has consumed onion. Poisoning can occur after ingesting a single large amount of onion or repeated small amounts of the food. Garlic also contains the chemical, although not as much, and should also be avoided. The condition will improve once consumption ceases.

Mushrooms: Some species of mushrooms are toxic, and may cause shock/death. Less severe symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It’s easy enough to not feed your dog mushrooms from your kitchen, but be aware of mushrooms that sprout naturally in your yard or any other green area. Call your vet, or go directly to an emergency clinic.

Raisins and Grapes: While these foods are good for you, they are not healthy for your dog! There is an unknown toxin that has has caused renal (kidney) failure when dogs consume amounts as little as 1 ounce of fruit per 2.2 lbs of body weight. If your dog has ingested raisins/grapes and is acting lethargic or having signs of abdominal pain, induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible!

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plum: Who knew so much good fruit was bad for your dog? The seeds of these fruits contain a type of cyanide compound- not poisonous to us, but toxic to our dogs. Symptoms include: dilated pupils, hyperventilation, difficulty breathing, and shock.

Unbaked Bread Dough: Dogs find the strangest things palatable! If your dog consumes raw bread dough, a call to your vet is needed. The yeast in the dough that enables rising can also produce gas in your dog's digestive tract, leading to pain and the possible rupture of the stomach or intestines. In addition, yeast fermentation, which causes dough to rise, also produces alcohol (more below).

Alcohol: Alcohol is a poison, though not (always) a deadly one to humans. It is, however, far more dangerous for dogs. Small amounts of alcohol can be enough to kill a small dog. While I hope you know not to give your dog alcohol, I've seen too many people who think it would be amusing to give their dog a little beer. Please don't- remember that dogs are far more sensitive to this substance than you are.

Macadamia Nut: While these nuts are not deadly, they are toxic and cause a number of physical issues: digestive upset, vomiting, lethargy, tremors and stiffness. After initial consumption, a dog’s system will naturally get these nuts out, and symptoms will taper off.

Nutmeg: This common spice affects a dog’s central nervous system, and may cause tremors, seizures and- in higher quantities- death.

Chicken Bones: While not toxic, chicken bones or splinters from bones may get lodged in various places in a dog’s digestive system and can result in death. Thoroughly cooked chicken bones, which are in some high quality canned foods, can be chewed and are safe. However, do not try to cook these yourself, stick to the pre-made ones.

It’s a good idea to assume that anything unhealthy for you is also not healthy for your dog. Also remember that we’ve discussed common foods and reactions to them; there are other many substances that can cause any of these symptoms. When in doubt, always call a vet.


There are lots of common foods that are delicious and safe treats for your dog! Some of them are:

  • Raw carrots
  • Bananas
  • Canned pumpkin (no sugar added- it also aids in diarrhea and constipation!)
  • Rice
  • Apples- when they’ve been cut and all seeds removed!
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
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