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What Can't Dogs Eat? A Comprehensive Guide

February 09, 2022 7 min read
dog eating chocolate
What Can't Dogs Eat A Comprehensive Guide

The life of a dog owner isn’t an easy one. In 2009 alone, nearly 20,000 calls were made to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center after their dog had eaten human food. But how do you know what’s bad for dogs? What can’t dogs eat? 

There’s a long list of things your dog shouldn’t eat, from human foods to lab-made ingredients to common houseplants. Besides keeping these things out of their reach, you can also substitute them with food they can enjoy, from bully sticks to dog chews.

Treat Your Dog to Bully Sticks

So just what can’t your dog eat? 

What Your Dog Can’t Eat

Things your dog should never eat 

Things your dog should never eat
  • Chocolate: Chocolate is poisonous to dogs as they contain a substance (methylxanthines) that can hinder and, at worst, stop your dog’s metabolic process. In larger quantities, it can lead to heart failure and death. 
  • Onions: While common in the food we cook, onions (and raw garlic) can cause anemia in dogs. If something you cooked or are eating has onions and/or garlic, do not feed it to your dog!
  • Avocados: While avocados are a favorite ingredient for modern Americans, they contain an acid called persin, which is known to be toxic to dogs (particularly in large quantities). If you have avocados in the home, place them in a drawer rather than out on the open counter. 
  • Grapes: Grapes – and raisins – should never be fed to a dog. When consumed in high quantities, they can cause kidney failure, which is an extremely dangerous condition that should be avoided at all costs. 
  • Macadamia nuts: Science still doesn’t know what it is that causes these nuts to be toxic to dogs, but they are, so you should never allow your dog to eat something that has them inside of it. 
  • Sugar: Processed sugars should never be fed to a dog. So keep the cookies, fruit juice, and candy bars for yourself. Processed sugars can cause serious problems to a dog’s health, from unnecessary weight gain and obesity to serious diseases such as diabetes and tooth decay. 
  • Caffeine: You need to make sure your dog never gets their mouth onto coffee, used coffee grounds, black tea bags, or products containing coffee. Caffeine is a toxic stimulant to dogs, so it should be avoided at all costs. 
  • Milk and dairy: While it’s okay for a dog to drink their mother’s milk, other types of milk and dairy products could make them seriously ill – as they contain sugars and fats that they’re not used to digesting, which could cause intestinal inflammation, blockages, diarrhea, vomiting, and more. 
  • Xylitol: You may have never heard this word, but chances are you’ve eaten it. It’s a lab-made sugar substitute most commonly found in candies and sugar-free gum. However, it’s extremely toxic to dogs, seriously affecting their internal insulin levels. Keep any products containing xylitol in a high cabinet where your dog cannot reach it. 
  • Salt: While fine in small doses, as some homemade treat recipes may call for it, salt in large quantities can be seriously detrimental to a dog’s health. Too much salt has the potential to poison your dog, but it’s most likely to cause dehydration. While salty foods make for a good combo for humans – think salty bar food and beer – you should keep them away from your dog. 
  • Alcohol: Alcohol, in any form, is a toxic substance. For humans, it’s consumed because it can have pleasant and fun side effects. But people who drink alcohol are doing it because they want to. Your dog shouldn’t be given alcohol. It’s especially tough on their kidneys, pancreas, and liver, meaning it should be avoided at all costs. 
  • Yeast: Similarly, you should keep yeast dough away from your dog. Yeast dough works through fermentation. If your dog happens to eat it, the problem is the dough will ferment and rise within their stomach, which can cause serious pain and, at worst, alcohol poisoning. 
  • Rhubarb: You might not know it, but rhubarb contains a substance known as oxalic acid. While it can be potentially beneficial to humans, it can cause serious problems in dogs. The most common side effect is kidney failure, as it can cause the urinary tract to get blocked, which will severely harm their kidneys. 
  • Spinach: Similarly, spinach contains a high amount of oxalic acid. The medical consensus is mixed, with some saying it’s good for dogs while others say it should be avoided. Your best bet is to give it to your dog in small quantities, if you’re going to feed it to them at all. 
blue cheese

The cheeses are mixed

While some cheeses are safe to eat, other cheeses are unsafe for dogs. These are cheeses you should avoid giving to your dog: 

  • Blue cheeses, like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton
  • Goat cheese
  • Brie
  • Feta
  • Cheeses with herbs, garlic, raisins, or other flavors

Blue cheeses are dangerous because of the mold present. As the cheese ages, it can produce a substance called roquefortine, which is a toxin that could be lethal to your dog. 

Moreover, as mentioned above, cheeses with herbs, garlic, and other additives are dangerous because the added flavors themselves could be toxic. Your safest bet is to avoid giving your dog cheese. But if you do, it’s good to know what type of cheese you’re giving to your dog. 

Protecting Your Pets 

Best rule of thumb

Staying safe around the holidays

The holidays pose a number of safety risks, especially from the amount of baked, sugary goods you’re bound to have scattered around your home and up on your kitchen counter. Likewise, all of the decorations could cause safety issues, as your dog could reach them, get it in their mouth, and potentially choke on it. 

The best rule of thumb is if your dog can reach it, they’re going to try and eat it. 

Common toxic holiday foods and decorations to keep out of reach include walnuts, sugar-free candy, ornaments, electronics, chestnuts, tinsel, and Christmas lights. Whenever possible, place them where your dog can’t get to them. 

You’ll also want to be mindful of what plants you have out. Plants like poinsettias, hollies, lilies, and daffodils are toxic to animals. If you’re using them as decorations, place them somewhere your dog can’t get to them. 

It’s important you take precautions, as you don’t want to risk your pet’s health. Moreover, you don’t want to pay the price of being unprepared. The average cost to remove an object from your dog adds up, with surgery costing anywhere between $1,600 to $10,000. Make sure you and your pet can enjoy the holidays, keeping health scares and massive medical bills at bay. 

dog with an aloe plant

Some houseplants to avoid 

Not all houseplants are safe around your dog. Here are the most common houseplants you shouldn’t have with a dog

  • Aloe
  • Dracaena
  • Jade
  • Oleander
  • Pothos
  • Snake Plants
  • Palms

If you’re out buying houseplants and aren’t sure whether they’re safe for your dog to be around or not, just double-check online. It’s important you’re confident it’s safe for your dog prior to bringing it into your home, as a nosy dog could take a bite out of the plant without you ever noticing it. 

Puppy proof your home

It’s important you clean up your home prior to bringing your dog home, too. While there are a number of foreign objects that are dangerous to them, posing potential choking hazards, it’s important you clean up to get chemicals, cleaners, and dangerous food away from where they can reach it. 

Toxic foods should be kept in the refrigerator or cabinets where your dog cannot reach them. Similarly, cleaning products like bleach, vinegar, and other household cleaners should be kept in closets and cabinets. Choking hazards should also be removed whenever possible, getting them off the floor away from where your dog can get to them. 

Remember to check your yard 

It’s important you check your yard prior to letting your dog play in it, too. Some wild plants can be dangerous to your dog, so it’s important you weed your yard regularly to protect your dog. Similarly, make sure you don’t leave household and landscaping chemicals out where your dog could get to them, including fertilizers, seeding, deicing salt, bleach, and weed killers.

dog with treats

Foods That Are Safe for Your Dog

Soy is good to go

Soy is a good alternative for dogs with allergies, which often includes foods like beef, dairy, wheat, chicken, and egg. If you’re looking for a cheaper protein free of allergies, the plant-based soy is a great choice.

You’ll often see it listed in stores as the following ingredients: 

  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Lecithin
  • Textured soy flour
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Vegetable Protein
  • Guar Gum

Too much soy can cause bloating and intestinal pain, so it should be fed in moderation. This way, you can get your dog the necessary protein they need without upsetting their stomach. 

Safe cheeses

While there are some cheeses you should avoid at all costs, there are others that are safe for your dog to eat – in moderation. It’s important to remember that too much dairy can lead to intestinal distress, meaning you might have a smelly mess to clean up after the fact.

Here are cheeses that are safe to feed your dog in moderation: 

  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Swiss cheese
  • Cheddar cheese

Be mindful of how much you feed your dog, not only to avoid intestinal issues but to ensure they’re not eating too much fat or calories at once. 

Things your dog should eat

Treats are your safest bet

The safest thing you can feed your dog, as a snack besides their dog food, are treats. From bully sticks to antlers for dogs, you can give your dog something that’s known to be safe for them. This helps avoid any stress over whether it’s okay for them to eat in the first place. 

If you want to mix it up some, you should consider investing in a dog treat subscription box. It’s a simple way to give your dog exciting treats on a regular basis. It’ll get them on their best behavior by knowing they’re going to get something super tasty. 

What Should You Do if Your Pet Ate Something They Shouldn’t Have?

If you think or know your pet ate something they shouldn’t have, you should act accordingly. If you think they may have eaten something, it’s best to keep an eye on them and watch for signs of poisoning or other health problems. 

If you know they ate something bad for dogs, it’s time to contact your vet or a poison center. Be sure to keep the following numbers nearby so you can act accordingly:

  • Your primary vet’s phone number 
  • Your nearest emergency veterinary hospital’s number
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 
  • Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661 

Protecting your dog can sometimes feel like a full-time job. But if you take proper precaution and puppy proof your house, you can stop your dog from eating something they shouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to rearrange your house to protect your pet. 

It’s imperative you do what you can to keep them safe. Keeping harmful objects, food, and items out of the way is the easiest way to protect them. And if they ever feel like getting nosy with what you’re cooking, just slide them some bully sticks or dog chews to keep them entertained and fed. 

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