Is Human Food Bad for Dogs?

Our dogs are natural scavengers. If you have ever left something tasty out in the kitchen, then there is a pretty good chance that your dog will grab the opportunity with both paws to stuff themselves silly. But there can be a common misconception that our dogs can eat everything we do and be just fine. Sadly, this could not be further from the truth. So, is human food bad for dogs? Many foods are highly toxic to our four-legged friends and could cause serious illness or death.

This means that you need to understand which foods are safe and which are not before you offer your dog a tasty human food treat. Here’s our top five list of human foods that you need to keep well away from your dogs.

1. Grapes, Raisins and Sultanas

Whether it is grapes, raisins, or sultanas, and whether they are in their natural form or as ingredients, these can be bad news for your dog. Right now, we still do not know why they are toxic, and it does not seem to depend on the amount that your dog eats.

What we do know is that they can cause:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Anorexia.
  • Acute renal (kidney) failure.

So, if your dog gets to a fruit cake, a bunch of grapes, or a bag of sultanas, then you need to get them to the veterinarian immediately.

2. Chocolate

The type of chocolate that your dog eats is key to understanding just how toxic it might be for them. The greatest risk comes from the darker chocolates that contain less sugar, while the lowest risk comes from white chocolate. That’s because darker chocolate contains higher quantities of chemicals called methylxanthines, with theobromine and caffeine being the ones that cause the problems.

There’s also a risk if your dog eats cocoa mulch or cocoa powder, often used in flower beds or to cover walkways. When ingested by dogs, it can result in the same symptoms as eating dark chocolate.

Don’t forget that some products that contain chocolate may also have other human foods that can be poisonous to your dog. These include macadamia nuts, raisins, coffee or espresso beans and xylitol.

Signs of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Becoming hyperactive.
  • An increased heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Tremors and seizures.

It’s essential that your dog gets immediate medical attention; sadly, chocolate poisoning can be fatal when left untreated.

3. Xylitol

This natural, sugar-free sweetener has become hugely popular and can be found in a wide range of different human foods. This includes chewing gum and mints, candies, jams and sauces. It’s also found in non-food items, such as chewable vitamin tablets and some essential oil products.

Xylitol is highly toxic to our dogs. Even tiny amounts can cause low blood sugar resulting in seizures, liver failure, or even death. If a dog eats xylitol, then it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which then causes the pancreas to release a high volume of insulin. The rapid release of insulin is what then goes on to cause a significant drop in our dog’s blood sugar levels.

If you are wondering how much xylitol would need to be eaten to cause problems for your dog, it really does vary. So, the best option is to call your veterinarian, or the Pet Poison Helpline, for advice.

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4. Onions and Garlic

The Allium family of plants includes onions, garlic, chives and leeks, and all are poisonous to both dogs and cats. However, they do vary in the severity of the issues they can cause, with garlic being nearly five times more toxic than onion.

If you have a Japanese breed of dog, such as an Akita or Shiba Inu, you need to be particularly careful how you store these ingredients, as these dogs have a much higher risk of experiencing toxic effects. Now you might think that onions would be pretty unappealing to most dogs, but when they are cooked in a sauce or with meat, they suddenly become much more appetizing.

Your dog would need to eat a lot of garlic for harmful symptoms to appear. One piece of research has suggested that they would need to consume around 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilogram of body weight for there to be a problem. Now that is a lot of garlic, but the problem is that some dogs have a much higher sensitivity, so they may experience issues even when they have eaten much lower amounts.

Symptoms of onion or garlic poisoning include:

  • Gastroenteritis, causing sickness and diarrhea.
  • Lethargy.
  • Increased heart rate.

It’s worth knowing that the symptoms of onion and garlic poisoning may not be seen for a few days following your dog eating them, so do not assume you are in the clear if there are no immediate issues.

5. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are highly nutritious for humans, and they contain a range of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. The problem is that they are just not that good for our dogs. Eating just 2.4 grams per kilograms of body weight is enough to cause your dog to experience muscle strength problems, which can also be accompanied with vomiting, tremors and lethargy. It’s not yet known what is about the macadamia nut that causes these problems for our dogs, but we think you will agree whatever the cause, you are not going to want your dog to experience those symptoms!