Updated 15 May 2014

Food not to feed your dog

Feeding you dog 'human food' may be detrimental to its health.

Here are some of the dangers for dogs that lurk in everyday food:

  • Cooked or boiled bones from poultry, fish or other meat sources
    Can cause obstruction or laceration of the digestive system, as well as painful constipation. Some bones can get stuck on teeth and across the roof of the mouth, causing injuries. Occasionally giving your dog a raw marrow bone, bought from your butcher, is fine.
  • Cat food
    Generally too high in protein and fats.
  • Chocolate, coffee, tea, and other caffeine
    These foods contain caffeine and theobromine which can be toxic and affect the intestinal, heart and nervous systems. Consider that what would be a small piece of chocolate to a human can be proportionally large for a small dog or cat.
  • Fat trimmings
    Feeding your dog fat trimmings could lead to weight gain and all its associated health problems (heart and joint problems, etc.) In rare cases it may cause pancreatitis in dogs that are predisposed to it.
  • Grapes and raisins
    Contain an unknown toxin, which can damage the kidneys, however, there have been no problems associated with grape seed extract.
  • Hops
    Unknown compound causes panting, increased heart rate, elevated temperature, seizures, and death.
  • Human vitamin supplements containing iron
    Can damage the lining of the digestive system and be toxic to the other organs including the liver and kidneys.
  • Large amounts of liver
    Can cause Vitamin A toxicity, which affects muscles and bones. It can also cause copper storage disease, which is invariably fatal.
  • Marijuana
    Can depress the nervous system, cause vomiting, and changes in the heart rate.
  • Milk and other dairy products
    Some adult dogs do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhoea. Lactose-free milk products are available for pets.
  • Moldy or spoiled food, garbage
    Can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting and diarrhoea and can also affect other organs, especially the liver.
  • Alcoholic beverages
    Can cause intoxication, coma, and death.
  • Wild mushrooms
    Can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death.
  • Onions and garlic (raw, cooked, or powder)
    Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia. Garlic is less toxic than onions. Cats are more susceptible than dogs.
  • Potato, rhubarb, and tomato leaves; potato and tomato stems
    Contain oxalates, which can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems.
  • Raw eggs
    Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). Frequent or regular intake can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may also contain Salmonella.
  • Raw fish
    Can result in a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death. This is more common if raw fish is fed regularly.
  • Salt
    If eaten in large quantities it may lead to electrolyte imbalances.
  • Sugary foods
    Can lead to obesity and dental problems.
  • Table scraps (in large amounts)
    Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced. They should never be more than 10% of the diet. Fat should be trimmed from meat and you should never give your dog any cooked bones.
  • Tobacco
    Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems. It can result in rapid heart beat, collapse, coma, and death.
  • Yeast dough
    Can expand and produce gas in the digestive system, causing pain.
  • Walnuts
    Particularly the seed hulls of black walnuts as they can cause intestinal obstructions and mouldy ones can cause seizures.
  • Sugarless candy and other items that contain xylitol
    can cause liver damage and death.

-(Hilda Geyer/Health24, updated October 2010)

Reviewed by veterinarian Dr Katja Bier.

Read more:
Your pet's health
Caring for your dog


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