7 Toxic Foods You Should Never Feed Your Dog, According to Veterinarians

Keep these dangerous—and sometimes deadly—foods out of reach of man's best friend.

Our beloved dogs have a tendency to get into any food they can find, from the apple pie you left cooling on the counter to the steaks they attempt to steal right off your plate. While many of these foods won’t hurt your canine companion, others, like caffeine, chocolate, raw bread dough, onions, sweetener, and grapes, can be deadly.

“Oftentimes, when a pet becomes ill after consuming a toxic food, symptoms will overlap with several other possible diseases,” says Sage De Rosa, DVM, assistant professor of clinical emergency and critical care at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “This can make the diagnosis challenging, and as such, veterinarians must rely on owners to provide information regarding potential toxin exposure. Your veterinarian will likely prompt you about exposure to specific toxic foods that may fit the signs that your pet is exhibiting.”

If your dog is experiencing symptoms of toxic food exposure, like vomiting, a decrease in appetite, lethargy, altered breathing, incoordination, or obvious pain, reach out immediately to your veterinarian and the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), says Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, chief veterinarian at Petco. Be prepared to answer questions about whether your pet ingested—or might have ingested—potentially harmful foods, including the seven on this list.

dog waiting for food

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Theobromine and caffeine, two methylxanthine compounds found in chocolate, can affect your dog's gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, and heart, leading to vomiting and diarrhea, seizures, an abnormal heartbeat, and muscle tremors. “Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk or white chocolate, though all chocolates should be avoided,” says Dr. Miller.

If you know (or suspect) your dog got into your hidden stash of candy, get to the veterinarian as soon as possible. “Depending on the type of chocolate ingested, the amount and how recent the ingestion was, vomiting may be induced,” says Dr. De Rosa. “In-hospital monitoring and treatment may be recommended, depending on the severity of signs and the dose ingested."


Caffeine isn’t just toxic for dogs when ingested via chocolate; it’s also just as dangerous on its own. “Restrict your dog’s access to any coffee grounds, energy drinks, medications, or other items in your house that contain caffeine,” says Dr. Miller, who lists rapid breathing, restlessness, abnormal heartbeat, high body temperature, and muscle tremors as signs your dog may have ingested caffeine.

Garlic, Onion, and Chives

This family of savory herbs adds depth and flavor to your favorite recipes, but garlic, onions, and chives—plus other foods in the allium family—all include compounds that can cause oxidative damage to dogs' cells, says Dr. Miller. “While onions are most toxic in large quantities, concentrated powders from your spice cabinet or in soup mixes can cause adverse reactions when ingested by a dog,” she says. These items may initially cause vomiting, and can also destroy red blood cells and induce anemia. “Symptoms of poisoning may include lethargy and/or weakness, pale gums, and discolored urine,” says Dr. Miller.

dog trying to eat food on counter

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Grapes and Raisins

Researchers are still working to find the specific compound that makes grapes and raisins toxic to dogs—current evidence points to tartaric acid—but they do know that eating this fruit in its fresh or dried version can cause kidney damage. “Exposure then creates a buildup in the kidneys of tannins and other elements that dogs cannot process,” says Dr. Miller. “Poisoning from grapes often comes in two stages, starting with symptoms like lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, and rapid breathing in the first 24 hours, and escalating with further signs of kidney failure like vomiting, excessive thirst or urination, abdominal pain, and coma.”

While some dogs may not experience adverse effects from grapes and raisins, others can suffer “life-threatening toxicity,” says Dr. De Rosa. “It should be assumed that all dogs could develop disease from this food, as there is no way to know prior to exposure.”

Bread Dough

Bread dough left to rise on the counter may prove too tempting for some dogs to resist, but the alcohol and gas produced by the yeast as it ferments can also cause big health problems for your pet. “Absorption of alcohol from the stomach into the bloodstream can result in a variety of concerning symptoms,” says Dr. De Rosa, who includes vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst, low blood sugar, incoordination, tremors, seizures, and death among the concerns.

“Gas accumulation within the stomach can cause the stomach to bloat, which can be a source of discomfort and more seriously, cardiovascular compromise,” she says. “If your dog consumes raw dough, an emergency visit to your vet is warranted.”

Fatty Meats

Meats sold for human consumption are not typically deadly to dogs, but repeated exposure to them can cause health issues. “In general, foods that are higher in fat, though not necessarily toxic to dogs, may cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can lead to decreased appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,” says Dr. De Rosa.

This means keeping “people food” for people—and includes spicy and fried foods, too. “Spicy, fried, or fatty foods can cause digestive problems for your dog,” says Dr. Miller. “Many times, pet parents think a little bit of steak or chewing on a ham bone is okay for pets, when actually exposure to that rich, fatty meat can cause adverse health events.”


Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is used to cut the calories in a variety of foods, from gum and desserts labeled "sugar-free" to toothpaste and peanut or nut butters, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In dogs, xylitol triggers the pancreas to release insulin, which can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Watch for vomiting followed by lethargy, weakness, incoordination, and other symptoms of low blood sugar, which can occur even as long as 24 hours later.  

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  1. Schweighauser A, Henke D, Oevermann A, Gurtner C, Francey T. "Toxicosis with Grapes or Raisins Causing Acute Kidney Injury and Neurological Signs in Dogs." J Vet Intern Med. 2020;34(5):1957-1966.

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