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What foods are dangerous for my dog?

Dogs will eat almost anything if given the chance, but did you know that many foods that are okay for humans are actually dangerous to dogs? Some people enjoy sharing ‘people food’ with their furry friends but this can be harmful to our pets. This article will highlight the importance of knowing which foods are safe for dogs and which foods you should avoid.

The importance of a balanced and nutritious diet for dogs

A nutritious and balanced diet as recommended by your vet, and appropriate for your dog’s individual needs, is always the best dietary option. Commercially available pet food must meet certain standards and guidelines to ensure it meets the nutritional requirements of dogs, making it the safest and easiest option. Meanwhile, home-made meals for dogs can lack vital nutrients and might actually make your dog sick.

Factors to consider in choosing the right diet

If your dog has any special nutritional needs (e.g. a growing puppy, pregnant, lactating, or ill), you must be especially wary when preparing meals at home to ensure they’re provided with all the essential nutrients they need. The RSPCA recommends that the basis of your dog’s diet should be a high-quality premium commercial dog food that is appropriate for their life stage and health status, and one that complies with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food.

Foods to avoid

Here is a quick look at some fruit and vegetables that you should never feed your dog:

  • Onion and garlic: Onion and garlic cause a dangerous anaemia (rupturing of the blood cells) and can be fatal to dogs.
  • Avocado: Avocado can cause gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. The stones can cause blockage of the gut and might require surgical removal.
  • Corn cobs: While dogs can eat plain, cooked corn kernels in moderate amounts, you should never feed your dog corn on the cob. The hard, rough cobs from the centre of a head of corn frequently get lodged in dog’s digestive tracts requiring surgery to remove.
  • Grapes, raisins and sultanas: Any foods containing these (such as fruit cake, Christmas cake, etc) can cause kidney failure in dogs.
  • Fruit with seeds: This includes mangoes, apricots and other stone fruit, as the seeds contain cyanide and can get stuck in the dog’s digestive tract.

Other foods which are dangerous to your dog include:

  • Chocolate: Dogs can suffer vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and death after eating chocolate. Dark chocolate is especially toxic due to the high levels of theobromine found in cocoa.
  • Bread dough: Fully baked bread is a safe, occasional treat for dogs. However, dogs should never be allowed to eat uncooked, yeasted bread dough. It can ferment the carbohydrates in the stomach producing ethanol and carbon dioxide.
  • Xylitol: This commonly used artificial sweetener is found in human foods such as sugar free gum and some peanut butter.
  • Macadamia nuts: Also referred to as Queensland or Australian nuts, these are highly toxic to dogs, causing muscle pain and weakness, shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and overheating. In addition, products including macadamias often contain additional sweetener xylitol, chocolate or grape products that are also dangerous.
  • Coffee: Caffeine can cause restlessness, muscle twitching, fast breathing or even be fatal.
  • Alcohol: Since dogs aren’t able to process alcohol the same way as humans, ingestion can cause gastrointestinal irritation, low blood sugar, temporary blindness and potentially a coma or even death.

For advice on dangerous foods, please contact your vet or the Australian Animal Poisons Helpline.

When to contact a vet

Always contact a vet straight away if you believe your dog has eaten something that may harm them.

Remember, every dog is an individual, and even if your friend’s dog eats certain foods with no obvious ill effects, it doesn’t mean your own dog will be so lucky! Your vet is the best person to talk to for advice on what you should feed your dog. Eating toxic foods (such as grapes and chocolate) is a common reason for dogs to go to the vet for emergency treatment. Be aware of the common household dangers for pets, and store any risky foods and items well out of reach of curious dogs. The Australian Animal Poisons Hotline also has a range of information for pet owners on the subject of toxic foods.

Being prepared

If your dog becomes unwell or suffers an accident, vet bills can become expensive. Being prepared with Pet Insurance prior to them becoming sick could cover you for part of the costs of eligible vet bills. Consider contacting RSPCA Pet Insurance for more information and a free quote. If you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums will go towards supporting the valuable work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.