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Dangerous Foods for Dogs


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever and last updated by Dr Gillian Hill.

Although it can be tempting to offer your beloved fur-kid some of your favourite treats, take a moment to familiarise yourself with some 'people foods' that are dangerous for dogs, and could make them very unwell.


Cocoa in chocolate contains a compounds called methylxanthines, in small doses these may cause diarrhoea, vomiting and elevated heart rate. Larger doses can result in irregular heart rhythms, seizures and even death. Foods with higher cocoa content contain more methylxanthines, this means that the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your pet. If your dog ingests chocolate or cocoa powder call your veterinarian immediately as they may require emergency treatment.

Sultanas and Grapes

Feeding any amount of sultanas or grapes to your dog could cause acute kidney failure. The exact mechanism of this is unknown so it is impossible to calculate a toxic dose. It is best to avoid feeding these all together.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some chewing gums and other sugar free foods. Although safe for humans, xylitol can cause problems for your dog's pancreas and liver. The pancreas is responsible for creating insulin, which triggers sugar from the blood to be stored in the body's cells. When your dog consumes xylitol, the artificial sweetener tricks the pancreas into releasing lots of insulin that is not actually needed, resulting in their blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. This can cause seizures, coma and even death. In addition to causing problems with the pancreas, xylitol also causes liver damage and potentially even liver failure. The toxic dose of xylitol is very small, even a stick of chewing gum can be enough to make your dog very unwell.

Macadamia Nuts

Although they are delicious, macadamia nuts can cause weakness, collapse, tremors and vomiting in dogs. The onset of symptoms may be delayed by up to twelve hours after they are eaten and may last up to forty-eight hours.

Coconut Oil

Many people swear by coconut oil as both a delicious ingredient in their favourite recipes as well as for its medicinal properties. Coconut oil can cause tummy upsets, vomiting, diarrhoea and even pancreatitis in dogs so it is best to avoid feeding it to your fur-kids.

Onions and Garlic

Fed in a large enough quantities, onions and garlic can cause damage to your dog's red blood cells. If enough red blood cells are destroyed your dog could become anaemic and show signs of lethargy and weakness.


Salt is a normal and important component of your dog's diet. Fed in excessive amounts however, salt can result in sodium poisoning which may be fatal. Symptoms of sodium poisoning range from diarrhoea and vomiting through to tremors, seizures and death. An often overlooked source of sodium poisoning in dogs is homemade 'play dough.'

What are safe foods for dogs?

We all want to show our dogs that they're loved, and a very common way to do this is through food. A safe alternative to treating with human foods is feeding treats that are specifically formulated with your pet in mind. For dogs with a sweet tooth, take a look at our carob or yoghurt based dog treats. For something a little more special, have a look at our home-made Summer and Winter recipes.

Despite the best laid plans, our dogs can often go out of their way to consume foods that are not good for them. If your pet does ingest any of the foods listed above, it is always best to contact your veterinarian to seek further advice.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Can dogs drink milk?

Can dogs eat strawberries?

Can dogs eat watermelon?

Can dogs eat apples?

Are raw diets safe for dogs?

What are the best dog treats?

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