I’m not gonna lie to you! I confess, sometimes, I feed my dogs people food. A cheesy cracker here, a piece of popcorn there. On certain days, I even let them lick the yogurt cup or peanut butter jar clean. For the most part, if your dog doesn’t suffer from allergies, these occasional bites are harmless. It turns out, however, that certain human snacks are dangerous for dogs.
We all know not to slip our dog a chicken wing (seriously, never slip your dog a chicken wing), but you may be surprised to learn which other popular people-snacks can pose a health hazard to your beloved pet. Read on for details, plus get safe alternatives below.
Avocados may be a delicious miracle food for humans, but unfortunately, they can be problematic for dogs. That’s mostly due to the potential presence of persin, which can cause stomach upset in dogs. Persin occurs in the peel and leaves of the plant. While persin isn’t toxic to dogs (as it is to horses and birds), it’s still best to be careful when feeding avocado to your dog.
Guacamole also contains garlic and onions, which can cause anemia and gastrointestinal distress. If you must give your dog a treat from the fiesta table, stick to one or two plain tortilla chips (but not more than that—too much salt is another no-no).
Alternative: AvoDerm is a well-rated commercial pet food line that contains healthy avocado for dogs and cats, and of course no persin.
Almonds are too rough to be digested properly and can damage your dog’s esophagus and stomach; pecans left out too long may mold and develop a dangerous toxin, and macadamia nuts are downright poisonous. Mixed nuts are relatively healthy for us humans but keep them away from your dog.
Raisins are a sweet addition to your bowl of cereal, but they’re toxic to your best friend. Grapes and grape products are among the most dangerous foods for dogs, and consumption can lead to kidney failure and even death.
Keep raisins, grapes, grape juice, and anything containing them far away from your pet.
It’s tempting to give your dog a lick of your cone on a hot day, and chances are, a little won’t hurt. But ice cream in large quantities is a no-no for dogs. The dairy content can cause gastrointestinal trouble (i.e., diarrhea), and the sugar content is way too high for them. Also, commercially produced ice cream can contain nut traces, chocolate, and other substances that are dangerous for your dog.
Thankfully, there are plenty of dog-friendly frozen treats available!
Beer and other alcohol
This one should be a no-brainer, but some people think it’s funny to offer their dog a sip of beer. Alcohol in any quantity can be dangerous for animals; it has the same effect on their brain and liver as it does on humans, but it takes a lot less to do a lot more damage in dogs. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, coordination issues, difficulty breathing, and worse. For more information, see our article, Can Dogs Drink Beer?
Alternative: Beerpaws or Good Boy Dog Beer are safe, non-alcoholic “beer” for dogs—in case, you know, you needed some? In all seriousness, these products are dog-safe, liquid nutritional supplements, and can be mixed with dry food or given as a treat (try serving them cold or frozen for a summer treat).
Cereal snack mix is one of my favorite treats, and I know how tempting it is to throw a handful to the dog. But commercial snack treats often contain onion and garlic powder, both of which can cause tummy troubles.
Snack mix is also high in sodium, and too much salt can cause excessive thirst and urination.
Leftover ribs (and other meat scraps and bones)
Dogs and bones go together like peanut butter and jelly, but only some bones are safe for your pooch. Cooked bones leftover from your barbecue may splinter and cause an obstruction or injury to your dog’s digestive system, and fatty meat scraps can lead to pancreatitis.
Dispose of bones and meat scraps in an area your dog can’t reach, and only offer a whole raw bone (with supervised chew-time) or a safe chewable instead.
Alternative: Recreational bones sold for chewing are great for dogs, though should be removed when they’re chewed down to a small, choke-able size.
Confession: French fries are my favorite food, and I love to share them with my dog. But fries are high in fat and sodium, and overindulgence can lead to dehydration and an upset tummy for us both. Salty snacks, in general, are a bad idea for dogs; too much salt can even lead to sodium ion poisoning.
So it’s safe to toss your dog one or two fries at the drive-through, but don’t super-size their serving.
Candy and gum
Chances are you’re not letting your dog go wild in the candy aisle, but accidental ingestion of candy or gum can cause serious damage.
Aside from the choking hazard posed by small, sticky treats, many sugar-free gums and candies contain xylitol, a popular sugar substitute that is extremely toxic to dogs. Even a small amount can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include:
- Lack of coordination or difficulty walking or standing
- Depression or lethargy
If you believe your dog ate xylitol, immediately take them to the vet.
In general, stick to candy-shaped toys, and keep the real deal out of reach!
Table foods dogs can eat
In case you’re worried you can never safely sneak your dog a treat from your own bowl of snacks, here are a few human foods that are okay in small amounts:
- Unsalted, raw or roasted peanuts removed from their shell
- Unsalted pretzels
- Plain, cooked chicken, beef, fish, or lamb
- White rice and pasta
- Regular cheese, as long as you know your dog doesn’t have lactose intolerance
- Plain, unsalted peanut butter (avoid brands sweetened with xylitol)
- Small amounts of plain bread
- Carrots, apples, green beans, and many other whole fruits and veggies
For more on what dogs can and can’t eat, check out our series of “Can My Dog Eat?” articles.
It’s only natural to want to treat your dog, and if she doesn’t have allergies or a particularly sensitive stomach, a morsel of human food here or there won’t hurt. But avoid the dangerous foods listed above, and remember: moderation is key. Most of your dog’s food should be, well, dog food. Happy snacking to you and your pooch!
Elisabeth Geier is a writer, teacher, and animal advocate with extensive animal handling experience and a soft spot for bully breeds and big orange tabbies.