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The majority of American households make pets part of their family. In 2018, it’s estimated that 68% of households own a pet (more than the percentage with children), which adds up to 84.6 million homes nationally. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common pets are dogs, which can be found in roughly one out of every two U.S. homes.
Every dog owner knows that while owning a dog can be rewarding, keeping his or her aromatic curiosity in check can be a real challenge. When a dog chews up a new pair of sneakers, it’s annoying, but when he breaks into the pantry, it can be dangerous. In 2017, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received 199,000 poisoning cases, almost one-fifth of which were the result of ingesting human foods. As strange as it might seem, everyday human foods are the most common cause of pet poisoning cases apart from prescription and over-the-counter medications.
That said, not all human foods are dangerous for dogs, so understanding which are and aren’t are key to creating a safe environment for your pup. Researchers at NomNomNow, a pet company that creates healthy and fresh dog food, compiled the following list of human foods to avoid giving your dog. While some foods (like chocolate) might be obvious, others are certainly not. Here are the most dangerous human foods for dogs.
Researchers at NomNomNow compiled the list of dangerous foods for dogs using information from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pet ownership statistics were obtained from the American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey (2017-2018). Pet poisoning statistics were obtained from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. If you have reason to suspect your pet has consumer something toxic, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.
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Chocolate contains a compound known as theobromine. Derived from the cacao tree, theobromine is the primary alkaloid in chocolate and contributes to its mood-altering effects. Theobromine is a member of the methylxanthine family, which includes other stimulants like caffeine. For humans, the amount of theobromine found in chocolate is low enough to not be a risk; but for smaller animals like dogs and cats, it can be toxic. When ingested, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure, panting, seizures, and in some cases, death. Dark chocolate (like baker’s chocolate) contains the most theobromine, making it more dangerous than milk chocolate or white chocolate.
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2. Coffee, Tea & Caffeine
Similar to chocolate, products containing caffeine are also harmful for dogs due to their effects as stimulants. Like theobromine, caffeine can also cause rapid heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, hypertension, seizures, and even death. This applies to whole coffee beans, brewed coffee, tea leaves, and also coffee grounds. So be careful not to let your pup get into the compost pile!
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The same effects that alcohol has on people apply to dogs, but the results are amplified due to their smaller size. Alcoholic beverages and foods containing alcohol can cause central nervous system depression, inhibited motor function, vomiting, coma, and death. Pets should never be given alcohol of any kind.
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Xylitol is a common food additive in the U.S. It is categorized as a sugar alcohol, and most commonly used as a low-calorie artificial sweetener in gum, candy, toothpaste, and other sweets. While xylitol has no known toxicity to humans, it can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs as a result of its effects on insulin regulation. Initial signs of exposure include vomiting, loss of coordination, and fatigue.
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5. Grapes & Raisins
While the exact cause is not fully understood, grapes and raisins are considered highly toxic to dogs. Even very small amounts can lead to severe negative reactions. In the worst cases, consuming grapes or raisins results in sudden kidney failure for dogs. Until the mechanisms behind their toxicity are better understood, it is extremely important to keep grapes and raisins away from your pets.
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6. High-Salt Foods
There’s something about salt that makes almost anything taste better. And while salt is a necessary component of our diet, too much of it can cause issues for dogs and humans alike. Salt poisoning can occur if your dog ingests a large amount of salt in a short period of time. The effects are worse if the dog doesn’t have access to freshwater. Symptoms range from gastrointestinal (thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea) to neurological (tremors, seizures, and convulsions). In extreme cases, salt poisoning can lead to kidney damage and death. Keep high-sodium household items far away from your pets. Things like playdough, soy sauce, table salt, and ocean water are common culprits of salt poisoning in dogs.
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7. Gum and candy
Many brands of gum and candy contain xylitol, which as discussed above, can be fatal to dogs. However, even gum and candies not containing xylitol still pose a risk to canines. When ingested, gum and chewy candies can lead to choking or blockages in the digestive tract. Additionally, hard candies are a common culprit for tooth fractures in dogs. So next time Halloween rolls around, make sure your bag of candy is well beyond Fido’s reach.
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8. Yeast Dough
When making bread or other foods requiring raw dough, make sure to let the dough rise in a safe place (not in your dog’s stomach). When consumed before it has fully risen, dough can continue to expand in the stomach causing discomfort, gas, and bloating. In the worst cases, consuming yeast dough can cause a dog’s stomach to twist or intestines to rupture, which are both life-threatening situations. Something less obvious is that when yeast rises, it also produces alcohol, which as discussed earlier, has its own harmful effects on dogs. Once the dough has been cooked, the risks are far lower. So breaking off a small piece of bread for your pup shouldn’t be a problem.
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9. Milk and Dairy
In humans, lactose intolerance is usually caused by a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose, which is the sugar in milk. Similarly, most pets don’t have sufficient amounts of lactase to digest milk and other dairy products adequately. As a result, dairy can give your dog an upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Dairy products that are higher in protein and fat, like cottage cheese and certain cheeses, might be easier on dogs’ stomachs since they are usually lower in carbs (lactose); however, their high-fat content can be problematic, so moderation is advised. It’s also important to note that some dogs will naturally tolerate lactose better than others; don’t be surprised if that’s the case for yours.
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10. Nuts (especially macadamia nuts)
While certainly delicious and nutritious for humans, nuts generally contain high concentrations of oils and fats. When consumed in large quantities, these fats can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes pancreatitis in dogs. Additionally, macadamia nuts have their own unique, negative effects on dogs. When ingested, they can cause weakness, hyperthermia, vomiting, tremors, and other bad symptoms, which typically last 12 - 48 hours.
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11. Fatty foods
Dogs are very good at using fat for energy, which is why it’s common to see high-fat content in many pet foods. Dogs transport cholesterol as "HDL", the good cholesterol, so no worries about atherosclerosis and heart disease. Problems arise when dogs experience quick changes in either the amount or type of fat in their diet. Foods that are high in fats — for example, bacon, sausage, ribs, and fried fast foods — can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting. In certain cases, eating unhealthy, high-fat foods like these can even cause pancreatitis. While it’s often difficult to say “no” to a begging puppy, it’s best to avoid sneaking your dog any of these unhealthy treats.
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Citrus fruits contain citric acid. In extremely large quantities, citric acid can be problematic for dogs, resulting in central nervous system depression. However, most dogs don’t like the taste of citrus fruit and avoid these fruits on their own. It’s also important to note that many pet foods contain a low dose of citric acid, which is used as a preservative. This is a very beneficial natural preservative with no side effects. The small amounts present in these foods shouldn’t be of concern. A little bit of citrus fruit likely won't hurt either - but a citrus binge isn't advised.
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13. Raw Meat, Eggs and Bones
While throwing a dog a raw bone might seem like a harmless idea, bones can actually be quite dangerous for domestic pets. This is because bones often splinter, and when that happens, the sharp pieces can rupture your dog’s digestive tract or lead to choking. Additionally, raw foods (such as raw meat and eggs) can contain E. coli and Salmonella, which present similar risks to dogs as they do to humans.
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14. Onions, Garlic, Chives
It’s a common misconception that dogs should never consume onions, garlic, or chives. The misconception stems from the fact that at extremely high doses, these foods can cause gastrointestinal issues and red blood cell damage in our four-legged friends. That said, the amounts typically added to pet foods and treats for flavor should not be problematic.
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Another common misconception is that avocados should be kept away from dogs at all costs. Avocados contain a toxin known as persin, which at high doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The concentration of persin is highest in the leaves and bark of the avocado tree and the skin and pit of the fruit. The relatively low concentrations of persin in the ripe pulp, however, shouldn’t be dangerous. Birds and rodents are much more sensitive to avocado poisoning than dogs.