I am all for sharing as many foods as possible with my dog. I shop for his food at the same time as my own. He eats my yogurt and kefir and coconut oil and my ridiculously expensive organic eggs. It’s somehow much easier to justify giving him a little bit of these things every now and then when I already have them on hand for myself. I will also ‘fess up that in a rare moment of bare-fridge, meat craving desperation, I have set aside a couple of his chicken wings for myself.
The former of these are obviously not “species appropriate” in the sense that a dog would not eat coconut oil and kefir in the wild. And some people may prefer not to feed them for that reason, which I fully respect. Personally, I know they don’t harm my dog, they likely provide him with some extra health benefits, and he really likes them. That’s just me and I’m a firm believer in “each to their own.”
But not everything is safe and there are some things that none of us should ever feed our pooches. I think it’s important we know this, because some things (like grapes!) seem completely innocuous, but could prove deadly.
SUGAR can cause damage to the pancreas and act as fuel for yeast, leading to yeast infections and overgrowth. Sugar has been implicated in a number of health issues including diabetes, arthritis, allergies, obesity and cancer¹. It also features, however inadvertently, in a LOT of commercial dog food.
Most people know that CHOCOLATE isn’t safe for dogs, probably in most cases because of this ad. The reason is because chocolate contains the toxin theobromine, as well as the nerve irritant caffeine, and sugar. In the worst case, a reaction can be fatal if left untreated.
GRAPES, both fresh and dried (sultanas, for those playing at home), always gets a few raised eyebrows and I know I’ve fed grapes to my dogs in the past with no problems. The exact cause of grape toxicity in dogs is not currently clear, however it is understood that an unknown component in the fruit may cause damage to the animals’ kidneys, which can result in renal failure and even death.
XYLITOL is an increasingly popular artificial sweetener that is known to cause an insulin spike in dogs, which results in a sharp decrease in blood sugar. It is also responsible for causing liver damage. Symptoms may present as seizures, vomiting or weakness and if left untreated can lead to coma or death.
MACADAMIA NUTS, or “Australian nuts” to those across the pond, and “Mullumbimby nuts” to those in the rainbow region. The exact cause of macadamia toxicity in dogs in not yet known, but symptoms such as vomiting and muscle weakness usually present within 12 hours.
In small doses GARLIC is considered safe for dogs, even therapeutic (I’ve written more about that here and can guide you through dosing garlic safely if you’re interested), however excessive doses can cause haemolytic anaemia and damage red blood cells.
ONION is similar to garlic, in that consumption can cause haemolytic anaemia due to the presence of thiosulphate. This is the case for both raw and cooked onion in any form and unlike garlic it does not have therapeutic properties and should not be fed in any amount.
ALCOHOL. Sorry boozehounds. This needs to be avoided in the form of both alcoholic beverages as well as fermented foods such as rotten fruit (you can feed fermented vegetables, but make sure they are fermented in water and not wine). Symptoms of alcohol consumption in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, liver failure and even death. Much like humans, really.
Finally, COOKED BONES! Please don’t ever feed your dog cooked bones. They can splinter and get stuck in the throat or digestive tract and must never be fed. Do feed raw bones (you can read about why I recommend this here).
This isn’t an exhaustive list and some dogs will have food sensitivities that others don’t, but it’s a start. If you suspect your dog may be reacting to something in their diet or you’d like to learn more about suitable food choices for them, let’s talk!
Schultze K (2003) Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Diet. Hay House. USA.