Dog Food: What NOT to Feed
Foods That Shouldn't Be Dog Food
Over the years, I’ve owned hundreds of dogs and have used several different types of dog food. And no, I’m not a dog hoarder. I’ve been a small breeder, though, and when you consider the litters of puppies, the numbers add up quickly. For example, my golden retriever and lab produced forty puppies in four litters, and I’ve also bred Brittany spaniels, English pointers, wolf hybrids, and Great Danes. Needless to say, I’ve been through a lot of dog food.
Currently, I have two Great Danes, and they’re the first dogs I’ve ever had living in my home on a full time basis. I’m retired, so I’m home with the two furkids just about 24/7. It’s been very easy for me to spoil the pooches, especially when it comes to dog food. Of course, their main source of nutrition is an actual commercial dog food, but they really prefer human food, as do many canines. Hamlet and Grendel will eat just about anything that’s remotely edible, with Grendel’s being the worse culprit. Hamlet will occasionally turn something down, but Grendel never does. For example, I was grating some raw zucchini the other night, and G-dog begged for some. I thought for sure once he tasted it, he’d spit it out, but he didn’t. In fact, he loved it and begged for more.
Foods that are good for humans and other animals don’t always make good dog food. Some are actually toxic for dogs, and a few can even be fatal. I got the following information from my veterinarian, a man with 50 years of experience as a licensed vet. That being said, from my personal experience, I think some dogs can devour practically anything without any negative consequences. Just to be on the safe side, however, take a look at the foods below that do not make good dog food!
Apples can be great treats for your dog, but make sure it doesn’t eat the seeds. Apple seeds contain a type of cyanide called “amygdlin,” and as you know, cyanide is powerful poison. If your pup has kidney damage, don’t give it apples at all. The phosphorus and other minerals in the apple flesh won’t be good for a dog with kidney disease. When feeding apples to a healthy dog, be sure to slice the fruits first and remove all the seeds.
Like apple seeds, apricot pits contain cyanide and can poison your pooch. Of course, you probably wouldn’t directly feed your pet apricot pits, but if the whole fruits are within reach, the dog might help himself to a serving or two. Most dogs love to chew and have powerful jaws, so they might be enticed to chew and break open the pit because it’s covered with sweet pulp. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include drooling, lethargy, vomiting, and weakness.
All parts of the avocado contain persin, a fungicidal toxin. Some types of avocados contain higher levels of persin than others, so if you’re unsure, it’s best not to feed your dog any avocado at all. Persin can cause vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and swelling of the abdomen, chest, and pericardium.
Keep your beer, wine, and liquor to yourself! Even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause pooch problems, including central nervous system disorders, vomiting, tremors, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and even death. Remember that your dog probably weighs considerable less than you, so even a small amount of alcohol could equate to a large serving for your dog’s body weight.
It’s tempting to turn leftover baby food into dog food, but read the label first. This might surprise you, but some baby foods contain onion powder, which is harmful to dogs.
Small amounts of beef liver and liver from other animals are usually okay to add to your dog food, but don’t overdo it. In large amounts, liver can cause a condition known as “vitamin A toxicity.” Symptoms include stiffness, weight loss, constipation, lethargy, limping in the forelegs, and loss of appetite.
Dog owners have fed their pets bones for years, but it’s a bad idea. For a long time, large bones were considered safe, but not anymore. According to the latest warning from the FDA, no cooked bones are safe for canine consumption. For one thing, bones splinter pretty easily and can cause damage to the intestines and perforations to the stomach, leading to life-threatening peritonitis. Pieces of bone can also become lodged in the esophagus, the windpipe, the stomach, or the intestines. Even if none of these happen, your dog could still suffer minor injuries like cuts to the mouth, gums, or tongue, along with broken teeth.
Avoid giving your dog anything that contains caffeine. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas and other caffeine-laden soft drinks. Caffeine can cause rapid heartbeat, irregular heart rhythms, muscle tremors, bleeding, and rapid breathing. Too much caffeine can kill a dog, and it doesn’t take much to be “too much.” Be extremely careful with caffeine and canines – there’s no antidote.
Cat food is different than dog food. The feline digestive system and dietary requirements are different than those of canines, and cat food is too high in fat and protein for dogs, in general. If Fido sneaks a sample of Fluffy’s food from time to time, it probably won’t hurt him, but it definitely shouldn’t be substituted for a healthy dog food.
Cherry pits contain cyanide. Refer to “apricot pits” above.
Chocolate is very dangerous for dogs, on several levels. For one thing, the high amounts of fat included could cause pancreatitis. Also, the caffeine in chocolate can be dangerous for the reasons listed above. Even worse, chocolate contains theobromine, a potent diuretic and cardiac stimulant that can lead to severe dehydration, and if left untreated, can result in death.
Citrus contains large amounts of citric acid, along with oils that could be harmful for your dog. Concentrations are usually higher in the seeds, leaves, peels, and stems. If your pooch consumes large amounts of citrus, it could cause gastrointestinal upset and depression of the nervous system.
Some people think they’re providing their dog a healthy meal when they cover their dog food with cow’s milk. Unfortunately, to properly digest milk, a sufficient quantity of an enzyme called “lactase” is needed. Most dogs don’t produce enough lactase to consume large amounts of milk, ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products, resulting in gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Fats and Oils
Just like humans, dogs need a little fat in their diets. If you look at the label on your bag of dog food, you’ll see some type of fat listed. The problems arise when your dog gets too much fat. In that case, pancreatitis can occur. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and can be deadly.
Don’t feed garlic to your dog or add it to your dog food. Large amounts of garlic, in all forms, can be toxic to canines. It changes red blood cells and makes them less able to deliver oxygen to the body. This could result in anemia, which can sometimes be severe.
Never feed your dog grapes! Don’t give them the dried version, raisins, either. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage and even kidney failure in canines, and sometimes it doesn’t take many of the fruits to be harmful or even deadly.
Macadamia nuts contain high levels of phosphorus, which can be harmful to canines. Excessive phosphorus can cause muscle tremors, painful limbs, swelling, weakness, bladder stones, and paralysis.
Mace, a popular spice, is made by drying and pulverizing the covering of nutmeg seeds. In large quantities, mace can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and nervousness in dogs.
Nutmeg is made from nutmeg seeds. While usually harmless for humans, it can be deadly for dogs. Freshly ground nutmeg contains myristicin, an organic compound that can a neurotoxic effect on cells. Myristicin poisoning can cause nausea, dehydration, heart palpitations, and convulsions. Avoid using custards, eggnog, pies, and other human food flavored with nutmeg as a dog food or dog treat.
Don’t give your dog onions in any form. That includes seasoning his dog food with onion powder. The thiosulphate in the onions alters red blood cells and can ultimately cause the cells to rupture. Watch for symptoms like lethargy, diarrhea, bloody urine, vomiting, lack of appetite, and breathing difficulties.
Peach pits contain cyanide. See “apricot pits.”
Ingesting persimmon seeds can cause enteritis in dogs. Enteritis is the inflammation of the small intestine. Symptoms include dehydration, fever, and abdominal pain.
Refer to “apricot pits.”
Some people add raw eggs to dog food, but this isn’t a good idea. Uncooked eggs contain avidin, an enzyme that prevents the body from absorbing necessary amounts of a B vitamin called “biotin,” symptoms of biotin deficiency include hair loss and skin problems.
Uncooked salmon and other fishes can cause a vitamin B deficiency in canines. More specifically, the B vitamin involved is thiamin. Symptoms of thiamin deficiency include lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, and in some cases, death. When you feed your dog cooked fish, be sure to remove the bones first.
Walnuts can cause gastroenteritis in canines, as well as harmful side effects from large amounts of phosphorus. See “macadamia nuts” above.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candy, and other sugar-free products. In dogs, xylitol can make their blood glucose level plunge, which could result in weakness, nausea, vomiting, and even liver failure.
There are several spices that have been reported to cause problems in dogs. These include paprika and anything containing capsaicin: red pepper, chili powder, and fresh peppers. Even if your doggie is convinced that it’s a Cajun, resist spicing up its dog food with any of these ingredients.
The Best Dog Food and Dog Treats
The best dog food for your furry friend is one that contains balanced amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The best dog treats are safe and healthy. If you're not sure about your dog's specific nutritional requirements, consult your veterinarian. He can advise you about any special needs your dog might have and perhaps recommend the best dog food to meet those needs.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Why do Rachael Ray's deli pepperoni dog treats contain black pepper? Can dogs eat black pepper?
Black pepper is present in those dog treats probably because there's a negligible amount.Helpful 6