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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Other Foods Harmful to Dogs
Dairy products can upset your dog’s digestive system and cause diarrhea as well as food allergies. Ingestion of just a few macadamia nuts can cause weakness, paralysis and lack of coordination. Avocados contain persin, which can cause mild stomach upset in dogs. The bones in meat, chicken and fish can also be very hazardous to your dog. They can splinter and stick in the throat, break teeth or cut the intestines.
If you are unsure if you can feed a food to your dog, always consult your veterinarian first. As a general rule of thumb it is best to avoid feeding your dog human food anyways. While it can be hard to ignore those puppy dog eyes looking at you at the dinner table, feeding your dog can often result in weight gain among other more serious issues. To keep your dog out of harm’s way, it is best to stick to a diet of food specifically formulated to meet your dog’s nutritional needs.