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What is not recommended for dog treats?

When it comes to feeding our furry friends, we want to make sure we are giving them snacks that are safe and healthy. However, there are many human foods and other items that can be dangerous or even toxic for dogs. Knowing what not to feed dogs is just as important as knowing what treats are OK to give. In this article, we will go over some of the most common things that should be avoided when looking for dog treats and chews.


Chocolate is not recommended for dog treats due to containing substances called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. When ingested by dogs, methylxanthines can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death.

Dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk or white chocolate since it contains more of these toxic compounds. However, all types of chocolate should be kept away from dogs. The smaller the dog, the greater the risk since it takes less chocolate to reach toxic quantities in their system. If you believe your dog has eaten chocolate, contact your veterinarian or pet poison control immediately.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many human foods, particularly sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, and some peanut butters. While safe for people, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. The compound causes a dangerous surge in insulin in canines that can lead to liver failure and death.

Initial symptoms occur rapidly and include vomiting, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures. Only a small amount can be problematic for a dog. Seek veterinary assistance right away if you suspect xylitol ingestion. Also, check labels and do not feed anything containing xylitol to your dog.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes, raisins, and foods containing these fruits, like grape juice, raisin bread, and fruit cake, are also potentially toxic. The exact cause is unknown but eating even a small quantity can cause kidney failure in dogs.

Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain may develop within 24 hours of ingestion. Seek immediate veterinary care if ingestion is suspected. There is no antidote so prompt treatment is critical.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

All members of the allium family including onions, garlic, chives, leeks, and shallots can damage red blood cells in dogs when eaten in sufficient amounts. This leads to hemolytic anemia which causes the cells to rupture.

Symptoms like weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, and jaundice don’t usually appear for several days after ingestion. Avoid feeding dogs foods containing these ingredients like onion soup mixes or uncooked dough with garlic powder in it.

Macadamia Nuts

Although macadamia nuts are good snacks for people, they should be avoided as dog treats. Ingestion can result in weakness, vomiting, hyperthermia, swollen limbs, and abdominal pain within 12 hours.

Dogs may also experience muscle tremors and inability to walk. Provide veterinary care promptly if you believe your dog ate this type of nut. Full recovery typically occurs in 24-48 hours with supportive care.


While dogs love to gnaw on bones, certain types are not recommended or safe. These include:

  • Cooked bones – These can easily splinter and cause damage to the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines.
  • Chicken bones – Prone to shattering and leading to lacerations.
  • Pork bones – Risk of bone fragments since they are more dense.

Instead, choose raw meaty bones that are appropriate for your dog’s size like beef femurs and knuckle bones. Supervise your dog when allowing bone chewing and take away if attempting to swallow large pieces.

Salt and Salty Foods

It’s important to limit the amount of salt dogs get since their kidneys cannot handle excess sodium well. Too much can cause excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

Avoid sharing salty foods like chips, pretzels, salted popcorn, deli meats, bacon, pizza, and flavouring like soy sauce. Also be wary of dry dog foods with high salt content.

Moldy or Spoiled Food

Feeding moldy or spoiled food of any kind puts dogs at risk for toxicity and food poisoning. Rotten foods contain harmful bacteria like salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and other microorganisms.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, tremors, and blood in stool or vomit. Don’t allow your dog access to garbage, old food, or compost which could contain mold.

Caffeine and Coffee

Like chocolate, products containing caffeine like coffee, tea leaves, energy drinks, and soda should be avoided. When ingested by dogs, caffeine stimulates the nervous system and cardiovascular system, potentially causing:

  • Elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

Decaffeinated coffee can also still contain small traces of caffeine. Limit access to any food or drink containing caffeine or similar stimulants.

Raw Meat, Fish, Eggs

Raw meat, fish, eggs and unpasteurized dairy may contain E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and other pathogens. Cooking these ingredients destroys any dangerous bacteria present.

Dogs with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to developing food poisoning or other complications. Refrigeration and freezing do not kill these organisms. Only give your dog cooked egg, meat, and dairy products.


While avocado is very healthy for us, it should not be given as a dog treat. The fruit, pit, leaves, and bark contain persin, a toxin that can damage heart, lung, and other tissues in dogs.

Vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, fluid accumulation in the chest, and even death may occur after avocado ingestion. The severity depends on the amount eaten. The skin and pit have the highest persin concentrations.


As alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and liquor can cause intoxication in humans, they have similar effects in dogs. The smaller the dog, the greater the impact alcohol can have.

Signs of alcohol toxicity include poor coordination, dulled senses, breathing issues, dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature, seizures, and coma. Provide emergency veterinary treatment if you suspect alcohol ingestion.

Apple Cores and Seeds

While apple flesh is safe for dogs, apple cores and seeds should not be given as treats. Apple seeds contain amygdlin, a form of cyanide, which is very poisonous. Chewing and crushing the seeds releases this toxin.

Small amounts could cause digestive upset but larger quantities can result in dangerous cyanide poisoning. Additionally, apple cores are a choking risk and can block the intestines if swallowed.


In large doses, nutmeg contains myristicin, a toxic compound affecting the nervous system. Early signs include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, disorientation, high heart rate and blood pressure.

Seizures, neurological problems and death can occur if large amounts are eaten. Do not add nutmeg to any homemade dog treats and keep kitchen spices out of reach of your pets.

Foods with Artificial Sweeteners

Some sugar-free candies, chocolates, gum, and baked goods contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol (mentioned above) or aspartame. These can raise insulin levels dangerously high in dogs.

Symptoms like vomiting, seizures, and liver damage can appear within 30 minutes of ingestion. Seek veterinary treatment immediately if you believe your dog ate something containing these sweeteners.

Fat Trimmings, Bones, and Skin

Table scraps with high fat content can cause pancreatitis in dogs. The condition is an inflammation of the pancreas from fatty foods. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and dehydration.

Avoid feeding your dog fatty trimmings from meat, poultry skin, greasy foods, gravy, bacon fat, butter, and other high cholesterol options. Also don’t give marrow bones as they are difficult to digest.

Yeast Dough

Raw yeast dough can expand in the warm environment of a dog’s stomach causing it to distend, twist, or rupture. This results in severe abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, disorientation, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

Provide emergency medical care if ingestion is suspected. Also avoid dough made with garlic or onion powder which are other toxic ingredients to dogs.

Cookies, Cakes or Sweets

Foods with high sugar content like cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, donuts, and candy can cause a variety of health issues for dogs. Rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar can occur leading to hypoglycemia.

Weight gain is also a problem since these treats provide empty calories and lead to obesity over time. Limit treats to 10% of daily calories and focus on healthier options than sugary baked goods.

Corn Cobs

While corn kernels are fine, corn cobs should be avoided as dog treats. The fibrous, indigestible cob can splinter, lodge in the intestines, cause a blockage, and require surgical removal.

Signs of intestinal obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. Never feed your dog corn on the cob to be safe.

Dangerous Non-Food Items

In addition to people foods dogs shouldn’t eat, there are other non-food items that are unsafe for dog treats and chewing:

  • Small toys or pieces – Choking/blockage hazard
  • String, yarn, rubber bands – Can cause intestinal issues if swallowed
  • Household products – Cleaners, chemicals, medications
  • Human toothpaste – Can irritate stomach linings
  • Pennies or coins – Corrosion or blockage risk
  • Batteries – Can leak acid or poisonous heavy metals if chewed
  • Tobacco products
  • Any sharp broken plastic or glass
  • Rocks – Can fracture teeth and obstruct intestines

Monitor your dog’s environment and prevent access to any of these non-edible items that could be mistaken for a treat. Choose safe chewing toys designed specifically for dogs.


There are many human foods and other items that seem appealing for dogs but can be quite dangerous. Chocolate, grapes/raisins, onions, xylitol, macadamia nuts, salty foods, bones, and raw meat or eggs are just some that shouldn’t be used for dog treats.

Additionally, coffee, alcohol, moldy foods, corn cobs, avocados, dough, and anything containing artificial sweeteners are unsafe. Chew toys, small objects, chemicals, batteries, tobacco and sharp items can also pose serious health risks.

Check labels, supervise chewing activity, and ask your veterinarian if ever in doubt about a food’s safety. With so many toxic options, stick with commercial dog treats formulated specifically for canines or non-toxic homemade recipes approved by your vet.