SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

What NOT to feed your dog

As a general rule, the best kind of food for dogs is dog food. A complete, quality dog food will provide all the nutrition your dog needs.

Due to the fundamental role nutrition plays in the health and wellbeing of your dog, it is essential that you provide a diet that is balanced and species appropriate. The diet must also be appropriate for the age and stage of your dog’s life. The nutritional requirements for puppies are different to adult, working, pregnant, lactating or elderly dogs. If you decide to feed your dog something other than a quality commercial diet designed and approved for dogs, you should first discuss this with your vet. Below are some of the common foods that can cause illness or even death in your dog. If you have any queries or concerns about your dog’s diet or anything your dog has ingested please talk to your vet urgently.

Avocado

Avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark can contain the toxin persin. This leads to digestive upsets, including vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Ingestion of the avocado pit can lead to obstruction in the digestive tract.

Bones

Whilst many people do feed their dogs bones, be aware that bones have the potential to splinter, cause damage to teeth or become stuck in your dog’s throat or digestive tract (as well as the risks associated with raw meat/bones mentioned above).

If you do decide to feed bones to your dog:

  • Cooked bones should never be fed to your dog due to the risk of splintering.
  • Always supervise your dog when feeding raw bones.
  • Avoid cannon bones, as they are extremely strong and hard, and can cause damage to your dog’s teeth.

Coconut and Coconut Oil

While small amounts of these foods are unlikely to cause any problem, if ingested in large amounts they can cause digestive upsets (e.g. vomiting and diarrhoea). Coconut water should not be given to dogs as it contains high levels of potassium which can be harmful.

Citrus

The citric acid and essential oils in citrus stems, leaves, peel, fruit and seeds can cause digestive upsets (e.g. vomiting and diarrhoea) or even depression and neurological problems in large amounts.

Chocolate

Chocolate (particularly dark chocolate), cocoa or coffee in any form is not safe for your dog. They contain caffeine and theobromine, which cause symptoms ranging from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Many dogs and puppies die each year from chocolate poisoning. If in doubt, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Fruit Stones and pits

The stones, seed and pits of many fruits can harm your dog. For example; the seeds of persimmons can cause inflammation of the small intestine. Similarly, the seeds or pits in peaches, plums, apricots and cherries contain cyanide. This is highly toxic to both humans and dogs, but dogs are more likely to break down the stone or pip with their powerful jaws and release the toxin into their system. Stone fruit can also cause intestinal obstructions in dogs.

Grapes, sultanas and raisins

Even tiny amounts of grapes, sultanas or raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Although the exact cause is not clear, and not all dogs are affected, you should avoid feeding grapes, sultanas or raisins to dogs. Kidney damage can lead to kidney failure and result in death or long term kidney disease.

Nuts

Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and pecans, contain high amounts of oils and fats that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets. Macadamia nut poisoning can cause dogs to develop weakness in their rear legs, show signs of pain have tremors and develop a low grade fever. Some nuts may also cause intestinal obstructions in dogs.

Milk and other dairy products

Most dogs are lactose intolerant and will get digestive upsets (e.g. vomiting or diarrhoea) or other gastric upset from drinking milk or eating dairy products regularly such as cheese and yoghurt.

Mouldy foods

Some moulds that grow on foods produce toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins. These can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in dogs, such as muscle tremors and seizures that can lead to death. Do not feed your dog mouldy foods and make sure your dog can not access mouldy foods (e.g. from rubbish bins).

Mushrooms

Mushrooms and toadstools can be poisonous and even fatal if consumed by dogs. Signs might include breathing difficulty, vomiting, diarrhoea, changes in heartbeat, seizures, coma and death.

Onions and garlic

All close members of the onion family (shallots, chives, spring onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) contain compounds that can be harmful to dogs. Concentrated forms of these compounds are also found in dehydrated onions, onion soup mix, gravies, sauces or garlic powder. These compounds can damage dogs’ red blood cells and cause severe anaemia which can be life threatening

Processed human food

Processed human foods or “convenience foods” (e.g. processed meats, biscuits, canned soups, potato chips, salted pretzels or popcorn, packaged meals etc.) generally have high levels of salt, sugar, and additives, which can cause severe problems for dogs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, tremors, fever, seizures and even death. These foods can also cause chronic illness and periodontal disease if given repeatedly. Stick with dog food for your dog.

Raw / undercooked meat, bones and eggs

Raw meat, bones and eggs can contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Whilst these bacteria may not cause your dog to become sick, they can cause infections in humans either from the raw meat and eggs or from your dog if they have been infected by the bacteria from eating raw meat and eggs (even if your dog is not sick). If you decide to feed raw meat and eggs to your dog you should be aware of this risk and try to minimise the risk by using human consumption-grade (or equivalent) meat and carefully storing, handling, and preparing the food (e.g. adequate refrigeration and proper defrosting techniques).

Raw eggs contain aviden, an enzyme which can interfere with the absorption of an important B vitamin (Biotin) and lead to skin and coat problems.

Yeast dough

The live yeast in raw dough (like bread and pizza dough) can multiply and expand in the stomach. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat and potentially twist. The multiplying yeast can also produce alcohols that can be absorbed, resulting in alcohol poisoning which is also a life threatening emergency.

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sweetener that is widely used in sugar-free products (i.e. chewing gum). In dogs, ingestion of xylitol can lead to a severe drop in blood sugar levels causing disorientation and seizures. This can happen within 30 minutes, or up to several hours after eating the product. It can also cause liver failure, which can be fatal. Do not feed your dog any products containing sugar substitutes.

If you’re not sure it’s safe, don’t feed it to your dog!

Always remember – if you have any concerns about your pets’ health or behaviour contact your vet for advice.

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