People Foods which are Poisonous to Dogs: By Laura McLain Madsen, DVM

Do you like to share your food with your furry family members? Many people foods are healthy snacks for our dogs, like carrots and green beans, but there are also some common people foods which can be dangerous.

Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms of kidney failure include listlessness, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Thirst and urination may be increased, decreased, or absent. The kidney failure seems to be sporadic: some dogs can eat a large amount of grapes and be fine, while other dogs develop kidney failure from a smaller amount. To be safe, don’t give any grapes or raisins to your pets. If you have a grapevine in your yard, fence it off from dog access.


Xylitol is a sugar substitute. It is an ingredient in some sugar-free candies, mints, gum and pudding. It’s also available in bulk powder in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Xylitol is obviously safe in humans, but in dogs it stimulates the pancreas to produce a massive burst of insulin, which drives the blood sugar to dangerously low levels. Symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are weakness, wobbliness, seizures, and even coma. If you think your dog might have gotten into xylitol, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. He may need to be hospitalized to regulate his blood sugar.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts cause weakness or paralysis, especially of the rear legs, wobbliness, and joint pain. Fortunately, the symptoms resolve within 24-48 hours without any specific treatment.


Onions can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. In hemolytic anemia, the immune system goes haywire and decides to destroy the body’s own red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, so when the level of red blood cells falls, the tissues are starved for oxygen. Symptoms include weakness, rapid breathing, and pale or yellow (jaundiced) gums.


Most pet owners know that chocolate can be poisonous, but are unsure how much is dangerous. The toxic chemical, theobromine, is highest in dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate and much lower in milk chocolate. Symptoms depend on the amount the dog eats: a small amount can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while a larger dose can cause hyperactivity, irregular heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and seizures. A rough guideline is that the toxic dose is around 3 ounces of milk chocolate or a half-ounce of baker’s chocolate per 10 pounds of dog body weight.

If your dog eats any of the above foods, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice.


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