If you’re a dog owner, you likely have found that your best friend is not too picky on the palate. Some breeds are more persnickety about human foods than others, but overall, they are curious and ready to try a variety of foods, especially if you and your family or friends are enjoying it. We might mistakenly think that our best canine friends are okay with whatever we can feed them, until what you shared out of love for your pet instead leaves him with days and long nights of digestive upsets. Or worse. Cleaning up after such negative events and feeling the guilt of having misled your best friend may leave you wondering what foods are safe and which are not. Nutrition advice for dog owners is important lends to less stressful pet ownership.

Here is a list of some of the top taboos to avoid and some of the unfortunate outcomes you might see.

Chocolate, Coffee:  While dogs may enjoy stealing away with a Reese’s peanut butter cup or two from the kids’ candy stash when placed where he can reach them, it is important to remember as a dog owner that chocolate can be toxic. The darker the chocolate, the more of the substance called methylxanthines is present. This substance is also in coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks and foods, and it can have effects ranging from digestive distresses like throwing up or diarrhea to heart rhythm complications and death. The incurred reaction depends on the amount ingested, but it is best to avoid these culprits altogether. The Merck Veterinary Manual Merck Manual has a chart that can help determine dosage per kg for dogs, but lethal ingestion can be 1 ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Symptoms of distress may start as low as 20 mg of chocolate for every two pounds of Pooch’s body weight. Long story short, keep chocolate out of their temptation and reach. It is not out of the norm for dogs to be a little sneaky when they smell something that seems so delicious. Do not allow candy or coffee to be out where your pet can get to them when you’re out of sight.

Grapes and Raisins:  Not nearly as coveted by your dog friends, grapes and raisins should be avoided altogether. They are shown to induce kidney failure in dogs, with as few as 4-5 grapes as a culprit in an 18 lb. dog, according to the Merck Vet Manual site. Maybe a grape gets dropped while making lunches for school, for example. Dogs tend to be where you are preparing anything food related. A dog will often pick up the food where it fell on the floor and run into the next room to avoid a scolding. Thankfully, most dogs may drop the grape or raisin once they take a taste of it since it is not a savory food.

Milk and Dairy: Milk and dairy products can be a problem for pets as well because they do not have a lot of the enzyme present to digest them. So while your pet may seem pleased to have a few laps of the milk left from your morning cereal, you might find some unpleasant digestive effects afterwards. Leave the milk for your kids and anyone else who can digest it. While some people are lactose intolerant, many others enjoy tasty dairy treats. Pairing this with a potential tendency to leave food sitting in reach of the family dog leaves a smorgasboard of potential digestive issues.

Alcohol:   While casual drinking among responsible adults is not unusual, sharing alcohol with your best canine friend is no way to build rapport with him. Alcohol effects can range from vomiting and runny stools to even fatality for your dog. Leave drinks out of the range where your curious friend can reach them. Some mistaken drinkers think it is funny to watch a dog drink beer with him, but this is actually a form of abuse.  

Avocado:  Avocados are usually a healthy addition to people’s diets, but they contain a substance called persin, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The substance is in all parts of the avocado so keep these even peelings of skin securely away from your dog’s access.

Onions and Garlic:  While not high on the begging list for dogs, onion and garlic can induce anemia by breaking down red blood cells. The culprit for this issue comes from a compound called N-propyl disulfide, according to The American Kennel Club. Think of the leftovers you have as well when it comes to onions and garlic. It is not likely you’d cut one up to give your dog, but how about the garlic you add to your chicken and rice dish? Normally, chicken and rice would be okay if not laden with salt, garlic and other spices, but we people do tend to add our spices ‘to taste’.

Xylitol:  Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in chewing gums and other candy. Its result in dogs is that the pancreas mistakes it for the real deal, and releases the body’s natural response, insulin. Too much insulin when food is not on board can cause too low a blood glucose value, which could lead to shakiness, and more severely, seizures. It does not take much of this to cause trouble, especially in smaller dogs. Keep candy and gum safely tucked away from the curious noses.

So you may wonder what foods are actually okay to eat. The American Kennel Club has expert advice on nutrition. Eggs seem to be okay for most dogs, but it is safer to try a little at a time. Most meats are tolerated well as long as they’re not laden with any of the items mentioned above. Sweet and regular potatoes and some vegetables like cooked green beans are not usually problematic with dog digestion. However, just when we think we’ve got a plan – eggs, beef, and chicken are among some of the top items correlated with allergies in dogs. AKC Expert Advice

In summary, people food should really be enjoyed by dogs only in moderation, without added spice or ingredients that have the potential for digestive upsets or even toxicities. Sometimes it takes trial and error with a few of even what we consider to be safer foods. Many dog owners choose to be very strict, having been through digestive downfalls or allergies with previous pets. Food is a joy, but it can also be a little stressful until you figure out what works with your dog. Always check with your own veterinarian for advice when making decisions on food safety and best advice. Be quick to call if you have any accidental ingestions with suspicious foods. Help is usually only a call or two away and thankfully, we have many caring, informed pet experts in our world.