What Foods Can Dogs Eat Safely, and Which Are Dangerous?

Written by Katie Begley
Updated: June 28, 2022
Image Credit stockcreations/Shutterstock.com
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Human food and dog food have a lot in common. Protein, fats, and carbohydrates make up the basic nutrient profiles but that doesn’t mean that all foods that we eat are good for our four-legged friends.

While you may be tempted to let your dog clean leftovers off the floor, there are some foods that are not safe for dogs to eat. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list to help you care for your dog’s health and well-being. You can learn more about what makes a healthy diet for your dog as well as ways to incorporate new treats and foods into their day.

Make sure to check back regularly to stay up-to-date on the top research and recommendations for your dog’s diet. We’re constantly reviewing and writing new food-related guides to help you keep your dog safe and healthy.

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What Do Dogs Need in Their Diet?

Just like all other animals, dogs need certain nutrients to maintain a healthy body and life. They need to eat protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Commercial dog foods are made to include everything that your dog needs in their diet. They are often made of at least 75% animal protein, which is the main nutrient that your dog needs to live its best life. Food from your plate should be limited to around 10% of your dog’s diet at the most. It’s best as an occasional treat.

Protein

Protein helps dogs build and keep muscle. Dogs need more protein than some other species. The exact protein that is ideal will also depend on their breed and activity. Most dog foods have protein as the top ingredient. These are often from chicken and fish, as well as other meat sources.

Carbohydrates

Dogs do not need as many carbohydrates as some other animals but they still benefit from high-quality sources of carbs. These can include rice and barley. The best sources of carbohydrates also include vitamins and minerals.

Fats

Dogs use fat for energy. Many fats also include things like Omega 3 fatty acids that are good for brain health. As dogs age, this is very important. Fats can also help insulate a dog’s body in cold weather. Breeds that are made for these environments often need more fat in their diet.

What Nutrients Are Good for Dogs?

All pets, dogs included, benefit from a variety of vitamins and minerals. These can help prevent diseases and allow your dog to combat germs. These can come from their diet or supplements, although getting them from food is often cheaper and leads to better absorption in their bodies.

Vitamin C

This powerhouse vitamin helps boost your dog’s immune system. It can come from many fruits and vegetables, as well as be included in their food. Dogs do not need quite as much Vitamin C as humans to keep up their immune system but it is a valuable nutrient.

Vitamin K

To prevent bleeding problems, make sure your dog has plenty of vitamin K. This vitamin helps their blood clot as needed. Vitamin K can be found in many fruits. Berries make a great bite-sized snack for dogs.

Vitamin A

This vitamin does a lot of things in your dog’s body. It helps with vision, bone growth, the reproductive system, and overall immunity to germs and disease.

Fiber

Found in many vegetables, fruits, and grains, fiber is essential to keep the digestive system going. If your dog experiences a lot of constipation or diarrhea, talk to your vet about adjusting their fiber intake and possibly supplementing with treats that contain extra fiber.

Folate

This is an important nutrient for pregnant dogs. It helps with the puppy’s development. It can be found in broccoli (only feed unseasoned and watch for choking hazards). It is also a popular supplement for pregnant pups.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These are great for brain development, skin health, and a lustrous coat. They can be found in avocados and fish, both of which dogs enjoy eating.

What to Watch for When Feeding Your Dog Leftovers

Not all ingredients are safe for dogs. Some are easy to spot, such as whole grapes or chocolate. Others can be tricky to find.

Excess Sugar

Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and tooth decay in dogs, just like in people. Things with added sugar, such as canned fruit or desserts, should be avoided. Take care not to feed your dog too many pieces of fruit as well, since these are high in sugar.

Salt

Too much salt can lead to dehydration and even sodium ion poisoning. Some foods, such as ham, contain salt naturally or through the preparation process. Others can have salt added during cooking or serving. Watch out for foods with too much salt before feeding them to your dog.

Seasonings

Many people season food while cooking or once it is on their plate to suit their tastes. These ingredients can be very toxic for dogs, however. One example is onion and garlic powder. It is often found in prepared dishes but can cause major health issues for dogs if they eat it. If you are feeding your dog from your plate, make sure that you only give them unseasoned food.

FoodSafe for Dogs?Edible PortionBenefitsRisks
AlmondsNoNoneNoneChoking, blockage in the intestinal tract, increased risk for pancreatitis due to high fat content, increased risk for kidney stones due to high phosphorus levels
ApplesYesFlesh and skinHigh concentration of vitamin C and fiber to help the immune system and healthy digestionEating multiple apple seeds in a short time can lead to cyanide poisoning
AvocadosYesRipe fleshHigh concentration of healthy fats, niacin, vitamin K and folate for healthy pregnancy, potassium to support blood pressure, and vitamins C and E for immune supportPersin in avocado pits can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or breathing problems. Seek veterinary care immediately.
BaconNoNoneNoneIncreased risk for pancreatitis due to high fat content, dehydration or sodium-ion poisoning,
BlackberriesYesAll parts of the berryFiber aids digestion, Antioxidants and Vitamin C help with overall health, Can help with weight lossExcess amounts can lead to xylitol poisoning and liver damage, Letting your dog eat wild blackberries can lead to thorn pricks
BlueberriesYesAll parts of the berryVitamins C, A, and K help support overall health. Antioxidants can prevent diseases and support the immune system.Make sure to feed as a treat rather than a meal. Blueberries do not contain the protein that dogs need.
BreadYesAll partsBread can ease constipation and stomach upset if given in moderation.Too much bread can fill your dog up, which means they won’t get protein and other nutrients that they need.
BroccoliYesFloretsBroccoli is high in fiber, which can help with digestion. It also contains high amounts of folic acid, which is good for pregnant dogs.Only feed unseasoned broccoli to your dog. Large pieces of uncooked broccoli may be a choking hazard for small dogs.
CabbageYesAll partsCabbage is high in vitamins and antioxidants for overall health.Feeding your dog cabbage everyday can lead to gas accumulation.
CantaloupeYesOrange melonCantaloupe is a great source of vitamin C. It also provides extra hydration.Do not feed your dog the rind of the cantaloupe.
CarrotsYesAll partsCarrots are high in Vitamins C, K, A, E, B, and D. They also contain lutein and lycopene, which are good for eye health.Introduce carrots to your dog’s diet slowly to reduce gas and bloating.
CashewsYesNutCashews are high in Omega-3s, which promote skin and fur health. They are also high in fat and protein.Only feed in moderation to prevent excess fat consumption, which can lead to pancreatitis.
CauliflowerYesAll partsCauliflower is rich in Vitamin C and fiber, which help support the immune and digestive systems.Be careful to introduce cabbage slowly to keep your dog from getting bloated.
CheeseYesAll partsCheese is a great training tool, since many dogs like it. In moderation, it is a good source of protein and fat.Too much fat can lead to weight gain or pancreatitis.
ChickpeasYesAll partsHigh in fiber and protein. Chickpeas are an inexpensive addition to your dog’s diet.Cook and mash them to aid in digestion
Cooked HamYesAll parts other than the boneUse it as a treat, since it is high in fats and sodium.Make sure not to cook it with garlic, cloves, onions, or spices that are toxic for dogs.
CornYesKernelsCorn is high in carbs and fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, contains protein, linoleic acid and amino acids.Be sure to feed your dog only cooked corn kernels without added salt, butter or spices. Corn cobs can cause choking or even death.
CucumberYesAll partsCucumbers have a lot of vitamins, fiber, and water. All of these are great for your dog. They also contain phytonutrients that can freshen breath.Wash cucumbers to remove any wax coating.
DatesYesSoft, fleshy fruitFiber helps with digestion, while Vitamins B6, A, and promote overall health. Dates are also high in niacin and folate.Remove pits or buy pitted dates to prevent choking.
EggsYesAll partsSource of protein, fatty acids, and vitamins.Start by feeding a small amount and watch for signs of allergies, including vomiting, swelling, and coughing/sneezing.
FigsYesFresh figsFigs contain natural sugars for slow-burning energy (unlike refined sugars). They are high in fiber, which helps to regulate healthy bowel movements and may alleviate constipation. This fiber, combined with the fruit’s water content, can also help to manage your dog’s weight.

Figs also contain a high level of potassium, which can help to regulate healthy blood pressure.
Although rare, it’s possible for dogs to be allergic to figs. So feed your dog very small quantities at first and monitor it for allergic symptoms.

Too many figs can lead to loose stools (diarrhea) due to the fruit’s high fiber content, so moderation is key.

Dried figs are too high in concentrated sugar to be considered a healthy treat. Similarly, Fig Newtons (the cookies) contain far too much sugar and too many calories, so don’t feed them to your dog.

Please note: Figs belong to the ficus family. Every part of the fig tree, except for the fig itself, is highly toxic to dogs. So make sure your pet does not have access to fig trees.

Garlic
NoNoneNoneGarlic is toxic to dogs. It contains allicin, which can make your dog uncomfortable. It also includes thiosulfates, which cause dogs’ hemoglobin to clump, and n-propyl disulfide, which can cause anemia.
Grapes and raisinsNoNoneNoneGrapes are extremely toxic to dogs and can cause sudden kidney failure, even if eaten in small quantities.
Honeydew MelonYesThe fleshy partHoneydew is high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Vitamins A and C promote healthy skin and immune systems.The high sugar content in honeydew melon may be an issue for diabetic dogs.
KaleYesLeaves onlyKale contains a lot of fiber, which promotes digestion. Iron also helps maintain healthy red blood cells.Goitrogens in kale can have negative impacts on thyroid health. The stems are too tough to digest and contain calcium oxalate, which can lead to kidney stones.
LobsterYesMeat onlyGreat source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Cooked lobster is very healthy for dogs.Watch for allergic reactions and do not feed your dog raw lobster. Keep portions small to limit sodium and mercury exposure.
MayonnaiseIt dependsMayonnaise is not toxic, but that does not mean that it should be offered as a treat.Mayonnaise has no known health benefits for dogs.Mayonnaise is safe for dogs only in small quantities. Healthy treats should be provided instead.
MushroomsYesThe stem and cap of any store-bought mushroom that’s safe for human consumptionMushrooms are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and co-enzymes. They also provide protein and fiber.Mushrooms that are not farmed for human consumption (wild mushrooms) can be toxic and even lethal to dogs.

Do not feed mushrooms that have been seasoned with salt, spices, butter, etc.
NectarinesYesFresh only without pitsNectarines have high amounts of Vitamin A, which is good for skin and muscles, as well as Vitamin C, which supports the immune system.The pits are a choking hazard and contain cyanide levels which can be toxic to dogs.
OnionsNoNoneNoneOrganosulfur compounds in onions and all related foods (garlic, shallots, and leeks) are highly toxic to dogs. Be wary of onions hidden in other dishes, including as onion powder.
PeachesYesThe fruit itself is safe for dogs.Peaches contain a high amount of water, so they will help keep your dog hydrated. They also contain antioxidants, phosphorus and calcium, vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber.The pit, stem, and leaves contain cyanide, so they are extremely harmful or toxic to canines. The pit can be a choking hazard, especially in small breeds. It can also obstruct your dog’s intestinal tract, which can be fatal. Though rare, it is possible for dogs to be allergic to peaches, so observe your dog if you introduce this food into its diet. Canned peaches often contain sugar and preservatives that are not healthy for dogs.
Peanut ButterYesAll partsPeanut butter has plenty of protein, Vitamin B6, niacin, and healthy fat. It also works with your dog’s natural licking instinct and is a great training tool.Use peanut butter as a treat rather than a common food
PearsYesAll partsRich in Vitamin C and potassium, small amounts of pear as a treat are safe for your dog.Too many pears can lead to upset stomach.
PepperoniNoNoneNonePepperoni is a highly processed food that includes harmful amounts of fats, sodium, and seasoning
PicklesIt dependsThe entire pickle is safe if it is made without spices. If you feed your dog pickles, only give them a small bite as an occasional treat.Pickles are low in calories and high in certain vitamins and minerals.Pickles generally have a high sodium content that is dangerous to dogs. The spices in pickles are also unsafe for dogs.
PineappleYesYellow fruitPineapples contain plenty of Vitamin C for immune support, bromelain that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and other nutrients that are good for your dog.Feed in small amounts, especially if your dog is diabetic, due to high sugar content
PistachiosYesNutPistachios are an okay snack in limited amounts.Too many pistachios can lead to pistachio poisoning if contaminated with aflotoxins or pancreatitis. They may also pose a choking hazard.
PopcornYesPopped kernelsPopcorn without any added butter or salt contains fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and trace minerals that are good for your dog.Added ingredients, including butter, salt, cheesy toppings, and kettle corn, should be avoided. Watch for unpopped popcorn and hulls are both dangerous.
PotatoesIt dependsBased on your veterinarian’s advice, you can feed your dog cooked (not fried!) potatoes without salt or other seasonings.Potatoes are high in fiber and contain vitamins and minerals. They are high in carbohydrates, so they are a good source of energy.Potatoes contain solanine and oxalic acid, which are toxic to some dogs. Cooking reduces these substances but does not eliminate them.

Never feed your dog potatoes with green skin because they have toxic solanine levels.
PretzelsIt dependsThe entire pretzel is edible, but you should only feed your dog the occasional bite of pretzels that do not contain harmful ingredients.Pretzels have no nutritional value to dogs.Pretzels generally contain high amounts of sodium that can lead to serious health issues or even “salt poisoning” in dogs. Some of the seasoning, such as onion or garlic powder, and sweeteners can be harmful to dogs. Plus, pretzels contain a high level of carbohydrates.
PumpkinYes, when fed properlyThe “fruit” is safe, while the “pulp” (mushy part at the center), rinds, and stems are not. Pumpkin seeds are also beneficial to dogs as long as they aren’t salted or seasoned. Canned or cooked pumpkin are safe for dogs as long as they don’t contain sugar, spices, or other seasonings. Some dogs can eat, tolerate, and enjoy small amounts of raw pumpkin.Pumpkin can soothe and regulate your dog’s digestive system. It’s particularly useful if your dog has diarrhea. This gourd is rich in vitamin A, C, E, and antioxidants. It can also aid in weight control due to its low-calorie/high-fiber profileSalt, seasonings, and sweeteners in pie fillings and other pumpkin dishes prepared for human tastes can be dangerous, even toxic, for dogs.
QuinoaYesCookedQuinoa is a good gluten-free option that provides fiber, fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium.Saponin in quinoa can irritate your dog’s digestive system if eaten in large quantities. Washing the quinoa before cooking can reduce this.
RadishesYesAll partsRadishes provide Vitamins, fiber, potassium, and other nutrients.Eating too many radishes at once may lead to gas and bloating.
RaspberriesYesAll parts of the berryRaspberries have plenty of antioxidants and can help with inflammation in puppies and older dogs.Avoid feeding your dog large quantities of raspberries to keep them from ingesting too much xylitol, which is present in small amounts and can be harmful to dogs.
Raw MeatSomeAll partsRaw meat can be easier to digest and lead to better overall health, including better skin, a shinier coat, and improved dental health.Raw meat contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella or listeria can cause severe digestive issues.
Rib BonesNoNoneNoneCooked bones are brittle and can splinter, causing damage to your dog’s teeth, mouth, or internal organs.
RiceYesCooked riceRice is a good source of carbohydrates, which are essential in your dog’s diet. It also contains fiber, antioxidants, and probiotics.Feed rice as an occasional treat for variety to prevent excess weight gain. Dog foods with rice are already formulated to be part of a safe diet.
ShrimpYesShrimp without tail or shellShrimp is rich in Vitamins B12 and B3, antioxidants, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids.Raw or undercooked shrimp can contain salmonella, listeria, vibrio, or tapeworms. These can lead to digestive upset or a serious infection, vibriosis.
StrawberriesYesAll parts of the berryLoaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and folate, strawberries make a tasty treat for dogs.Feed in moderation due to high sugar content.
TomatoesYesRed fleshFed in moderation, the red fleshy part of tomatoes is a good source of Vitamins and antioxidants.Green tomatoes contain harmful amounts of solanine and tomatine, which can cause tomatine poisoning.
TurkeyYesMeatTurkey is a great source of protein and used in many dog foods.Do not feed your dog turkey bones, since they can cause severe damage if they splinter. You should also avoid feeding your dog turkey that has been cooked with onions, garlic, or seasoning since they can be toxic for dogs.
WatermelonYesThe fruit itself after you have removed all seeds and the rindWatermelon is 92% water, so it will help keep your pup hydrated. The fruit also includes vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant, potassium, vitamin B6, lycopene, and fiberThe seeds and rind are difficult to chew and digest. Ingesting lots of watermelon seeds can cause intestinal blockage, especially in smaller dogs.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches Creative Writing at Indian Creek School and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

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