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Doggy diets: which foods are good or bad for dogs?

Collage of a yappie Terrier barking while carrying a net grocery bag.

Maybe your precious puppy gave you sookie eyes, so you relented and fed them a piece of your dinner. Or they vacuumed something off your kitchen floor. Pooches get hungry! But now you’re wondering: “Wait, can my dog eat that?”

So in the spirit of preventing an avoidable pet insurance claim, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of all the people foods your dog can and cannot eat.

Which foods are bad for dogs?

Collage of a woman cringing from foods that are bad for dogs.

Dogs can’t handle some chemicals common to our diets, like xylitol, theobromine, solanin, cyanide, and caffeine, so it’s important to watch what they eat carefully. 

Some foods are more harmful than others, and your dog’s ability to handle toxic foods will depend on their size, breed, and medical history. Talk to your veterinarian or the animal poison control line if you’re unsure about something your pet has ingested.

Toxic or harmful foods for dogs

Some of the worst foods dog can eat include:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and sultanas
  • Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Cooked bones
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Nutmeg
  • Chilli
  • Raw potatoes
  • Green tomatoes
  • Spoiled foods
  • Raw yeast dough
  • Corn cobs
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Fatty foods, especially meat skins, cooking oil, and butter
  • Xylitol (a common ingredient in peanut butter, nut butter, yoghurt, jam, jelly, lollies, honey, and chewing gum).

These foods all contain ingredients that can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive, circulatory, or nervous systems. If your dog ingests any of these foods, please call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Line. 

Less dangerous foods (but still ones to avoid where possible) include the following: 

  • Salt
  • Raw meat
  • Raw eggs
  • Apples (preferably seedless)
  • Coconut and coconut oil
  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, and walnuts)
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes
  • Milk and dairy products

The above might be okay in small quantities. Watch your dog for adverse reactions and contact your veterinarian to touch base.

Which foods are good for dogs?

Collage of a healthy dog with oceans reflected in its cool sunnies.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what you can have versus what you can’t. When feeding your dog, try and focus on these pet-friendly foods for kitchen snacks, sometimes-treats, and “oh it’s okay, the dog will get it”. 

Remember, too much of a good thing might upset sensitive stomachs (especially puppies and smaller dogs), and tiny foods like blueberries can sometimes present choking hazards. However, some careful bowl-watching, common sense, and a blender can make many of these superfoods go down easy.

Your pet may also have unique allergies or dietary intolerances (dogs can be gluten-free, too!) so it’s important to use your best judgement and talk to your vet. 

Good foods for dogs

  • Blueberries
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Bone broth
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chia seeds (useful egg replacer)
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cooked eggs
  • Small amounts of ginger (peeled or minced is good)
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley
  • Pumpkin
  • Turmeric
  • Watermelon (seedless preferable)
  • White rice
  • Plain popcorn
  • Cooked meats like pork, turkey, and chicken
  • Cucumbers
  • Bananas
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli

The above foods all contain healthy and nutritious ingredients for your dog.

Signs of an allergic reaction in your dog

Collage of a dog nosing a trippy, fuzzy ball of colour.

Many of the same allergy symptoms co-occur in humans and dogs, so luckily, they can be fairly easy to spot. 

Some common signs your dog is having an allergic reaction include:

  • Rash or hives
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Difficult breathing
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive and/or bad-smelling farts
  • Swelling, especially of the snout, eyes, or ears
  • Itching, especially in the ears
  • Sudden and/or patchy hair loss
  • Runny eyes

These symptoms can either be mild or severe (acute). For mild allergies, it’s best to avoid the allergen as much as possible. Your veterinarian may also prescribe or recommend allergy medication to manage symptoms. For intolerances, a change in diet can help give relief. 

If the allergic reaction is severe, your dog will need emergency medical attention from a vet. Dogs (and cats) can experience anaphylaxis just like humans, which is a life-threatening and extreme reaction to an allergen. 

Keep in mind anaphylaxis and allergies typically don’t receive coverage under pet insurance. Err on the safe side by having an EpiPen on hand for your dog, and prepare the best route to the vet’s ahead of time.

An easy way to stay prepared is to keep the EpiPen with their medication and your emergency vet’s address/phone number on the fridge.

Some common allergens in dogs include:

  • Grass
  • Fleas
  • Bees
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Mould or pollen

Signs of chocolate poisoning or toxicity in your dog

Collage of a vet inspecting a dog.

If your dog ingests any amount of chocolate, it means an automatic call to your vet (especially your emergency vet). How sick chocolate will make your dog will depend on:

  • Your dog’s weight.
  • Your dog’s breed.
  • How much chocolate they ate.
  • What kind of chocolate they ate (the darker, the more dangerous).

Chocolate is bad for your dog because it contains stimulants that make their heart beat faster and blood pressure surge, causing seizures and death in the worst-case scenarios. Symptoms can show up between 6 - 12 hours after ingesting the chocolate.

Signs of chocolate toxicity in your dog include:

  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Twisting
  • Seizures or seizing
  • Hyperactivity (zoomies)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Panting
  • Breathlessness

All of the above are major warning signs that it’s time to see a veterinarian.

FAQs about doggy diets

Does pet insurance cover allergies or food intolerances?

Unfortunately, most pet insurance policies won’t cover allergies, intolerances, or anaphylaxis. As pre-existing conditions, they fall under general exclusions; from an insurance provider’s point of view, they’re just too risky to cover. 

Certain non-insurance benefits attached to your policy may help cover things like wellness checks, alternative therapies, or routine medication. Read the product disclosure statement (PDS) if you’re unsure what included or excluded in your policy.

Can I use my human EpiPen on my dog?

Vets recommend you DO NOT use human EpiPens on your dog for several reasons. A) Your dog may not even be experiencing an allergic reaction, so it’s vital to get them to a vet as soon as possible, B) the dosage is designed for humans and may not be appropriate for your dog, and C) the needle may not be the right depth or thickness for their skin.

If your dog is experiencing anaphylaxis, contact your emergency veterinarian ASAP. 

You can buy EpiPen specifically made for dogs either through your vet as a prescription or through a licensed pet pharmaceutical service. Your vet can also give you a vial and syringe to keep in your fridge containing epinephrine; they’ll show you how to administer it in emergencies.

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Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
RG146
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like News.com.au.