Can you resist your German Shepherd’s eyes staring at you when you’re at the dining table? Is it okay to give your dog a treat from your plate, or could it be harmful? Some foods are toxic to dogs and can cause them real problems. So, what foods are poisonous to German Shepherds?
Foods poisonous to German Shepherds include chocolate, grapes, avocados, garlic, onions, leeks, wild mushrooms, macadamia nuts, walnuts, alcohol, and salt. Some more obscure foods are also toxic to dogs, such as xylitol (sweetener), yeast dough, raw potatoes, hops, green tomatoes, and moldy food.
In this article, I’ll share the main foods poisonous to German Shepherds, including the severe risks they can pose to your dog. I also detail some foods they can’t eat (hidden dangers), as one or two are not so obvious! Furthermore, I have a bonus feature for you – a short interview with a licensed veterinarian on food toxins.
I’ll also cover what you should do if your German Shepherd accidentally ate a poisonous food, and finally, we will touch on the “human foods” your dog can safely eat.
For the complete guide to what foods are poisonous to German Shepherds, read on!
What Foods Can German Shepherds Not Eat?
You may be surprised at how many foods dogs can not eat. In fact, Frontiers in Veterinary Science report that poisoning episodes in dogs are generally due to a lack of knowledge. Therefore, if this article helps save just one German Shepherd, I will be more than happy!
But first, here’s a cool short video from “Animal Wised” describing the foods dogs can’t eat:
So, let’s now dive into my list of 25 poisonous foods that your German Shepherd can’t eat. Some of the poisonings could result in the death of your dog, depending on the toxicity and quantity consumed.
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Let’s get started.
Alcohol has the same effect on German Shepherds that it has on humans in that it affects the brain and liver, however, it only takes a small amount of alcohol to damage your dog.
Some pets will try to drink alcoholic drinks straight out of the glass or may lap them off the floor if they are accidentally spilled. Alcohol poisoning can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar, vomiting, diarrhea, coordination problems, seizures, respiratory failure, and eventually death.
You will also need to take extra care if you grow fruit at home as once the fruit has fallen from the tree and starts to decompose it produces ethanol (alcohol). Never leave your German Shepherd unsupervised where they can have free access to fruit.
Also, don’t forget the “hidden places” where alcohol is lurking, e.g unbaked yeast bread dough, and some desserts – especially if you are a “sweet-tooth” like me! Remember to keep food from the kitchen table or work-tops, or if you forget, just make sure your dog cannot reach them!
Avocado is a dangerous food for your German Shepherd. The pit, skin, leaves, and bark of avocados contain a toxin called persin. The fleshy inside of the fruit doesn’t have as much persin as the rest of the plant, but it is still unsafe for your dog to eat.
If you grow avocados at home, you must keep your dog away from the plants. Also, the avocado seed can become stuck in the intestines or stomach, and an obstruction could be fatal.
If your dog eats a large number of avocado, signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. The high-fat content of this fruit can also lead to pancreatitis, especially if your dog is sensitive.
Caffeine (Coffee, Tea, etc.)
Large amounts of caffeine consumption in dogs is a serious concern and can be fatal in severe cases. Watch out for coffee and tea and keep your German Shepherd away from cocoa, chocolate, colas, and energy drinks.
Caffeine can also be found in some cold medicines, supplements, and pain killers. Common signs to watch for are hyperactivity, restlessness, and an increased heart rate.
German Shepherds must not eat cherries. Even though the flesh of the cherry is safe, it can cause an upset stomach. The cherry pit, stem, and leaves all contain cyanide which is toxic and so it’s not worth to risk to feed cherries to your dog.
When eaten in large toxic amounts, look out for dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, bright red gums, and shock.
Chocolate (including Cocoa)
Chocolate is dangerous for dogs. The problem in chocolate is theobromine which is present in all kinds of chocolate, including white.
The most potent types are dark and unsweetened baking chocolate – the darker it gets the more poisonous due to the more concentrated amount of cacao solids. Therefore the severity of chocolate poisoning varies greatly depending on the type, amount eaten, and the size of the dog.
Chocolate can cause a dog to vomit and have diarrhea. It can also cause heart problems, tremors, seizures, and can lead to death. Pet Poison Helpline advises that some chocolate products may contain other toxins such as macadamia nuts, raisins, coffee beans, or xylitol – so there could be double trouble ahead!
While garlic can be okay for German Shepherds in tiny amounts, large amounts can be risky, however, your dog would need to eat quite a lot to get very sick. Garlic belongs to the Allium family and is related to onions, leeks, and chives (see below) which are also toxic for dogs, however, garlic is five times more potent.
Eating a large amount of garlic will damage your dog’s red blood cells making them likely to rupture leading to anemia. Your German Shepherd may display symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and breathing problems. Another problem here is that signs of garlic poisoning can be delayed and not be apparent until several days later.
Grapes (and Raisins)
Grapes and raisins are extremely dangerous foods to German Shepherds and all dog breeds. This also includes other dried variants like sultanas and currants and any foods containing grape extracts, for example, grape juice, raisin cereal, raisin bread, granola, trail mix, and baked foods like raisin cookies or bars. These are all potential sources of poison.
Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs and just a very small amount can make a dog sick. Scientists still do not know the exact source of the toxicity and as stated, the exact dosage is unknown.
Early signs are vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. To learn more about why dogs can’t eat grapes and what to do if you suspect your dog has eaten some, be sure to check out this helpful article.
Hops (used in Home Beer Brewing)
Hops are the flowers of the hop plant and are used in the process of brewing beer. If you are a home-brew enthusiast then you must keep hops out of the reach of your dog. Scientists do not yet know exactly what it is in hops that caused the toxicity.
Signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect your German Shepherd has ingested hops are malignant hyperthermia, increased breathing, a racing heart rate, and vomiting. In severe cases, death can occur:
Horse Chestnuts (Conkers)
Horse chestnuts (also known as conkers) contain a poison called aesculin which is also found in all parts of the tree, including the leaves. The horse chestnut tree is widely found in the UK and mild regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.
Ripened conkers fall to the ground in late summer and autumn however they are not to be confused with the edible sweet American chestnut as they are unrelated. Although conkers are toxic to dogs, your dog would have to eat several to suffer from any serious poisoning.
Look out for severe vomiting and diarrhea, drooling, increased thirst, restlessness, and tremors. These symptoms can occur as soon as one hour after eating or may even be delayed for up to two days.
You must keep your German Shepherd away from macadamia nuts (also known as Australian nuts due to where they originated from) as just a handful of raw or roasted macadamia nuts can make a dog sick. Depending on the number of nuts ingested, Macadamia nuts can cause severe weakness in the back legs, high temperature, vomiting, and muscle-shakes.
The unknown toxicity affects nerve and muscle function and some dogs may also develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) due to the high fat and oil content in the nuts (like Avocados). Signs and symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion.
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Moldy food, for example, moldy bread, pasta, nuts, cheese, and other decaying produce can cause problems for your German Shepherd. I know that I certainly don’t want to eat moldy food so you mustn’t be tempted to give your dog anything slightly moldy, or let them get to the household trash!
Moldy foods contain mycotoxins. Look out for vomiting, restlessness, incoordination, tremors, seizures, and high temperature. A specific mycotoxin called aflatoxin can even cause liver failure. Be sure to keep moldy food and compost away from your pets’ reach!
Dogs should not eat mushrooms as they can be toxic. There are thousands of mushroom species and whilst only a small percentage are known to be poisonous, should your German Shepherd eat a toxic one, it could make them extremely ill or even prove fatal.
Signs and symptoms of mushroom poisoning depend on the species eaten. Look out for vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and changes in thirst or urination (kidney failure). Some mushroom toxins will affect dogs very quickly indeed (within 15-30 minutes) while others will not produce signs for up to 24 hours.
A small amount of washed white mushrooms from the store could be okay, however, I think you’ll probably agree it’s far better not to take the risk!
Nutmeg is a spice used to flavor various sweet and savory food. It is not safe for dogs, however, they would have to ingest a very large amount to cause serious toxicity. Nutmeg poisoning is very unlikely to occur if your dog eats some food containing nutmeg but I thought I’d include it on the list here just so you are aware of the potential dangers.
Nutmeg is toxic to German Shepherds due to a compound called myristicin. I found a very detailed article from Pet MD that you may find helpful. If a very large amount of nutmeg is ingested, the poisoning can cause hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, dry mouth, stomach pain, and possibly seizures.
Onions, Shallots, Leeks, and Chives
German Shepherds should never eat onions, shallots, leeks, and chives (either cooked, raw or dried) as they are poisonous to most pets if consumed in large amounts.
Eating onions can cause your dog’s red blood cells to burst which causes anemia. I’m sure you’ll agree that doesn’t sound pleasant! These foods can also cause nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and breathing problems.
Onions belong to the Allium family like garlic (see above) and symptoms of the poisoning may have a delayed onset which you need to be aware of.
Potato (Raw or Green)
This is one that I certainly wasn’t aware of! Raw (or green) potato is poisonous to your dog. White potatoes belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes. They contain a compound called solanine that is toxic to some dogs. These vegetables (including tomatoes) produce solanine as a natural defense to deter insects.
It is okay to feed your German Shepherd a small amount of cooked potato as it drastically reduces the levels of solanine. However, should your dog eat a large amount of solanine, his or her nervous system may become affected. Symptoms to look for are blurred vision, vomiting, diarrhea, low temperature, and slow heart rate.
The stalk of the rhubarb plant is safe for dogs in small quantities and can be good if your dog has constipation. The leaves, however, contain oxalic acid which is toxic to dogs, however, an extremely large quantity would have to be consumed to cause the poisoning.
Star fruit also contains oxalic acid (see below). Your dog may experience drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, changes to thirst and urination.
You must be careful if you grow rhubarb at home and ensure your German Shepherd is never unsupervised as acute renal failure can occur.
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It’s not a good idea to share salty foods with your German Shepherd as eating too much salt can not only make your dog seriously thirsty but it can also lead to sodium poisoning or dehydration. Symptoms of too much salt include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, high temperature, and seizures.
Excessive thirst or urination may occur and potential damage can be caused to the kidneys. Salt poisoning is a serious concern as death may follow.
I suppose you only need to think of how thirsty you become after eating salty popcorn, pretzels, or chips, hence the reason why we never feed our dogs these types of snacks.
Star fruit is an exotic fruit that is extremely toxic to dogs. It contains oxalic acid (like rhubarb leaves) which is poisonous. Oxalate salts in star fruit are absorbed by your dog’s digestive system and this can lead to acute kidney failure. Signs and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and increased thirst and urination.
Your German Shepherd may become sick after eating only a small amount of this fruit and they may show symptoms within the hour.
Green tomatoes need to be avoided as they are a dangerous food to German Shepherds. While the ripened red fruit of the tomato is generally considered safe for dogs, the green parts of the plant (stems and vines), as well as unripened tomatoes need to be avoided.
They contain a toxic substance called solanine which can cause heart problems, difficulty breathing, and severe stomach upset.
This substance is also found in raw or green potatoes (see above). I certainly was not aware of this one and will be keeping my German Shepherd out of my uncle’s greenhouse from now on!
Xylitol (and other artificial sweeteners like aspartame etc.) are toxic for your German Shepherd. A noticeable trend in poisonings has emerged due to the increasing popularity of xylitol as a sweetener in several products. It is found in candy, gum, baked goods, diet foods, and even in toothpaste!
I have learned from this that I no longer let my dog lick my fingers after I have cleaned my teeth – one of the hidden dangers, you see! Here are some other foods that contain xylitol that you should know about.
You also need to be aware that some peanut butter brands contain xylitol and so always check first or buy an organic brand with nothing added. These sweeteners can cause your dog’s blood sugar to drop and can also cause acute liver failure. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and coordination problems or seizures.
Raw bread dough needs to rise and if your German Shepherd eats it, the exact thing happens in your dog’s stomach which acts as an oven! The yeast dough rises and causes gas in your dog’s digestive system.
It then swells inside, and as the dough expands, it can cause a lot of pain and results in a bowel obstruction or a bloated stomach which can potentially twist. This then becomes a life-threatening emergency requiring abdominal surgery.
In addition to this, when the yeast ferments the dough to make it rise, it makes alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning! Obvious signs are bloat or a distended abdomen. Your dog may also suffer from retching, lethargy, weakness, collapse, and shock.
Dogs can have some unsalted nuts, however, black walnuts (and macadamia nuts) should be avoided as they are highly poisonous. Black walnuts contain an unknown toxin that may cause seizures and tremors.
The only nuts that are okay for German Shepherds to eat are peanuts, almonds, and cashews, however, these must be given in moderation due to their high-fat content as they can cause a stomach upset and diarrhea. Feeding your dog foods high in fat content can also lead to pancreatitis or obesity.
Overall, sticking to those nuts that dogs can have and not giving your dog too many is key: “Feeding your dog a few nuts here and there is generally not a cause for concern, especially if the nuts are fresh.”Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM and integrative veterinarian at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic.
Another danger is if the walnuts have been lying on the ground for a while and turned moldy, then the mold is an additional toxin (see above).
I don’t like to give my German Shepherd nuts as I’m fearful of her choking on them and they are high in calories too! As there are so many types of nuts I wrote a separate blog post here where you can find loads more information to help you decide if you would like to feed your dog a few of the safer varieties of nuts.
What Do I Do If My Dog Ate Something Toxic?
No matter how careful you are, your German Shepherd might find and swallow something dangerous. If you think your dog may have eaten something toxic, you must take emergency action by contacting your vet professional for advice.
The sooner your dog’s poisoning is diagnosed and treated, then the better chance of recovery he will have – and potentially less expense for you!
These are the emergency instructions to follow if your German Shepherd ate something toxic, courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline:
- Immediately remove your dog from the area, and make sure no other pets (or kids!) are exposed to this area. Safely remove any remaining poisonous material from their reach.
- Check to make sure your dog is breathing normally and acting fine otherwise.
- Collect a sample of the material, along with the packaging, vial, or container, and save it – you will need all that information when you talk to your veterinarian or a Pet Poison Helpline expert.
- Do NOT give your dog any milk, food, salt, oil, or any other home remedies! Also, never induce vomiting without talking to your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline – it may be detrimental or contraindicated!
- Don’t give hydrogen peroxide to your dog without checking with a vet or with Pet Poison Helpline first.
- Get help. Program your veterinarian phone number, along with an ER vet and the Pet Poison Helpline phone number (855-764-7661) in your cell phone so you will always have immediate access to help.
A Vet’s Perspective
I was lucky enough to interview licensed veterinarian TB Thompson, DVM from naturalpetshq.com on food toxins. It’s great to get a vet’s perspective on such an important topic, and she gives some great tips to keep your dog safe:
Q. From your experience, what is the most common food involved in accidental ingestion in dogs that causes poisoning that you see in your practice?
A. “The most common toxic food ingestions I see are chocolate and grapes/raisins. It’s often the case that a dog has eaten something containing those ingredients, like cookies or muffins.”
Q. Xylitol appears to be in so many products these days. Have you witnessed any cases of xylitol poisoning?
A. “I’ve seen a few cases of xylitol toxicity. One I remember was a dog presented to the emergency clinic after having eaten some sort of diet food with xylitol in it. He was brought in because he had a seizure at home. We found his blood sugar was very low. He ended up recovering well after being treated for a few days in the hospital.”
Q. Many people will try to make their dog sick if they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t, but what should they really do?
A. “Sometimes inducing vomiting can make things worse. The best thing to do if you think your dog has ingested something toxic is to call an animal poison control center immediately. In the US, we have two great resources in the ASPCA Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline. These people are amazing! Tell the veterinarian at the poison control center what your dog ingested and how much he got. They will give you specific instructions on what to do next.”
Q. What have you found to be the most prevalent reason for dogs ingesting toxic foodstuffs? Is it down to a lack of knowledge by the owner, or the dog getting into places he shouldn’t, such as handbags, cupboards, or the garbage?
A. “Most of the time, dogs get into food that has been left out on a table or other accessible area. Occasionally we have to do some sleuthing to figure out what made a dog sick when their owners aren’t aware that a particular food is toxic to dogs.”
Q. What is your best tip to poison proof a home?
A. “Keep all food in a high cabinet or another place your dog cannot access. Use child-proof cabinet locks if your dog is very crafty. Always look around before you leave home to make sure you haven’t left anything on the counter or table that your dog might like to eat.
Keep your garbage containers in a locked cabinet or pantry. Don’t ever assume your well-behaved dog won’t try to get at food, personal hygiene products, or medications when you’re not around! Another option is to crate your dog when you’re not home.”
What Human Foods Can a German Shepherd Eat?
There are some human foods that we can feed our dogs, as long as they are given in moderation. Please be aware though that each dog is different (just like humans), so it’s always best to get advice from your vet if you’re in doubt about whether a particular food is okay for your dog to eat.
I always make sure the foods I give my German Shepherd are safe, cooked, lean, and with no salt or seasoning. Below are some safe foods for your dog to try, or you can check out my comprehensive article on 34 human foods that German Shepherds can eat.
Dogs can eat lean cuts of cooked meat as long as all the visible fat is removed. My German Shepherd enjoys chicken, turkey, pork, beef, and lamb.
Make sure that there are no bones in the meat before you give it to your dog as cooked bones are dangerous for your German Shepherd. The bones can splinter into shards that can cause choking and serious damage to your dog’s mouth, throat, or insides.
It is also best to avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, and ham due to their high salt or seasoning content, however, a very small occasional piece will cause no harm.
Some Fresh Fruits
Slices of apples, bananas, and watermelon make tasty treats for your dog. You must take out any seeds or pits from fresh fruit like apricot, nectarines, peaches, and plums, etc. as these contain cyanide which is toxic to your dog. Also, the pits are a choking hazard can cause blockages in your dog’s intestine if swallowed.
If you are wondering what fruits German Shepherds can eat, be sure to check out my detailed post. There is certainly plenty to look at as I listed 29 examples!
It is okay to let your German Shepherd have a healthy snack of carrot, green beans, cucumber or sweet potato. Many other vegetables are safe to give in moderation too, however, there are some that you may wish to avoid!
Here’s my complete guide as to what vegetables German Shepherds can eat. This giant guide also explains the health benefits of each vegetable and advice on how to feed them to your dog.
Cooked Rice and Pasta
Dogs can eat cooked plain rice or cooked pasta. Cooked, plain white rice can be a good option if your dog has an upset stomach as it is easy to digest and quick to prepare.
Rice is often found in commercial dog food – my German Shepherd’s food contains 29% of brown whole grain rice which is a healthier variety of rice. If you are a “pasta-lover” like me, you may find my article on whether German Shepherds can eat pasta an interesting read.
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, plain yogurt or ice-cream are generally safe for German Shepherds to have in very small quantities, however, eating too much dairy can cause diarrhea or vomiting. This is because dogs have low levels of lactase, which is a digestive enzyme that breaks down the sugars in dairy products.
Dogs with lactose intolerance should not eat dairy products. My German Shepherd is fine with an occasional small amount of milk or ice-cream, in fact, the way she laps up a very small bowl of milk, you would think she was a cat!
However, she cannot tolerate the slightest amount of whipped cream as even a couple of licks will give her “the runs” – the cream is definitely off the list for her!
German Shepherds can eat fish. It is a healthy source of protein and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your dog’s coat, skin, and immune system. Fish needs to be fully cooked (which kills any harmful bacteria) without any added oils or seasonings and make sure it doesn’t contain any bones.
Fish is often added to high-quality dog foods, and upon checking the cold-pressed food I feed my German Shepherd, I found that it contains 7% sea fish, fish oil, and dried green-lipped mussels, which is a supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
As a special treat for my German Shepherd, I like to give her fresh salmon which she devours! There are some concerns about longer living species of fish like tuna, mackerel, or swordfish containing higher levels of mercury, so if you choose these types, then only occasionally feed a very small amount.
I must admit, my German Shepherd also likes a small amount of either tinned tuna or mackerel added to her food and I think the benefits far outweigh the risks, but I’ll let you decide!
You now know what foods are poisonous to your German Shepherd and what to do if they accidentally eat something toxic.
When your pooch stares at you with those longingly sad eyes hoping for a quick bite of “human food,” don’t be tempted to give him some. You certainly don’t want to live with the guilt of possibly killing them with kindness, I know I wouldn’t!
I take no responsibility should you decide to give your GSD a raisin cookie or a swig of beer! Please remember that any decision to give your dog any foods not specifically intended for them should be discussed with your veterinarian.
I hope you found what you were looking for and found this article helpful. To learn a ton more helpful stuff similar to this topic, be sure to check out my giant guide all about the best diet for German Shepherds.
This popular post leaves no stone unturned and covers everything from nutrition to dog food types and includes what to feed and what not to feed your dog.
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