Can you resist your German Shepherd’s eyes staring at you 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 can German Shepherds not eat?
German Shepherds can not eat chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocados, garlic, onions, leeks, wild mushrooms, macadamia nuts, walnuts, alcohol, and salty foods. Other poisonous foods include xylitol, yeast dough, raw potatoes, hops, green tomatoes, moldy food, and high-fat foods.
In this article, I’ll share all the foods your German Shepherd can’t eat due to their toxicity, and I’ll tell you what to do should your German Shepherd accidentally eat something poisonous. I also have a bonus feature for you – a short interview with a licensed veterinarian on canine food toxins.
So, for the complete guide to what foods German Shepherds can’t eat, read on!
What 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!
Learn What Foods Dogs Can Not Eat in this YouTube Video…
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.
German Shepherds can not drink alcohol as it causes alcohol poisoning affecting the brain and liver. It induces a dangerous drop in blood sugar, vomiting, diarrhea, coordination problems, seizures, respiratory failure, and eventually death. 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, so you will need to be vigilant.
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 lurks, 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.
Keep your dog away from the plants if you grow avocados at home. Also, the avocado seed can become stuck in the intestines or stomach, and an obstruction could be fatal.
If your dog eats a lot of avocados, 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.)
German Shepherds can not drink coffee, tea, or caffeine beverages. Large amounts of caffeine consumption in dogs are a serious concern and can be fatal in severe cases. Don’t let your dog lap up your coffee and tea, and keep him away from cocoa, chocolate, colas, and energy drinks.
Caffeine can also be found in some cold medicines, supplements, and painkillers. Common signs of caffeine poisoning are hyperactivity, restlessness, and an increased heart rate.
German Shepherds should not eat cherries. Even though the flesh of the cherry is safe, it can cause an upset stomach. The cherry pit, stem, and leaves contain cyanide, which is toxic, so it’s not worth risking 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 with 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 dog size.
Chocolate can cause a dog to vomit and have diarrhea. It can also cause heart problems, tremors, seizures, and death. The 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. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs, and just a minimal amount can make a dog sick. Scientists still do not know the exact source of the toxicity, and the exact dosage is unknown.
This also includes other dried variants like sultanas and currants and foods containing grape extracts, such as grape juice, raisin cereal, raisin bread, granola, trail mix, and baked foods like raisin cookies or bars. These are all potential sources of poison.
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, check out this article; Can German Shepherds Eat Grapes? (& What To Do If Your GSD Eats Them).
Hops (used in Home Beer Brewing)
German Shepherds can not eat hops (the flowers of the hop plant used in the process of brewing beer) as they are toxic. If you are a home-brew enthusiast, you must keep hops out of your dog’s reach as scientists do not yet know what causes the toxicity.
If you suspect your German Shepherd has ingested hops, signs and symptoms are malignant hyperthermia, increased breathing, a racing heart rate, and vomiting. In severe cases, death can occur:
Horse Chestnuts (Conkers)
German Shepherds can not eat horse chestnuts. They contain a poison called aesculin, found in all tree parts, including the leaves. Symptoms include 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.
The horse chestnut tree is widely found in the UK and temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Ripened conkers fall to the ground in late summer and autumn; however, don’t confuse them 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.
German Shepherds can not eat macadamia nuts as just a handful of raw or roasted nuts can make a dog very sick due to their toxicity. Macadamia nuts can cause severe weakness in the back legs, high temperature, vomiting, and muscle shakes, depending on the number of nuts ingested.
The unknown toxicity in macadamia nuts (also known as Australian nuts) 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.
Moldy food, such as moldy bread, pasta, nuts, cheese, and other decaying produce, is bad for your German Shepherd. Moldy foods contain mycotoxins, and a specific mycotoxin called aflatoxin can cause liver failure. Symptoms are vomiting, restlessness, incoordination, seizures, and high temperature. Be sure to keep compost away from your pets’ reach.
Don’t be tempted to give your dog anything slightly moldy or let him get to the household trash! Invest in a dog-proof trash can such as the iTouchless Pet-Proof Trash Can from Amazon which prevents your doggo from opening the lid. I especially like this one as it’s 100% touchless and comes with a carbon odor filter that neutralizes smells, making your home feel cleaner.
German Shepherds should not eat mushrooms as they can be toxic. There are thousands of mushroom species, and while only a small percentage are known to be poisonous, should your dog eat a toxic one, it could make him 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 (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 are generally safe, such as the white button or Portobello varieties. However, I’m not a fan of mushrooms so I don’t feed them to my dog.
German Shepherds should not eat nutmeg as it is toxic to dogs due to the compound myristicin. If a dog ingests a substantial amount of nutmeg, the poisoning can cause hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, dry mouth, stomach pain, and possibly seizures.
However, nutmeg poisoning is very unlikely to occur if your dog eats some food containing a little bit of nutmeg, but I thought I’d include it on the list here just so you are aware of the potential dangers. Your dog would have to ingest a considerable amount to cause severe toxicity.
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 excessive onions can cause your dog’s red blood cells to burst, causing anemia.
I’m sure you’ll agree that doesn’t sound pleasant! These foods that belong to the Allium family, like garlic (see above), can also cause nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and breathing problems. Symptoms of the poisoning may have a delayed onset.
Potato (Raw or Green)
German Shepherds can not eat raw potato (or green potato) as it is poisonous to dogs. It contains a toxic compound called solanine, and if your dog eats a large amount, it will affect his nervous system. Symptoms to look for are blurred vision, vomiting, diarrhea, low temperature, and slow heart rate.
White potatoes belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes. They produce solanine as a natural defense to deter insects.
It is okay to feed your German Shepherd a small amount of cooked potato as the cooking process drastically reduces the levels of solanine.
German Shepherds can not eat rhubarb leaves as they contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to dogs. Your dog may experience drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and changes to thirst and urination. However, they would have to ingest a considerable quantity to cause poisoning.
The stalks of the rhubarb plant are safe for German Shepherds in small quantities and can be good if your dog has constipation.
If you grow rhubarb at home, you must be careful and ensure your German Shepherd is never unsupervised, as acute renal failure can occur.
German Shepherds should not have too much salt, as eating too much salt can make your dog seriously thirsty and lead to sodium poisoning or dehydration. Excessive thirst or urination may occur, and salt can cause potential damage to the kidneys. Salt poisoning is a serious concern as death may follow.
Symptoms of too much salt include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, high temperature, and seizures.
It’s not a good idea to share salty foods with your best friend. I suppose you only need to think of how thirsty you become after eating salty popcorn, pretzels, or chips, hence why I never feed my German Shepherd these types of snacks.
German Shepherds should not eat star fruit as this exotic fruit is highly toxic to dogs due to oxalic acid. Your dog’s digestive system absorbs oxalate salts in star fruit, leading 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 tiny amount of this fruit and he may show symptoms within the hour.
German Shepherds can not eat green tomatoes as they contain a toxic substance called solanine which can cause heart problems, difficulty breathing, and severe stomach upset. However, they would have to eat an awful lot to get to this stage. A small amount of green tomato will cause GI upset at worst.
While the ripened red fruit of the tomato is generally considered safe for dogs, all of the green parts of the plant (stems and vines) and unripened tomatoes need to be avoided.
Solanine 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!
German Shepherds can not eat xylitol (sweetener) and all foods containing xylitol as it is toxic for dogs. Xylitol can cause your dog’s blood sugar to drop and cause acute liver failure and even death. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and coordination problems or seizures.
A noticeable trend in poisonings has emerged due to the increasing popularity of xylitol as a sweetener in several products. It is found in many products such as candy, gum, baked goods, diet foods, and toothpaste!
I no longer let my dog lick my fingers after cleaning my teeth – another one of the hidden dangers!
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.
German Shepherds can not eat yeast dough. The dough rises and causes gas in your dog’s digestive system. It then swells inside, and as it expands, it causes a bowel obstruction or a bloated stomach which can potentially twist. This then becomes a life-threatening emergency requiring abdominal surgery.
If you think about it, raw bread dough needs to rise and if your dog eats it, the exact thing happens in your dog’s stomach – it acts as an oven!
Additionally, when the yeast ferments the dough to make it rise, it produces alcohol, leading to alcohol poisoning! The obvious signs are bloating or a distended abdomen. Your dog may suffer from retching, lethargy, weakness, collapse, and shock.
German Shepherds can not eat black walnuts as they are highly poisonous. Black walnuts contain an unknown toxin that can cause seizures and tremors. Another danger is if the walnuts have been lying on the ground for a while and turned moldy. Mold is an additional toxin.
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 stomach upset and diarrhea. Feeding your dog foods high in fat content can also lead to pancreatitis or obesity.
I must be honest; 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 a wide variety of nuts, I wrote this article on German Shepherds and nuts.
What Do I Do If My GSD Ate Something Toxic?
Your German Shepherd might find and swallow something dangerous no matter how careful you are. 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 the Pet Poison Helpline:
- Immediately remove your dog from the area, and make sure no other pets (or kids!) are exposed to this area. Then, 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 and 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 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, 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 privileged 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 Foods Can a German Shepherd Eat?
We can feed our dogs some human foods as long as they are given in moderation. Please be aware that each dog is different (just like humans), so it’s always best to get advice from your vet if you doubt 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, and you can check out my comprehensive article on 34 human foods that German Shepherds can eat for tons more ideas.
German Shepherds 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.
Ensure 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 severe 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, an occasional tiny piece will cause no harm.
Slices of apples, bananas, and watermelons make tasty treats for your dog. However, you must take out any seeds or pits from fresh fruit like apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, etc. These contain cyanide, which is toxic to your dog if consumed in large quantities. Also, the pits are a choking hazard that can cause blockages in your dog’s intestine if swallowed.
Check out my detailed post for more info on what fruits German Shepherds can eat. 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 explains the health benefits of each vegetable and advice on how to feed them to your dog.
Cooked Rice and Pasta
German Shepherds 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 – in fact, 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 exciting read.
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, plain yogurt, or ice cream, are generally safe for German Shepherds to have in minimal quantities; however, eating too much dairy can cause diarrhea or vomiting. This is because dogs have low lactase levels – a digestive enzyme that breaks down the sugars in dairy products.
Dogs with lactose intolerance should not eat dairy products. However, my German Shepherd is OK with an occasional small amount of milk or ice cream. In fact, the way she laps up milk, you would think she was a cat!
Nonetheless, 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 excellent 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, a supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
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 tiny amount. As a special treat for my German Shepherd, I like to give her fresh salmon, which she devours!
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 he accidentally eats something toxic.
When your pooch stares at you with those longingly sad eyes hoping for a bite of “human food,” don’t be too quick to give him some without checking that it’s safe. Hopefully, you’ll refer back to this article if you’re ever unsure.
I take no responsibility should you decide to give your GSD a raisin cookie or a swig of beer! You should always discuss any decision to give your dog any foods not explicitly intended for them with your veterinarian.