Table Scraps – Treat or Trouble?

It’s prime time for barbecues and parties! While your friends may want to include your dog in the festivities, some table scraps can be dangerous. Here are ten types of table scraps to avoid when giving treats to your dog.

Onions, Garlic, Grapes, Raisins

While most of us enjoy seasoning our food with garlic and onions, these rhizomes belonging to the Allium family cause a reaction in dogs that destroy red blood cells. The destruction of red blood cells leads to a condition called anemia. Anemia can result from eating a large enough quantity of onions or garlic at one time or from eating small amounts daily over a period of time. Grapes and raisins are another common human food that can be dangerous to dogs. The mechanism is still unknown, but they can cause a sudden kidney failure.

Artificial Sweeteners (Xylitol)

Xylitol is a newer form of artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and more recently peanut butter, candies, and baked goods. The pancreas of dogs will release insulin in response to xylitol consumption but since there is no actual sugar for insulin to interact with, the dog experiences a sudden dangerous drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar can cause seizures and occurs even in small doses of xylitol ingestion. Xylitol can also cause liver failure which can be fatal. The sudden increase in uses of xylitol makes it incredibly dangerous, and it is important to read all labels of packaged foods to make sure dogs are not exposed to xylitol.

In addition to concerns about obstruction or toxicity, feeding table scraps can lead to unwanted behavior (begging) as well as unnecessary weight gain.

Fatty Snacks

Fatty foods can cause gastrointestinal upset and are the leading cause of pancreatitis in dogs. It is important to avoid gravies, fatty meats, or bacon as these are common culprits of gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis.


Hard bones can easily break teeth, cause intestinal obstructions or if raw cause dangerous bacterial infections like Salmonella or E. coli.  Instead, choose synthetic materials that have some give and crumble when chewed. Monitor all chew toys and take them away and discard them if they become small enough to swallow.

Fruit Pits and Corn Cobs

Fruit seeds and pits can cause obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract. Corn cobs are commonly swallowed whole by dogs and can then form an intestinal obstruction requiring emergency surgery.


Chocolate contains methylxanthines which include caffeine and theobromine and are toxic to dogs. Methylxanthines cause gastrointestinal upset, and in higher doses, seizures and death. The extent of this toxicity depends on the size of the dog and the amount of theobromine and caffeine consumed. Typically darker baking chocolates contain much higher concentrations of these dangerous compounds than the lighter milk chocolates. (Need a chocolate toxicity calculator? Check out our Resources.)

In addition to concerns about obstruction or toxicity, feeding table scraps can lead to unwanted behavior (begging) as well as unnecessary weight gain. Because dogs should already be eating a nutritionally balanced dog food, any additional snacks or treats take away from this balance. Moderation is key with any treats or table scraps.

What can you give your dog?

If your dog enjoys special treats between meals why not give them something that does double duty and also helps with dental care? Dental chews make a great treat! If friends want to treat your dog to something on the buffet table, leave a bowl of dental chews at the end for your dog. Frozen green beans or ice cubes are also a healthy treat that are low calorie and many dogs enjoy.

Download our Hazards in the Home handout for a complete list of foods and everyday items that are harmful to pets.