Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
I know it’s hard to say ‘No’ to your German Shepherd’s big round, affectionate eyes when he comes begging for a share of your food.
However, as much as you may want to show affection by sharing your meal with him, it’s important to know that certain human foods are toxic to dogs.
What foods should your German Shepherd avoid?
Foods your German Shepherd should avoid include avocados, chocolates, onion and garlic, artificial sweeteners, and raw potatoes. Some more toxic foods are grapes and raisins, bones, yeast dough, moldy food, and raw tomatoes. In severe cases, these foods can prove fatal.
Read through this article where I, as a licensed veterinary doctor, give you an accurate idea of the foods to avoid in your GSD’s diet to help raise a healthy and happy pup.
Additionally, I’ll have some bonus tips to share what you should do if your pup accidentally consumes any of these foods. Read on!
Foods Your German Shepherd Should Avoid
Given that different varieties of foods are available in our homes, either manufactured or homemade, they all have varying effects on your canine friends when ingested.
We’ll use the traffic lights colors to categorize the foods your German Shepherd should not eat based on the severity of their effects. Here’s what I mean by that:
- GREEN will represent foods that aren’t poisonous to your pooch but cause mild effects once consumed. These effects include mild diarrhea, irritation, and vomiting. Additionally, your German Shepherd should only eat these foods in moderation since they have long-term adverse side effects if eaten too often.
- YELLOW will be the foods that cause moderate to severe effects once ingested by your furry canine friend. They may cause severe stomach upsets, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog consumes these foods, you should immediately consult a vet.
- RED will show the highly toxic foods that your pup should never consume. These foods have high toxicity levels, and once eaten, they might put your Shepherd’s life in danger.
In the ideal world, you wouldn’t give your German Shepherd any of these foods because they’re not among their natural diet.
But let’s find out which foods belong in each color-coded category.
Green: Mild Discomfort
These aren’t the NEVER foods for your German Shepherd.
But since they can trigger mild discomfort, only give them in moderation. Our “green” foods include:
High Fat Foods
Like with humans, fatty foods aren’t the best for your German Shepherd in his regular diet.
Such foods include bacon, sausages, fatty meats, and fruits with high-fat content, such as avocados.
When ingested, these fatty foods cause mild stomach upset and diarrhea.
However, an excess of these ‘bad’ fats in your dog’s body can eventually cause pancreatitis, which can be a threat to your pooch’s life if left untreated.
Additionally, fatty foods trigger calorie build-up, causing weight gain.
Do you want an obese German Shepherd? Then, it’s your responsibility as a dog owner to control his fatty foods.
Furthermore, the accumulation of excess fats in your Shepherd’s body also has links to arthritis, among other joint problems.
Milk and Dairy Products
Did you know that most canines are lactose intolerant? Well, now you know.
Being lactose intolerant means that they lack enough lactase enzymes in their digestive systems to break down the lactose (sugar) in dairy products and milk.
This deficiency causes digestion issues, notably stomach upset and loose stool.
Furthermore, lactose intolerant canines convert the excess lactose in their body into fats, causing excessive weight gain.
Think twice before pouring a little milk into your Shepherd’s bowl!
If you have a mixed home with both canines and felines, chances are, your German Shepherd has occasionally snuck a few bites of cat food without you knowing.
Or it can be your fault if you’ve ever substituted dog food with cat food when you’ve run low on your pup’s regular diet.
Although your pup won’t die or suffer severe medical consequences, cat food isn’t the best addition to a German Shepherd’s diet.
As Vets Now explains, cat food is rich in proteins, calories, and fats, which are nutritional elements not ideal for dogs (at least in those amounts).
After eating cat food, your German Shepherd may suffer mild stomach upsets, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Additionally, if you feed your canine friend feline food on a long-term basis, you may put him at risk of obesity.
Worst of all, his cat food consumption might evolve into a life-threatening condition known as pancreatitis.
Salt and Salty Food
While we’ve all shared salty food with our canine friends at some point, it’s not the best way to show affection.
According to MSD Manual, salt not only leaves your pooch excessively thirsty or dehydrated but also causes sodium poisoning.
Some of the notable signs of this condition include dehydration, frequent urination, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
In extreme cases, salt poisoning may damage your pup’s kidneys.
Did you know that a canine’s reaction to sugar is similar to that of humans? It’s true!
Sugary foods, such as candies, baked foods, and fruits with high sugar content (like pineapples), are not ideal for German Shepherds.
Large amounts of sugar can cause tooth decay, diabetes, and uncontrolled weight gain.
The weight gain comes in when your dog’s body converts the excess sugar into fats.
Bread is good for your canine friend but only on an occasional basis.
However, bread consumption should be in moderation because it contains a high-calorie content that may cause excessive weight gain.
Another point of concern when feeding bread to your German Shepherd is the potential for other toxic ingredients in it, like xylitol, raisins, or grapes.
Raw Meat and Eggs
Are you a dog owner who believes in a raw diet for your canine friend? Well, you may be shocked to learn that not all raw foods are good for dogs!
That’s because, generally, raw meat and eggs contain bacterial pathogens, which may cause food poisoning.
According to Purina, raw meat has salmonella spp and E.Coli, which leads to salmonella poisoning.
Additionally, raw eggs contain Salmonella spp and Avidin, a toxic enzyme that inhibits vitamin B7 (Biotin) absorption, responsible for coat and fur health in your dog.
If you suspect your German Shepherd has eaten one of these foods, don’t panic.
Remain calm and remove him from the area so that he doesn’t eat more.
Keep a close eye on him and take note of any symptoms that appear to persist.
Most of the mild symptoms often go away on their own and are not too harmful to your dog. However, if you’re in doubt, feel free to consult a vet.
Yellow: Moderate to Severe Discomfort
These foods can cause moderate to severe health issues if eaten regularly or in high amounts. Our “yellow” foods include:
Onion, Garlic, Leek, and Chive
Who doesn’t like the tantalizing aroma of onions or garlic sizzling in a pan?
These herbs, which happen to be members of the Allium family, form the basis of many culinary masterpieces that delightfully cheer human taste buds.
However, as much as they’re enticing for us humans, they’re not safe for dogs.
VCA Hospitals lays bare that these herbs are toxic to dogs, with garlic being the most poisonous.
The consumption of any of these herbs causes severe stomach upset accompanied by nausea and mouth irritation.
Additionally, eating this fearsome foursome combination can lead to an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Furthermore, a high level of Allium toxicity can damage the red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia, which leaves your German Shepherd short of oxygen.
Therefore, whether raw, cooked, powdered, or frozen, always keep these members of the Allium family away from your pup.
This creamy ball of goodness is one of humans’ favorite fruits, but it can leave your pooch fighting for his life if he sneaks a bite.
That’s because it contains a toxic substance called persin.
Although it’s not highly risky to German Shepherds (due to their size), a high toxicity level can cause severe stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Additionally, avocados have high-fat content, putting your canine at risk for weight gain.
Don’t overlook the pit either, which presents a choking hazard and a risk of intestinal blockage.
Although a German Shepherd’s size comes as a safety net when eating low amounts of toxic substances, the same doesn’t apply to macadamia nuts.
These nuts are believed to be toxic to your pup, even if he consumes just a tiny bit of them.
The resultant effects are severe vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, seizures, and muscle weakness.
Tomatoes and Potatoes
Tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the nightshade family. And while ripe tomatoes and cooked potatoes are safe for dogs, unripe and raw variations can be toxic.
The explanation is simple: unripe tomatoes and raw or green potatoes contain a high concentration of solanine, an ingredient toxic to dogs.
Solanine poisoning can cause abnormal heart rate, severe stomach upset, muscular weakness, and breathing difficulties.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs. When ingested, they can cause severe lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and seizures.
Additionally, this type of poisoning reduces blood flow into the kidneys, which may ultimately cause kidney failure.
The toxicity also includes grapes and other forms of raisins, such as raisin cereal, grape juice, granola, raisin bread, sultanas, currants, and alcohol.
Although most German Shepherd parents consider the flesh of the cherry safe to eat, it can cause a stomach upset.
Additionally, the pit, leaves, and stem contain cyanide, a toxic element that causes rapid or difficulty breathing, paralysis, convulsions, and excess salivation.
Although not all mushrooms are toxic, many wild mushroom species are known to affect a puppy’s health negatively.
While you may not feed your pup wild mushrooms intentionally, his curiosity may be evoked by the mushroom’s odd appearance or fishy smell.
Consumption of toxic wild mushrooms causes tremors, ataxia, severe stomach upset, seizures, and muscle weakness.
In extreme cases, mushroom poisoning can damage red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia.
If your German Shepherd eats these foods, you most likely need medical care.
Rush your German Shepherd to the clinic for immediate diagnosis and treatment.
However, that’s not all you should do.
Once you suspect your German Shepherd has consumed these toxic foods, immediately remove him from the area where the food is.
Additionally, the vet may also ask for a sample of the food.
DON’T give your pup any food or substance, such as milk, or perform induced vomiting without advice from your vet or a Pet Poison Helpline.
Red: Dangerous or Poisonous
These are the NEVER foods for your German Shepherd. Our “red” foods include:
There are instances when people think it’s funny or cute to give their canine friends a little alcohol.
However, alcohol has the same effects on dogs as it has on humans.
Unfortunately, it may only take a small sip of an alcoholic beverage to cause fatal effects for your German Shepherd.
Alcohol poisoning in dogs can cause a significant drop in blood sugar, severe vomiting, salivation, diarrhea, loss of coordination, respiratory failure, and excessive thirst.
Alcohol can also damage the liver, eventually causing death.
We all know that raw yeast dough rises and swells once in the oven. And if your pup ingests it in the raw form, the same thing continues to happen inside his stomach.
The dough continues to rise, causing bowel obstruction and an excessively bloated stomach.
Excessive bloating can trigger gut-twisting, which can lead to death.
Additionally, the temperatures inside your puppy’s stomach create an ideal environment for fermentation.
Here, the dough ferments, releasing alcohol, which causes alcohol poisoning.
We can’t discuss the highly toxic foods for dogs without mentioning chocolate, which in large amounts is fatal for German Shepherds.
Generally, chocolate contains theobromine, a toxic substance that metabolizes slower in dogs than in humans.
The severity of chocolate’s theobromine toxicity varies depending on the dog’s size; German Shepherds’ massive physique can be beneficial in this sense.
However, if eaten in large amounts, it can cause excessive panting, dehydration, urination, seizures, tremors, and heart problems that can lead to death.
Caffeinated beverages include coffee, tea, and energy drinks.
These drinks contain moderate to large amounts of caffeine, which acts as a stimulant causing hyperactivity, increased heart rate, restlessness, and severe vomiting.
Extreme caffeine poisoning can damage the liver, which eventually leads to death.
Have you ever heard of xylitol? Well, it’s an artificial sweetener used in most human foods as a substitute for sugar.
You can find it in some baked foods, peanut butter, ketchup, sugar-free candies, gums mints, and toothpaste.
When eaten by your German Shepherd, this highly toxic substance causes a rapid drop in blood sugar level, muscle weakness, lethargy, and seizures.
A high level of xylitol toxicity can even cause liver damage or lead to death.
To some dog owners, cooked bones may sound safer than raw bones, based on the belief that cooking kills bacteria and reduces toxins.
Unfortunately, cooked bones are riskier than their raw version because cooking weakens the bones’ structure, causing them to splinter easily.
And if your German Shepherd chomps down a cooked bone, it can easily break into shards.
These sharpened shards not only puncture your pup’s mouth but also present a choking hazard.
Worse of it all, they can cause deadly perforations in the throat and gut once swallowed.
Corn on the Cob
By itself, corn is safe for your German Shepherd to eat, especially given its excellent fiber content.
And while a corn cob may seem harmless enough for use as a toy, it can easily kill your German Shepherd.
That’s because the corn cob is a choking hazard, and if swallowed, it can lead to a gastrointestinal blockage, which can kill your dog.
Just like with ‘yellow’ foods, ingestion of ‘red’ foods requires immediate medical attention.
These foods have a high toxicity level and can easily kill your favorite German Shepherd quickly.
Once you suspect your German Shepherd has eaten one of these foods, remove them from his reach and take a small sample with you.
Additionally, don’t perform any home remedies such as giving him milk or performing induced vomiting before consulting a Pet Poison Helpline or a vet.
Remember that the life of your canine friend is at stake here, and the quicker he gets medical attention, the safer he’ll be.
Although this guide is not exhaustive, it offers a deep insight into the foods you should keep away from your German Shepherd.
If a particular food doesn’t appear on this list and you aren’t sure whether to feed it to your pup or not, consult your vet first.
And while we sometimes pass things too easily with our canine friends because we think they are resilient enough to handle them, it’s high time we start giving them the attention they deserve.
Keep a close eye on your German Shepherd. You might discover some symptoms that indicate poor feeding.
- American Kennel Club: German Shepherd Dog
- MSD Vet Manual: Overview of Salt Toxicity
- Vets Now: Can dogs eat cat food? Is cat food bad for dogs?
- VCA Hospitals: Onion, Garlic, Chive, and Leek Toxicity in Dogs
- Purina: Can dogs eat raw meat?
- Pet Health Network: Inducing Vomiting in Your Dog
- The German Shepherder: 16 Foods You Should Never Give To Your German Shepherd
- Anything German Shepherd: What can German Shepherds not eat: Never feed these 12 foods to your GSD
- World of dogs: What Foods are Poisonous to German Shepherds? Hidden Dangers!
Read more about the German Shepherd breed in my one-page GSD owner guide
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society