Dog Diet & Nutrition
There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.
Dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell. This combination often leads to them to get into purses, get food off counters, steal food from grills, get into trash cans, and sneak food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer tables scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.
Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.
Safe Food for Dogs
There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, there are no human foods that dogs need. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, and activity of your dog. However, I do personally think a varied Diet is better for overall health in the long run.
There are many human foods you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean these foods below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis.
Safe foods and treats for dogs:
Apples – small amounts without the seeds
Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed
Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed
Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed
Chicken – cooked
Cooked fish such as salmon
Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss.
Cooked ground beef or steak
Freshly cooked lunch meat
Popcorn (without Salt)
Pork – cooked
Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet
Pumpkin – cooked
Rice or rice cake
Turkey – cooked
Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:
Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums.
Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.
The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have previously all been reported to be toxic due to “persin” found in the fruit. However, recent studies have shown that the affect on pets isn’t great.
These products made with Xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different gums and even baked goods. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda.
Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure or muscle spasms.
There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs, basically if they are cooked/smoke in any way. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness.
Dough containing yeast which rises in the moist, warm environments such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.
Gums that are made with Xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.
Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is toxic based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.
Coffee (grounds and beans).
Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.
Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.
Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.
Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.
Grapes and Raisins.
Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins seeds and skin, can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown
Onions and Garlic.
Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this could result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate.
Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs.
Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination.
Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.