Can dogs eat fruit? What about potato chips?
If I feed my dog table scraps, will it make him sick or spoil him?
In a world filled with myths and misinformation about what dogs can and cannot eat, it’s easy to throw up your hands in exasperation.
If you love giving your canine companion the occasional treat, there’s no reason to stop. In fact, a near-avalanche of research suggests that dogs and humans evolved together.
Ancient wolves hung out at human campgrounds, devouring human scraps and keeping the area clean. A 2013 study found that dogs and humans have spent so much time sharing each other’s food that their brains and digestive tracts have evolved to function similarly.
The takeaway? Your dog evolved to be your household dust buster, and there’s absolutely no reason to deny her human food. Dogs have been begging for treats from humans since they were wolves.
Of course, every animal—whether human or dog—has its own unique needs. Dogs are not furry humans. So just as you wouldn’t give a baby peanuts, there are foods your dog needs to avoid. He can also eat some foods—notably those rich in protein—in much higher proportions than would be healthy for you.
You don’t have to strictly segregate your food from your dog’s. Indeed, many dog owners have begun making their own pet food, or even sharing entire meals with their dogs. Veterinary opinions on this practice vary, so if you’re interested in sharing food with your dog, find a vet who supports that decision—and who can advise you about what is and is not safe.
We'll dive into the details below, but we also put this info into a pawsome infographic.
Ready to get started now? Here’s a starting guide to foods your dog can eat, cannot eat, and can only eat in small doses.
Whether you want to give your dog a treat or plan to make him a gourmet diet fit for a canine prince, these foods are perfectly safe:
Rich in beneficial bacteria, this sweet treat can reduce stomach discomfort. Liebmeister Kennels, which advocates a whole food diet for dogs, suggests avoiding reduced-fat varieties.
Yogurt is Perfectly Safe for Your DogSteer clear also of sweetened and flavored varieties; it’s plain white yogurt that will do your best friend the
Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola Health advocates giving pumpkin in small doses to soothe a pet’s upset stomach.
Avoid pumpkin pie filling and sweetened varieties. Canned pumpkin and filling scooped straight from the gourd itself offer the most nutritional value.
Rich in protein and vitamins, peanut butter is an excellent treat. It’s also a great way to induce even the finickiest pet to take his medication.
High in fiber and eye-protecting vitamin A, carrots are a great way to get your dog to chew on something healthy.
If your dog loves carrots, consider replacing store-bought raw hides with a few carrots each week.
Dogs need protein to thrive.
According to the International Wolf Center, wild wolves eat a carnivorous diet, getting fruits and veggies from the stomachs of their prey. Whether you feed your dog a homemade diet, a store-bought diet, or some combination of the two, meat should comprise the majority of your dog’s diet.
Some excellent options include:
Your dog can eat raw or cooked eggs, including the shell, which is a rich source of calcium.
Dogs unaccustomed to eating eggs face a small risk of choking on large egg shells, so consider grinding in a blender or coffee grinder first.
Rich in antioxidants, many dogs love the sweet flavor of blueberries.
If your dog scarfs down a relish-covered hot dog at a barbecue or begs for a hamburger, he will be fine—as long as the treat doesn’t include any items on the list of foods your dog should never have.
Bread and various condiments, though, offer no nutritional value, so don’t make them a staple of Fido’s diet.
Pineapples pose no risk to your dog’s health, as long as you scoop out the core. But reserve pineapple as a treat, since its high sugar content can cause stomach trouble if your dog eats it every day.
Rich in calcium, the delectable fruit of oranges is fine as an occasional treat, but only give it to your dog peeled.
Many dogs love cantaloupe and watermelon. Stick with seedless varieties, and feed in moderation.
Melons are rich in vitamins and have a high water content, helping to keep your pooch cool during the summer months. But they are also high in sugar, and should not form a cornerstone of your pet’s diet.
High in iron, magnesium, vitamin E, and numerous other vitamins, many dogs enjoy cooked broccoli as an occasional treat.
Raw broccoli is also safe, but few dogs enjoy it.
Rich in B vitamins and potassium, bananas are fine as a treat once or twice a week. They’re also a great way to hide pills from finicky pooches.
Humans can eat chocolate cake without dying, but no doctor would recommend living off of the cake, or even eating it every day. Many foods you might feed your dog are the same: unlikely to hurt her as an occasional snack (or if she steals your food when you’re not looking), but potentially dangerous in large doses.
If you share these foods, do so only sparingly, and never make them a staple in your pet’s diet.
Celery is harmless, but its hard pieces and stringy exterior make it difficult for dogs to chew. Don’t give it to your dog as a treat, but if she steals some from the table and seems okay, there’s no reason to worry.
You know that dark leafy greens such as spinach and collards form an important part of your own diet, so you might be tempted to share the bounty with your pooch. Unfortunately, these foods don’t offer your dog the same benefits.
The problem is that most research suggests dogs lack the salivary and digestive enzymes necessary to break down vegetables. Vegetables are rich in starch and cellulose, but without specific enzymes, your dog’s body cannot break down these substances to access the nutrition contained in the cells of the vegetable.
It won’t hurt your dog to eat vegetables, but she won’t get much nutritional value out of them either, so use them sparingly.
What about dog foods that contain vegetables?
That’s another matter. When vegetables are pureed, cooked, or otherwise heavily processed, it’s easier for your dog to digest them and access their valuable nutrients. Most researchers think wild dogs get vegetables from the partially digested stomach contents of their prey, so if you really want to give your dog veggies, puree them first.
Uncooked potatoes are toxic to both humans and dogs, so never give them to your four-legged friend.
Small doses of cooked potatoes are harmless, though some dogs experience gastrointestinal upset. Moreover, because potatoes are high in starch, it can be difficult for dogs to access any nutritional value from the potatoes.
Some dogs love potato chips, and a potato chip or two every now and again won’t kill your pet. Steer clear of potato chips containing sour cream and chives, onions, garlic, and any other ingredients that are potentially toxic to dogs.
Apples are safe in moderation, but some overly eager dogs may attempt to scarf them down whole. Their high sugar content also makes them a bad choice for everyday consumption.
The core is a choking hazard, and the seeds can be toxic, so ensure you thoroughly de-core the apple before offering it to your pooch.
Popcorn won’t kill your dog, so don’t panic if she has a manic episode and scarfs down a bowl full of the stuff when you’re not looking. However, popcorn can be a choking hazard and it has no nutritional value to your dog, so there is no reason to give it to her.
Bread is basically empty calories.
It won’t harm your dog, but it won’t help him either. It can also lead to obesity, and large quantities of bread may cause your dog’s blood sugar to spike. A few pieces of cooked bread every now and again are safe, but never give your dog bread dough or partially cooked bread; the yeast can be toxic.
Every dog loves cheese, and it makes a great training treat. It can also be hard to say no after your dog gets a bite and wants another—and another, and another, and then 72 more bites.
In moderation, cheese is fine.
Rich in protein, it even offers some nutritional value. But it’s also high in fat and salt, and its rich calorie content means it can cause your dog to feel full, tempting him to steer clear of healthier foods.
Strawberries aren’t toxic, but they do cause gastrointestinal distress in some dogs, and a small portion of dogs are allergic. The high sugar content of strawberries also means they’re anything but ideal for an everyday treat.
What about strawberries in the wild?
They’re a big no-no. The stems of strawberries can be toxic, so make sure you’ve removed any leafy parts before giving your dog a taste. And, of course, items often served with strawberries—such as chocolate and champagne—are totally off limits.
Mild peppers like red and green bell peppers won’t hurt your dog, though it’s unlikely that she’ll really like them.
Spicy peppers, though, can upset your dog’s stomach. And if the pepper extract gets into her eye, it can be intensely irritating. If your dog seems to like mild peppers, there’s no harm in giving them, but she should not have spicy foods.
Some dog training books advise using pepper oil to keep your dog away from various areas of the house, but this is a recipe for harming your dog—and could even be abusive if your dog gets the oil in her eyes.
If you’ve ever gone hiking and discovered some juicy, delicious-looking berries only to develop a belly ache after devouring them, you know that food that looks good isn’t always good for you.
The fact that Fido is gazing up at you with pleading eyes and promises of forever loyalty dos not mean you can give him just anything from your table!
The following foods are not safe for dogs:
Most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but many misconceptions surround this apparently simple rule. Most dogs will not die if they manage to sneak a single chocolate chip cookie, and some dogs can even survive large doses of chocolate.
So why is it that your dog didn’t get sick when he devoured chocolate? The key here is understanding theobromine. According to Hill’s, a respected manufacturer of veterinary-grade pet food, dogs cannot metabolize theobromine. The smaller the dog, the less theobromine she can consume before experiencing serious health effects. Theobromine is most abundant in dark and baker’s chocolate, and even an ounce is enough to kill a medium-sized dog.
Milk chocolate features much smaller quantities of theobromine, such that the same medium-sized dog would have to consume almost a pound of milk chocolate to get the same effect as an ounce of dark chocolate. PetMD features a helpful chocolate toxicity meter here.
Avocado contains a substance called persin that is toxic to dogs in large doses.
The largest quantities of persin are in the skin and seeds, but trace amounts may also be present in the fruit.
You might think it’s funny to get your dog drunk, but a drunk dog isn’t having a good time.
She’s suffering. Alcohol has similar effects in dogs and humans, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. The problem is that dogs are much smaller than humans, which means it takes smaller quantities of alcohol to harm a dog.
Because dogs aren’t experienced drinkers, they’ll get drunk more quickly. They also have no understanding of what’s happening to them, so a drunk dog is vulnerable to panic,
If your dog consumes more than a few sips of alcohol, he can experience dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood alcohol poisoning, seizures, and even death.
According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), coffee and most other caffeinated beverages—such as soda and energy drinks—contain substances known as
These substances can induce a number of dangerous symptoms in dogs, including vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, and even death.
Even if your dog is lucky enough to escape these side effects, caffeine poses an additional danger: it can change your dog’s behavior. Your dog might begin
Some recent research suggests that both raisins and grapes can be toxic to dogs. The debate about the precise toxic ingredient or the dose required to be toxic continues, so it’s best to completely avoid any foods that contain even trace amounts of raisins and grapes.
That means no picking the raisins out of your favorite cereal then giving it to Fido!
Nuts are always a choking hazard.
Your dog’s teeth are designed to crush large items, not grind up small, hard nuts. And because dogs tend to gulp down smaller items, your dog can easily end up with a mouthful of nuts lodged in her throat.
Even if you found a way to safely grind up nuts, they would still be dangerous to your dog. A number of nuts are toxic to canine companions.
Garlic attacks a dog’s red blood cells, potentially leading to dangerous anemia.
Like garlic, onions attack a dog’s red blood cells, particularly in large doses. Some dogs also experience gastrointestinal problems and behavioral changes when they consume onions.
Chives are members of the leek family, just like garlic and onions. And like onions and garlic, they can lead to dangerous anemia, as well as drowsiness, lethargy, panting, drooling, and a host of dangerous behavioral changes.
Avoid chives, as well as foods that may contain them, such as seasoned dips.
You’ve probably never heard of xylitol, but this flavoring agent is present in lots of gum and candy.
Rather than looking for xylitol on the ingredient list, simply avoid gum and candy, which are both a choking hazard and potentially toxic.
Corn itself is not toxic, though it’s certainly not particularly healthy. Nevertheless, many pet foods use it as a filler.
The real problem with corn is when dogs ingest it off the cob. Many corn cobs are small enough for dogs to swallow without choking, potentially leading to an intestinal blockage. If you don’t realize your dog has been eating the corn cob, you might not seek veterinary advice until it’s already too late.
Because dogs spend so much time outside and have little awareness of the dangers of wild plants, they’re far more likely to ingest toxic mushrooms than humans.
Consider removing mushrooms on a regular basis, and never leave your dog outside for long periods of time when she is hungry.
Some mushrooms that are safe for human consumption are toxic to dogs. Others cause minor gastrointestinal symptoms. There’s no reason to give your dog mushrooms, so it’s best to enjoy
Plums can cause stomach problems, but are generally not toxic on their own. Plum pits, however, are another matter. The pits are a choking hazard and contain cyanide, which is toxic to both humans and dogs.
If your dog tends to swallow things first and ask questions later, don’t leave plums where she can get them as she might swallow them whole and develop cyanide poisoning
Peaches are chemically similar to plums, and therefore pose some of the same risks. They’re also high in sugar, which means they can induce dangerously high blood sugar spikes in your dog.
You might not think of plants as food, but your dog may see them as no different from the lettuces and fruits she sees you gleefully munching.
Numerous household and wild plants are toxic to dogs, so if you’re a dedicated botanist, be sure to keep these out of your four-legged pal’s reach:
Candy can produce the same unpleasant effects in your canine companion that it produces in you: weight gain, blood sugar spikes, and an unhealthy appetite for sweet foods.
Because dogs are much smaller than people, and because they are unaccustomed to eating candy, these effects are typically more pronounced.
Your dog can experience an unhealthy increase in blood sugar after eating just a few pieces of candy.
Candy also poses other risks. Most prepackaged candies contain dozens of ingredients. Unless you intend to Google the safety of each individual ingredient, you could unknowingly be exposing your dog to toxic substances.High blood sugar may also change your dog’s behavior, potentially even making him aggressive.
And finally, most candy is a choking risk. Dogs’ teeth are not designed to chew small, chewy pieces or solid hard candy.
Dog food safety is about more than just giving your dog the right foods and steering clear of toxic foods. Indeed, his dietary needs are not that different from your own. A balanced and varied diet is vital to good health.
But a few simple rules can help you make good decisions even when you’re feeding all the right foods.
A generation ago, almost no one had heard of feeding dogs raw meat. But with the advent of well-known diets such as Dr. Ian Billinghurst’s bones and raw food (BARF) diet, raw food diets—including those that incorporate raw bones—have caught on. There are both risks and benefits to feeding raw meat, and you should fully educate yourself about the debate before taking the plunge.
Proponents of raw food diets point out that wild dogs eat raw meat, and that dogs’ teeth are designed for crushing raw bones. It’s unlikely that your dog will choke on a raw bone since raw bones don’t splinter, and raw meat tends to be higher in vital nutrients than cooked meat.
Opponents point to bacteria risks, particularly the risk of spreading salmonella and e.
Moreover, dogs who eat very quickly may swallow bones whole, without chewing them, subjecting them to an increased risk of choking.
Though more and more veterinarians support raw diets, and some pet food manufacturers even sell prepackaged raw food, you may experience push back from your vet. Veterinarians are trained to worry about safety, so don’t be surprised if your vet is concerned about a raw food diet.
Find an expert who can support you in your decision, since feeding a raw diet requires lots of time, knowledge, and effort.
People have thrown cooked bones to dogs on the other side of the fence and the kitchen for years, but the fact that it’s always been done doesn’t make it safe.
Cooked bones tend to splinter as your dog’s powerful jaws crush them. These splinters can lodge in your dog’s digestive tract. Once they’re there, they are almost impossible to remove, and can cause choking, gastrointestinal bleeding, bloat, and even death.
No matter how much your dog begs, just say no to cooked bones.
There’s nothing cuter than watching a dog vigorously tear into a birthday present. Perhaps you even occasionally let him chew into the packaging of his favorite snacks. It might be cute, but it’s dangerous.
He can choke on packaging and staples.
Worse still, encouraging him to do this teaches him that eating paper and packaging is not only okay but fun. Don’t be surprised if your dog generalizes this approach, and begins eating every box, bag, and paper in your house.
Most prepackaged dog foods are fortified with a variety of supplemental vitamins and minerals, which means your dog will get all he needs.
If you feed a homemade diet or a mix of homemade and prepackaged food, though, consider a multivitamin. Your vet can help you choose the one that offers the vitamins most likely to be missing from your dog’s diet.
A healthy human diet contains lots of vegetables, some fruits, a bit of protein, and some grains. Dogs’ nutritional needs are quite different, so don’t let your human nutritional needs bias you in favor of an unhealthy diet. Loading your dog up on veggies does him no favors.
Your dog’s daily caloric needs depend on his age, size, overall health, and activity level, so ask your vet to help you calculate the number of calories your dog needs.
Then use the following rules:
If you plan to make a homemade diet for your dog, please don’t just give him carbon copies of your own meals. Making your own dog food is no easy feat, and the wrong diet can send your dog’s body into complete and total chaos.
Seek the help of a skilled veterinary nutritionist. Read lots of books, and consider using a recipe book or published dietary plan to build your dog’s diet.
There are lots of reasons to go vegetarian or vegan. It’s understandable that a dog lover would be equally concerned about the plight of other animals.
But dogs are carnivores, and there is no escaping this fact. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
Dogs need 22 amino acids to stay alive and healthy. They can synthesize 12 of them, but the other 12 must come from meat. Without meat, your dog can suffer catastrophic health effects. Even if he or she seems healthy now, the effects of a vegetarian or vegan diet can take
If you’re concerned about animal welfare issues, try the following in lieu of making your dog go vegetarian or vegan:
Just like people, dogs can develop food allergies. Rarely, these allergies may even be life-threatening. To avoid dangerous allergic reactions, introduce new foods one at a time. That way you know the culprit for any unforeseen health issues.
What if your dog is on a prepackaged diet and appears to have allergies?
First, check the ingredients for common allergens such as corn and pork. If switching to an allergen-free diet doesn’t work, your vet might advise an elimination diet. An elimination diet requires you to eliminate one potential allergen at a time until symptoms disappear.
Feeding your dog does not have to be intensely complicated, particularly if you opt for a prepackaged diet. But what does a healthy diet for your dog look like, anyway?
Follow these simple rules and you’ll never again give your dog something that could harm her.
Pet food ingredients follow a simple rule: ingredients go in descending order, from most prevalent to lease prevalent ingredient. This means the first ingredient—and ideally the first few ingredients—should be meat, not meat by-products, vegetables, filler, or preservatives.
If you decide to take your dog’s diet into your own hands, you don’t need to offer him each and every possible food every day. Instead, focus on cultivating balance over time.
Feed your dog a variety of foods; he might get chicken this week and pork next. Variety ensures your dog gets the right nutrients, and can help him avoid boredom with his diet.
Vets tend to see
The culprit in many pancreatitis cases is too much fat intake. Watch your dog’s fat intake, and avoid feeding him large quantities of high-fat food such as lamb.
Some dogs, particularly those with large chests such as St. Bernards, are vulnerable to a potentially life-threatening condition called bloat.
Bloat occurs when food expands inside your dog’s stomach, causing the gastrointestinal tract to twist. Left untreated, it can kill your dog in as little as 12 hours.
Vets don’t know why some dogs get bloat and others don’t but one potential culprit is eating speed. If your dog tends to scarf down food in an instant, consider slowing him down by breaking his meal into several courses.
Particularly if your dog has allergies or is prone to gastrointestinal problems, don’t introduce too many new foods at once—and never change his diet for no reason.
When you do make changes, introduce the new food over time, slowly adding it to the old food as you phase the old food out. This greatly reduces the risk of stomach distress, and can help you assess whether the new food is causing an allergic reaction.
In the wild, dogs often go days without food, then gorge themselves when they kill something delicious. You should not deprive your
This can prevent food strikes, during which dogs refuse to eat until they get something “better.” It also creates a routine, and dogs are creatures of habit who feel more secure when they know what to expect.
It may feel frustrating to learn the ins and outs of canine nutrition—especially when your four-legged best friend stares up at you with pleading eyes.
But food is fuel for the body, and to get good things out of your dog, you must put good things into him!
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