What Kind of Human Foods Can Dogs Eat?
We all feed our dogs a little human food from time to time. After all, it’s hard to resist when those puppy dog eyes are looking up at you at the table or while you’re cooking. However, even though we have the best intentions, human food isn’t always good for dogs. Human food contains a lot of additives and other ingredients that simply aren’t good for dogs, so table scraps don’t make good treats. Overeating certain human foods can also lead to obesity in dogs .
On the other hand, a lot of owners have taken to feeding their furry companions homemade dog food. There are a number of reasons this can be a good, healthy option for your pet. If you’re considering turning human food into healthy homemade food for dogs, it’s important to understand what dogs can eat and what the best kind of human food is for your dog.
What nutrition do dogs need?
Dogs are carnivorous, meaning the primary component of their diet should be meat. But they aren’t obligate carnivores —or only meat-eating. In the wild, dogs survive mainly off of prey animals and some seasonal vegetables. Wild dogs will also occasionally eat fruits. When you’re deciding on your dog’s diet , it should primarily revolve around these food items.
Although meat is good food for dogs, all meat should be cooked and any bones should be removed to avoid a choking hazard. It’s also important to note that some dogs are lactose intolerant and can’t eat dairy foods, so their protein should come from a different source. Protein sources dogs can eat include:
- Lean beef
- Fish—salmon and sardines are especially good for dogs
- Eggs— as long as they are cooked
- Cheeses—cottage cheese and hard cheeses in moderation are safe
- Yogurt—an acceptable snack in moderation
Fruits & Vegetables
Dogs can eat certain fruits, but they are high in sugar so you should only give them to your dog in moderation. Other types of fruits and vegetables can be dangerous for dogs to consume, so check with your vet before adding them to your dog’s diet. The following fruits and vegetables are typically okay for dogs to eat:
Most dogs need some moderately-fermentable fibers in their diets. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, or dogs who are young and growing. Dogs can eat the following grains:
These other human foods are safe to give your dog in moderation as a treat:
- Peanut butter—be sure the brand you select does not contain xylitol or added sugar
What human foods are unsafe for dogs?
The following human foods are not only unhealthy for our pets, but many of them can also be toxic, such as:
- Grapes and raisins
- Lemons & limes
- Coffee & tea—dogs should not consume any food or beverages that contain caffeine
- Foods & chewing gum containing Xylitol
- Macadamia nuts
- Yeast dough
- Foods high sodium—including bacon
- Cinnamon—is not toxic to dogs but can irritate the inside of their mouths
Vet in Clear Lake, Texas
To provide a well-balanced diet your dog’s age, size, and activity level should all be taken into consideration. All dogs need protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals in their diet. Store-bought foods are prepared with these nutritional requirements in mind. However, if you are making your dog food at home, it’s wise to consult your veterinarian to ensure that your dog eats a safe and healthy diet full of the specific nutrients they need.
As a veterinary hospital serving Clear Lake and Webster, Texas, we are passionate about pet health and wellness. While we don’t encourage feeding dogs human food from the table, we are supportive of a healthy, homemade diet. If there is a type of human food you are wondering whether your dog can eat that is not on the list, give Nasa Pet Hospital a call at 281-332-3418 and we’ll be happy to let you know if it is safe for your pup.
People Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat
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Dedicated dog lovers tend to be very kind people. We share our hearts and homes (and for some lucky pups, even the foot of our beds) with our canine pals. Surely there is nothing wrong with sharing our favorite people foods with our dogs too, right? Not necessarily. Many of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that people digest just fine can wreak havoc on a dog’s body, causing severe health problems. On the other hand, some of the foods people eat can be introduced to a dog’s diet just fine, and even provide health benefits such as joint strength, better breath, and allergy immunity.
But before giving your dog foods that you crave, read on and learn which foods are safe, and which can send your dog straight to the emergency vet. And always be mindful that even healthy foods fed in excess can lead to canine obesity, a major health concern for U.S. dogs. Always choose a quality dog food as your dog’s main diet.
Human Food Safety for Dogs
Almonds: No, dogs shouldn’t eat almonds. Almonds may not necessarily be toxic to dogs like macadamia nuts are, but they can block the esophagus or even tear the windpipe if not chewed completely. Salted almonds are especially dangerous because they can increase water retention, which is potentially fatal to dogs prone to heart disease.
Bread: Yes, dogs can eat bread. Small amounts of plain bread (no spices and definitely no raisins) won’t hurt your dog, but it also won’t provide any health benefits either. It has no nutritional value and can really pack on the carbohydrates and calories, just like in people. Homemade breads are a better option than store-bought, as bread from the grocery store typically contains unnecessary preservatives, but it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Cashews: Yes, dogs can eat cashews. Cashews are OK for dogs, but only a few at a time. They’ve got calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and proteins, but while these nuts contain less fat than others, too many can lead to weight gain and other fat-related conditions. A few cashews make a nice treat, but only if they’re unsalted.
Cheese: Yes, dogs can eat cheese in small to moderate quantities. As long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, which is rare, but still possible in canines, cheese can be a great treat. Many kinds of cheese can be high in fat, so go for lower-fat varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella. Many dogs enjoy their very own dog-specific Himalayan dog chew made of dried cheese (but we don’t recommend sharing it).
Chocolate: No, dogs should never eat chocolate. This isn’t just an urban legend. Chocolate contains toxic substances called methylxanthines, which are stimulants that stop a dog’s metabolic process. Even just a little bit of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can cause diarrhea and vomiting. A large amount can cause seizures, irregular heart function, and even death. Do not have chocolate in an accessible location for your dog. If your dog does ingest chocolate, contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible.
Cinnamon: No, dogs shouldn’t eat cinnamon. While cinnamon is not actually toxic to dogs, it’s probably best to avoid it. Cinnamon and its oils can irritate the inside of dogs’ mouths, making them uncomfortable and sick. It can lower a dog’s blood sugar too much and can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, increased, or decreased heart rate, and even liver disease. If they inhale it in powder form, cinnamon can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and choking.
Coconut: Yes, coconut is OK for dogs. This funky fruit contains lauric acid, which can help combat bacteria and viruses. It can also help with bad breath and clearing up skin conditions like hot spots, flea allergies, and itchy skin. Coconut milk and coconut oil are safe for dogs too. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get its paws on the furry outside of the shell, which can get lodged in the throat.
Corn: Yes, dogs can eat corn. Corn is one of the most common ingredients in most dog foods. However, the cob can be hard for a dog to digest and may cause an intestinal blockage, so if you’re sharing some corn, make sure it is off the cob. (Or just opt for a squeaky corn toy instead.)
Eggs: Yes, dogs can eat eggs. Eggs are safe for dogs as long as they are fully cooked. Cooked eggs are a wonderful source of protein and can help an upset stomach. However, eating raw egg whites can contribute to biotin deficiency, so be sure to cook the eggs all the way through before giving them to your pet.
Fish: Yes, dogs can eat fish. Fish contains good fats and amino acids, giving your dog a nice health boost. Salmon and sardines are especially beneficial — salmon because it’s loaded with vitamins and protein, and sardines because they have soft, digestible bones for extra calcium. With the exception of sardines, be sure to pick out all the tiny bones, which can be tedious but is definitely necessary. Never feed your dog uncooked or undercooked fish, only fully cooked and cooled, and limit your dog’s fish intake to no more than twice a week.
Garlic: No, dogs shouldn’t eat garlic. Like onions, leeks, and chives, garlic is part of the Allium family, and it is five times more toxic to dogs than the rest of the Allium plants. Garlic can create anemia in dogs, causing side effects such as pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness, and collapse. Poisoning from garlic and onions may have delayed symptoms, so if you think your dog may have eaten some, monitor him or her for a few days, not just right after consumption.
Ham: Yes, dogs can eat ham. Ham is OK for dogs to eat, but certainly isn’t the healthiest for them. Ham is high in sodium and fat, so while sharing a small piece is all right, it shouldn’t be a continuous habit.
Honey: Yes, dogs can eat honey. Honey is packed with countless nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and antioxidants. Feeding dogs small amounts of honey can help with allergies because it introduces small amounts of pollen to their systems, building up immunity to allergens in your area. In addition to consuming honey, the sticky spread can also be used as a topical treatment for burns and superficial cuts.
Ice cream: No, dogs shouldn’t eat ice cream. As refreshing of a treat as ice cream is, it contains lots of sugar so it is best not to share with your dog. Also, some dogs have an intolerance to lactose. To avoid the milk altogether, freeze chunks of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples to give to your dog as a sweet, icy treat.
Macadamia nuts: No, dogs should never eat macadamia nuts. These are some of the most poisonous foods for dogs. Macadamia nuts, part of the Protaceae family, can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, and lethargy. Even worse, they can affect the nervous system. Never feed your dog macadamia nuts.
Milk: Yes, dogs can have milk. But be cautious. Some dogs are lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well. While it is OK for dogs to have a little milk, owners should be cognizant of the symptoms of lactose-intolerance and might want to stick to giving their dogs water.
Peanut butter: Yes, peanut butter is OK for dogs. Peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein for dogs. It contains heart-healthy fats, vitamins B and E and niacin. Raw, unsalted peanut butter is the healthiest option. Read the label carefully to be sure the peanut butter does not contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs.
Peanuts: Yes, dogs can eat peanuts. Unlike almonds, peanuts are safe for dogs to eat. They’re packed with good fats and proteins that can benefit your dog. Just be sure to give peanuts in moderation, as you don’t want your dog taking in too much fat, which can lead to pancreas issues. Also, avoid salted peanuts. Too much salt is hard for dogs to process.
Popcorn: Yes, dogs can eat popcorn. Unsalted, unbuttered, air-popped popcorn is OK for your dog in moderation. It contains riboflavin and thiamine, both of which promote eye health and digestion, as well as small amounts of iron and protein. Be sure to pop the kernels all the way before giving them to your dog, as unpopped kernels could become a choking hazard.
Pork: Yes, dogs can eat pork. Pork is a highly digestible protein, packed with amino acids, and it contains more calories per pound than other meats. Pork also may be less likely to cause an allergic reaction in some pets compared to other proteins.
Quinoa: Yes, quinoa is OK for dogs. You can now find quinoa in some high-quality dry dog foods. The strong nutritional profile of quinoa makes it a healthy alternative to corn, wheat, and soy — starches that are often used to make kibble.
Salmon: Yes, dogs can eat salmon. As mentioned above, fully cooked salmon is an excellent source of protein, good fats, and amino acids. It promotes joint and brain health and gives dog-immune systems a nice boost. However, raw or undercooked salmon contains parasites that can make dogs very sick, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in extreme cases, even death. Be sure to cook salmon all the way through (the FDA recommends at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit) and the parasites should cook out.
Shrimp: Yes, shrimp is OK for dogs. A few shrimp every now and then is fine for your dog, but only if they are fully cooked and the shell (including the tail, head, and legs) is removed completely. Shrimp are high in antioxidants, vitamin B-12, and phosphorus, but also low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates.
Tuna: Yes, dogs can eat tuna, but only in small amounts. In moderation, cooked, fresh tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes heart and eye health. As for canned tuna, it contains small amounts of mercury and sodium, which should be avoided in excess. A little bit of canned tuna and tuna juice here and there is fine — prepared only in water, not oil — as long as it doesn’t contain any spices.
Turkey: Yes, dogs can eat turkey. Turkey is fine for dogs, but be sure to remove excess fat and skin from the meat. Don’t forget to check for bones; poultry bones can splinter during digestion, causing blockage or even tears in the intestines. Any meat with excessive salt, seasonings, onions or garlic should not be fed.
Wheat/grains: Yes, dogs can eat wheat and other grains. Dogs do not have to be grain-free; it is perfectly OK for them to have grains. In fact, grains like wheat and corn are great sources of protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. If your dog has certain allergies, however, it might be best to avoid grains, but it truly depends on your dog. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Yogurt: Yes, yogurt is OK for dogs. Plain yogurt is a perfectly acceptable snack for dogs. However, some dogs may have trouble digesting dairy products. If your dog can digest it, the active bacteria in yogurt can help strengthen the digestive system with probiotics. Plain yogurt is the best choice. Avoid any yogurts with added sugar, and skip all yogurt with artificial sweeteners.
What dogs eat (and don’t eat) in the wild
Every species should eat a biologically appropriate diet, in other words what they would eat in the wild or as close to what they would eat in the wild as is feasible. In the case of dogs there is quite a lot of variety in their natural diet.
Dogs are carnivores and the primary component of their diet is prey. This could be small animals – mice, voles, rabbits, birds, insects and so forth – or it could be larger prey caught with the help of a pack. Either way, they eat everything – the internal organs, the meat, the bones… the lot.
Unlike cats, dogs aren’t obligate carnivores. They can and do eat vegetable matter. Wild dogs will search for rotten fruit and will eat the semi-digested contents of their prey’s stomach. Some will dig up vegetables and eat grasses and herbs. Dogs are also scavengers. They eat the leftovers from every animal that is killed or dies. As Ian Billinghurst, a leading proponent of natural feeding, has pointed out, dogs receive ‘valuable nutrients from materials that we humans find totally repugnant. Things like vomit, faeces and decaying flesh.’
With regard to the faeces, incidentally, these contain the dead and living bodies of millions upon billions of bacteria. They are an excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and fibre.
Not wanting to dwell on an unpleasant subject, but if you have a dog that is on a processed food diet he or she may be eating faeces in order to try to stay healthy (although if a dog is eating canine or feline faeces it will probably be because they contain the undigested flavourings used to make dry dog food palatable).
What dogs don’t eat in the wild
Almost as important as what dogs eat in the wild is what they don’t eat.
For starters (as it were), they don’t necessarily eat every day. Depending on where they live, the season, the size of the pack, the available prey and other factors, they may eat as infrequently as every second or third day or even longer without suffering any ill effect. A healthy dog can go a week without food.
Second, and perhaps more important, they don’t eat ‘complete’ meals. Dogs meet their nutritional requirements over time. They will eat what they need or seek it out if their body is telling them they need it. This is referred to as the ‘balance over time’ concept. It is crucial to the way dogs should be fed because there is evidence that dogs fed all the ingredients they need in proportion at every meal suffer increased health problems.
Finally, dogs don’t eat grain. They can’t digest it properly and, even if they could, they can’t convert it into sugar and store it for later use.
For more information and advice please contact Honey’s – we’ll be happy to help even if you never, ever plan to become a customer.
What should I feed my dog?
Domesticated dogs are largely carnivores but will also eat plant-based foods. Wild dogs eat a variety of food which comprise mainly of prey animals, consisting of raw meat, bones, organs and a small amount of the vegetable matter contained in the gut of their prey.
Basic dog feeding guide
The following information is general advice, but as each dog is an individual, seek veterinary advice, particularly if your dog has any special dietary needs or has a reaction to a standard diet.
The basis of your dog’s diet should be a high quality balanced premium commercial dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adolescent, adult, pregnant, senior) and health status. By reading the label, you can check that it complies with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food AS5812:2017 .
The amount of food required will depend on your dog’s size, breed, age and level of exercise, but take care not to overfeed or underfeed. Your vet will be able to weigh your dog, assess your dog’s body condition score and provide advice.
To avoid bloat, which can be fatal, adult dogs should be fed at least twice a day and should not be exercised immediately before or after eating. This applies particularly to deep-chested dogs such as Boxers and German Shepherds.
Fresh drinking water must be available at all times but do not offer your dog milk as this can cause gastrointestinal upsets.
Bones and raw meat are not recommended as they can break teeth and cause internal blockages, raw bones also carry bacteria that can make both animals and humans ill. Read the article Should I feed bones to my dog? for more information. If you do choose to offer bones to your pet, they should always be raw and introduced gradually.
Dogs have evolved significantly from their wolf ancestors, including developing an ability to digest starch and fat, plus living longer and healthier lives. Feeding them bones is not necessary given the range of quality nutritionally balanced diets available. Dental chews are a good alternative if you wish to provide your pet with entertainment that assists with teeth cleaning – the global Veterinary Oral Health Council lists dental products that meet standards for safety and reducing plaque/tartar.
Dogs may be offered fish (such as tinned fish – sardines, tuna or salmon) as an occasional treat, but fish should not be fed constantly. Take care to avoid fish bones and choose fish canned in spring water rather than oil or brine.
Dogs may also be offered a small amount of cooked vegetables such as pumpkin or carrots. A small amount of plain cooked pasta or rice may also be offered.
Cooked meat, such as boiled chicken or lamb, may also be offered, but ensure there are no cooked bones and no onions/onion sauces or other toxic substances present (see below). As mentioned above, raw meat and bones carry bacteria that can make both animals and humans ill and so are not recommended. However, if you do decide to feed your dog any raw meat or raw bones, it is recommended that you choose only human-grade raw meat and bones. You should avoid raw meat products marketed as pet food (pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls and bone products), sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats as they can contain sulphite preservatives. There have been many pet food safety incidents linked to sulphite preservative-induced thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. See this article for more information. You should make sure your dog has access to grass (avoid chemically treated grass and toxic plants). Dogs will sometimes eat grass, which may provide a source of vegetable matter and micronutrients.
Do not ever feed the following substances as they are toxic to dogs (note this is not a complete list): alcohol, onions, onion powder, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, mouldy or spoiled foods or compost, avocado, bread dough, yeast dough, grapes, raisins, sultanas (including in Christmas cakes etc), currants, nuts (including macadamia nuts), fruit stones or ‘pits’ (e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones, avocado stones), mushrooms, and fruit seeds. Also, never feed the following as these can be dangerous for dogs: corncobs, green unripe tomatoes, cooked bones, small pieces of raw bone, fatty trimmings/fatty foods, salt and roughly-cut vegetables.
Also ensure your pet dog doesn’t have access to string wrappings around rolled roasts or absorbent pads found under meat when wrapped on trays.
Keep your dog away from macadamia nuts and foods that have macadamia nuts in them. Just six raw or roasted macadamia nuts can make a dog sick. Look for symptoms like muscle shakes, vomiting, high temperature, and weakness in their back legs. Eating chocolate with the nuts will make symptoms worse, maybe even leading to death.
Most people know that chocolate is bad for dogs. The problem in chocolate is theobromine. It’s in all kinds of chocolate, even white chocolate. The most dangerous types are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate. Chocolate can cause a dog to vomit and have diarrhea. It can also cause heart problems, tremors, seizures, and death.
Fat Trimmings and Bones
Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, can cause pancreatitis in dogs. And, even though it seems natural to give a dog a bone, they can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and block or cause cuts in your dog’s digestive system.
Persimmons, Peaches, and Plums
The problem with these fruits is the seeds or pits. Seeds from persimmons can cause problems in a dog’s small intestine. They can also block their intestines. That can also happen if a dog eats the pit from a peach or plum. Peach and plum pits also have cyanide, which is poisonous to people and dogs. People know not to eat them. Dogs don’t.
Some people feed their dogs a “raw diet” that includes uncooked eggs. But the major veterinary medical associations don’t think that’s a good idea. There’s the chance of food poisoning from bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. Talk to your vet if you have questions.
Raw Meat and Fish
Like raw eggs, raw meat and fish can have bacteria that causes food poisoning. Some fish such as salmon, trout, shad, or sturgeon can also have a parasite that causes “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning disease.” It’s treatable, but get help right away. The first signs are vomiting, fever, and big lymph nodes. Fully cook the fish to kill the parasite.
It’s not a good idea to share salty foods like chips or pretzels with your dog. Eating too much salt can make your dog seriously thirsty. That means a lot of trips to the fire hydrant and it could lead to sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of too much salt include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, high temperature, and seizures. It may even cause death.
Sugary Foods and Drinks
Too much sugar can do the same thing to dogs that it does to people. It can make your dog overweight and cause problems with their teeth. It can even lead to diabetes.
Before it’s baked, bread dough needs to rise. And, that’s exactly what it would do in your dog’s stomach if they ate it. As it swells inside, the dough can stretch your dog’s abdomen and cause a lot of pain. Also, when the yeast ferments the dough to make it rise, it makes alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Dogs shouldn’t take people medicine. It can make them very sick. Just as you do for your kids, keep all medicines out of your dog’s reach. And, never give your dog any over-the-counter medicine unless your vet tells you to. Ingredients such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are common in pain relievers and cold medicine. And, they can be deadly for your dog.
Kitchen Pantry: No Dogs Allowed
Many other things often found on kitchen shelves can hurt your dog. Large amounts of baking powder or baking soda are both highly toxic. So are large amounts of nutmeg and other spices. Keep food high enough to be out of your dog’s reach and keep pantry doors closed.
If Your Dog Eats What They Shouldn’t
No matter how careful you are, your dog might find and swallow something they shouldn’t. Keep the number of your local vet, the closest emergency clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center — (888) 426-4435 — where you know you can find it. And, if you think your dog has eaten something toxic, call for emergency help right away.
What Dogs Can Eat
You can make sure your dog has a healthy, well-balanced diet by asking your vet to suggest a quality dog food. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes give your dog people food as a special treat. Only give them a little. Be sure the foods are cooked, pure, and not fatty or heavily seasoned. Here are some ideas.
Safe: Lean Meats
Most dogs are fine eating lean cuts of meat that have been cooked well. Take off all visible fat — including the skin on poultry. Be sure that there are no bones in the meat before you give it to your dog.
Safe: Some Fresh Fruits
Slices of apples, oranges, bananas, and watermelon make tasty treats for your dog. Take out any seeds first. Seeds, stems, and leaves can cause serious problems.
Safe: Some Vegetables
Your dog can have a healthy veggie snack of carrot sticks, green beans, cucumber slices, or zucchini slices. Even a plain baked potato is OK. Don’t let your dog eat any raw potatoes or any potato plants from your pantry or garden.
Safe: Cooked White Rice and Pasta
Dogs can eat plain white rice or pasta after it’s cooked. And, a serving of plain white rice with some boiled chicken can sometimes make your dog feel better when they are having stomach problems.