In-depth guide to the wonderful foods your dog can eat

Since I was nine years old, I have been a proud dog parent. When I think of how little I knew about how to take care of my dog, I feel very lucky that I didn’t make any tragic mistakes. We share a lot of things with our dogs: our beds, our sofa, and often, even our food. Dogs love variety in their diet, just like us. A little taste of this and that from your own plate to their bowl, really makes their day and makes them feel special.

However, it’s important that we know the answer to the question, “What can dogs eat?” 

Not knowing what our dogs can or can’t eat can cause health issues for them, sometimes with devastating outcomes. Let’s look at what foods are safe for our hounds, and what foods should be avoided. 

dog with kibble on floor

Good Stuff!

While experts consider these foods safe, you should always be mindful of how much you feed to your dog. Also, keep in mind how you prepare these foods. Food additives and certain parts of fruits, vegetables, and meats can cause your dog to become sick.

Be aware of your dog’s medical conditions. Every dog is different, which means that they will have different reactions to different foods. Therefore, ask your veterinarian about what specific foods are ideal for your hound. 

Dairy

Like humans, some dogs have a hard time digesting dairy products if they are lactose intolerant. However, if you know your dog can digest lactose, here are some safe options for you to try with them. 

Small to moderate portions of cheese are harmless. Make sure you look for cheeses that have a low fat content, since there are some cheeses that are very high in fat. Mozzarella and cottage cheese are good choices to give your dog. According to the Clinical Nutrition Service, if your dog has kidney disease, it’s best to avoid feeding them cheese due to the high protein content.

dog eating a chew

Yogurt can be beneficial for your dog because it contains active bacteria that can produce probiotics. These can strengthen your dog’s digestive system. Only give your dog plain yogurt with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.  

Fruits

The Welsh proverb, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” not only applies to you as a human, but it also applies to your hound. Apples are packed with fiber, which is beneficial to your dog’s digestive system. These fruits are also loaded with vitamins A and C. 

Before giving your dog apples, always discard the core and the seeds. The seeds contain a substance which, when in contact with your gut bacteria turns into cyanide. Rest assured that a few seeds are harmless, but you may as well try and eliminate them altogether.  

Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are high in antioxidants, which can help your dog fight diseases. They are also high in fiber, which can boost your dog’s digestive system. Berries are low in calories, too. 

A 2006 study found that sled dogs who were fed blueberries as a supplement had faster muscle recovery than dogs who weren’t given this super-food. 

sled dog eating cake and strawberries

Strawberries contain malic acid,  an enzyme that may be good for whitening your hound’s teeth. 

Coconuts contain lauric acid. This is beneficial for your dog as it boosts the immune system. It is also an anti fungal substance that helps fight yeast infections, ringworm, and diarrhea-causing parasites called Giardia. Lauric acid works as an anti-inflammatory that can speed up the healing of wounds and hot spots and promote joint pain relief caused by arthritis. 

Both the coconut meat and the milk are safe to give to your dog. Be sure to remove the shell before feeding coconut to your dog in order to prevent your dog from choking. 

You can occasionally feed your dog tomatoes as a treat. However, never give your dog green tomatoes because they contain tomatine. This has been linked to irregular heart rate, nausea, muscle weakness, and breathing issues.  

Vegetables

Corn is an ingredient commonly used in dog food and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Remove the corn off the cob, as swallowing the cob or the shank (stalk) can cause an intestinal blockage. A daily intake of 1-2 tablespoons of corn is ideal for your dog. 

If you want to give your dog something that is easy to digest, sweet potatoes are a great vegetable. According to The British Journal of Nutrition they’re loaded with Vitamin A, which is good for your dog’s immune system and eye health. Sweet potatoes can be served as a treat, or you can even add them to your dog’s regular food. 

dog eating veg

Broccoli, carrots, and celery can be given as a low calorie, nutrient-dense dog treat. Make sure to cut them up into small digestible pieces to prevent choking. My dogs love broccoli stalks. I cut the hard outer skin off, leaving the tender moist inside flesh for them. I sometimes dab a little peanut butter on for an extra treat.

Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Meats such as beef, chicken, and pork are the primary ingredients of most manufactured dog foods. Therefore feeding your dog some meat is absolutely safe. Make sure the meats are cooked and free of any skin, bones, excess fats, salts, and seasonings. Avoid smoked and cured meats. The salt content can be very high, and gastric disturbances may occur.

Seafood is commonly associated with cats and is even the main ingredient in some cat foods. However, that doesn’t mean that dogs can’t enjoy seafood. Fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines are high in protein. They are also packed with healthy fats and amino acids that can be beneficial for the dog’s coat and skin. Like meats, seafood should always be thoroughly cooked to kill off bacteria and parasites. With the exception of tinned sardines, always remove bones from fish. 

Wheat/Grains

Small amounts of plain homemade bread are safe for your dog. However, there really aren’t any health benefits to be had from bread. Bread can cause an accumulation of carbs and calories in dogs. 

Your dog can eat cooked white or brown rice. Rice is easy on the dog’s stomach and can be added to chicken or turkey for additional protein. Some older dogs can benefit from the addition of rice or potato to their diet. It’s much easier for them to digest.

Plain quinoa is a healthier alternative to rice and can be found in some dog food brands. 

Nuts

Cashews, pecans and peanuts are generally safe in small quantities. They can lead to weight gain since they’re full of fat and calories. This includes butters made from these nuts. Always use unsalted nuts. 

dog catching nut

Miscellaneous

Eggs

Eggs are a good source of protein and are easy on your dog’s stomach. Most veterinarians recommend cooking the egg thoroughly before you feed it to your dog.

Honey

If your dog has seasonal allergies, feeding them small amounts of honey can boost their immune system by introducing pollen. It is also a great topical treatment for minor cuts, burns and skin irritations. Don’t give honey to diabetic dogs, or puppies less than a year old. Diabetic dogs need to have their sugar intake controlled, and puppies need to fully develop their immunity.

Peanut Butter

A very popular dog treat. It contains fats that are good for your dog’s heart, vitamins A & E, and niacin. Give your dog peanut butter in moderation, and make sure it’s unsalted. 

Bad Stuff!

Not everything humans can eat is safe for dogs. These foods either contain toxic substances, produce harmful bacteria, or can cause injury to your dog’s body. Be mindful of the scraps that you want to give your dog because they might contain some of these foods.

dog eating something

Dairy

As with all dairy products, ice cream isn’t good for dogs who are lactose intolerant. Ice cream is full of sugar, which can cause weight gain in your dog, which in turn can lead to other health problems. Some ice cream flavors should be avoided, such as chocolate. 

A good alternative to ice cream is to feed your dog frozen blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries. You can also give your dog plain unsweetened yogurt. 

Fruits

In a 2009 research article, avocados were found to contain a fungicidal toxin called persin, which may cause some stomach problems for dogs. Sensitive dogs may also develop a condition called pancreatitis if they eat avocado pulp. 

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, the organ that helps with digesting food and controlling sugar, is inflamed. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs are loss of appetite, vomiting, and belly pain. 

Most dogs would be fine, but it’s always better to be cautious.

Grapes and raisins have an unknown toxin that can lead to kidney failure and death in dogs.  

The skin of the lemon, lime, and grapefruit contains psoralen. Psoralen can cause your dog to have diarrhea and vomiting, and it can cause skin problems. These citrus fruits should be avoided altogether. 

dog lying staring at three biscuits

Vegetables

Dogs should avoid eating onions and their relatives such as garlic, leeks, and chives. You should also avoid giving dogs garlic and onions in powder form. All of these items contain N-propyl disulfide, which is poisonous to your dog. This substance can lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. 

Meat, Poultry, and Fish

Raw meats, poultry, and fish contain harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, which is just as bad for dogs as it is for people.

Bones are not a safe treat for your dog. It can become a choking hazard by getting stuck in the throat. Bones can splinter and cause injury to your dog’s digestive system. Always supervise a dog with a bone.

Nuts

Almonds aren’t poisonous, but they can block the esophagus and damage the windpipe if not fully chewed. Dogs prone to heart disease should stay away from salted almonds as they can increase water retention. 

Macadamia nuts have an unknown toxin that can cause symptoms such as weakness, stomach pain, and tremors. 

Miscellaneous 

Chocolate

Many of us know that giving your dog chocolate is a big no-no. Chocolate has caffeine and theobromine, which are hard for a dog’s body to process. Small amounts of chocolate can cause your dog to experience nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Excessive amounts can cause major complications such as seizures, internal bleeding, and death. 

dog on road with biscuits

Alcohol

Dogs who are given alcohol can suffer ethanol poisoning. This can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, a severe drop in body temperature, liver failure, and death. 

Xylitol 

This is a sugar alternative found in various foods such as candy, gum, and baked goods. It can be very dangerous for your dog to ingest as it can lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar, seizures, and muscle weakness. In severe cases, your dog can develop liver failure and die. 

cute dog on back

Bon Appētit 

Foods other than your dog’s daily, complete diet should only be considered an occasional treat. What our hounds eat plays a major factor in what kind of life they live. And how long they live it with us.

Give your dogs some safe foods as treats, but only in moderation. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure about what you can safely feed your dog. I hope that this article has given you a clear and thorough guideline on what dogs can and can’t eat. Just as you want to live a healthy and happy life, let your dog join you on your journey. 

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