What to do if you run out of dog food? Or if you want to treat your dog to something from your plate? Are people foods bad for dogs?
What is the deal with recommending against giving your dog any people food? Does people food grow on different trees than dog food does?
An argument against giving your dog people food
Some people foods, however yummy, are poisonous to dogs. Clearly, you don’t want to hurt your dog. I am sure that every dedicated dog parent is familiar with the list but it bears repeating.
Technically, xylitol is not food and you’re not likely to give it to your dog on purpose. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener. Many products contain xylitol–gum, candy, baked goods, and more. Visit PreventiveVet for a full up-to-date list.
It is much deadlier than chocolate and cases of xylitol poisoning are on the rise. Learn more about the damage it can do to your dog’s body here.
I don’t expect readers of this blog giving their dogs alcoholic beverages. However, alcohol might be present in some food products.
Further, the fermentation process in rotten fruits or uncooked yeast dough can introduce ethanol into these food items.
Grapes and raisins
You would think that fruits and vegetables always make a healthy snack for you and your dog. But there are exceptions and grapes and raisins are the most important one.
While veterinarians didn’t yet figure out what it is that makes grapes toxic to dogs, these fruits can cause kidney failure in your dog.
Yes, there are some dogs who ate grapes and are fine. There are some theories floating out there as to why. But why risk it? In a worst-case scenario, even one grape could kill your dog.
Chocolate toxicity is dose-dependent. In other words, the type of chocolate and the size of your dog matters. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.
The solution is simple, though. Just don’t give any chocolate to your dog.
All types of onions, including leeks, green onions, and chives, can cause not only an upset belly but damage your dog’s red blood cells.
Garlic belongs to the same plant family and many sources list it as toxic as well. It’s a tricky one, though. It too can mess with your dog’s blood but it seems that the dose would need to be as high as 5 grams of garlic per kg of body weight.
Some veterinarians believe in the health benefits of moderate amounts of garlic. Others would not give a dog any, ever. There is no consensus in this matter.
I am willing to consider the health benefits of garlic if it came to it. In the meantime, I don’t give my dog any.
Note if you’re considering using garlic to prevent parasites or biting insects: when I had a sore tooth, I was eating a whole bulb of garlic a day. It helped with the tooth but mosquitoes couldn’t care less. So I don’t believe it is useful for this purpose.
Even a small amount of macadamia nuts can hurt your dog. Why? You guessed it–nobody knows. But they belong on the list of foods poisonous to your dog. Don’t feed them.
Source: ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Beyond the above foods, there are things you’re not likely to feed your dog on purpose but could still cause problems. Some dogs are crafty at getting their paws on things.
Some of these items include:
- spoiled foods
- mustard seeds
- potato leaves and stems (green parts)
- rhubarb leaves
- tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
2. Foreign body obstruction or perforation
Food things don’t need to be toxic to hurt your dog. Foreign body obstructions can be just as dangerous as poisoning. Some food items to keep out of your dog’s menu for this reason include:
- fruit pits and seeds
- avocado seeds
- cooked bones
- corn on the cob
3. Confusing items
There are some foods that, similar to garlic, can get confusing. Whether or not they will cause problems to your dog depends on the individual dog or on the food item. You might give some in moderation and if in doubt, stay away from them.
Such things include:
- milk and dairy (some dogs can tolerate it, some don’t. My dogs tolerate dairy products and goat’s milk fine)
Some things that are good for you, such as the items on the toxic list, are bad for your dog. Foods that are bad for you, though, are mostly also bad for your dog.
- processed snacks
- foods with high salt content
- high-fat content (particularly pan drippings)
Dogs have generally high tolerance for dietary fats. However, fat trimmings or drippings from your turkey don’t qualify as a healthy fat. The risk of giving your dog pancreatitis isn’t worth it.
As well as spicy foods are likely to wreak havoc in your dog’s digestive system.
Some lists of foods you should never give your dog include mushrooms. Here is the deal with mushrooms–those that you can eat, your dog can eat. Those that would kill you, will kill your dog too. And the rest is in between.
Mushrooms contain nutrients that are great for your dog. The edible ones. Varieties ou purchase in your grocery store are safe for both of you.
I would not give my dog raw mushrooms, though. The reason is simple–I don’t want to give my dog any ideas. Very few mushrooms are deadly. But if your dog goes mushrooming, assume that what they found was deadly and act accordingly.
Raw meat and bones
This is one you will have to figure out for yourself. There is a pro-raw movement as well as anti-raw movement. You need to review and consider the risks and benefits.
If you do want to give bones to your dog, it has to be raw. Cooked bones are dangerous as they can splinter and cause serious injuries.
Raw bones can carry bacteria, cause broken teeth or obstructions. But other chews can do that too. If you do want to give your dog bones, consider your dog’s size and what kind of chewer they are.
Cookie does get raw bones. I accept the potential risk especially after she almost choked on a dental rawhide and had digestive issues with Greenies. It is, however, a decision you need to make for yourself.
Raw meat is another controversial item. Cookie is on a raw diet. I started after she virtually switched herself by catching and eating small prey. She’s doing well on it and never had any problems. Well, except for the tapeworm she once contracted after she ate a squirrel.
I do not feed raw chicken as I feel it has the highest potential for contamination.
Note: raw diet does not equal raw meat only. If you want to do that, learn how it’s done properly.
You can give raw fish but not any raw fish.
Fish from salmon family can be infected by a fluke that can cause poisoning in dogs–salmon poisoning. It was believed that it was only the Pacific Salmon that carried this infection. Not so long ago, however, some evidence surfaced that other species might cause salmon poisoning too. So I’d steer away from feeding any salmon-type fish. raw.
If you asked me about feeding my dog raw eggs not so long ago, my answer would be that I don’t.
The reason for that being a compound found in raw egg whites–avidin. Avidin is a protein that binds to biotin, making it nutritionally unavailable. The argument is that consuming raw egg whites can lead to biotin deficiency.
Because this protein is “disarmed” by cooking, I always cooked eggs for my dogs. Until we were discussing Cookie’s diet with our vet. She said that feeding eggs was great but if I were to feed them, why not feed them raw?
I mentioned avidin. But the vet argued that given how much biotin there is in egg yolks, it more than makes up for this issue.
After a lot of thought, I decided to feed eggs raw. As it seems, the cited deficiency is most likely with the consumption of raw egg whites only, not whole eggs. As well as I don’t feed so many eggs that it would become a problem.
Like with any raw food, there is some risk of infective organisms. I’d say less so in eggs than other raw foods. As well as these days, you can get salmonella from parsley or cantaloupes.
With raw foods, I choose to be aware of the potential risks but bet on the benefits. This is something everybody needs to decide for themselves.
So what foods can you share with your dog?
You can give just about anything not listed as poisonous or dangerous. The key is moderation, variety, and good judgment.
Watch the calories
One of the main reasons veterinarians often recommend against sharing people foods is the additional calorie load. Some foods are higher in calories than others. For example, the same amount of beef has roughly twice the calories of a chicken or turkey breast. Veggies, naturally, have low-calorie content.
Take it slow
If all your dog ever eats is one brand of kibble, introduce any new foods gradually. A dramatic change in what arrives in the belly can cause gastrointestinal upsets.
In my experience, this only happens to dogs who always eat the same kibble. Dogs used to variety or dogs on whole-food diets, don’t have this issue.
Introducing new food items a little bit at the time is the safest way to do it. Unless you have a burning desire to clean up diarrhea from your carpet.
What treats our dogs get?
There are many great options for healthy treats for dogs.
Veggies are certainly one of them. But our guys are not very fussy on that. They’ll accept veggies as part of a meal but not as a treat. Every now and then they enjoy chewing on a carrot, cabbage, cauliflower core, or frozen broccoli. But if I tried to pass that for treats I wouldn’t get very far.
If your dog accepts veggies as treats, go for it.
Where is the bacon?
As it were, the only thing that passes as treats with my dog has to be made of meat. No, I don’t give them bacon except the odd morsel every once in a blue moon. They love it. But pancreatitis is something I rather avoid. Even though Cookie’s pancreatitis had nothing to do with fat, I prefer to play it safe. Plus there are other issues with bacon beside the fat content.
I only use lean meats for treats.
Cooked versus dehydrated
If you need your dog to drop some pounds, opt for cooked over dehydrated. More water content means they can get more volume without increasing the number of calories. It’s a bit messier but worth it.
Meats I like using for treats are lean beef, lean pork, or a variety of organ meats.
What if you run out of dog food?
I have managed never to run out of kibble. But with Cookie is on the raw diet. Now and then I forget to thaw some out for her next meal. It can happen to anybody.
One option, of course, is to fast the dog. Many holistic veterinarians recommend fasting a dog at least once a month for a number of health benefits.
I like the idea. But my dogs beg to differ so I haven’t fasted them except for diagnostics or medical procedures. Also, if I wanted to pull it off, we would all have to fast too. Yeah, our health would likely benefit too but come on.
Well, maybe one of these days.
Another reason you might not want to fast your dog is when they already have issues with stomach acid. Don’t fast a dog who is already likely to throw up in the morning because their belly is empty.
Finding something to feed your dog
When they are in a bind, people use all sorts of foods. Ham sandwiches, and whatever else might be hiding in the fridge. Any dog-safe foods should do just fine. A ham sandwich is better than pizza crust. (See notes earlier in the article.)
I aim higher–I want it to be better than okay for my dog.
When I realize I don’t have any dog food ready for a meal, I scramble some eggs. It’s fast, delicious, and nutritious.
Eggs are easy to digest and loaded with nutrients.
If I have boiled ones, I use those. Poached eggs would work as well. If I can find some left-over veggies, I quickly warm them up and throw the eggs in it. Cookie is willing to eat quite a lot of vegetables this way.
If you’re going to scramble some eggs for your dog, though, go easy with the oil.
I like to have a backup stash of canned salmon.
This is the fastest and easiest way to substitute a meal. Open the can, feed it. Again, if I have some left-over veggies, I might mix them into that as well.
Those are my go-to meal substitutes. What are yours?
Fat in Dog Nutrition: Give Me Some Bacon
10 “People” Foods for Dogs