Human foods & your dog: the good, the bad and the ugly

Dog Health Aug 03, 2020

The canine digestive system differs heaps from the human tummy. Meaning that even foods we consider super healthy can be harmful or even deadly to our dogs.

Unfortunately, the full list of things you should and shouldn't feed your pup is too big to fit into just one article. So, we've broken it down into the everyday foods you're likely to find in the average domestic kitchen.

Vegetables, herbs and spices

A source of protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin K, green beans can be a tasty, healthy addition to your dog's diet. Similarly, frozen or fresh, green peas are also safe and are often found in dog food products. Peas are the perfect ingredient because they're tasty, low in calories and high in nutrients. But avoid the tinned varieties of both these veggies as they tend to be sodium-rich.

Another common ingredient in dog foods is corn. Fresh corn is a healthy treat for your pooch, but the cob may cause an intestinal blockage, so it's best they don't chew on those.

On the other hand, gnawing on a carrot is not only healthy for dogs but can help remove plaque and promote good dental health. Carrots, eaten in moderation, are also a good source of vitamin A, beneficial for a dog's immune system, skin, and coat. But, too much can be toxic so they shouldn't be an everyday treat.

Cooked broccoli can be an occasional wholesome snack. This veg is low-calorie and high in nutrients. Still, it also contains isothiocyanates, compounds that can irritate the digestive system.

Sweet potatoes are easily digested and rich in vitamin A, which is essential for eye health and the immune system. Add sweet potatoes to your dog's regular food or feed them to him as an occasional treat. There is a caveat, though: an overdose of vitamin A can lead to bone problems and muscle weakness in dogs.

Supermarket mushrooms, such as portobello and button, are safe for dogs to eat, but wild mushrooms can be toxic to your dog and may cause poisoning.

When it comes to potatoes, it's the cooking process that makes them safe for your dog's dinner bowl. But don't forget that potatoes are also a carbohydrate which can lead to weight gain when eaten too often. Pumking is probably a better option, being an excellent source of fibre and beta-carotene as well as aiding with digestive issues.

Often the main problem with human foods -for both us and our pups- is the high salt content. This can cause excessive thirst and urination in dogs, as well as sodium poisoning. Avoid adding any salt to your dog's diet or feeding them heavily seasoned leftovers.

Additionally, garlic and chives both contain substances which are toxic to dogs, causing things like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

When it comes to spices, nutmeg contains a compound which is toxic to dogs in large amounts. So, keep nutmeg away from your dog and don't let them consume baked goods and other foods commonly containing nutmeg.

Cinnamon should also be avoided as it can irritate the inside of your dog's mouths. It can also lower a dog's blood sugar and cause things like diarrhea and even liver disease. If inhaled, your dog will have difficulty breathing and potentially choke.

Fruit, nuts and seeds

Blueberries are a rich source of fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which can provide a range of health benefits for dogs. And, like blackberries, they make great frozen treats for your pooch.

Bananas are also a healthful tidbit. They're packed with magnesium which is excellent for bone health. However, they are also full of sugar, so they should only be an occasional snack.

Avocados contain something called persin, which is poisonous to dogs and can cause breathing difficulties or even death. So, definitely avoid this single-seeded berry. Cucumbers, on the other hand, are a safe, low-calorie treat option, particularly for our overweight canines. Plus they contain heaps of vitamins and minerals.

Deseeded watermelon is a great, hydrating summer treat. But watermelon seeds can block the intestines of your pooch and chewing the rind can cause an upset stomach. So make sure you prepare this fruit properly before canines get their chops on this refreshing snack. As well as being great for hydration, watermelon is also a good source of vitamins A, C, and B-6.

Strawberries in moderation are a dog-friendly source of nutrients, antioxidants and fibre with the benefit of being low in calories. But be sure to slice them up to avoid choking.

Oranges in small quantities are a high nutrient low calories treat. However, they can also cause an upset stomach in some dogs so limit portions. Some other citruses like lemons and limes can be toxic because the skins contain psoralen, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Large amounts of psoralen can even cause muscle tremors, difficulty walking, liver failure and can also result in death.

Ripe tomatoes are OK as an occasional treat. But too much tomatine can cause nausea, abnormal heart rate, muscle weakness and difficulty breathing. So avoid feeding your dog too many leftover tomato-rich sauces.

Almonds pose a choking hazard because of their shape and texture, while macadamias are toxic. Cashews are OK in moderation. But absolutely don't feed any type of salted nuts to your dog. With reasonable amounts of vitamins, E and B, niacin, healthy fats, and protein, (unsalted) peanut butter- the type with no added sugar or sweeteners- is safe for dogs to eat. And smaller amounts in a doggy toy can keep a pup entertained for ages.

Bread, rice and pasta, grains

Cooked, plain white rice can be useful for an upset tummy because it's easy to digest and helps bind stool. But it can also cause blood sugar levels to rise, so be careful with doggy diabetes.

Minus added salt, butter, or sugar, popcorn can be a fun, nutritional snack for dogs. The magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc are essential for keeping canines healthy. Unpopped popcorn kernels though can be a choking hazard.

Oatmeal is safe for your dog and can provide fibre, as well as some vitamins and minerals. But keep this dish simple and don't add any extra sweeteners. And as with most foods, feed oatmeal to your dog in moderation to avoid weight gain.

Small amounts of plain bread are fine but avoid fruit bread because of high sugar contents, other additives and general lack of nutrition. Homemade bread is best with no unnecessary preservatives or other nasties.

Dairy products

Milk, cheese, and plain yogurt are all healthful foods for your pup as long as they are consumed in smaller quantities. In fact, the active bacteria in yogurt helps strengthen the digestive system.

But low levels of the digestive enzyme lactase in dogs means too much dairy can have the opposite effect. And diarrhea or vomiting after consuming dairy products may indicate your pup is lactose intolerant.

Cheeses tend to be high-fat, so opt for varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella and avoid ice cream altogether because of the high sugar content and other additives.

Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs

Fish, in general, is excellent for dogs and a good source of protein.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as tuna and salmon are fantastic for a healthy immune system and shiny coat. And the B vitamins in prawns can also help maintain a dog's digestive system and promote healthy blood circulation.

Soft, digestible bones for extra calcium can be found in sardines. Still, generally, it's best to remove all the bones before feeding fish to your dog.

It is essential to cook fish before feeding it to your pup, as uncooked fish can contain harmful parasites. And don't feed them fish daily, stick to once or twice per week.

Unseasoned, cooked pork is a tasty treat as is plain turkey. But it's best to avoid the skin and fat on these two proteins as it's difficult for dogs to digest and can cause inflammation and pancreatitis.

Chicken is a ubiquitous ingredient in dog food and healthy addition to your dog's diet. It is an excellent source of protein, crucial for good health. Plain, boiled chicken is best if your pooch has an upset stomach. But don't give dogs leftover roast dinners which tend to be seasoned with things like garlic and onion.

Giving dogs any processed meats like bacon, which has a high salt content is terrible for puppy health. Not great for humans either, if we're honest.


Be vigilant of additives such as xylitol in food products as it's highly toxic to dogs. If your pup has a sweet tooth, honey is safe in moderation. It's packed with countless nutrients which can be excellent for dogs but is also high in sugar.

Sugar is often hidden in both human and canine food and is bad for your pup. Not only can it lead to dental issues but also obesity and even diabetes.

The bottom line

There are so many foods that we enjoy and that our dogs can enjoy too. However, these foods should generally be fed to your pooch in moderation. Often, even in the healthiest of human diets, larger quantities of human foods can lead to health issues in our canines.

If you're unsure about anything to do with your dog's diet, speak to your veterinarian first.

Leftovers such as stews and rich, heavy sauces should be avoided unless you know without a doubt that they contain only dog-friendly foods.

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