All of us have probably at some point stood in our kitchen with a scrap of food in our hand that we looked at and wondered “Can dogs eat this?” Maybe we then asked Alexa or googled “Can dogs eat…strawberries/cucumber/onions/avocado/salmon ?” To make the decision easier whether to toss it or give it to your dog, here is an overview about the most common foods that dogs can or cannot eat.
Before we get started on our list though, we first need to ask a different question.
Should dogs even be given human food?
What about the general implication of feeding our dogs human food?
It is true that once they get a taste they will beg without mercy next to the table when we are eating?
The answer thankfully is NO.
The belief that once a dog has tasted human he will always want more is a classical misunderstanding of how dogs think and generalize.
Dogs are very situational and specific learners. They do not easily form abstract thoughts. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to for example teach them that “Sit” always means “Sit”: in our living room, at the dog school, at the park and at the vet!
It takes a long time for dogs to form concepts such as Sitting everywhere. They do never form or understand other concepts, such as Do not run into the road.
A dog does not distinguish between human food and dog food. To your dog all food is just that – delicious, desirable food. Your dog does not have the mental capacities to divide food into categories based on who it is made for.
What makes dogs beg is begging that has paid off in the past. If your dog has experienced once that sitting next to your chair, looking at you with big eyes and perhaps even putting his paw on your leg is followed by a treat from your plate, he will do it again! If however you are consistent about not feeding your dog from your plate, he won’t waste time trying to convince you otherwise and will leave in to eat in peace.
Not only can you use safe human food as a treat, in many cases those treats can become very special and cherished rewards that will let you train difficult behaviors. Especially meat and dairy products can motivate dogs a lot.
We often use them in training situations that are challenging for dogs: Training in a distracting environment, training a new behavior or training a dog with reactivity or anxiety issues. Dogs love hotdogs, string cheese, bologna, chicken and roast beef. If your dog struggles with paying attention or does not seem to enjoy training with the regular treats, try some human food. It might just make all the difference!
To make finding a food and whether or not it is safe for your dog easier, here is an alphabetical list:
Alcohol: No! Alcohol in all forms is not suitable for dogs.
Almonds: No. They are not the most toxic nuts for dogs (Macadamias are worse), but they can cause a stomach upset or get stuck in their windpipe.
Apples: Safe! Apples are safe to enjoy for your dog. Apple seeds however are not good for him and you should remove any seeds before feeding apple slices to your dog. Do not give him a whole apple either!
Artichoke: Safe, but cut them into small pieces to prevent obstruction.
Asparagus: Safe. Asparagus fern, the inedible part of the plant, is toxic for dogs though!
Bacon: Safe, and a fantastic training treat (in small pieces due to the high fat content).
Bananas: Safe. You can freeze bananas for a special summer treat!
Basil: Safe, but not something your dog should (or likely would) eat in big amounts.
Beer: No! Your dog should not be given any alcohol.
Bell Peppers: Safe! Don’t give him any spicy chili peppers though.
Black Beans: Safe.
Blackberries: Safe, and a nice treat to share during the summer!
Blueberries: Safe. Don’t be alarmed about strangely colored poop after your pup eats these.
Bread: Safe, but to be given in moderation.
Broccoli: Safe, but to be given in moderation. Broccoli contains isothiocyanates which can cause gastric irritation in your dog.
Butter: No. Your dog will get an upset stomach if you feed him more than a tiny amount.
Cake: No. The sugar and fat content in cake is too high for your dog! While there is nothing toxic about vanilla cake, if your dog has eaten chocolate cake you should have him see a vet since chocolate is quite toxic for dogs.
Candy: No. It contains way too much sugar and has absolutely no nutritional value for your dog.
Carrots: Safe, and a fun snack to chew on for your dog.
Cherries: No! While the flesh itself is fine, the pit is toxic for your dog and can also be a choking hazard. It is safest to avoid them altogether.
Chewing Gum: No. Sugar-free chewing gum that is sweetened with Xylitol is very toxic for your dog. Even small amounts can cause seizures or death.
Chocolate: No! This goes for chocolate bars as well as Nutella, chocolate cake, hot chocolate etc.
Coffee: No! Caffeine is toxic for dogs.
Corn: Safe, but do not give your dog corn on the cob! It can lead to potentially fatal obstruction.
Dates: Safe, but give them in moderation, not more than one or two at a time.
Eggs: Safe and a great source of healthy protein.
Fish: Safe in moderation. Make sure to pick out any bones.
Fries: No. The high salt and fat content is not good for your dog.
Garlic: No! Just like onions, garlic is toxic for dogs.
Grapefruit: No. Don’t share your grapefruit with your dog!
Grapes: No! Grapes are toxic for dogs.
Kale: No. While very healthy for humans it contains calcium oxalate which can cause bladder and kidney stones in dogs.
Kefir: Safe. You can sprinkle a few spoons of it on your dog’s meals!
Lemons: No. Don’t give your dog lemons, especially not as a joke to see how they might react to the sour taste!
Lettuce: Safe, although most dogs do not seem to be too keen on it.
Macadamias: No. These nuts are extremely toxic for dogs.
Melons: Safe. Many dogs love watermelon!
Mustard: No. Mustard seeds are toxic for dogs. If let your dog have a piece of your hotdog, make sure it has no mustard on it!
Olives: Safe, but in moderation. Make sure to remove the pit and give your dog unsalted olives!
Onions: No! Onions contain a toxic that causes a breakdown of red blood cells, leading to anemia in dogs.
Peanut Butter: Safe. Peanut butter is a great training treat. Use it in moderation for its high fat content.
Persimmon: Safe. A delicious summer treat for your dog!
Protein Bars: No! They often contain chocolate and/or caffeine, both of which are toxic for dogs.
Raisins: No! Just like grapes, Raisins are toxic for dogs.
Strawberries: Safe, and a great treat in the summer.
Sweet Potatoes: Safe! You can even make your own vegetarian dog chews out of it.
Wine: No! Alcohol is very toxic for your dog.
Yoghurt: Safe, and a great source of protein. Stick to plain yoghurt without any sweeteners or artificial flavors. You can even make frozen yoghurt treats out of it.
If you come home to torn chocolate wrappers on the floor and a dog with a full stomach next to it, don’t panic, but do not ignore it either. At the very least you should call your vet. If your dog has consumed a considerable amount of a forbidden food it is safest to take him to the vet without delay. Do not try to “cure” your dog yourself by giving him peroxide and not getting him veterinary attention. If he has ingested a toxin, he needs to see an expert asap to make sure he will be alright. This is especially true if he shows any differences in behavior, such as lethargy, panting, drooling; if he throws up or has diarrhea.
Only the vet can decide what the correct plan of action is. Be observant and gather as much evidence as possible – the more you can tell your vet regarding how much your dog ate, when he ate it, if he threw up yet etc. the better and more directed your dog can be treated. Then do not lose any time on your way to the vet.
If caught and treated in time, many dogs recover completely after ingesting even large amounts of toxic foods.
Even though dogs can eat many foods as visible from the list above that does not mean you should go wild and feed him a diet of berries, yoghurt and bread. While he can have a little snack of these foods now and then, the main staple of his diet should be a balanced dog food. Only this will guarantee that he receives all the nutrients he needs and will live a long and healthy life.
A taste of a new food on occasion will enrich his diet and be a fun experience for him. Refrain from making it a habit though to feed him everything from your fridge on a daily basis. This is neither healthy nor necessary.
If you want to switch up his diet, you can vary the flavor of his regular dog food or try a different brand. Adding a few slices of fruit or vegetables on top will make it even more interesting, but remember that human foods should be a treat, not a foundation of your dog’s diet.
If you have a cat and a dog, you may have been tempted to see what they think of each other’s food. Dogs generally love cat food. It has a higher protein content than dog food and is especially appealing for them.
While a special treat consisting of a few pieces of dry cat food won’t hurt your dog, it should also not be a regular staple of his diet. Cat food is not balanced to fit dogs’ nutrient needs and feeding dogs a cat food diet long-term will hurt them. As an extra-great reward now or then it is fine though.