N U T R I T I O N
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 foods with them too, right? Not necessarily. Many of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that humans 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 vet.
No, dogs shouldn’t eat almonds. Almonds may not necessarily be toxic to dogs like pecans, walnuts, and 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.
Why Almonds Are Bad for Dogs
While many dogs love the taste of almonds, consuming them can cause gastric intestinal distress. If your dog accidentally eats a few, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
Loss of appetite
Almonds, like most nuts, are high in fat and can put your pup at risk of developing pancreatitis. It’s a serious condition that requires the attention of your veterinarian.
This snack also poses another dangerous problem: obstruction. Almonds can block your dog’s esophagus, intestines, or windpipe, especially in small breeds. These obstructions can be fatal if not treated, and they occasionally require surgery.
Flavored almonds come with unique risks. The spices and flavorings can irritate your dog’s stomach, and the salt in the seasoning can lead to water retention and salt toxicity if consumed in large quantities.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Almonds
If your dog consumes one or two almonds, don’t panic. Instead, watch him carefully for signs of intestinal distress or obstruction. If your dog devours more than a few almonds, call your veterinarian or local emergency veterinarian for professional advice.
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 all together.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen dogs eat sandwiches, slices, and even whole loaves of bread, and in one notable instance, an entire pack of English muffins. Bread makes up a large part of the American diet, and our dogs seem to get their fair share of it—but should they?
Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Bread?
The short answer to the question “can dogs eat bread?” is yes. Dogs can safely eat bread in much the same way as humans—in moderation. Plain white and wheat bread is generally safe for dogs to eat, provided they don’t have any allergies, and it usually does not cause any stomach upset.
Feeding your dog bread as a treat now and then won’t hurt her, as long as she is also fed a complete and balanced diet and gets plenty of exercise. It also won’t help her. Bread is essentially a filler food and does not contain any nutrients that are not already supplied by your dog’s food. As anyone who has ever considered going on a diet knows, bread is full of carbs, which can put your dog on the path to obesity if you are not careful.
Risks of Feeding Bread to Dogs
The long answer to the question is a little more complicated. Bread itself is usually not toxic, but there are exceptions. Here is what you need to know about the risks of feeding bread to dogs to make sure your dog stays happy and healthy.
Dangerous Bread Dough
If you’ve ever made bread from scratch, then you know that dough has to rise, preferably in a warm, moist, draft-free environment. Unfortunately for dogs that are fed bread dough, their stomachs offer optimum conditions for rising dough.
The Merck Veterinary Manual lists bread dough as a food hazard for dogs. When a dog eats bread dough, the yeast in the dough continues to make the dough rise, distending his stomach and releasing toxic levels of ethanol into the dog’s bloodstream. The pressure of the rising dough can mimic and cause bloat, but the real danger is from the alcohol toxicosis. If your dog is fed bread dough or you suspect he has stolen bread dough, call your veterinarian immediately and look out for symptoms of alcohol toxicosis:
Depressed central nervous system
Unsteady, drunken gait
Toxic Bread Ingredients
Unless your dog has an allergy to wheat, plain white or wheat bread probably won’t hurt her. Not all breads are as harmless. Some breads contain toxic ingredients that should never be fed to dogs.
The biggest danger comes from raisins. Raisins are highly toxic and are often found in breads and baked goods. Veterinarians don’t know why some dogs are more susceptible to raisins than others, but even a few raisins can cause problems. Raisin breads should be kept out of the reach of dogs at all times and should not be fed as a treat, even if the part you are feeding does not contain raisins.
Garlic is another ingredient found in bread that can be toxic to dogs. Garlic bread might tempt your dog’s nose, but garlic can cause serious side effects, like abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and collapse.
Some breads contain nuts and seeds, which appeal to humans for their flavor and health benefits, but can cause problems for dogs. The biggest nut danger is macadamia nuts, but even “safe” nuts and seeds can lead to stomach irritation and pancreatitis, thanks to their high fat content.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is growing in popularity. It is most commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum and, more recently, certain brands of peanut butter and baked goods. While harmless to humans, xylitol is toxic to dogs. If you feed your dog bread or baked goods on a regular basis, be sure to check the ingredients, and also double check your peanut butter ingredients before you share your peanut butter and (grape-free) jelly sandwich.
Is Bread Good for Dogs With Upset Stomachs?
You may have heard people tell you that bread is good for dogs with upset stomachs. While this may sometimes be the case, the Merck Veterinary Manual recommends feeding a bland diet of rice and boiled chicken for dogs with upset stomachs, or better yet, calling your veterinarian for expert advice.
As with any table scrap, bread adds calories to your dog’s diet. If your dog is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about moderating her diet and discuss a plan to keep her healthy, happy, and active. Bread packs a high glycemic punch and is high in calories, so feed your dog only very small pieces of bread at a time to avoid obesity-related diseases, like diabetes.
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 here and there are a nice treat, but only if they’re unsalted.
Dogs can eat peanut butter, so we tend to assume that it is safe for them to eat peanuts and other nuts like cashews, too. This is not necessarily the case. Some nuts, like macadamia nuts, are toxic to dogs. Others, like cashews, are generally safe—as long as you follow a few basic guidelines.
Risks of Feeding Cashews to Dogs
While cashews are non-toxic, there are some risks associated with feeding these tasty nuts to our canine companions.
The most important thing owners should look out for when feeding a new treat to their dogs is the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms include swelling, itching, and hives. While the chances of your dog developing an allergic reaction to cashews is relatively low, knowing the symptoms of an allergic reaction is important when giving your dog any new treat for the first time.
Cashews are a high fat, high protein snack. This poses potential problems for dogs, if they are fed cashews in large numbers. High fat diets can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
Fatty foods also contribute to obesity. Regularly feeding foods like cashews to your dog increases your dog’s chances of gaining weight and developing obesity-related problems, such as diabetes and joint issues, and can even reduce your dog’s lifespan.
The largest risk comes from other nuts. Cashews are often sold in variety packs and containers, especially around the holiday season. This poses a health hazard for your dog, as some nuts, like
macadamia nuts, are very toxic. Nuts can also cause obstructions and choking hazards. This is especially problematic in small dogs, but larger nuts are dangerous for large breeds, as well.
Cashews are also usually salted. Excess salt can lead to salt toxicity, which causes vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures.
The Verdict: Can Dogs Eat Cashews?
To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat cashews, as long as they are roasted and not salted or seasoned in any way. They may not be the best snack for your pup, but a cashew now and then probably won’t hurt him.
If you decide to feed cashews to your dog, remember to offer them in very small quantities, and don’t feed cashews to dog on a regular basis. If you have more questions about feeding cashews or other human foods to your dog, talk to your veterinarian.
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 low-fat varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella.
Very few dogs turn up their noses at an offering of cheese, but should we indulge their taste for dairy? Cheese contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins, all of which play an important role in canine nutrition, but too much cheese can cause problems.
What Types of Cheese Should I Avoid Feeding My Dog?
Not all dogs digest cheese well. Fatty, rich cheeses, and cheeses that contain herbs or food items harmful to dogs like garlic can cause intestinal upset. And while cheese contains little lactose when compared to whole milk, dogs with severe cases of lactose intolerance may have adverse reactions to cheese, even in small quantities. Observe your dog closely for signs of intestinal upset after feeding her cheese for the first time, and consult your vet with any questions you may have about adding cheese to your dog’s diet.
What Types of Cheese Are Okay to Feed My Dog?
Some cheeses are better for dogs than others. Low-fat cheeses, such as mozzarella and cottage cheese, are healthier for your pet than cheeses with higher fat contents. When looking for cheese for your dog, seek out cottage cheeses and mozzarella cheeses that are low in sodium. Choosing lower fat and lower sodium cheeses can help reduce the risk of obesity and intestinal upset.
How Much Cheese Is Safe to Feed My Dog?
Cheese is safe for dogs in small-to-moderate quantities and can be a valuable training tool for treat-motivated dogs. It is also a good way to conceal pills for dogs that require medication. As you should when you consider feeding your dog any human food, talk to your vet about any risks associated with feeding cheese to your dog and about how cheese can affect your dog’s pre-existing health conditions.
Chocolate – No, dogs should not eat chocolate. This isn’t just an old wives’ tale. Chocolate contains very 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. If your dog does ingest chocolate, contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible
The rumors you’ve heard about chocolate are true. Chocolate might be your favorite treat, but it has deadly consequences for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and can be potentially fatal. Unfortunately, dogs have a way of sniffing out chocolate treats, which means we need to be alert for signs of chocolate toxicity so that we know what to do if our dogs eat chocolate.
Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. These chemicals can wreak havoc on your dog’s metabolic processes, resulting in chocolate toxicity. The level of methylxanthines varies from chocolate product to chocolate product, but there is no safe amount of chocolate for dogs, as individual sensitivities to methylxanthines can vary from dog to dog. This is why some dogs can eat chocolate and experience no harmful side effects, while others suffer consequences from eating very small amounts.
How Much Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs?
Not all chocolate is created equal. Dry cocoa powder contains the highest amount of methylxanthines (28.5 mg/g), followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate (16 mg/g), semisweet and sweet dark chocolate (5.4-5.7mg/g), and milk chocolate (2.3mg/g). Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog ate can help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency situation.
In general, mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur when a dog consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight. Cardiac symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur around 40 to 50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at dosages greater than 60 mg/kg.
In simpler terms, that means a potentially lethal dose of chocolate is approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Since an average Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces, consuming even one chocolate bar can have serious consequences, especially for small dogs. Eating a crumb of chocolate cake or a very small piece of a chocolate bar, on the other hand, probably won’t kill your dog, especially if it is a larger breed, but chocolate should never be fed as a treat.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, you should call your vet immediately and watch your dog closely for the following symptoms of chocolate toxicity:
abnormal heart rhythms
increased heart rate
elevated blood pressure
elevated body temperature
Preventing Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs
Most of us don’t like sharing our chocolate bars, brownies, and other chocolate products with humans or dogs. Unfortunately, chocolate toxicity usually happens by accident, especially around holidays like Halloween. This means we have to be very careful about keeping chocolate out of the reach of our dogs, and it is important to instruct children not to share their candy treats with their pets.
Dogs cannot eat chocolate, but there are plenty of other human foods that make excellent treats. Keep a list of the human foods dogs can and can’t eat handy in your home to help you and your family make informed decisions about your dog’s diet.
Cinnamon – No, cinnamon is not OK for dogs. 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.
Does your dog beg for your cinnamon scones? Has she ever gotten into the spice rack? If so, then you’ve probably wondered, perhaps somewhat frantically, can dogs eat cinnamon? We
know that certain people foods, like chocolate and grapes, can be toxic to dogs, so it makes sense that we should worry about foods and spices like cinnamon, too.
Is Cinnamon Toxic to Dogs?
The good news is that cinnamon is not toxic to dogs. Your dog will not suffer fatal toxic effects from consuming too much cinnamon, but that does not necessarily mean you should be sprinkling it on his kibble. The Pet Poison Helpline cautions that cinnamon and cinnamon oils can cause skin and digestive irritation and sensitization in both pets and people, especially if consumed in large quantities.
Cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, cinnamon essential oils, and cinnamon in baked goods all offer opportunities for ingestion. Chewing on cinnamon sticks and consuming ground cinnamon or essential oil can cause irritation in your dog’s mouth and inhaling cinnamon powder can cause your dog to cough, choke, and have difficulty breathing.
How much is too much? The Pet Poison Helpline states that it takes more than one teaspoon of powder to cause problems for most pets, although essential oils can cause problems in lower dosages, and small breed dogs may be sensitive to smaller amounts of cinnamon than large breeds. The helpline also warns that a large cinnamon overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, changes in heart rate, low blood sugar, and liver disease.
Help, My Dog Ate Cinnamon!
If your dog eats a large amount of cinnamon, you don’t need to panic. You should, however, call your veterinarian. Cinnamon is not fatal to dogs, but the side effects of too much cinnamon can be uncomfortable, and your veterinarian may have additional concerns and suggestions to help your dog recover from her spicy snack.
Can Dogs Eat Cinnamon Baked Goods?
A little bit of cinnamon, like the amount used in most baked goods, is not going to hurt your dog. That being said, feeding your dog baked goods is not necessarily a good idea. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and unnecessary calories can lead to obesity, diabetes, and complications such as pancreatitis. Some baked goods also may contain xylitol as a sweetener, which is very toxic.
If you do choose to feed your dog baked goods with cinnamon, only feed small quantities on a very irregular basis, and make sure they do not contain other ingredients that could be toxic or harmful to your dog, like xylitol, chocolate or raisins.
Nutmeg and Cinnamon
Cinnamon might not be toxic to dogs, but nutmeg is another common baking spice, and it can have toxic effects. Nutmeg and cinnamon are often used together in recipes, and nutmeg contains the toxin myristicin. Myristicin can cause hallucinations, increased heart rate, disorientation, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, dry mouth, and even seizures. These symptoms can last up to 48 hours, but the bright side is that it takes a large amount of nutmeg to cause problems for dogs. The small amount used in baked goods is generally safe. If your dog consumes a large amount of nutmeg by accident, however, call your veterinarian and keep a close eye on her.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is reputed to have a number of health benefits for people, although these benefits have not been proven conclusively. As exciting as this is for those of us who enjoy cinnamon and want an excuse to have more of it in our diets, we should be wary about jumping to the same conclusion for our dogs.
If you want to give cinnamon as a supplement for your dog, talk to your veterinarian about the possible risks and potential benefits. In the meantime, consider exploring other supplements with proven benefits to help your dog.
To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat cinnamon in small quantities, but it is not necessary or recommended.
Coconut – Yes, coconut is OK for dogs. This funky fruit contains Lauric, which strengthens the immune system by fighting off 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.
We all know that dogs can eat coconut oil, and owners are often encouraged to add it to their dogs’ diets, but what about the coconut meat itself? Should we be giving actual pieces of it to our dogs? The short answer is yes! Coconut meat is just as healthy, if not more so, than the coconut oil alone. They share similar properties since they come from the same place. Coconut is non-toxic to dogs, but it does contain medium chain triglycerides, which may cause some gastrointestinal upset and bloating. You’ll want to check with your veterinarian before giving your dog coconut, of course. But the benefits should certainly outweigh the risks. So if your dog likes the taste of coconut meat, feel free to give him some.
Coconut meat is high in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. In less scientific terms, this basically means that the body is able to absorb the molecules whole, using them as a direct source of energy. Lauric acid is particularly good at fighting off viruses, such as influenza. It also helps treat yeast infections, ringworm, and Giardia. It also holds some major anti-inflammatory properties — it has greatly reduced swelling in rats during laboratory studies. Reduced inflammation will help speed the healing of cuts, hot spots, and other wounds. Inflammation is also the main cause of arthritis, so feeding coconut to your dog might make his aching joints feel a little better, as the inflammation settles down. Make sure to remove the shell prior to giving your dog coconut, as the shell could become lodged in his esophagus and cause intestinal irritation and possible blockage.
Boosts the Immune System
Coconut is packed with antioxidants to support the immune system. It also helps the body form a healthy response to foreign microbes. This means coconut provides the body with an extra defense against bad bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Although the ingestion of coconut hasn’t proven to cure any diseases, there have been studies supporting its anti-viral properties. Along with its ability to reduce inflammation, coconut is a great snack for a dog that’s feeling a little under the weather or healing from illness or injury.
Benefits the Skin
Coconut oil can be used internally and externally, as the oils are very beneficial for your dog’s skin and coat. Even if your dog just ingests the coconut meat, his skin conditions might improve. The anti-inflammatory properties will help reduce any yeast infections, hot spots, flea allergies, and dry, itchy skin, and the fatty acids promote a soft, healthy coat. Topically, the oil acts as a moisturizer and can be used on wounds to help soothe inflammation and promote healing.
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.
As summer approaches, so does the season for grilling and backyard barbecues. For the next few months, the variety of smells from all the delicious foods served is enticing to us and also to our four-legged friends.
Foods such as corn, both on and off the cob, are summertime staples and, chances are, your dog is going to want you to share. While some of the foods you’re grilling and serving might be unsafe to share with him, luckily for him, corn is not one of them.
Is it Safe to Feed My Dog Corn?
It’s not unsafe or terrible if you feed your dog corn, a small amount won’t harm him; just make sure that you do so in moderation. Corn is one of the most popular cereal grains in the world and may contain a good amount of several vitamins and minerals, depending on the type of corn.
In fact, you’ll find corn in a variety of dog foods; manufacturers favor this grain because it is relatively inexpensive. Many veterinary nutritionists agree that corn for dogs is not a problem and in fact, can be part of a well-balanced diet. However, you should confirm that your dog is not allergic to corn prior to giving it to him.
Does Corn Have Any Nutritional Value for Dogs?
The answer is yes. It is not just a filler in dog foods, it also has nutritional benefits. It is a good source of protein, carbohydrates, linoleic acid, and antioxidants. Despite that fact that carbs get a bad rap, certain sources of carbs (like corn) also provide essential nutrients, such as protein, fat, fiber, and vitamins. Carbohydrates also can be a good source of fiber, which promotes gut health and motility.
Is it Safe for My Dog to Eat Corn on the Cob?
No matter how lovingly your dog looks at you while you’re enjoying a piece of corn on the cob, do not share it with him. There is a risk that he will choke on it, and if he ingests the cob it can cause a serious intestinal blockage. It is not a food you should have your dog gnawing on. And although it might seem like something he would have a hard time consuming, if he is hungry enough, he’ll have no problem whittling down that cob.
Alarming indicators that your dog might have ingested the cob are: dehydration, lethargy, reduced activity, repeated vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary assistance without hesitation.
Can My Dog Have Popcorn?
As long as it’s unsalted and unbuttered, a few pieces are fine. Plain, air-popped popcorn, which is light and natural, can be a good treat every now and then; it’s high in fiber, and the additional carbohydrates provide extra energy.
It’s the bucket of popcorn loaded with salt, butter, and other flavors that is unhealthy, so no matter how lovingly your dog looks at you, or how excited he gets over this snack, keep it far enough away that he won’t be stealing pieces behind your back.
If you choose to share some natural popcorn with your dog, make sure all of the kernels you’re feeding him are popped. In most batches you make, there are going to be a handful of pieces that don’t completely pop; for a dog, those are the pieces that aren’t digestible and can cause an upset stomach. Popcorn that gets stuck between their teeth can cause problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease. And just like when their humans eat too much popcorn, it will add calories to their daily intake.
Eggs – Yes, it’s OK for dogs to 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 give dogs biotin deficiency, so be sure to cook the eggs all the way through before giving them to your pet.
Historically, dogs stole eggs from birds’ nests and ate them raw, shell and all. Today, most of us don’t let our dogs wander far and wide in search of unguarded nests, but eggs are still a good source of food for dogs, especially in homemade diets.
Eggs are high in protein and contain many essential amino acids and fatty acids. When boiled or cooked, they make excellent treats or dietary supplements for dogs. Not only are eggs a healthy and nutritious snack for dogs, they can even help settle upset stomachs. Talk to your veterinarian about how many eggs to feed your dog per day. While eggs are generally safe for most dogs, overfeeding your dog can result in obesity and other health problems.
Can I Feed My Dog Raw Eggs?
There are a few concerns about feeding raw eggs to your dog that dog owners should be aware of:
Salmonella – Just like humans, dogs are at risk of contracting Salmonella, and handlers who feed raw eggs to their dogs are also at risk of catching this disease.
Biotin Deficiency – Prolonged feeding of raw egg whites can also lead to a biotin deficiency, as they contain an enzyme that ties up biotin and prevents absorption of biotin into the body. Biotin is a B complex vitamin that supports healthy skin, digestion, metabolism, and cells.
While these side effects are rare, most veterinarians recommend cooking eggs before feeding them to your dog, as long as the eggs are cooked or boiled plain without oil, butter, salt, or other potentially harmful additives.
Egg Shells – Traditionally, dogs and cats have eaten eggs straight from the nest with nary a worry about nutritional value, toxic effects, or whether they might choke on a shard from the shell. But domesticated cats and dogs do not have the same access to bird nests that they once did, so we don’t get to witness them consuming eggs safely. As we worry about our own health and what we put into our bodies, we also worry about what we are feeding to our pets.
So what about one of nature’s “perfect foods,” the egg? There is evidence to support eggshells as an excellent source of calcium and protein for your pet. For strong bones and teeth, crush the eggshells and sprinkle about a half teaspoon into your pet’s regular kibble. And although research does not point to eggshells as a source of salmonella poisoning in cats and dogs, if it is a concern, you can boil the shells first — allowing them to dry thoroughly — and then crush the shells in a coffee grinder, food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.
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 under-cooked fish, only fully cooked and cooled, and limit your dog’s fish intake to no more than twice a week.
If you’ve ever taken a glimpse at the ingredient panel of your dog’s food or examined other brands of dog food in the store, then you know that fish is frequently on the menu. Just because it is an ingredient in dog food, however, does not mean that dogs can safely eat just any old fish we throw their way. If you want to add a fishy treat to your dog’s diet, here is what you need to know.
Benefits of Fish for Dogs
Dogs love the smell of fish, and in this case, there is a reason. Fish is a healthy source of protein and is often included in commercial dog food as an alternative protein source. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which according to veterinarians may have health benefits such as decreasing inflammation. Fish is also a good alternative for dogs with food allergies to more common ingredients, like chicken.
Fish can be an important part of a home-cooked diet, but if you choose to feed a homemade diet with fish, be sure to consult your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. The first time you give your dog any fish, give only a small portion until you determine if your dog can tolerate that particular fish without an allergic reaction or gastro-intestinal upset.
Best Types of Fish for Dogs
There are many fish in the sea, but the most common types of fish used in commercial dog food are shorter-lived species like salmon, ocean whitefish, lake whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char. Longer-lived fish species, like tuna and swordfish on the other hand, can contain heavy metals like mercury. Mercury builds up over time in the fish’s system and can lead to heavy metal toxicity, which is why feeding a shorter-lived fish species is preferable to tuna or swordfish. With so many fish to choose from, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Risks of Feeding Fish to Dogs
Fish itself is not harmful to dogs, but the way we prepare it can cause problems. Fish cooked in too much oil can cause GI upset in dogs, or even lead to serious illness such as pancreatitis. Seasonings may also cause serious health problems for dogs, especially if they contain toxic ingredients, like garlic. The biggest risk of feeding fish to dogs, however, is bones.
Fish bones are small, brittle, and dangerous. They can lodge themselves in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, sometimes even perforating the organ wall. Not only is this painful, it can also result in an expensive visit to the veterinarian. While there are plenty of anecdotal stories about dogs eating fish bones without issues, in this instance, it is better to heed the advice of veterinarians and play it safe.
Can dogs eat raw fish?
Raw fish is at risk of carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria. This is problematic for two reasons. One, it can make your dog sick, and two, according to the FDA, it can also make you and other members of your family ill. This is especially worrisome for small children, who may come into more contact with your dog’s saliva than adults, and for people with compromised immune systems. If you choose to feed a raw diet with fish, make sure you take the appropriate precautions suggested by the FDA for preparing your dog’s meals, like thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces and bowls after use, and washing your hands.
How much fish is too much for dogs?
Too much of a good thing can become a problem. Plain, cooked, steamed, or grilled fish is fine for dogs to eat in moderation. Too much fish can lead to obesity, so consult your veterinarian about appropriate serving sizes of fish for your dog, especially if you plan to feed fish as a regular part of her diet.
As humans with varied diets, we tend to forget that dogs that are fed a commercial, complete, and balanced dog food do not need additional nutrition unless recommended by a veterinarian. Table scraps, including fish, are not necessary for your dog’s health, but fish can make a good occasional treat for dogs, as long as owners keep an eye on their dog’s weight. A general rule of thumb to follow for portion control is to make sure treats only make up 10 percent of your dog’s daily diet.
So, Can Dogs Eat Fish?
To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat fish, and fish can be a part of a healthy diet for your dog, provided it is fully cooked without any additional oils and seasonings, does not contain any bones, and is not a species prone to high levels of mercury such as tuna. For more information about dog nutrition or feeding fish to your dog, contact your veterinarian.
Garlic – No, dogs shouldn’t eat onions. 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 collapsing. 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.
The smell of roasting garlic is one of those scents that immediately makes most of us hungry. It’s featured in cuisines around the globe and is found in many of our favorite foods. Scientific evidence even suggests that garlic has medicinal benefits for humans, so it’s perfectly natural for you to wonder: Can dogs eat garlic?
The answer, emphatically, is no.
Is it safe for dogs to eat garlic?
Garlic might be good for us, but dogs metabolize certain foods differently than we do. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, garlic and other members of the allium family, including onions, contain thiosulfate, which is toxic to dogs but not to humans.
Thiosulfate causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Symptoms of anemia include pale mucous membranes, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, jaundice, and dark colored urine. Garlic toxicity also causes symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, depression, and dehydration.
How much garlic is toxic to dogs?
Studies have found it takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilograms of body weight to produce harmful changes in a dog’s blood. To put that into perspective, the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between 3 and 7 grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot to get really sick. However, some dogs are more sensitive to garlic toxicity than others, and consumption of a toxic dose spread out over a few days could also cause problems.
This means that if your dog accidentally eats something containing a little garlic, he will probably be okay, but intentionally feeding it to your dog is a recipe for disaster.
Can I feed my dog garlic bread?
Garlic bread will almost certainly catch your dog’s attention, but, along with garlic, it usually contains large amounts of butter, oil, cheese, and herbs that can upset your dog’s stomach. This high-calorie food is also a source of unnecessary calories and fat, and offers no nutritional benefits to your pet.
Can I feed my dog garlic supplements?
Despite garlic’s known toxicity, some websites and well-meaning dog owners recommend garlic supplements for dogs as part of a natural wellness plan or as a flea and tick preventative. This contradiction can be very confusing.
In studies, garlic as a health supplement for pets has not produced consistent positive results. While very small doses might be safe for most dogs, the lack of conclusive evidence and the known risks should be taken into consideration. If you do decide to feed your pup a garlic supplement, always consult your veterinarian. Giving an incorrect dose could have toxic effects, so plan on working with a veterinarian to come up with the best treatment and prevention plan for your dog.
Treating garlic toxicity in dogs
If your dog does ingest a large amount of garlic, your best bet is to take him to a veterinarian. Garlic and onion poisoning are rarely fatal in dogs, but your dog may need supportive care to keep him comfortable. Your veterinarian might recommend intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated, and may prescribe a medication to control vomiting. In severe cases, blood transfusions might be necessary.
Alternatives to garlic for dogs
If you want to give your dog a healthy treat, consider feeding him fruits and vegetables that are high in valuable nutrients, like apples, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.
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 alright, it shouldn’t be a continuous habit.
You’re slicing a baked ham at the dinner table or making yourself a ham sandwich, and your dog sits salivating at your side. You may think, “What’s the harm in giving him a juicy slice or two?” Maybe none, but there are things to consider before feeding your dog ham.
Yes, it’s a protein, and dogs need protein. But there are much better sources of protein in other types of meat. There isn’t much agreement on how easily digestible ham is as a protein source. Some sources say it’s highly digestible, while others claim it’s inferior to most other meats and not easily digested.
Store-bought ham, which is what most of us use, contains a great deal of sodium, which isn’t good for people or dogs. Even the preservatives used in ham are loaded with nitrates and nitrites, which are sodium-based. In fact, salt can be toxic to dogs: it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy, and abnormal fluid accumulation. Sodium can also cause more serious consequences, such as kidney damage, seizures, coma, and even death.
Ham has a higher fat content than many other types of meat. A high-fat content diet isn’t any better for your dog than it is for people. Although dogs do need fat in their diet, most dog foods have the necessary amount of fat to meet your dog’s needs. A healthy amount of animal fat in dog food is about 15 to 20 percent. The fatty richness of ham is what makes it taste so delicious, but it’s difficult for your dog to digest.
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.
Simple and sweet, honey contains natural sugars that is reported to have a wide variety of medicinal properties. It also, occasionally, finds its way into the mouths of our dogs.
If your dog has found her way into the honey pot, or if you are contemplating giving honey to your dog for medicinal reasons, you probably want to know if honey is safe for dogs and if there are really any health benefits associated with it.
Is honey safe for dogs?
Honey is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. It contains natural sugars and small amounts of vitamins and minerals and is used as a sweetener in many foods and beverages.
That sweetness comes at a price. The high sugar content of honey can lead to obesity in dogs if owners feed too much honey and do not provide adequate exercise balanced nutrition. Sugars can also cause tooth decay, so it might be a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth if you do feed him honey.
Raw honey should not be fed to puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems, as it may contain the presence of botulism spores. Honey should not be given to diabetic or obese dogs.
Benefits of feeding honey to dogs
A simple Google search reveals thousands of sites promoting honey as a health supplement for people and pets, including dogs. Honey is purported to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, reduce inflammation, sooth stomach ulcers and sore throats, and cure allergies.
However, there have not been many conclusive scientific studies validating these claims. Many of these claims are anecdotal, but since honey is relatively safe, they are often enough for owners looking for an additional treatment for their dogs that is affordable and safe.
One of the most common claims made about honey is that it can cure seasonal allergies in humans and dogs. While the scientific evidence is lacking, there is some reason to believe that raw honey could help reduce allergic reactions to flower pollen—assuming, of course, that your dog is allergic to one of the pollens in the honey, and not another environmental allergen.
Regardless of the lack of conclusive research, feeding your dog a small amount of honey to help with allergens won’t harm him, even if it is not guaranteed or even likely to help.
Humans also use honey to soothe raw throats and stomachs. If your dog has a sore throat, and you have already seen your veterinarian to determine the cause and followed her treatment instructions, then feeding a little honey could help soothe any lingering inflammation. At the very least, it will give your dog a tasty distraction.
How much honey can you feed your dog?
If you want to feed your dog honey, talk to your veterinarian about how much is okay to feed your dog. In general, less is usually more when it comes to dog treats, especially for smaller breeds. If your dog has a health condition, such as diabetes, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not honey is safe to feed your dog, and consider offering a treat lower in sugar, like cucumbers, instead.
Ice cream – No, dogs shouldn’t eat ice cream. As refreshing of a treat as ice cream is, it’s best not to share it with your dog. Canines don’t digest dairy very well, and many even have a slight intolerance to lactose, a sugar found in milk products. Although it’s also a dairy product, frozen yogurt is a much better alternative. To avoid the milk altogether, freeze chunks of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples and give them to your dog as a sweet, icy treat.
We know that dogs love ice cream. But is ice cream really a harmless treat, or will it cause a major bellyache?
Though it may be tempting to share your cone with your four-legged friend, it’s best to avoid giving ice cream to dogs.
Why Dogs Cannot Eat Ice Cream
The first problem with ice cream is that dogs’ bodies are not designed to digest milk after they are weaned, as puppies. Since ice cream is made with milk, feeding your dog ice cream could lead to gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting.
The second problem with ice cream is that it is loaded with sugar, and feeding your dog sugary foods can lead to weight gain, which can lead to other health problems. Even if the ice cream says it’s sugarless, you need to be careful to read the label to make sure that no xylitol is used, as this sweetener is extremely toxic to dogs.
The final problem with ice cream is that some flavors may actually be dangerous for dogs. Chocolate, for example, can be toxic for dogs because their bodies cannot efficiently process a component of the chocolate: theobromine.
While not a major danger if given in small amounts as a treat, for dogs with obesity, diabetes, allergies or dairy intolerance, ice cream could be a big problem. Although some dog owners do feed their dogs ice cream, we cannot say that it is a good dessert for dogs, especially when there are other options that are not likely to cause digestive problems.
Alternatives to Ice Cream
If you want to give your dog a summer treat, frozen yogurt might be a better choice. Because yogurt is fermented, it contains less lactose, so it is easier for dogs to digest. Don’t feed your dog a commercial frozen yogurt, since it will be loaded with sugar. Instead, buy a plain, unsweetened yogurt, and put it in your freezer at home. Use caution when giving it to your dog. Although yogurt is easier for dogs to digest, not all canines can tolerate it.
Another good summer treat for dogs is “nice cream,” a vegan ice cream alternative that is made from frozen bananas. You can easily prepare nice cream at home with only a food processor. This fruit-based dessert is safe for dogs to eat, and it actually provides some nutritional value. The humans in your family might even like it, too!
Macadamia nuts – No, dogs should not 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.
Macadamia nuts, although not usually an everyday food, are often found in baked goods, including cakes, cookies, muffins, and even trail mix. Are they safe for dogs? Absolutely not! In fact, macadamia nuts are often listed as among the top human foods to avoid giving your dog. The consequences of eating macadamia nuts include vomiting, ataxia, weakness, hyperthermia, and depression.
Veterinarians and researchers have not identified what causes this particular food to be toxic to dogs; it’s perfectly safe for humans and has not been seen to affect cats. As with grapes and raisins, we just do not know the specific toxin or mechanism of biological action that causes the signs of poisoning. But what we do know is that even a small amount of the nuts can cause severe symptoms. A dog can show symptoms from eating as little as 1/10 of an ounce per roughly 2 pounds of body weight. So, if you’re thinking of giving your dog just a little taste, don’t.
Symptoms of Macadamia Nut Poisoning in Dogs
The most common sign is weakness, especially in the hind legs. Other symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors and fever. Some cases are mild, showing only a few symptoms, and resolve themselves within a few days. However, there are serious cases involving constant shaking, high fever, and an inability to walk. If you suspect your dog may have eaten even a small amount of macadamia nuts, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Treatment of Macadamia Nut Poisoning in Dogs
First things first: If you suspect your dog has eaten even one macadamia nut, call your vet as soon as possible. If caught early enough, vomiting can be induced, but only after speaking with your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).
Your vet may recommend close at-home observation and additionally, activated charcoal and/or a cathartic to help the nuts speed through your dog’s digestive system. More serious cases will require care and treatment at a veterinary hospital. If your dog ingested a large amount of the nuts or if another toxicity, chocolate for example, is involved, treatment will be more aggressive. The good news is that generally, if treated, a dog will recover fully and return to normal within several days.
Milk – Yes, dogs can have milk. But be cautious. Many dogs are lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well. While it is okay 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.
Many canine companions love dairy products. But, can dogs drink milk? In short, maybe. Like many human foods, it should only be given to your dog in moderation. It’s also important to note that a lot of pups are lactose intolerant, and drinking milk can cause intestinal upset.
How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?
Milk is a safe treat in small quantities. A few tablespoons of cow’s milk or goat’s milk on an occasional basis can be a nice reward for your dog without the side effects of overindulgence. But, you should probably hold off on offering your dog an entire bowl in one sitting, as it can cause unpleasant reactions, including diarrhea, vomiting, and loose stools.
The beverage is high in fat and natural sugars, which is another reason to feed it to your pup in small quantities. Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to obesity and pancreatitis, which are serious conditions.
Lactose Intolerance in Dogs
Dairy products are a leading source of food intolerance in dogs, and many canines are lactose intolerant, which means they have difficulty digesting milk. Some lactose intolerant dogs have trouble drinking milk, but can handle dairy products like cheese and plain yogurt, which are typically easier to digest than straight milk. Others have adverse reactions to dairy in general.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant
Dogs can have varying degrees of lactose intolerance; some might experience only mild symptoms, while other cases may be more severe. The most common symptoms are:
Many owners don’t find out that their dogs are lactose intolerant until they feed them milk. Trying to determine if your dog is lactose intolerant can also be tricky if your pup has consumed a large amount of milk, as this can also trigger vomiting and diarrhea in dogs that are not lactose intolerant. However, if your dog shows signs of these symptoms after drinking a small amount of milk, you should find a different treat.
Always consult with your veterinarian before introducing anything new into your dog’s diet.
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 because it doesn’t contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs.
Does your dog magically appear in the kitchen every time you open up the peanut butter jar? You are not alone. Most dog owners give their dogs peanut butter from time to time, and this nutty treat does indeed drive dogs nuts. It can be spread inside hollow bones and toys for a long-lasting treat, or just licked from a spoon or finger as a quick reward. From a health perspective, however, there are a few peanut butter facts you need to be aware of before you let your pup clean out that empty peanut butter jar.
Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter?
Most peanut butter is safe for dogs to eat, and in moderation peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin. The healthiest option is unsalted peanut butter or homemade peanut butter, as high sodium levels can be problematic for dogs, and as an added bonus, homemade peanut butters do not contain extra sugar and other additives.
How Much Peanut Butter Can Dogs Eat?
Peanut butter is rich in natural fats and protein, but too much of a good thing can lead to obesity and other health complications like pancreatitis. There are two things you can do to figure out how much peanut butter to feed your dog on a regular basis. The first and most reliable option is to call your veterinarian and ask his or her advice. This is especially important for owners of dogs with conditions such as diabetes or with food sensitivity issues.
The second option is the 10 percent rule. In general, treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet. Simply measure how much food your dog gets daily, and remember that it might be a good idea to alternate between peanut butter and healthier treats, such as dog friendly fruits or vegetables.
Health Alert: Xylitol
Most peanut butter is safe, but some can be deadly. Recently, some peanut butter manufacturers switched to using the sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free products like chewing gum, toothpaste, breath mints, chewable vitamins and baked goods. It is safe for people, but toxic to dogs.
Xylitol consumption causes a rapid release of insulin in dogs, which results in an equally rapid and profound decrease in blood sugar levels. and can be life threatening if left untreated. This condition, scientifically known as hypoglycemia, can occur as quickly as 10-to-60 minutes after eating xylitol.
Xylitol poisoning is easy to avoid. All owners need to do is check the label of the peanut butter and any other product they plan on feeding to their dogs for xylitol, and keep xylitol products out of their dogs’ reach. If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately, and keep an eye out for symptoms of xylitol poisoning, such as weakness, collapse, staggering, lack of coordination, and seizures.
Don’t keep your pup in suspense any longer. Yes, dogs can eat peanut butter as long as it is fed in moderation and does not contain xylitol, so get out that peanut butter jar and share the good news.
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.
Everyone knows that dogs love peanut butter. Since peanut butter is made from peanuts, most of us assume that peanuts are safe for dogs, too. The answer is not quite that simple, however.
When it comes to your dog’s health, not all peanuts and peanut butters are created equal. Peanuts are loaded with protein, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, niacin, and healthy fats. This means that peanuts and peanut butter offer your dogs a protein-rich snack that they can’t get enough of. There are, however, some risks associated with both peanuts and peanut butter.
What Types of Peanuts Are Safe for My Dog to Eat?
The best peanuts for dogs are not the delicious, salted kind that most people prefer. Dry-roasted (or raw), unsalted peanuts are the only peanuts that are actually safe for dogs to eat, although your dog will probably be fine if he manages to scoop up a salted peanut or two from the floor. However, salted peanuts contain more sodium than your dog needs and can be harmful to his health if ingested in large quantities, so it is best to avoid feeding salted peanuts to dogs. This is a reason why some owners prefer to make their own peanut butter. Homemade peanut butter allows owners to control the amount of oil and sodium that goes into the recipe, and it also eliminates the growing risk of xylitol poisoning.
Peanuts also contain high levels of fat. This can cause digestive upset and even pancreatitis if your dog eats high-fat foods like peanuts on a regular basis or in large quantities.
How Many Peanuts Can My Dog Have?
When it comes to feeding peanuts, moderation is key. Limit your dog’s peanut intake to just a few peanuts, and do not feed peanuts as a treat every day. Honey-roasted peanuts and other flavored nuts are also unsafe for your dog, and make sure you remove the peanut shell as the fibrous material can pose a choking hazard, especially for small dogs.
Popcorn – Yes, dogs can eat popcorn. Unsalted, unbuttered, plain 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.
Nothing brings more joy to most dogs than helping you clean up after movie night. Popcorn always finds its way into couch cushions and onto the floor, where our dogs are happy to “hoover” them up. The question most of us forget to ask ourselves, however, is can dogs eat popcorn?
Popcorn itself is not bad for dogs. Popped corn kernels actually contain several minerals important to canine nutrition, like magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc, along with fiber and trace amounts of vitamins. The stuff that makes popcorn taste delicious to us is a different story. The majority of us prefer our popcorn dripping with butter and loaded with salt, even though we know it is not good for us. The same goes for dogs. Butter, oils, salt, and the other toppings on popcorn can lead to intestinal upset in dogs, and the fats in oil and butter also contribute to obesity and obesity-related health problems.
There is an alternative. Plain, air-popped popcorn makes a nice occasional treat for your dog. But, kernels can get stuck in dogs’ teeth and pose a choking hazard, so it is probably a good idea to keep whole or only partially popped kernels away from curious dogs.
So is it safe for dogs to eat popcorn?
Yes and no. Plain, air-popped popcorn is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. Buttered popcorn or popcorn with other toppings is not safe for your dog on a regular basis, although eating a few dropped pieces here and there probably won’t hurt him. As with any treat, too much popcorn is not good for your dog, and it is important to keep treats down to approximately 10 percent or less of a dog’s daily caloric intake.
Pork – Yes, dogs can eat pork. Pork is 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 meat.
Eating meat is very natural for dogs, so it’s no surprise when they’re looking toward their owner wanting to share what’s on the plate. Because of a dog’s carnivorous nature, owners don’t usually second-guess whether giving their dog some meat is a good idea, they just do it. With commercially prepared foods containing ingredients like chicken and beef, why wouldn’t we think all meats, in moderation, are fair game?
Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Pork?
While this is an area some owners might debate, the answer is a little more involved than just a straight yes or no. It is safe to eat pork, but there are certain conditions that must be adhered to if you plan to feed your dog the “other white meat.” Plain pork is safe for dogs to eat, as long as you keep it simple and leave off the bells and whistles people tend to cook with. Add-ons, such as seasonings and spice rubs that contain the following, are extremely dangerous, due to the fact they are highly toxic if ingested:
If you like to use condiments such as BBQ sauce, you should be aware that it is not recommended for dogs and should be avoided. Many sauces are high in salt and sugar and contain added flavoring, such as garlic and onion. If your dog happens to eat a piece of pork covered in BBQ sauce, keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms that may arise and if they do develop a reaction contact your vet immediately.
Can I Feed My Dog Raw Pork?
Eating raw or undercooked pork is not safe for dogs or humans, due to the parasite trichinella spiralis larvae, which can cause the parasite infection known as trichinosis. An infection transmitted by pork meat, it can occur when a dog eats the muscles of animals that are infected with the trichinella parasites. This more commonly affects humans than dogs. The infection of Trichinella spiralis will only produce subtle symptoms in dogs:
Not all these symptoms are present in dogs; typically, pets with a weaker immune system will have more severe symptoms.
How Much Pork Can a Dog Eat?
Like any other food you try out for the first time, feed your dog a small amount to see if there’s any reaction. Certain meats are more likely to cause allergic reactions, including pork, rabbit, and lamb.
Pork is also rich with a type of fat that is difficult for dogs to digest, which can lead to indigestion and inflammation of the pancreas.
Can I Give My Dog Pork Bones?
Although it may be tempting to toss your dog that leftover bone after dinner, think twice before you do. Even though dogs love to chew on them, it’s not 100 percent safe. Once cooked, the bone dries out, causing it to become fragile and brittle. When gnawed on, it can splinter off into sharp pieces, causing damage to the esophagus and internal organs, and this can also cause choking. And while uncooked bones have a lower chance of splintering, it’s still possible. If your dog enjoys a good bone, consider a high-quality, edible dental bone as an alternative.
Is Preserved Pork, Such as Ham and Bacon, Safe for My Dog to Eat?
The answer to both of these meats is no! In 2015, the World Health Organization found that processed meats such as bacon and sausage were known carcinogens linked to cancer. Bacon is an incredibly rich and fatty food with a high salt content, which can prove to be too much for a dog’s stomach to handle. Eating a large amount can cause pancreatitis, which can be fatal.
Ham also has a dangerously high salt content, which may cause increased thirst which could lead to a deadly condition called “bloat.” Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills up with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. Due to the high salt content in ham, dogs will become dehydrated and drink an excessive amount of water. Pressure is put on other organs, which potentially can be life threatening. Even though pork, ham, and bacon come from the meat of the same animal, there clearly are differences to be aware of.
What Is an Alternative Meat to Feed My Dog?
Chicken is an extra source of protein to add to your dog’s diet. It is easy to digest and filled with essential vitamins, minerals, fats, and amino acids. Veterinarians recommend feeding your dog plain, unseasoned, boiled chicken when they’re experiencing gastrointestinal issues.
Quinoa – Yes, quinoa is OK for dogs. Quinoa is actually an ingredient 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.
Quinoa is an extremely healthy food for humans. It’s packed with protein, healthy fat, calcium, and other nutrients. But is quinoa healthy for dogs, as well?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat quinoa.
Quinoa is actually an ingredient 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.
There is some concern that a type of chemical that is naturally found on quinoa could be damaging for dogs. The quinoa plant produces saponin to protect itself from insects, and some think the saponin may irritate the intestines in humans, as well as canines. However, the amount of saponin found on quinoa is usually too small to cause any problems.
It is possible that dogs’ digestive systems are more sensitive to saponins than humans’ digestive systems. So if you are concerned about the saponin on quinoa, simply wash the quinoa before cooking it. This will remove most of the saponin.
If your dog has never eaten quinoa before, you should start by giving him just a small amount. Though quinoa is generally a healthy food for dogs, some canines may have difficulty digesting it. If your dog experiences vomiting, diarrhea or constipation after eating quinoa, refrain from feeding it to him again.
If you are going to feed your dog quinoa, it’s best to prepare a separate portion for him, rather than feeding him off your plate. The salt, garlic, and onions you add to your own quinoa to cover the bitterness could be toxic to your dog.
Overall, quinoa is a healthy food for most dogs. If you do decide to offer it to your dog, it should be cooked to make it easier to digest and you should start with small portions. And as always, make sure you use caution when introducing any new food into your dog’s diet.
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.
Is It Safe to Feed My Dog Salmon?
The short answer is yes. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support the immune system, may decrease inflammation, and can keep your dog’s coat looking shiny and healthy. It’s also a good protein source. In fact, salmon is a common ingredient in high-quality dog foods. If your dog is allergic to more common sources of protein, like chicken, salmon may be a good alternative.
How Should I Prepare Salmon for My Dog?
Do not ever give your dog raw or undercooked salmon. It can contain the Neorickettsia helminthoeca parasite, which causes salmon poisoning disease. This disease can be fatal. In addition, raw salmon contains lots of small bones, which are brittle and can choke your dog or lodge in his stomach or intestines.
However, well-cooked, boneless salmon is definitely on the list of people food approved for dogs. Choose fresh boneless fillets, since they’re less likely to harbor small bones. But be sure to check for tiny bones anyway before cooking. Then poach, grill, roast, steam, or bake the salmon with no oil, salt and pepper, or other seasonings, such as garlic or onions.
As with any food, portion control is important. Serve your dog an appropriate portion size, and limit his salmon intake to once a week or less. You may even feed your dog canned salmon, although it’s best to choose one packed with water.
So, the next time you’re putting a fresh piece of salmon on the grill or in the oven, set a small piece aside to cook for your dog. It’s good for him, and he’ll love it. And if you really want to give your dog a special treat, try this homemade vet-approved mini omelette, made with sliced cooked salmon!
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.
Next time you steam up some shrimp, you might want to consider setting a few aside for your dog. Not only can dogs eat shrimp, but a few shrimp now and then may even offer them some health benefits.
Shrimp Contain Beneficial Nutrients for Dogs
Shrimp are not only tasty, they are full of nutrients that dogs need, like vitamin B12, niacin, phosphorus, and anti-oxidants. Vitamin B12 is important for your dog’s metabolic processes and plays an important role in gastrointestinal health. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is required for proper enzyme function and energy production, fat production, blood circulation, chemical signals, and many other processes. Phosphorus is necessary for healthy bones, and anti-oxidants help fight free radicals and can reduce brain aging.
Shrimp are also low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates, which makes them a good choice for dogs on a diet. However, shrimp are high in cholesterol. This means that while an occasional shrimp is a healthy treat, too many shrimp can contribute to unhealthy levels of cholesterol in your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Eat Shrimp Raw?
Raw, uncooked shellfish contain harmful pathogens that are easily avoided by cooking shrimp before feeding them to your dog. It is also a good idea to completely remove the shell, as shrimp shells are a choking hazard and can cause obstructions, especially in small dog breeds. Steamed shrimp is the best shrimp for dogs, as fried or breaded shrimp contains unnecessary fats and oils that can be harmful.
How Much Shrimp Can Dogs Eat?
Moderation is the key to adding any new food item or treat to a dog’s diet. Every dog is different, and some might react differently to shrimp than others. One or two shrimp are usually enough for most dogs, and it is a good idea to offer a partial shrimp to small dogs as a precaution. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist if you want to add shrimp or other shellfish to your dog’s diet on a regular basis, so they can offer you professional advice about the proper quantities for your dog and advise you of any potential health concerns. Stop feeding shrimp if your dog shows symptoms of intestinal discomfort or illness, and call your vet if symptoms worsen.
Tuna – Yes, dogs can eat tuna. 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.
Many dog foods contain fish, because it is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But tuna is not a common dog food ingredient. That’s because feeding a dog too much tuna can result in health problems.
The danger of a dog eating tuna is actually the same as the danger of a human eating tuna: mercury. As you can see from this U.S. Food and Drug Administration chart, fresh tuna has much higher levels of mercury than other types of fish, such as salmon and tilapia. Consuming too much mercury can result in mercury poisoning, which leads to severe, potentially fatal, health complications.
Mercury enters our lakes, rivers, and oceans because of industrial activities, such as coal-fired electricity generation. The mercury then accumulates in fish. The larger the fish and the longer it lives, the higher the concentration of mercury in its tissues. Because tuna are large, long-living fish, their mercury levels are quite high.
Nonprofit organization Consumer Reports has recommended that people limit their tuna consumption based on their weight. For example, a person who weighs 154 pounds should consume no more than 5 ounces of regular tuna per week. Because dogs are usually smaller than humans, and because there are no recommendations for how much tuna dogs can safely eat, it is probably best not to feed your dog tuna.
If you want to treat your dog to some fish, you should choose a type of fish that has lower mercury levels. The safest types of fresh fish to feed to dogs are those that are most commonly used in commercial dog food, including salmon, whitefish, herring, flounder, and Arctic char.
If your dog does manage to snag some tuna off your plate when you aren’t looking, don’t worry. Tuna is not toxic for dogs, and only one portion will not cause mercury poisoning.
If you own both a dog and a cat, be careful about your dog trying to eat the cat’s food, because wet cat food often contains tuna. Because cats are also susceptible to mercury poisoning, you may want to steer toward cat food options that contain other types of fish.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning in dogs include:
Anxiety or nervousness
Kidney damage (inability to urinate, abdominal swelling)
Loss of coordination
Loss of feeling in paws
Watery or bloody diarrhea
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, take him to the vet as soon as possible.
So, can dogs eat tuna? The best answer is that it’s safer to avoid it. Although tuna itself is not toxic for dogs, it contains high levels of mercury, an element that can cause serious damage to a dog’s body if it accumulates.
Turkey – Yes, dogs can eat turkey. Turkey is fine for dogs as long as it is not covered in garlic (which can be very toxic to dogs) and seasonings. Also be sure to remove excess fat and skin from the meat and don’t forget to check for bones; poultry bones can splinter during digestion, causing blockage or even tears in the intestines.
Thanksgiving, for most families, is all about the bird. Hours go into the roasting and basting, and once the feast is over, there are turkey sandwiches, turkey potpies, and turkey casseroles to make. In the midst of all of that leftover turkey, it is tempting to slip our dogs some meat, or even to make them up a plate of it as a special Thanksgiving treat.
But can dogs eat turkey? Is it good for them? Are there risks? Here is what you need to know about feeding turkey to dogs to get your dog through the holidays safely.
Can Dogs Eat Turkey?
The short answer is “yes and no.” Turkey is not toxic to dogs. It is an ingredient in many commercial dog foods and is rich in nutrients like protein, riboflavin, and phosphorous. When cooked plain, under the guidance of a veterinarian, it can be an essential part of a homemade dog food diet.
Thanksgiving turkeys, however, are rarely cooked plain. We rub our birds with butter and oils and season them with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices. We stuff them full of stuffing, onions, garlic, and more herbs. To us, this is delicious. For our dogs, it is a recipe for unpleasant digestive upset at best, and pancreatitis at worst.
How to Feed Your Dog Turkey Safely
If you decide to feed your dog turkey this Thanksgiving, there are a few things you need to know to do it safely.
Skip the skin. All of that fat and seasoning is dangerous for dogs. The fat content can cause pancreatitis, and the seasonings can irritate your dog’s stomach.
Make sure you only feed your dog turkey meat. Onions are toxic to dogs, and garlic is potentially toxic in large quantities.
Feed your dog only small quantities of turkey, and talk to your vet about adding food scraps into your dog’s diet, especially if your dog has a preexisting health condition, like diabetes.
Make sure there are no bones in the meat you feed your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?
Poultry bones, especially cooked poultry bones, are brittle. This, combined with their small size, makes them very dangerous for dogs. Veterinarians caution against feeding dogs bones of any kind, including poultry bones, as they can cause the following problems:
Mouth and tongue injuries
Obstruction of the throat or intestinal tract
Bone fragments can pierce the lining of stomachs and intestines
Rectal bleeding from sharp bone fragments
Blockages that require emergency surgery
If you want to give your dog a bone, try a large hardy nylon or rubber chew toy bone or other size-appropriate chew toy. Some of them are even flavored, and your dog will live to chew another day.
Yes, you can feed your dog turkey safely, as long as you follow these guidelines. However, feeding table scraps to dogs on a regular basis can lead to obesity, which causes a host of problems, including diabetes, hypertension, joint stress, and hip dysplasia.
If you have any more questions, talk with your vet about how to feed turkey safely to your dog.
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.
A walk down the pet food aisle shows high-end (and high-priced) kibbles boasting “grain-free” formulas. We’re made to feel guilty if we feed our dogs the dreaded grain. But what’s the big deal?
Grain may have gotten a really bad name from the 2007 pet-food contamination tragedy in which wheat gluten imported from China had been contaminated with industrial chemicals used to falsely boost protein-level readings and caused kidney damage when ingested. Thousands of pets got ill and many died. Of course it wasn’t the grain itself that was the culprit, but that’s what many people remember.
Combine that incident with the human gluten-free food fad, and it’s only natural that health-conscious pet owners would consider the same for their dogs. It’s not that wheat gluten is evil. It’s that about 10 percent of people have gluten intolerance. The rest of us are just fine with it. We don’t know what percentage of dogs may have a similar condition, but chances are it’s not all of them.
Do Grains Cause Allergies?
What about the claim that grains cause food allergies? Grains don’t cause allergies. They can, however, be the target of allergies, and some foods are more allergenic than others. Those foods are specific ones, such as wheat, not general categories, such as grains.
The top five allergy-provoking ingredients for dogs are (in order):
Some dogs can have an allergy to storage mites. Several studies have found that dry dog food that has been opened and stored in non-sealed containers for six weeks often (but not always) grows storage mites. The studies did not differentiate between grain-free foods and those containing grain. One study concluded that these mites can be prevented by storing food in cool, dry environments, in sealed containers, and for not more than a month. They also concluded that while dogs can be allergic to storage mites, more are allergic to household dust mites.
What about GMOs?
Some people are concerned about the use of genetically modified grains. They believe their use can lead to “leaky gut syndrome” in which small fissures develop in the gut lining, allowing bacteria, toxins, incompletely digested proteins, and fats to leak into the bloodstream, triggering an autoimmune response resulting in food sensitivities, fatigue, skin rashes, gas, and bloating. But there is no actual evidence of this occurring—at this point, just speculation. Nonetheless, if GMOs concern you, look for foods with less popular grains, which are less likely to be genetically modified. These include barley, oats, millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Like Wolves?
There’s also the perception that dogs should be eating a diet similar to their wild ancestors’. When was the last time you saw a wolf nibbling the kernels off a corncob? However, dogs are actually different from wolves in this regard; in fact, scientists believe that one of the physiological changes that helped dogs evolve alongside humans was the ability to digest starch. Dogs have differences in 10 key genes compared to wolves that enable them to better utilize grains than wolves can.
Furthermore, grain-free foods don’t mean plant-free foods. Grains are seeds, like wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, millet, oatmeal, and quinoa. Grain-free diets use other plant sources such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, tapioca, peas, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach greens, and various fruits. These are also not foods wolves are known to eat. In fact, some of these ingredients provide less nutrition than grains. Remember – DOGS ARE NOT WOLVES.
Can Grains Make Dogs Fat?
This idea probably came about from the Atkins low-carb diet popular with humans. But grain-free does not mean carbohydrate-free. Grain-free foods contain about the same amount of carbohydrates as foods containing grains. In actuality, wheat gluten contains more than 80 percent protein, is 99 percent digestible, and has an amino acid profile similar to meat proteins. Corn, when prepared properly, is actually an excellent source of highly digestible carbohydrate, essential fatty acids, and fiber, and can be an especially crucial ingredient in diets for dogs with medical conditions requiring reduced fat or protein.
Are Grain-Free Diets A Waste Of Money?
If you’re feeding them for one of the above reasons, and your dog was otherwise doing well on a grain-based diet, probably yes. If your dog prefers a grain-free diet, is doing well on it, and you can afford it, then go for it. But if your dog is doing fine on a non–grain free diet, and your wallet is hurting, stow the guilt and buy the grains!
If your dog has signs of allergies, this type of food might be worth a try, but so might switching to non-beef or non-chicken foods. If your dog has signs of food intolerance such as repeated diarrhea, a food change might be a good idea, but getting him checked by a veterinarian is an even better option.
Yogurt – Yes, yogurt is OK for dogs. Plain yogurt is a perfectly acceptable snack for dogs, however some canines may have trouble digesting it. If your dog can digest it, the active bacteria in yogurt can help strengthen the digestive system with probiotics. Be sure to skip over yogurts with added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Yogurt is high in probiotics (good bacteria), which are good for the digestive system. But does yogurt have the same effect on dogs that it has on humans? And is it safe to feed yogurt to your dog?
The Problem With Yogurt for Dogs
Although yogurt is not toxic to dogs, many canines will have trouble digesting it. Dogs’ bodies were not really designed to digest lactose after they are weaned off their mothers’ milk. Yogurt has less lactose than milk, because it has been fermented, so some dogs may be able to digest it easily. But if you want to try giving your dog yogurt, you should be aware that it could cause gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.
If your dog has none of the above symptoms after eating yogurt, it’s fine to feed him yogurt as a treat once in a while.
What Type of Yogurt Is Best for Dogs?
If you are going to give your dog yogurt, it should be free of any added sweeteners, both natural and artificial. Added sugars are not healthy for dogs or humans, and some artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, are toxic for dogs. A comprehensive list of products is available here. VCA Hospitals reports that xylitol is 100 times more toxic to dogs than chocolate.
You should also look for a yogurt that has lots of live cultures (bacteria), because they help digest the lactose in the yogurt.
Can Yogurt Benefit Dogs?
Do the probiotics in yogurt benefit a dog’s digestive system the way they benefit a human’s digestive system? While it is possible for a dog to get this benefit from yogurt, there are better sources of probiotics for canines.
Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets FortiFlora® is a probiotic supplement designed for dogs and cats, which is frequently recommended by veterinarians. FortiFlora® provides the good bacteria that can help improve your dog’s intestinal health, without the lactose that may be difficult for him to digest.
Should You Give Your Dog Yogurt?
For some dogs, yogurt is fine to eat once in a while, but many dogs cannot digest it. If you want to give your dog a special treat, you are better off choosing foods that are easier on his digestive system, like these fruits and veggies.
Lettuce – For a lot of Americans, salads are a popular meal option. But can dogs eat lettuce? In general, yes. Lettuce of the romaine, arugula, and iceberg variety do not contain anything that can really harm your dog. After all, it is 90 percent water. It’s also a low-calorie snack that could be a good training treat for an overweight dog. Plus, there’s just something about that crunch that dogs love!
Is Lettuce Safe for Dogs?
While you can feed your pup greens, there are possible risks. If you give him too much, it could cause diarrhea, so moderation is important.
It should be noted that spinach, while containing large amounts of Vitamins A, B, C, and K, is also very high in oxalic acid, which blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to kidney damage. Kale also contains several potentially harmful natural compounds, including calcium oxalate — which could lead to kidney and bladder stones — and isothiocyanates, that can cause mild to potentially severe gastric irritation.
Because it is very fibrous, lettuce can also be hard to digest in big pieces. Chopping it up is better than handing your dog a whole leaf, especially for smaller dogs or those that are prone to gulping down their food.
Make sure it’s washed thoroughly and that you know where your lettuce originates. Due to recent recalls of lettuce contaminated by E. coli or listeria, you should be extra cautious about the lettuce you buy so that no one in your household (including your pet) gets sick.
Is Lettuce Good for Dogs?
Given that it’s 90 percent water, lettuce’s nutritional content is somewhat low, especially the iceberg variety. But it does contain beta-carotene (a red-orange pigment that’s converted into Vitamin A) and is a great source of fiber. Exact nutritional value varies between the different types of lettuce.
However, be aware that just because your dog can eat lettuce doesn’t mean you should give him your leftover salad! It could include other ingredients, such as onions, that may be toxic. But, generally speaking, it’s okay to sneak your dog a piece of lettuce from time to time.
Grapes – Can dogs eat grapes? The answer (and this goes for raisins, too, which are just dried grapes) is easy: No. Grapes and raisins are known to be highly toxic to dogs, though research has yet to pinpoint exactly which substance in the fruit causes this reaction. Because of that, peeled or seedless grapes should also be avoided.
Gender, breed, or age of a dog has no influence on the risk of being affected, and since there is no proven amount that is safe, you shouldn’t be giving your pup grapes or raisins at all.
Unfortunately, grape/raisin toxicity can even be fatal. Ingesting the fruit could potentially lead to acute (sudden) kidney failure in dogs. According to ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, they received a total of 3,722 calls involving grapes and raisins in 2016.
Here are the signs and symptoms that may occur after a toxic ingestion:
Loss of appetite
Lethargy, weakness, unusual stillness
Vomiting and/or diarrhea, often within a few hours
Abdominal pain (tender when touched)
Dehydration (signs include panting; dry nose and mouth; pale gums). A quick way to test for dehydration is to gently pull up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. It should spring back immediately.
Increased thirst and/or urine production or diminished amount of urine or complete cessation altogether
Kidney failure (which can be fatal)
If your dog has ingested grapes or raisins, treatment is absolutely critical. Contact your veterinarian, who may suggest you induce vomiting as soon as possible. However, you should not induce vomiting if your dog is having trouble breathing, exhibiting signs of distress, is unconscious, or if you’re not sure what he has eaten.
Bones – Raw bones can be both safe and healthy providing you follow some guidelines which I’ll discuss shortly. You’re probably aware your dog’s ancestors and counterparts in the wild have been eating bones forever. Canines in their natural habitat eat prey, including the meat, bones and stomach contents. In fact, your pup has a biological requirement for the nutrients found in bone marrow and the bones themselves.
Dogs love to chew raw bones for the yummy taste, the mental stimulation, and also because all that gnawing is great exercise for the muscles of the jaw.
Two Types of Raw Bones
At my clinic, Natural Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend to all our dog parents that they separate bones into two categories:
Edible bones – are the hollow, non-weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, do not contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder. These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which can be an essential part of your pup’s balanced raw food diet.
Recreational bones – big chunks of beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow — don’t supply significant dietary nutrition for your dog (they are not designed to be chewed up and swallowed, only gnawed on), but they do provide mental stimulation and are great for your pup’s oral health.
When your dog chews on a raw recreational bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, his teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease. Dogs in the wild have beautiful teeth and healthy gums. This is because the prey they eat requires a lot of chewing, and the sinewy composition helps to clean each entire tooth.
Guidelines for Feeding Recreational Bones Safely
The health risks listed above for cooked bones can also apply to recreational raw bones if your dog has unrestricted, unsupervised access to them. The following are do’s and don’ts for feeding recreational raw bones (and yes, they have to be raw, not steamed, boiled or baked):
Do supervise your dog closely while he’s working on a bone. That way you can react immediately if your pup happens to choke, or if you notice any blood on the bone or around your dog’s mouth from over aggressive gnawing.
You’ll also know when your dog has chewed down to the hard-brittle part of a knuckle bone, making splinters more likely. When the bone has been gnawed down in size throw it out. Do not allow your dog to chew it down to a small chunk he can swallow.
Do separate dogs in a multi-dog household before feeding bones. Dogs can get quite territorial about bones and some dogs will fight over them.
Do feed fresh raw bones in your dog’s crate, or on a towel or other surface you can clean, or outside as long as you can supervise him. Fresh raw bones become a gooey, greasy mess until your dog has gnawed them clean, so make sure to protect your flooring and furniture.
Don’t give them to a dog that has had restorative dental work/crowns.
Don’t give them to your dog if she has a predisposition to pancreatitis. Raw bone marrow is very rich and can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis. Instead, you can feed a “low fat” version by thawing the bone and scooping out the marrow to reduce the fat content.
Don’t give a recreational bone to a dog that’s likely to try to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in huge chunks.
My pit bulls tried to do this the first time I fed them recreational raw bones – they bit them in two and tried to eat both halves whole. So, I got knuckle bones the approximate size of their heads, and they couldn’t open their jaws wide enough to bite down and crack off big chunks of the bones. Over time, I trained them to chew smaller femur bones less aggressively.
You should be able to find raw knuckle bones at your local butcher shop or the meat counter of your supermarket (labeled as ‘soup bones’). When you get the bones home, store them in the freezer and thaw one at a time before feeding to your pup. I also recommend giving your dog a bone to chew after she’s full from a meal. Hungry dogs are more tempted to swallow a bone whole or break it apart and swallow large chunks. This increases the risk of an obstruction in the digestive tract.
Don’t feed small bones that can be swallowed whole or pose a choking risk, or bones that have been cut, such as a leg bone. Cut bones are more likely to splinter.
Don’t feed pork bones or rib bones. They’re more likely to splinter than other types of bones.