A Guide to What your Dog Can and Can’t Eat

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Most dog owners would say that their dogs eat anything they can get their paws on. Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve probably heard stories of dogs stealing entire turkeys from the cutting board at Thanksgiving or weaseling their way into the pantry where they proceed to gobble up everything in sight.

While there are some “people foods” that are perfectly safe for your dog, there are also some that are not and your dog doesn’t know the difference. It’s your job, then, to protect him from the foods that might harm him. Keep reading to learn about the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are and are not safe for your dog to eat.

Can My Dog Eat Vegetables?

While you might think of your dog as a carnivore, he technically falls somewhere between a carnivore and an omnivore on the spectrum. Dogs are scavenging carnivores which means that they prefer meat and that their bodies are biologically adapted to deriving nutrition most efficiently from animal products. A dog does, however, have a limited ability to digest plant material and, in fact, wild wolves will sometimes eat plant foods when nothing else is available. They also eat the stomach contents of their pretty which typically consists of plant foods.

Though most of your dog’s diet should come from animal foods, there are some vegetables which provide a decent boost of nutrition. Vegetables are rich in dietary fiber to support your dog’s healthy digestion and they are high in moisture and low in calories. Different vegetables also contain different vitamins and minerals which are important for ensuring that your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced. Consuming vegetables also helps to alkalize your dog’s body, protecting his organs against the kind of inflammation that has been linked to chronic diseases.

Fresh vegetables provide a wide range of different vitamins including Vitamins A, E, C, K and B vitamins. Dark, leafy green vegetables are particularly rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Some vegetables also contain omega-3 fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation and to support your dog’s central nervous system. Other phytonutrients that can be found in vegetables include antioxidants, enzymes, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Various phytonutrients can also provide antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-cancer benefits.

Here is a list of vegetables that are safe for your dog to eat:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato

While your dog can eat many vegetables fresh, some vegetables are best cooked before you offer them to your dog. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower may be difficult for your dog to digest, so try steaming or boiling them before feeding them to your dog.

Can My Dog Eat Fruit?

Just like vegetables, fruits are rich in dietary fiber which can help to support your dog’s healthy digestion. Fruits contain several different kinds of fiber including pectin, a type of soluble fiber which absorbs water to create a thick, gel-like substance that helps to keep things moving through your dog’s digestive system – it also protects against diarrhea and constipation. Pectin can also help to reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels to support your dog’s heart health and it may help to protect against colon cancer and intestinal tumors as well.

Another key benefit of fresh fruit is the antioxidant content. Antioxidants are a type of compound found in fruits, vegetables, and other foods. They come in many different forms, each with their own benefits, but their main benefit is that they help to stop the cell damage caused by oxidation by free radicals. Some of the richest food sources of antioxidants are berries like blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries. Fresh fruits are also a good source of healthy enzymes which aid in digestion, helping your dog to absorb more nutrients from the food he eats.

Here is a list of fruits that are safe for your dog to eat:

  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Remember that fruits contain a lot of sugar. Even though it is natural sugar, you should still limit your dog’s intake of fruit just to be safe. The fiber content of fruit can also sometimes cause digestive upset if your dog has a sensitive stomach, so only feed small amounts at a time.

Can My Dog Eat Other Foods?

In addition to certain fruits and vegetables, there are some other foods that are safe for your dog to eat. For example, different types of meat like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and even shellfish are safe for your dog to eat as long as they are properly cooked. Meats like these provide your dog with protein to support his lean muscle mass as well as healthy fats for concentrated energy and immune support. You just have to be careful to remove the skins because they are too rich and high in calories – they might upset your dog’s stomach. It is also a good idea to remove the bones so your dog doesn’t choke.

Aside from different types of meat, your dog can also eat foods like peanut butter, popcorn (plain), honey, coconut, and certain dairy products. Peanuts and peanut butter are safe for dogs as long as they aren’t too high in sodium and the peanut butter should be natural and free from xylitol and other artificial sweeteners. Plain popcorn – unsalted, unbuttered, and air-popped – is okay for dogs, as is honey. Your dog can benefit greatly from coconut products including coconut meat, coconut milk, and coconut oil. Even some dairy products like fat-free yogurt and cheese can be okay for your dog as long as he isn’t lactose intolerant. You can also feed your dog certain cooked grains like oatmeal, as long as he isn’t allergic to grains.

Here is a list of other foods that are safe for your dog to eat:

  • Applesauce
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Coconut
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Duck
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Popcorn
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Shellfish
  • Shrimp
  • Yogurt

When it comes to feeding your dog people food, the best rule of thumb to follow is “better safe than sorry”. Unless you are absolutely sure that a food is safe for your dog, don’t risk it. If you have questions about a particular food, you can always ask your veterinarian.

What Foods Should My Dog NOT Eat?

In addition to knowing which foods are safe for your dog to eat, you also need to know which foods are not. There are some hazardous foods that most dog owners know about already, like chocolate. But there are also some surprising foods that you might not realize could poison your pet if he ingests too much of it. Here is a quick overview of some of the most dangerous foods for dogs:

  • Alcohol – Just like in people, alcohol can cause damage to your dog’s liver and brain. The difference is that it takes just a little bit of alcohol from beer, wine, or liquor to cause damaging effects for your dog.
  • Bones – Raw bones that are soft enough for your dog to chew can actually be beneficial for his dental health but cooked bones, particularly cooked poultry bones, can splinter and might damage or block your dog’s airway.
  • Caffeine – The caffeine in coffee, tea, and other beverages can be very bad for your dog. Signs of caffeine overdose in dogs include restlessness, rapid breathing, and muscle twitches.
  • Cherries – Though cherries are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, the pits and the plants themselves may contain cyanide which can poison your dog, causing symptoms like difficulty breathing and dilated pupils.
  • Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound which can cause toxicity in dogs, even in small amounts. Symptoms of theobromine poisoning include vomiting diarrhea, heart palpitations, seizures, and even coma or death.
  • Dairy Products –  Not all dairy products are bad, but it is just as possible for dogs to be lactose intolerance as humans. If you feed your dog dairy products like yogurt or cheese, opt for low-fat or fat-free options and limit the amount.
  • Fruit Pits – The pits of most stone fruits like avocado, peaches, and persimmons are very bad for your dog because they contain cyanide and because they can cause an obstruction if swallowed.
  • Grapes – Both grapes and raisins are very toxic for dogs, even in small doses. In fact, ingesting even a small amount of either food could cause your dog to develop acute kidney failure.
  • Macadamia Nuts – Though some nuts are good for your dog because they contain healthy fat and protein, macadamia nuts are very dangerous. Signs of macadamia nut poisoning may include vomiting, fever, muscle shakes, weakness, and depression.
  • Mushrooms – The kind of mushrooms you buy at the grocery store are usually okay for dogs, but wild mushrooms can be extremely toxic and it is best not to take the risk – avoid feeding your dog any type of fungi.
  • Onions – All plants belonging to the onion family (this includes chives, garlic, and leeks) are considered poisonous to dogs. These foods may induce symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea, even when eaten in small amounts.
  • Raw Meat – Raw meat, fish, and eggs have the potential to contain food-borne pathogens that could make your dog sick. If you feed your dog meat as an occasional treat, make sure it is cooked.
  • Sugar – There is no good reason to feed your dog sugar – if you want to sweeten homemade dog treats, try a little bit of honey. Sugar can cause your dog’s blood sugar to skyrocket and regular consumption could lead to insulin resistance, or even diabetes.
  • Tomatoes – The ripened flesh of the tomato is usually okay for dogs, but the green parts of the plant like the stems and leaves contain solanine, a toxic substance which can be harmful for your dog in large amounts.
  • Trimmings – The trimmings from fatty cuts of meat are a delectable treat for dogs, but they are not something your dog should eat regularly. This particular type of fat is not good for your dog in large doses and could cause pancreatitis.
  • Xylitol – A type of sugar alcohol, xylitol is found in many baked goods and diet foods. Xylitol can cause your dog’s blood sugar to spike and then fall – it can also contribute to liver failure and other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination.
  • Yeast Dough – Bread and other baked goods made with yeast can be bad for your dog because the yeast could swell inside your dog’s stomach, stretching it and causing pain. As the yeast ferments, it produces alcohol which could poison your dog as well.

Your dog loves to eat but he doesn’t know which foods are good for him and which foods are bad. It is up to you to educate yourself about the kinds of food that are healthy for your dog and the types that might be harmful. The more you know, the better you can protect your dog against food-related accidents.

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