If you're thinking of sharing your dinner with Fido, the good news is that there are plenty of human foods that dogs can safely eat. However, there are also plenty of foods that are definitely not suitable for canine stomachs and digestive systems, so it's essential to be fully aware of what your dog can and can't eat before inviting him to chow down.
Signs Your Dog Wants to Share Your Food
The best-known sign of a dog on the lookout for food scraps is those big, soft, pleading eyes. One look into those deep, loving eyes and you'll instantly feel like the worst person in the world unless you start sharing your dinner ASAP.
Of course, this "feed me" look is also accompanied by a whole lot of other sneaky tactics designed to help infiltrate your defenses. It could be a furry head on your knee or snuggling into your lap, an inquisitive paw on your leg, or maybe even a questioning bark to say, "How about sharing some of that with me?"
Then there are those dogs who decide to take matters into their own hands -er, paws. When they think you're not looking, they'll make a grab for whatever item of food is closest, and then squirrel it away to a hiding place so they can enjoy it in peace. Others will follow their noses and start going through the trash to find any scraps, which is not only a little bit naughty but can actually be quite dangerous to their health.
- Head tilting
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- Raise ears
- Paw raised
- Pleading Eyes
- Head in Your Lap
- Pawing at Your Leg
- Stealing Food
The History of Dogs Eating Human Food
Throughout history, doggy diets have largely consisted of scraps and leftovers from our own meals. While there are examples of people developing special diets for their working animals — for example, around 2,000 BC, Roman philosopher Marcus Terentius Varro wrote a farming manual that suggested feeding dogs meat with bones, and barley soaked in milk — these were far from the norm.
It wasn't until the second half of the 19th century that specially manufactured pet food rose to prominence. Ohio electrician James Spratt developed the first dog biscuit in the 1860s, made from wheat, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood. Then, in the 20th century, advances in manufacturing technology, combined with a burgeoning advertising industry and an increase in awareness of how to care for our furry friends, saw the commercial pet food industry really take off.
However, recent years have seen a growth in popularity of home-cooked doggy diets, with an increasing number of pet owners keen to avoid commercially manufactured and highly-processed foods. The fact that we've welcomed dogs into our homes has also given our canine companions plenty more opportunities to access scraps and leftovers from the family dinner table.
The Science of Human Food That Dogs Can't Eat
- Apples (with seeds removed)
- Cashews and almonds (in small quantities)
- Cheese (in small quantities)
- Chicken (cooked and with bones removed)
- Eggs (cooked)
- Fish (cooked and with bones removed)
- Ham (in small quantities)
- Peanut butter (raw, unsalted peanut butter is best)
- Pork (cooked and boneless)
- Potatoes (cooked)
- Salmon (cooked)
- Shrimp (cooked)
- Sweet potatoes
- Tomatoes (only if they're ripe and only occasionally)
- Turkey (boneless and skinless, and with no seasoning or stuffing)
- Yogurt (with no added sugar or artificial sweetener)
- Grapes and raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Pits from peaches, plums, cherries and apricots
This isn't an exhaustive list, so check with your veterinarian if you're unsure about a particular type of food.
Dogs and Human Food — Feeding the Right Diet
The most important thing to remember is to make sure you only give your dog foods that are safe for him to eat. You can find information online from a range of trusted veterinary health websites or, better yet, ask your dog's veterinarian for their advice.
It's also important to be very careful when sharing your meal with your dog, as it may contain ingredients they're not allowed to eat. For example, while the chicken you ate for dinner last night may have been fine for your dog on its own, the garlic and onions it was cooked with are definite no-nos, so treating your dog to your scraps could be very harmful to his health.
And if you're considering preparing all of your dog's meals at home, rather than buying commercial pet food, keep in mind that it's very difficult to create a diet that provides the right balance of all the nutrients your pet needs. At the very least, you'll need advice from a pet nutrition expert before going down this path.
Safety Tips When Feeding Your Dog Human Food
Know what's safe. With the help of your veterinarian, put together a list of all the human foods your dog can and can't eat.
Check the ingredients list. If your meal has been prepared using multiple ingredients and different seasonings, be very wary of sharing it with your pooch.
Only do it in moderation. Giving fatty table scraps puts your dog at risk of potentially life-threatening pancreatitis, not to mention weight gain. Only give healthy treats and only give them in moderation.