What Human Foods Can Dogs Eat?

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Introduction

Would your dog rather eat whatever's on your plate than what's in his bowl? Many of us are prone to giving into that distinctive pleading look from our furry friends and treating them to a tasty morsel or two from our own meals, while home-prepared doggy diets have also experienced a growth in popularity in recent years.

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

Most dogs aren't very subtle when trying to let you know that they'd like to take a bite (or three) out of whatever delicious snack you're tucking into. This no-nonsense approach may not indicate that your pooch has great table manners, but it's surprisingly effective on any gullible dog owner who's always looking for an excuse to treat their furry friend.

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.

Body Language

Body language cues that indicate your dog wants to share your food include:
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Jumping up
  • Wag tail
  • Raise ears
  • Paw raised

Other Signs

Other signs of a hungry pooch who has eyes on your dinner include:
  • Pleading Eyes
  • Head in Your Lap
  • Pawing at Your Leg
  • Stealing Food

The History of Dogs Eating Human Food

If you and your dog share similar tastes in food, you're not alone. In fact, food was one of the reasons our two species formed a close relationship some 15,000 (or maybe even more) years ago. The first wolves that started hanging around the campsites of our ancestors were drawn to us, not by our good looks and winning personalities, but because we offered a reliable source of food. Having been drawn into human settlements by the smell of meat, the tamest of these scavengers learned that there were plenty of food scraps to be enjoyed.

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

Scientists have done plenty of research into what our dogs can and can't eat, and we now know a grrr-eat deal about the items and ingredients your pooch can tuck into without experiencing any serious negative effects. Some of the human foods that are safe for dogs to eat include:
  • Apples (with seeds removed)
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Bread
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Cashews and almonds (in small quantities)
  • Celery
  • Cheese (in small quantities)
  • Chicken (cooked and with bones removed)
  • Corn
  • Eggs (cooked)
  • Fish (cooked and with bones removed)
  • Ham (in small quantities)
  • Mushrooms
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter (raw, unsalted peanut butter is best)
  • Pork (cooked and boneless)
  • Potatoes (cooked)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Salmon (cooked)
  • Shrimp (cooked)
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes (only if they're ripe and only occasionally)
  • Tuna
  • Turkey (boneless and skinless, and with no seasoning or stuffing)
  • Yogurt (with no added sugar or artificial sweetener)
However, we also know that there are some human foods that we should never, ever give to our canine companions. Depending on a range of factors, giving your dog these banned foods could potentially lead to anything from an upset stomach to life-threatening situations, so exercise caution at all times. Foods to avoid include:
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pits from peaches, plums, cherries and apricots
  • Alcohol

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

We all like to spoil our dogs from time to time, and there's nothing wrong with giving your furry friend a treat every now and then. However, if you plan on giving your dog some human food, make sure to exercise caution.

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.