Dogs can eat just about anything and sometimes it seems like they are little, four-legged garbage men who follow kids around the house and eat whatever is dropped. Many dogs have an ‘eat now, ask questions later philosophy toward life, but is this safe? We’ll explore this and discuss the pros and cons of feeding table foods to your dog.
Is it Safe?
The best place to start with is whether a food is safe for your dog before you give it to them. Some foods may be safe but are not recommended. This applies to things that we know are not poisonous but can cause constipation, diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
There are many foods that dogs love and a small amount won’t kill them but are still listed as things dogs shouldn’t have. This is because of the risk of stomach upset and diarrhea. These foods include:
- Milk and dairy – diarrhea
- Broccoli – diarrhea, and gas
- Jalapeno – upset stomach and diarrhea
- Green peppers – diarrhea and stomach upset
- Citrus fruits – stomach upset, acid indigestion
- Salted foods – bad for longterm health
- Sugar – bad for overall health
- Almonds – because they can cause tears in the throat
- Bones – choking hazard, breaking and splintering can cause ruptures to internal organs.
As you can see, these things generally make sense. Dogs typically do best on bland diets but you can definitely spice things up for them from time to time by changing their diet and adding special treats that are good for them.
Foods That Dogs Love and Are Fine
Try adding things from this list below to your dog’s bowl from time to time and they will be delighted with the treats and additions to their routines.
- Sweet potatoes – raw or cooked
- White potatoes – cooked only
- Green beans
- Sliced peaches, plums or persimmons sans the pit which is not good for them
- Sliced apples that have been seeded – seeds of apples are laced with cyanide
- Lean meats with fat trimmed away
- Lentils and other legumes
These are just a few of the things that dogs have been known to love and are good for them. Pumpkin can add extra fiber to their diet in the event that they have diarrhea from something. Rice will also help add some bulk to their food to combat soft stools and diarrhea.
Lean meat is great for your dog as long as you are careful to make sure it is free of bacteria and cooked well enough to ensure that it is safe. Fats are as bad for them as they are for us. Animals can get fatty-liver-disease and heart disease. Make sure their diet isn’t a contributor to health issues.
Green beans are one vegetable that seems to be universally enjoyed by dogs and is well-tolerated in their diet. You may feed any of the above vegetables raw or cooked unless indicated otherwise. White potatoes, for example, must be cooked due to certain properties of the potato that aren’t good for dogs in the raw form.
Moderation and Balance
Be sure to make additions to your dog’s diet in very small amounts. Moderation is always the best policy, even for ourselves. You may not want to deny your dog that small ice cream cone when the family rides to the ice cream shop. Be advised that it may give him diarrhea and even upset his stomach. Can you compromise and get a cone that is only filled to the top of your cone for the dog, which is far less dairy and far less sugar for him?
Remember that your dog isn’t incapable of making these choices for himself. You’re essentially deciding what to feed a small child. Dogs shouldn’t have sugar or salt in their diets. These aren’t natural foods for them and more dogs are treated for heart disease, diabetes, and fatty liver disease every year. If you truly care about your dog, then his health and longevity should be a top priority.
Feed your dog a balanced and healthy diet and he will likely live far longer than if he is being fed strictly dog food. Raw vegetables and fruits can supply a host of vitamins that are more digestible in their natural state. Steer clear of canned vegetables as they are soaked in sodium when they are canned. A very high sodium (salt) intake is bad for dogs. It can impact them faster than it does humans too.
Sugar feeds inflammation, so when your dog becomes a senior citizen at only 6 to 7 years of age, all of that sugar will feed arthritis that settles into their joint and creates painful days ahead of them. It really isn’t mean. They don’t know what they are missing if you never give it to them. Stick to healthy foods and it will be a better outcome for them.
Switching Dogs to a Natural Food Diet
You can completely switch your dog to a diet of vegetables, some good fiber sources included, lean meat, and a tiny amount of fruit if you would like to do so. You might cook a type of stew each day made for them or you could simply feed them a mix of fresh vegetables with meat each day. It really depends on what your dog likes.
For starters, you may wish to begin by offering your dog some new vegetables to see what he likes the most. You will quickly discover what your dog doesn’t like. Dogs are very good at picking the tiniest of things from their food dish and dropping it on the floor.
If they go back and eat those things, it simply means this is not their favorite. If they walk away, then they do not like this thing at all. Easy for you to figure out.
Start giving your dog choices between a piece of this and a piece of that. You’ll quickly learn which things are your dog’s favorite foods. While he can’t tell you, he can show you in no uncertain terms.
Once you’ve determined the things they like the most, make just a small mix of the veggies with some shredded meat they love. Avoid pork as it is very fatty. Chicken is a great choice for dogs but they may also have lamb, lean beef, and some fish.
Very gradually start mixing this with their regular dry kibble diet. Start with more kibble and only about a quarter of new food. After at least 3 to 4 days, add more of the new mix and less kibble so that you have approximately a 50/50 mix in their bowl. In a few more days, move to three-quarters of the bowl being the new food and ultimately being completely switched over.
Monitor your dog closely during the switch and after. Are they gaining weight, losing weight, suffering from diarrhea? You may need to make adjustments to the diet and add or remove certain food items. Add rice to give the food more bulk to stop diarrhea. Try giving them pumpkin to alleviate diarrhea.
If they are losing weight even though they are eating, add some healthy fats and higher calorie foods to the mix. Rice is calorie dense. Fish has good fat. A little planning and some online sleuthing sessions will give you a plethora of advice and recipes that you can use to tweak your dog’s diet.
Whether you are only hoping to add a few snacks to your dog’s boring diet or hoping to completely change his eating routines, moderation is the key. Switching very slowly is imperative. Knowing what to do when diarrhea strikes is essential because it is inevitable when diet changes are made.
Let your dog dictate to you what he likes within reason. He can just have ALL green beans in a bowl, for example. He won’t stay healthy for long like that. Also, remember that dogs are not vegetarians and they will not stay healthy on a diet with no meat in it. Always add some lean meat to your dog’s diet. They don’t need a lot of meat. Aim for 17% to 25% meat and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Working With a Veterinarian
Veterinarians are a wealth of information but they don’t always know everything about nutrition that you may wish they knew. They can’t specialize in everything. That said, they can run blood tests before you undertake a food change that is dramatic. In a month or so you can have blood drawn again and compare the levels. If your dog is lacking in any nutrition, it will show up there first and foremost.
This will ensure that you’re doing what is best for your dog at all times and is highly recommended. The numbers don’t lie and you’ll know immediately if their body chemistry is out of balance. Things like potassium are important to brain function, for example.
Your veterinarian can also make recommendations for supplement powders that you can add over the top of their food so you ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients to stay healthy.
Laura Barnes is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.