Dogs eat dirt in the back yard sometimes, they munch on grass from time to time, and they love to steal your popcorn when you aren’t looking. Are these things good for them? What should they eat and what should they avoid? How can you, as their pet parent, know what is best for them?
As we explore these questions and others, the aim will be to teach you to understand your dog’s nutritional needs and how to avoid the things that are potentially life-threatening or very bad for your dog.
So how do you navigate the confusion of what dogs can eat?
It’s probably easiest to know what they cannot eat and go from there. There are many items around the home that are toxic which would seem obvious, like engine coolant or motor oil. Have you considered that you may also have food items in your home that dogs should not eat?
Here is a list of foods that humans often have in the house that are very bad and even can be fatal if a dog eats:
- Chocolate – especially dark chocolate and baking chocolate
- Grapes and raisins
- Seeds and pits from fruit – choking hazard and some contain cyanide
- Raw eggs and meat – salmonella
- Bones – choking hazards and can puncture internal organs or intestines
- Macadamia nuts – all nuts in general are not good for them
- Onions, Garlic and chives
- Xylitol – an artificial sweetener
These are some of the more common foods that you likely have in your house at any given time and you should be careful to keep away from your dog. If you are a parent of small children, know that kids toss apples down after a few bites, they spit gum out after a few chews and it could be tossed anywhere in your house. Kids hand the dog bites of whatever they are eating.
If your toddler is walking around with grapes, your dog is going to get some if you don’t police this situation closely. Dogs actually love grapes but only a few grapes can send them into kidney failure. Don’t think that it isn’t a big deal because to your dog, it is.
Batten Down the Hatches
Lock food up that is dangerous. Make sure that lids are on tight and that items are placed in cabinets and cupboards where children and dogs cannot get to. Dogs will get into trash and can learn to open cupboards so be very careful when you are puppy-proofing your home.
Dogs have the intelligence of a 3 to 5 year old child, depending upon the breed. They are amazing problem solvers. Huskies are notorious for climbing and learning how to unlock gates, doors and kennes. They will also help each other escape kennels. Never assume your dog can’t figure something out.
They will hop onto kitchen counters to get to something, even if they never do this when you are home. Dogs understand very well when they are doing something that they should not be doing. They make choices and have the ability to reason.
Some breeds are exceptionally good at reasoning and decision-making. German Shepherds are a good police dog because of their ability to reason between a threat or a safe situation. This is a skill that makes them fantastic working dogs, but tough to keep out of things at home.
Know that you’ll need to use a little creativity when kids and dogs are mixed together because dogs learn very quickly how to manipulate children into sharing their food, causing them to drop their food, or just plain stealing food from a toddler who is carrying crackers around the house.
Eventually, children become little tiny food sources that the dog just follows everywhere. It’s less about love and more about the fact that this tiny human is an easy target for goodies and snacks.
Why Do Dogs Eat Things That Make Them Sick?
Just like a child with peanut allergies, dogs don’t know that a food may make them sick. Antifreeze actually smells sweet to dogs and they will lick it from the driveway. It’s important to understand that their perception of things is far different than your own and mostly dictated by what smells good or interesting.
Dogs explore with their mouth because they don’t have hands to manipulate things with. They pick things up with their mouth, taste them, explore….and eat. It isn’t too hard to imagine that a grape tastes good to them. They don’t know this is going to make them sick.
Children will eat ten candy bars and a quart of ice cream and wonder why they are throwing up that night. Dogs are just like children; they make bad choices and it is up to parents to watch out for them.
Taking a dog into your home means accepting responsibility for them. Unfortunately, that can be a full-time job but if you get organized, it really isn’t too tough. Puppies are good practice before you have children. They are actually harder than kids in many ways.
Kids come home from the hospital and lay where you put them down. Puppies take right off and get into everything so you’ve got to rearrange your house immediately. Kids take months to start moving on their own. A dog will drive you to insanity some days. You’ll be up a few times in the middle of the night with young puppies for the first couple of months and sometimes longer.
You’ll clean-up messes and question why you ever wanted a dog many times at 3am. One day, when they are grown and laying next to you, making soft snoring sounds in your ear, you’ll understand what complete love and acceptance are all about. Then you’ll know that you’d do it all over again. In the time being, put that food away and pray you don’t have a border collie that learns to open your refrigerator – it happens.
To Cook or Buy Your Dog’s Food?
Some people are disenchanted with dog food bought commercially. They find their dog doesn’t like it, it doesn’t look appealing to them and they feel guilty giving it to their dog, and their dog isn’t as healthy as they think he or she should be.
You can absolutely create dog food and treats at home that are safe for your dog. First, ask yourself if this is a job that you want to take on. You can only make so much dog food ahead of time. Depending on freezer space and how much your dog eats, you may find yourself spending a lot of time cooking dog food.
Dogs are omnivores, meaning that they eat protein as well as plant matter. Dogs enjoy a mix of veggies, some fruits, and quality lean meat. Just like us, they should have a lower fat diet but they need some fat, especially healthy fats. Without enough fat in the food you cook for them, they won’t gain weight.
If you add some beans to the food, like lentils or kidney beans, you’ll be giving them additional protein and much necessary fiber. Kidney beans are great for dogs but don’t overfeed beans unless you want to deal with the gas and diarrhea that will ensue.
Make sure to give them some sweet potato or pumpkin for fiber, maybe add some blueberries for antioxidants, lean meat, some rice to help fill them up and if you are unsure of the exact dietary needs for your dog, adding a powder supplement for dogs on top just before you serve this hearty stew to them is a fantastic idea.
It is likely that you can feed a much more palatable meal to your dog but there are also great kibbles on the market, so make your choice based on what you feel is realistic. Not everyone has the time to make food on a regular basis.
Some of the best foods on the market are also very expensive and this is unrealistic for people that just don’t have the room in their budget for these. Sometimes using a compromising method is the best. Buying a decent food in your price range and then adding some fresh vegetables to it each day, along with a few pieces of meat, possible from your own supper, will be great for your dog and be far more budget friendly for you.
Make it a priority to check foods that you’ve never fed to your dog before to ensure that they are safe to feed them. The lists above are not conclusive due to time and space restraints. It’s always a good idea to feed new things with some caution and keep an eye on how it agrees with your dog, even it if is known to be safe.
It still could disagree with your dog. You’ll also be shocked at some of the things your dog will and won’t eat. Strawberries, for example, are loved by some dogs and even cats. You won’t know until you try something. Just do so safely and you’re dog will appreciate the effort that you’re making to keep their foods interesting.