Just a few things distinguish mankind from animals:
Our ability to communicate through complex verbal and written language, our self-awareness, and our ability to eat “people food.”
Oh wait. No.
There are many fresh foods that can be enjoyed by dogs and people alike. Most “people food,” is really just “food.”
While we obviously shouldn’t give dogs soda, Krispy Kreme donuts, deep fried Twinkies, (should anyone?) most foods that are good for us are also good for them.
If you’re new to adding fresh foods to your dog’s diet, you might be surprised at just how much of your leftovers and food waste can be used to add a healthy, flavorful boost to your dog’s meals.
Not everyone has the time and resources to create a fresh raw diet for their dog.
It’s perfectly fine to feed your dog what you can find and what you can afford, and even better if you can make simple steps to make their commercial diet just a bit better.
Now, don’t go dumping just anything into your dog’s bowl just yet. You will need to make sure every add-in is actually safe for your dog to eat, and the best amount to feed them.
How Much Of Your Dog’s Diet Can Be “People Food”?
If you normally feed kibble or canned food, your dog’s diet is most likely complete and balanced to AAFCO standards. Calcium, zinc, magnesium, all of those vitamins are all included in your dog’s normal diet. If you feed too much “people food,” you could throw that balance out of whack, and create a nutritional deficiency.
Extras should make up no more than 15% of your dog’s diet. As those extras reach 20% and beyond, you’ll need to make sure that your dog’s fresh portion of your dog’s diet is balanced, too.
Of that 15%, strive to feed mostly meat, fish and eggs. Fruits and veggies can have health benefits, but they can be high in starch and natural sugars, actually causing your dog to gain weight.
Adding Meat, Fish And Eggs To Your Dog’s Kibble Diet
Chicken, turkey, beef and pork can all be a tasty part of your dog’s diet. Give your dog the good parts, don’t just give them fatty trimmings that you wouldn’t feed to your other family members. Some seasonings are okay and can even be beneficial to your dog, but onions and garlic are toxic in large amounts or fed over a long period of time. The best way to do this is to buy a bit more meat than you need to prepare for dinner, save some for your dog, then go ahead and season and cook the rest for your family.
Most healthy dogs have no problem with raw meat because they have a short, acidic digestive tract designed to prevent foodborne bacteria from ever colonizing. Ask your vet if you’re unsure – though some are more open-minded about fresh foods than others.
Eggs can be highly beneficial part of your dog’s diet. They’re packed with protein, b-vitamins, biotin, riboflavin, and selenium. They have a biological value of 100, which means they’re very easy to digest – great for dogs with upset tummies. Feed both yolk and whites, raw or cooked a few times per week. Farm-fresh eggs can be fed with-shell for a protein boost; any eggs found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store should be fed without shell. Duck and quail eggs are even more nutrient-dense than chicken eggs.
Seafood is another tasty protein source. Fatty fishes like salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help relieve arthritis, reduce inflammation, boost your dog’s brainpower and make your dog’s skin and coat healthy and shiny. Tuna, pollack and tilapia are less beneficial, but still okay to feed sometimes.
Feed fish cooked, as some fish, particularly salmon, may contain harmful parasites, even if you get them from your grocery store. Canned fish should say “packed in water – no salt added.” We like salmon, tuna, sardines and oysters. If cooked, remove bones. Canned fish has soft bones that are safe for your dog to eat.
Adding Fruits And Veggies To Your Dog’s Kibble Diet
Many dogs enjoy raw fruits and veggies as a snack. Crunching on apples and carrots might help loosen tartar on your dog’s teeth, though you’ll still need to brush your dog’s teeth and/or provide raw bones – more on bones later! When feeding raw fruits and veggies, try to remove skins, and always remove seeds, pits and stems.
For greater digestibility, steam or puree fruits and veggies before feeding. You can even share a smoothie with your dog if it only contains dog-friendly ingredients.
Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Avoid sugary fruits like pineapples, mangoes and oranges. Acidic fruits can upset your dog’s stomach.
Berries like blueberries and strawberries are full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and can reduce inflammation.
Never feed grapes or raisins. They cause kidney failure in some dogs, and vets are unsure why, or how to tell how much is safe – so, just avoid them altogether, and call your vet ASAP if your dog gets ahold of them.
Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates?
Kibble is already high in carbohydrates, so it’s not really necessary to add fresh, additional carbs to their diet. Dogs can digest cooked carb sources and convert them to energy. Too much carbs can make your dog gain too much weight.
Cooked sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and rice can be fed, or used as ingredients in your homemade treats. You can use regular white flour in your treats, though you can also use almond flour, coconut flour, or any other popular gluten-free flour.
Don’t feed uncooked bread dough. It can expand in your dog’s stomach. A little bit of cooked bread won’t harm your dog, but it doesn’t have any particular health benefits.
Corn, peas and lentils are popular ingredients in dog foods. However, they’re pulverized and processed so they no longer have a fibrous outer shell that your dog might find difficult to digest. Feed cooked, sparingly if at all.
Using People Foods To Hydrate Your Dog
If your dog eats kibble, they’ll need more than just a lukewarm bowl of water to stay hydrated. Dogs don’t automatically drink as much water as they need. Fresh meat and produce are typically 50-75% water, so any fresh food increases your dog’s water intake.
You can also offer doggy beverages to quench your thirsty dog, especially before, during and after exercise and on hot days.
Bone broth has many health benefits can be purchased online or in most pet stores. Raw goat’s milk contains beneficial enzymes and probiotics that support the gut, it usually comes from raw dog food suppliers. Both are available in convenient dehydrated powders.
Frozen treats are another hydrating addition. I like to use fun, shaped silicone ice cube molds to make perfectly portioned frozen kefir, smoothie or goat’s milk “ice cream” that makes my dogs come running to the freezer!
People Foods To Avoid
Dogs that already eat a processed diet don’t need processed people foods like breakfast cereal, cookies, bread or pasta. Avoid added salt, sugar, fatty cuts of meat and foods cooked in fat.
These foods can be toxic to dogs even in small amounts: onions, grapes, raisins and xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in some peanut butter, candy, and cookies. Some people feed fresh garlic for possible benefits like flea prevention, but it’s toxic in large amounts, and may be toxic in small amounts over time. I personally use small amounts in some treat recipes, but I don’t feed it daily.
Peanut butter can contain added sugar or toxic xylitol, but natural or homemade peanut butter is safe as an occasional treat.
Dairy-based treats should be fine in small amounts, though some dogs are more tolerant of it than others. Kefir and yogurt contain beneficial probiotics.
Introducing New Foods
Please don’t grab everything from this blog post and feed it to your dog all at once. Some dogs are more sensitive than others, and may experience digestive upset from new, otherwise safe foods. That’s why it’s best to space new foods at least a few days apart.
When In Doubt…
If you don’t know how a food was prepared, what ingredients it contains, or whether it will make your dog sick, just don’t feed it. Ask your vet before switching up your dog’s diet if they have pre-existing conditions, and don’t be afraid to cheat on your vet with a second opinion if they don’t realize that fresh foods are an essential key to your dog’s health.