What Can My Dog Eat? Fruits, Vegetables, & Spices

Picture this, it is Sunday evening, you’ve just spent the last couple of hours, prepping, and cooking a delicious yet healthy Sunday night dinner to set you up for a great start to the week. The table is set, and you have just finished carefully plating up. Everyone is sitting down at the dinner table and you are finally about to take that first bite and…scratch scratch scratch. There is your pooch, not so gently scratching at the bottom of your chair, staring up at you with those big brown puppy dog eyes, “Hey, mom, I’m hungry too. Can I have just a little bit?”. And you think to yourself, well why not, it can’t be that bad. I’ve made everything from scratch, I know exactly what is in it. 

But the truth is, we dog owners have to be careful when including people foods into our dog’s diet, even healthy people food. Small pieces of table scraps and the occasional treat may seem like a good idea but can have a detrimental effect on our dog’s health. A dog’s digestive system is very different from ours, they are specialized in digesting raw meat supplemented with the occasional fruit and vegetable. Some common ingredients that may be a perfectly healthy treat and safe for us humans to eat in large amounts could potentially contain a toxic substance that may upset your dog’s stomach or more severe symptoms including liver failure and kidney failure. 
 
Many pet parents want to know the best way to add nutritional value and important vitamins to a diet of commercial dog foods. Good news... We reached out to Pete 'the Vet' Wedderburn BVM&S CertVR MRCVS, a well-known Irish vet, and co-founder from Petfix Club with over 35 years of experience. We asked Pete to review a list of foods that pet owners may consider when supplementing their dog’s food. 
 
And here is what Pete had to say on which people foods dogs can and cannot eat:

I am often asked to talk about human foods that can be toxic to dogs. The focus is always on the “baddies” – the foods that people should keep away from dogs. It’s easiest to do it this way, as there are not many toxic foods, while there is a long list of “ safe human food”.
 
The toxic list is fairly well known: chocolates, artificial sweeteners including xylitol, grapes,  raisins, onions, and garlic are the main offenders. But what about a “safe list”? In this post, I’ve tried to designate as wide a number of common foods as “safe” so that people feel happier about adding such items to their pet’s dinner bowl.
There are a couple of provisos to add:
 
1) Dogs need to have a balanced diet, with the correct proportions of protein, carbohydrate, fats and oils, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. So while it is possible to home-cook for dogs, you do need to be sure that the recipe you use is complete and balanced. Commercial pet foods, be it kibble or tinned foods, are usually “complete” (you can check the label to discover this: complete food is labeled as “complete”). To avoid an unbalanced diet, the simplest answer is to feed a complete commercial diet, supplemented by small quantities of “extras” from your own table: the rule of thumb is that such items should make up no more than 10% of the total food in their bowl.

2) Some dogs have specific intolerances, which is different from poisoning. For example, dogs that suffer from chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) are often unable to eat much fat or oils without suffering a recurrence of their problem. So it’s important to be aware of your dog’s particular needs in this way. Some unexpected foods (e.g. avocados) may have a high-fat content, and this may cause a reaction in a sensitive dog.

3) Any animal may suffer from an upset stomach if their diet is changed suddenly, or if a new ingredient to their diet is added in high quantities. So with any new item in the diet, even if it’s safe, you should feed only in moderation, and gradually get your pet used to it with small doses to avoid digestive issues.
 
4) Just because it’s safe for a dog to eat an item, it does not follow that they will want to, or that it will be palatable. Don’t expect your dog to necessarily enjoy eating jalapeños, eggplant, or pickles, even if they are safe for them to do so. "


Safe items for dogs to eat

Safe Vegetables for dogs to eat:
can my dog eat artichockes asparagus bell peppers bok choy brussel sprouts cabbage carob cucumbers edamame eggplant fennel green beans jalapenos lettuce peapods pickles purple cabbage radishes seaweed squash turnips zucchini .jpg
Safe Fruits for dogs to eat:
can my dog eat apples apricots bananas beets cantaloupe cranberries dates dragon fruit figs grapefruit jackfruit limes mango nectarines olives papyas plantines plums pomegranates prunes raspberries watermelon.jpg
Safe Spices for dogs to eat:
can my dog eat basil black pepper cilantro dill ginger lemongrass mint oregano parsley sage salt thyme tumeric cinnamon chili cloves cocoa powder curry garlic nutmeg.jpg
Safe to eat (with mild reservations)

The following items are often listed on the internet as "toxic" to dogs, but as a vet in practice, I have never encountered instances where toxicity has actually happened. The potential toxic effect is more theoretical than real, but nonetheless, this aspect deserves to be mentioned. None of these items are likely to be used as "main dishes" for dogs, and their use as flavouring or as ingredients in sensible quantities is highly unlikely to cause toxicity issues. Preparing food for dogs is similar to cooking for humans in many ways: common sense ought to apply. Just as you would not prepare a hot chili dish for a five-year-old child who has never eaten curry, why would you ever do such a thing for a dog?

•          Chili - While chili  - and chili peppers - aren't specifically toxic to dogs, they both contain capsaicin which can act as an irritant to dogs if eaten in high quantities, causing gastrointestinal upset. But dogs do not generally like spicy food, and will not eat it. So again, it's uncommon for this to be a real life issue. A trace amount of chili in a recipe will not cause problems but it is not an ingredient that I would choose to add to food prepared for dogs.

•          Cinnamon is not toxic in dogs, but if a dog ate a lot of it (eg chewing cinnamon sticks) then there may be some irritation to the mouth, just as there would be if humans chomped cinnamon sticks.

•          Citrus Fruit - the flesh is edible, but the rind is potentially toxic. However the rind is also unpalatable, so dogs are very unlikely to eat it. And most people are unlikely to try to feed it to their dogs anyway.

•          Cloves are fine to give dogs if they have been used to flavour food, but they do contain a chemical called eugenol which in high doses could cause liver problems. However, cloves are not palatable to dogs, so they are unlikely to munch enough cloves to cause a problem. If your dog raided your spice cupboard and ate a boxful of cloves, then you should contact your local vet, but this is highly unlikely to happen.

•          Jackfruit - No harm in moderation, like most foods, but again, feeding the entire fruit, including the rind, in large quantities, would not be advisable, even though it would be unlikely to result in toxicity.

•          Lemongrass is nontoxic, but if a dog ate large quantities, it could, conceivably, cause a digestive obstruction.  However, the same applies to many objects in the environment, and again, this should surely be common sense.

•          Stone Fruit -  the flesh is safe to eat, but if dogs crunch up the stones, their centres contain a type of cyanide which is toxic. But it is common sense that you should never feed whole fruit with stones of any kind to dogs, as the stones also form potential foreign bodies, causing gastrointestinal obstruction. That's why this type of poisoning is theoretical rather than a real-life day-to-day issue...



Foods to avoid,
 
Garlic is the big one to avoid. It’s in the same family as onions, and dogs can suffer damage to their red blood cells caused by the chemicals in both of these. For this reason, it’s better to avoid routinely feeding dog or cat foods with garlic or onion in them, because even small amounts can damage red blood cells. That said, the quantities of garlic or onions that we use to flavor most human dishes are unlikely to cause enough harm to make pets ill, especially if they only have them once in a while. Problems are most often seen when dogs eat large quantities e.g. eating a dish made primarily from onions or chewing a container of garlic powder. 
We are very thankful to Pete ‘the Vet’ from Petfix Club for clearing up some of the confusion around which foods are safe for dogs and which foods are not safe for dogs. Petfix Club is an Irish online subscription-based community where you get exclusive access to animal professionals, expert advice for your pets, as well as professional tips for your pet’s lifestyle and wellbeing. To find out more about Petfix Club and what they offer you, check out their website here
 
Not all people foods that make it into your pet's mouth have to be table scraps either, check out our post from January where we spent a whole weekend making Pupcakes with peanut butter (xylitol free), bananas, and frosting made of sweet potatoes.
If you are considering making a change to your dog's diet, we recommend that you speak with your vet first as they will know your dog's individual circumstances and needs. When adding anything new to your dog's food, be sure to only feed a small amount at first and keep a good lookout for any potential negative effects on your pup.

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