Should I be feeding my dog human food?


Why do dogs love human food

Is your dog addicted to eating human food? This is extremely common. It can sometimes be impossible to refuse those puppy dog eyes at the dinner table when you know they want to try a bit of your food. It’s natural for dog owners to offer their dogs leftovers from a meal or as a tasty treat. Although some foods are ok, some must be avoided to protect your dog’s overall health. Here we explain why dogs love people food and answer the question “Should I be feeding my dog human food?”

Why do dogs love human food?

To start with, it’s good to get an understanding of why dogs love human food so much.

• They may simply be trying to tell you that they are hungry and not getting fed enough. If they are finishing all their food before wanting yours, try increasing the amount you feed them. Always try and avoid overfeeding them though.

• Dogs pay attention to their owners. So if they are seeing you enjoy your meal, it may make them want to try it themselves.

• Your dog’s appetite may be increased significantly due to underlying medical issues such as diabetes, bacterial infections, ageing and more. Although wanting to try human food is normal behaviour for a dog, if you are concerned about your dog’s appetite then it may be worth consulting with a vet.

What foods are ok for dogs to eat?

Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are some food items known to be safe for dogs to consume in small quantities:

• Rice
• Pasta
• Eggs
• Meat
• Some vegetables (including carrots, green beans, broccoli)
• Some fruit (including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas and apples)

What foods should dogs avoid?

Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are just some of the foods you should always avoid feeding your dog:

Raw dough – yeast can cause digestive issues
Nuts – whilst some are ok, others such as macadamia nuts can be harmful to dogs and cause vomiting and weakness or even hyperthermia
Cheese – dogs cannot easily digest diary so cheese should be avoided. Blue cheese is particularly dangerous as it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and sometimes even seizures
Chocolate – not only does it contain milk, but it also contains theobromine which is highly toxic to dogs. Theobromine is found in cocoa which means dark chocolate is the worst for dogs. Once consumed it can cause restlessness, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, high temperature, seizures and more
Mushrooms
Onions (or anything in the onion family such as leeks, shallots and garlic)
Raisins
Grapes

Is it bad for the dog?

Giving your dog human food to eat can, in some cases, cause gastrointestinal problems as well as other health problems. In some cases, if you are in the habit of feeding your dog human food regularly, they can become addicted to this way of eating, which may not be beneficial to your dog’s long term health.

There are several foods which are deemed safe to feed your dog, however, they should be fed human food in moderation. If you have a dog that seems addicted to eating human food, here are a few tips to help overcome this problem.

Feed from a dog bowl

Begging for food can become a bad habit for some dogs. Try and only feed your dog from a bowl specifically made for that purpose. This can help reduce the number of times your dog wants your food instead of theirs. Where possible avoid the temptation of hand-feeding them so they get in the habit of using their designated food bowl instead.

Make dog food more appealing

Its possible dogs are after our food because it looks and smells more appetising than their own. There are many products out there to aid with this. For example, you can buy dog food toppers for fussy dogs. From flavours such as turkey, duck or chicken liver, they can help make the rest of the food more appealing to your dog.

Visit the vet

This is an option for those dog owners who struggle to get their dog to eat anything other than human food. Some dogs will refuse to eat dog food at all and this may, though not always, be down to an underlying health or behaviour problem. Visiting a vet can help you get to the root of the problem.

Some general food rules

• Don’t leave human food sitting around – leaving food on worktops will only encourage their behaviour. This could lead to them consuming items they are not allowed, whether it’s a food item that will not agree with them or potentially bones that can cause damage.

• Sweep the kitchen floor – after mealtimes, sweep the floor to remove any food items. This stops the dog from doing it for you. Although the majority of the crumbs leftover will not cause harm, you must be in control of what your dog eats

• Dogs can eat small amounts of fruit as a treat. However, always ensure the fruit is cored and all pips and seeds removed. They can be a choking hazard and also contain cyanide which if continued to be fed over time can make your dog feel very unwell.

• Try not to encourage them to eat loads of human food. Although the list above shows a range of items that are ok for your dog, it shouldn’t be over encouraged. It is important to encourage your dog to eat the right food and the foods that offer your dog the most health benefits.

Although many foods have been proven to be safe for dogs to consume, as with anything too much of something can become a problem. Dogs should get almost their entire daily nutritional requirements from a balanced commercial dog food diet, as long as the food is high quality. However, many dogs love human food as the occasional treat or as a supplement to their diet. Whatever you decide to give them, check to see if it’s suitable first. Many foods can cause harm to your dog, so taking the time to check beforehand will benefit yourself and your furry friend.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists