When you love your dog with all your heart, you’re more than happy to share your home, your car, your couch, maybe even your bed with your canine companion. Chances are, you’ve also thought about sharing your favorite foods with your pup — but you may have wondered if it was safe to do so. One food that comes up time and time again? Blueberries. Indeed, Google ‘Can dogs eat blueberries?’ and you’ll get more than 13 million results.
But when we asked veterinarians about the safety of blueberries, they all agreed: Blueberries — and other berries like strawberries and raspberries — are perfectly safe for dogs to eat. The only potential concern is the sugar intake, as fruit contains a lot of sugar. For that reason, Carol Osborne, D.V.M., an integrative veterinarian in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and founder of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, advises against going overboard by giving your dog more than a few blueberries at a time. And if you’re worried about choking, you can cut the fruit in half, a strategy that also makes the sweet snack last a bit longer.
While blueberries are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, other foods are not, and some are downright dangerous for pooches. In fact, foods intended for human consumption were the second most common cause of suspected poisoning events among dogs (after human medicines), according to a study in a 2020 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Read on to find out which people foods are safe and which could threaten your beloved pup’s health.
It’s safe for dogs to have small amounts of milk, cheese, and plain yogurt. But keep in mind: “Some dogs become lactose-intolerant as they get older,” says Dr. Osborne. “Although a little milk is okay, a lot will cause diarrhea in a significant number of pets.”
To avoid giving your pup an upset stomach, minimize his intake. Still, a teaspoon of plain yogurt makes a great treat for dogs; the same is true of small amounts of cheese. Dogs can also eat eggs, which are rich in protein and easy to digest, as long as they’re thoroughly cooked. A few eggs per week is fine for dogs, Dr. Osborne says.
Dairy caveats: The American Kennel Club (AKC) advises against giving dogs ice cream because it contains too much sugar.
Many dogs love fish — and it’s a healthy, nutritious choice for them, as long as it’s cooked and cooled and the bones are removed. It’s best to limit your dog’s fish intake to a maximum of twice per week, according to the AKC.
Quinoa, rice and pasta are perfectly safe for dogs, again in moderation, Dr. Osborne says.
Apples, bananas, peaches, pears, pineapple and chunks of melon (without the rind) are generally safe for pups in moderation; be sure to serve fruit in bite-size pieces. “Always remove any seeds, stems, cores and peels before feeding these to your pet,” advises Cristine Hayes, D.V.M., medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes are okay for dogs to eat in moderation, Dr. Osborne says; it’s the green part of the tomato plant that’s toxic to dogs.
Forbidden fruits for pups: Cherries, grapes and raisins are all toxic to dogs, Dr. Osborne says. Keep them away from your pup.
Meat and poultry
“Small amounts of lean cooked chicken, turkey, beef or pork that are free of bones and seasoning are safe to feed [your dog],” says Dr. Hayes. Be sure to remove the skin and visible fat from cooked chicken or turkey before giving it to your dog. Remember, too: “If your dog has liver or kidney disease, the nitrogen content of meat can be rough,” Dr. Osborne says. In that case, fish or poultry may be a better choice.
A meat mistake to avoid: “Don’t feed your dog lunch meat,” Dr. Osborne says. “It’s too full of salt.” Salt isn’t healthy for dogs, and it can lead to water retention if dogs have heart or kidney problems, Dr. Osborne says.
Dogs can eat small amounts of cashews and peanuts (meaning a few at a time) as long as the nuts are unsalted. And many dogs love peanut butter, which can be a special treat or a good way to hide medicine. Just be sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain the sweetener xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs.
Nuts on the no-no list: Macadamia nuts are poisonous to dogs; they can cause vomiting and other forms of gastrointestinal distress, muscle weakness and lethargy, Dr. Osborne warns. Don’t feed your dog almonds, either, because they can block the esophagus or tear the windpipe if they’re not chewed thoroughly. (Many dogs don’t chew their food thoroughly enough.)
Most cooked vegetables — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, peas, spinach and sweet potato — are safe for dogs to eat. And they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. Fresh or frozen is the best way to go because canned vegetables are often loaded with salt. Raw cucumber pieces are also fine for dogs, Dr. Hayes says.
Veggies on the no-fly list: Onions, garlic, leeks and chives are poisonous to dogs. It doesn’t matter if they’re cooked or raw; keep your pooch away from them.
Other foods to keep away from your dog
You probably know that chocolate is harmful to dogs — exactly how sick a dog will get from ingesting it depends on the amount the dog has eaten and the dog’s weight. The reason it’s so bad for dogs: “Chocolate, coffee and tea all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao beans, coffee beans, tea leaves and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas,” Dr. Hayes says. “When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases.” Yikes! If your dog does accidentally eat chocolate, here’s what you should do.
Spices you should never feed your dog include nutmeg and cinnamon.
Finally, take extra care to keep alcoholic beverages and foods that contain alcohol out of reach of your beloved dog. These “can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death in dogs,” says Dr. Hayes. “Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol.”
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Stacey Colino is an award-winning science writer and coauthor of the forthcoming book The Purest Bond: Understanding the Human-Canine Connection.
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