People Food for Pets – Healthy or Dangerous?

Many years ago, while visiting a friend in Seattle, she was making her breakfast and gave each of her 4 dogs a piece of banana. I was perplexed and said, “You give bananas to your dogs?” Equally confused, she responded, “Yes. Why wouldn’t I give them bananas?” Silently, I pondered her question and that was probably my first insight into giving people food to our pets. So, why wouldn’t we give them bananas, or any other people food for that matter? Most of us have been conditioned that human foods are bad for pets. Are they healthy or dangerous? The answer is, it depends.

Dangerous Foods

Most of us know that chocolate and alcohol are poisonous to pets. But what about seemingly other healthy human food, like grapes and nuts? Here’s a list of some food items that are dangerous to dogs and cats:

  • Alcohol
  • Apple seeds and almost any seed of any fruit
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Chives
  • Coffee and any other products containing caffeine
  • Cooked bones
  • Currants
  • Grapes
  • Hops
  • Macadamia nuts and almost all nuts
  • Milk products (Not all dogs and cats. Just like some people are sensitive to milk products, some dogs and cats are too.)
  • Onions and anything with onion powder
  • Raisins
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes like xylitol (found in many chewing gums, peanut butter, and candies)
  • Tobacco
  • Xylitol (it’s so dangerous that I’m adding it again)

I’ll also add that any food that is not healthy for people, is not healthy for your pets – fried and greasy food, moldy and spoiled food, and scraps that you wouldn’t eat.

Sauces and Broths

Be careful feeding anything with sauces or broths. Check the ingredients carefully. Almost all sauces and broths contain onions or onion powder, which are highly dangerous to pets. If you don’t have the complete list of ingredients, like with take-out food, and it has sauce, it’s best to not give it to your pets.

Healthy People Food for Pets

In addition to feeding pets gently cooked real food from Our Pets’ Kitchen, another great way to incorporate people food is through treats. Remember treats add calories to your pets overall daily caloric intake, so just as when we humans have too many treats we gain weight, so do our pets. A couple bite sized pieces per snack, based on your dog’s size, is a good guideline. And a treat once or twice a day is good moderation. Depending on the amount of treats you feed, you may need to scale down the amount of food you feed to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Just like with people, treats shouldn’t replace our pet’s food and balance is key.

Here are a few people food treat ideas for your pets:

  • Fruits such as frozen or fresh bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples, and watermelon – For frozen, cut up pieces of bananas into bite sized pieces based on the size of your pet and freeze them. You can buy frozen strawberries and blueberries in the freezer area of most grocery stores. For apples and watermelon, make sure there are no seeds in the pieces you give. Seeds from fruits are poisonous. Most cats don’t like fruits, but many dogs love them.
  • Vegetables – Yes, many dogs like vegetables, especially carrots, green beans, and even cucumber. You can cook them or give raw. Too many raw vegetables can be hard for your dog to digest, but a bite here and there is a nice low calorie, low fat snack. In fact, we had a friend who helped her dog lose weight to become healthier and she cut her dog off all store-bought treats and exclusively fed vegetables as a treat. It worked, he thought he was in heaven getting people food and he lost weight. Just remember, no onions; they’re poisonous.
  • Eggs – Our dog loves eggs, especially cooked over easy and hard boiled. We give him at least one egg a week. Our cats enjoy them on occasion lightly scrambled, in small amounts, not a whole egg. Eggs are one of the most complete proteins available and are a really healthy treat for our pets.
  • Pumpkin – Pumpkin is great for both dogs and cats. Just make sure it’s plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. We find cans of organic pumpkin year- round in the baking section of our local grocery store. The fiber helps firm up soft stools and it helps with constipation too. For cats, a little pumpkin helps hair balls move through their digestive tract. Our dog weighs about 65 pounds and we give him about 1-2 tablespoons on occasion. Our Pets’ Kitchen cat food contains pumpkin. If you feed other food, a teaspoon mixed with their food once a day can really help hair balls from becoming a problem and keep their poops regular.
  • Dairy such as goat milk, cheese, and plain yogurt – It’s very important to use only plain yogurt because many flavored yogurts contain xylitol which is highly poisonous to pets. Even for plain yogurt, be sure to check the label to make sure there’s no dangerous ingredients. And, just as some people have sensitivities to dairy products, so do some pets. Goat milk can be more tolerable than cow milk. Try a very small amount, such as a half teaspoon plain yogurt or 1/8 cup of goat milk for a small dog or a full teaspoon of plain yogurt or ¼ cup of goat milk for a large dog. If there’s no change in your pet’s stool, then it should be OK. If your dog tolerates it, plain yogurt has healthy probiotics and goat milk has many benefits as well. Here’s a great article about the benefits of goat milk for dogs: Dogs Naturally Magazine – Goat Milk for Dogs, and I find no credible evidence that cats can’t try a small amount of goat milk too. Our dog also loves cheese. As a special treat on rare occasions, we give him a small piece of cheese.
  • Popcorn – plain, air popped with no butter, no flavoring, and no salt. Our dog loves plain popcorn! It’s like a family bonding moment as we all sit eating it, watching a movie. Even if your microwave popcorn says it’s plain, make sure to read the ingredients label carefully. Air popcorn machines are pretty inexpensive and the popcorn will be better for you and your dog.
  • Ground Peanuts – only use ground up peanuts, with nothing else added. We buy freshly ground peanuts from our local health food store. Some brands of peanut butter contain xylitol, which is extremely poisonous for pets. Please make sure you check your peanut butter label before feeding to your dog. Beware: Is Peanut Butter Safe for Dogs
  • Frozen treats – we live in Florida and our husky loves frozen treats. I blend all kinds of people food mixtures for him and freeze them in reused small yogurt containers. Here’s one of Servo’s favorite frozen treat recipes: 1 whole banana, ¼ cup organic ground peanuts, ¼ cup plain Greek or Goat yogurt, ¼ cup water. Blend in a blender, freeze in small dishes.

We hope this helps you feel confident to give your pets real food, all the while keeping them safe from the people food that is harmful.
*Please remember to supervise your pet when you feed them food and treats.

Sources and Additional Resources

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