“People Food” Your Dog Can & Can't Eat

By Jamie GreysonLast Updated Jul 24, 2020 8:25:20 PM ET
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Although it’s hard to resist those puppy dog eyes at the dinner table, it may not always be safe to feed your canine companion the same foods you eat. Dogs have different digestive systems than humans, which means some "people food" that seems harmless may actually be dangerous for your pet.

Read on to find out which foods — from avocados to eggs — are safe bets for your dog and which snacks could result in a trip to the vet — or worse.

Turkey: Yes

Yes, dogs can enjoy a helping of turkey on Thanksgiving — or on any old day of the year. However, experts suggest you remove excess fat as well as the turkey’s skin before tossing it in your dog’s bowl. Any meat with excessive seasonings or salt can upset a dog’s stomach, and onions and garlic should be avoided at all cost.

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But the most important tip? Be sure to check the meat for bones and remove them. Dogs can easily swallow fine bones, which could then splinter during the digestive process, leading to blockages or tears in your pet’s intestines.

Peanut Butter: Yes

Yes, peanut butter makes a great treat for both humans and dogs alike. This tasty source of protein also contains important vitamins — B and E — as well as niacin, a nutrient that helps lower cholesterol. Everyone has their own peanut butter preference, from smooth to crunchy to extra crunchy.

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For your pup, purchase a peanut butter that’s raw, unsalted and not full of added sugars. Those added sugars could contain xylitol, a substance found in chewing gum and candy that is toxic for canines.

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If peanut butter is A-okay, then that means peanuts are also a "yes." Contrary to popular belief, peanuts are actually a type of legume that just happens to be known for its delicious seeds.

Ice Cream: No

I scream, you scream, the dog howls for ice cream — but too bad. Nope, dogs should not eat ice cream. Surprisingly, this isn’t necessarily a dairy issue. It’s true that dogs aren’t quite built to digest milk after they have been weaned as puppies, but the bigger issue is that the frozen treat contains loads of sugar.

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The American Kennel Club recommends freezing chunks of strawberries, raspberries or apples (without seeds) and then giving those to your dog on a hot day. Of course, these frozen fruits also contain some sugar, but they have far more nutritional value and can be doled out in small portions.

Honey: Yes

Though sweet, honey still lands in the "yes" column. First, it contains a whole alphabet soup of vitamins as well as nutrients. Honey also has other health benefits for both dogs and humans. It can be used topically to treat burns and minor scrapes.

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Allergy sniffles get you down? Consuming honey — particularly honey that’s locally-made — can help you and your pooch build up an immunity to seasonal allergies. Because honey contains a bit of pollen from those pesky, allergy-inducing plants, your body gets acclimated to those would-be allergens.

Tuna & Salmon: Yes

Although cats are often portrayed as the fish lovers, dogs can also benefit from chowing down on certain waterbound critters, particularly tuna and salmon. Cooked fresh tuna promotes heart health, thanks to its bounty of omega-3 fatty acids. However, avoid canned tuna, which contains trace amounts of mercury and more sodium.

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Chock full of healthy fats and amino acids, salmon is also a great protein for your dog. As with poultry, it’s important to de-bone all fish properly. Yes, it’s tedious work, but you don’t want to rush your pooch pal to the vet after a delicate bone gets lodged somewhere it shouldn’t.

Cinnamon: No

Nothing says "winter" like a healthy dose of cinnamon. Whether it’s in drinks or baked goods, it’s often the star of the season. However, you should find a different way to add some holiday cheer to your dog’s life. Although cinnamon isn’t toxic, the oils in it can irritate a dog’s mouth, making them super uncomfortable.

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Additionally, cinnamon can cause more than just discomfort. It can lower your pet’s blood sugar, causing fluctuations in heart rate, vomiting and diarrhea. And rest assured that a dog losing its kibble all over the Christmas tree skirt doesn’t scream "Happy Holidays."

Quinoa: Yes

Yes, feel free to dish out the quinoa to your pet. Gluten-free and highly trendy, quinoa seeds are packed with protein. Even better, they also contain decent amounts of all nine essential amino acids as well as fiber, iron, calcium and Vitamin E.

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Long before it became the foundational element in a hipster’s take on a burrito bowl, quinoa was used to make kibble — high-quality kibble, of course. The more common corn, wheat and soy were used to fuel most big-name brands.

Pork: Yes

At this point, almost everyone is familiar with that overplayed Beggin’ Strips ad, right? For the unindoctrinated, it begins with a dog dreaming about bacon strips. Upon waking, the dog races downstairs, chanting either "bacon bacon bacon" or "beggin’ beggin’ beggin’," depending on your interpretation for a bacon-flavored treat.

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While a flavored treat or dried out rawhide is fine, experts don’t recommend feeding your dog a ton of bacon. Laced with fat, bacon should be eaten in moderation. A less fatty cut of pork is a better protein, loaded with amino acids.

Milk: Not Really

Surprisingly, there’s not a clear-cut answer for this one. Like all mammals, puppies drink their mother’s milk for sustenance, but that doesn’t mean they are equipped to handle the cow’s milk you bring home from the store. A lick or two of milk won’t seriously harm your pet, but maybe just stick with water.

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According to PetMD, Doctor Heather Brausa of New York’s Animal Medical Center explains, "Puppies generally have the enzyme [to break down lactose] in abundance, as it is used to break down their mother's milk while nursing." However, once weaned, mature dogs don’t produce lactase as readily. Like humans, dogs can become lactose intolerant.

Garlic: No

Garlic is a huge N-O. And not just because you want your dog to avoid that tell-tale bad breath. Onions, chives, leeks and garlic are all part of a family of plants that are toxic to dogs. Garlic, however, takes things to a whole new level: It is five times more toxic than its fellow members of the Allium family.

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If your dog accidentally chows down on a bit of garlic or onion, monitor him closely for a few days. Some side effects, like elevated heart rate and weakness,set in immediately, but others, such as gum disease and anemia, take longer to appear.

Shrimp: Yes (Cooked)

If you fire up the barbecue on a summer afternoon, feel free to give your dog a little surf to go with the turf. Cooked shrimp are not just okay for your dog to eat; the little shellfish contain tons of antioxidants and vitamin B-12. Bonus: They are also low in fat and calories, making them a lighter alternative to the usual meat products and treats you may feed your pet.

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Like with poultry and fish, a little extra prep is needed. In addition to fully cooking prawns, be sure to remove the tail, head and legs. Unlike some meat products that owners give to dogs raw and bloody, refrain from tossing your pup bacteria-filled, uncooked shrimp.

Popcorn: Yes

Next time you and your pooch decide to stay in for the night and watch some Netflix, feel free to offer your pet a few kernels of popcorn. As long as it’s unsalted, unbuttered and air-popped, the treat is fine in moderation. Of course, be sure to check the kernels to make sure they are fully popped before handing the bowl over to your dog.

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Regular old corn is also a fine snack for your pet. In fact, it’s a super common ingredient in most manufactured dog foods. The cob may seem like a veggie alternative to a rawhide bone, but it’s always a good idea to take the corn off the cob before feeding it to your dog.

Coconut: Yes

Coconut is generally okay for dogs to ingest, but you should probably stick to feeding it to your pet in moderation. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), owners are encouraged to add coconut oil to their dogs’ diets. As far as the meat of this tropical fruit goes, it’s also a pretty beneficial treat.

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However, AKC writers note that coconut, though non-toxic, "contains medium chain triglycerides, which may cause some gastrointestinal upset and bloating." In layman's terms, check with your vet. Added benefits of eating coconut include better breath, clearer skin and a healthier immune system.

Chocolate: No

You’ve probably heard all your life that dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate, and that urban legend is not a fable at all — it’s a cold, hard fact. Dogs should not even taste it. Chocolate contains toxic (to dogs) methylxanthines, which impact a canine’s metabolic process. In fact, these substances halt the process altogether.

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Just a tiny chocolate chip can cause diarrhea and vomiting. And a large amount could incite seizures and heart issues. In some cases, dogs have even died as a result of eating chocolate. If your pooch gets his paws on some chocolate, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.

Eggs: Yes

Yes, eggs are totally fine for dogs — as long as they are fully cooked. Raw egg whites can cause a biotin deficiency, and your dog needs biotin to take food and translate it into energy. Vets even recommend adding cooked eggs to your dog’s food as a treat and for an added protein boost.

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In addition to protein, eggs also contain riboflavin, or vitamin B, as well as other immune system boosters. Writers at the American Kennel Club also recommend feeding your dog eggs to help settle an upset stomach.

Rice: Yes

Plain white rice is one of those comfort foods that just always hits the spot. A great side and a great remedy for an upset stomach, it’s a truly versatile food. Plain cooked rice (white or brown) is okay for your dog to chow down on as well.

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Because rice is very easy to digest, it’s often a go-to choice when dogs have stomach issues. Similar to when you’re feeling under the weather, your dog may need a little plain rice and broth or a bit of protein-packed chicken to put him firmly on the road to recovery.

Nuts: Mostly No

As mentioned earlier, peanuts are technically legumes, which makes them okay for dogs. Nuts, on the other hand, pose more of a problem. While some nuts, such as cashews, are technically fine in moderation, others are potentially harmful.

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Almonds, a popular treat in trail mix and on their own, are a firm no. They aren’t toxic, but they can definitely block a dog’s esophagus or cause internal tears. The amount of salt is also a problem: Not only will salt mean more trips outside, it can also lead to sodium ion poisoning, vomiting, tremors and seizures.

According to the American Kennel Club, other nuts, such as pecans, walnuts and macadamias, are all considered harmful.

Cherries: Yes (Pitted)

Cherries are a seriously underrated snack. Perfect for nibbling while lounging on the couch or hanging out poolside, cherries require a lot less prep work than other fruits. Luckily, your dog can also enjoy fresh pitted cherries in small amounts. There aren’t any huge health benefits, but if your dog has a sweeth tooth one or two pitted cherries may be the answer.

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Definitely be aware when purchasing a bag of cherries from the store. Dogs should never eat cherry pits. The pits contain cyanide, which is highly poisonous to dogs, especially when consumed in large amounts.

Coffee: No

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the morning to kickstart the day, so who could blame you for wanting to share that feeling with your furry best friend? Coffee — and anything containing caffeine — should not be given to your dog. Caffeine stimulates a dog’s nervous system, and that can lead to a whole host of issues.

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From the expected vomiting and diarrhea to serious symptoms like an erratic heart rate and seizures, the fallout is not good for your pooch. Although humans can deal with coffee’s more unpleasant effects, dogs just aren’t equipped to do so. Even small amounts could lead to lung failure and heart issues related to death.

Grapes: No

Grapes and raisins seem like pretty benign foods. But, sadly, you should not feed grapes or raisins to your pup. Both versions of this fruit contain toxic compounds that could lead to rapid kidney failure and, in some cases, death.

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In fact, even just a taste can make your dog wildly sick. As with chocolate and garlic, it’s important to have a vet on hand if your dog mistakenly gets its paws on a bunch of grapes. It’s not just sour grapes talking here. Even if your dog really wants to try one, the answer is no.

Cheese: Yes

From brie to cheddar to a nice mozzarella, cheese comes in a lot of delicious varieties. As with milk, some dogs handle cheese better than others. Some develop an intolerance to lactose after being weaned off their mother’s milk, while others have a hard time digesting dairy from another species.

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If you choose to let your dog snack on cheese, be sure to monitor your pet’s reaction. If your pup comes away from the treat with an upset stomach, it could be a sign of intolerance. If not, something lean, like mozzarella or cottage cheese, makes a great snack.

Carrots: Yes

Carrots have an alleged superpower — the ability to improve your eyesight. While they do contain vitamin A, which promotes good eye health and helps you see better in low-light environments, they don’t necessarily improve your ability to see.

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But the realistic good news is this low-calorie snack is also great for your dog. Both raw and cooked carrots are okay, making this a pretty versatile treat. A great source of vitamin A, various minerals and fiber, carrots make much better snacks for your pet than fatty choices.

Onions: No

Although onions make you cry and give you bad breath, they cause a far worse fate for your dog. Like garlic and leeks, onions are highly toxic to dogs. From the flesh to the juice, all parts of the onion are equally harmful. Even onion powder, a common additive, can cause huge issues.

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But why are onions so toxic? They contain something called N-propyl disulfide, which causes red blood cells to break down. This can lead to severe cases of anemia in dogs — meaning their red blood cells can’t provide adequate oxygen for their body’s tissues. Real ‘ruff stuff.

Watermelon: Yes (Seedless)

Low in calories and loaded with vitamins A and C, it’s a healthy alternative to fatty foods. According to Dog Time, although watermelon contains sugar, "the fiber content in the fruit insulates the sugar and prevents it from being released into the bloodstream too quickly," making it a better alternative to various other fruits as well.

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However, experts suggest removing the seeds and not letting your dog gets its paws on the fruit’s rind. Both the seeds and rinds pose an obvious choking hazard, but, more importantly, some claim they can also cause digestive problems and intestinal blockages.

Apples: Yes (Seedless)

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but does the same hold true for vets? You should still take your pet in for regular check-ups, but it’s true that apples can be good for dogs to snack on. Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, apples also contain fiber to help your dog’s digestive system.

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Because apple skin can be difficult to swallow, you should peel the apples and cut them into slices before handing them over to your pooch. It’s also critically important to remove the seeds from the apple, as they contain the highly poisonous chemical cyanide.

Avocado: No

According to some salty folks, avocado toast is allegedly getting in the way of millennial home ownership (see the McMansion section for more). One thing that’s certain: If your pet gets its paws on this trendy food item, it could land you in the doghouse. To be clear, regardless of how Instagrammable the moment might be, a dog should never eat avocado.

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And it’s not about saving all the extra guac for yourself. Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which is super harmful to your four-legged friend. Persin is contained not just in the fruit, but also in the avocado’s pit and leaves. It can cause a buildup of fluid in a dog’s lungs and chest, leading to breathing issues, oxygen deprivation and, in some cases, death.

Citrus Fruits: Yes & No

True to form, there’s some sweet news and some sour news when it comes to dogs and citrus fruits. First, the sour: Lemons and limes can be toxic to your dog. The skins of these fruits contain psoralen, a substance that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. If a dog consumes too much psoralen, it could even lead to muscle tremors, liver failure and death.

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Meanwhile, oranges, clementines and tangerines can all be eaten by dogs, although experts recommend only feeding them a few segments a day. While the citric acid doesn’t pose a threat to dogs, the high amount of sugar can lead to an upset stomach.

Bananas: Yes

Rich in potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, bananas make a great, healthy snack for your dog — in moderation. According to the American Kennel Club, a lot of veterinarians actually recommend this fruit as an alternative to foods that are high in fat or salt. Another great benefit is the high fiber, meaning it's great for your dog if your pet is experiencing an upset stomach.

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Banana peels, on the other hand, aren’t toxic, but they are difficult for dogs to digest. In order to avoid the messiness, try mixing a mashed banana in with your dog’s food or serving it up with a dollop of peanut butter. If you choose the latter, feel free to make yourself the same delicious treat. If you choose the former, we may need to talk…

Bread: Yes

Yes, dogs can enjoy a little bit of bread, but only if it’s plain bread — no spices and no fancy add-ins. (Obviously avoid chocolate bread, cinnamon bread, raisin bread, garlic bread and any other options with toxic ingredients.) Freshly baked bread makes a much better choice than breads preservative-filled ones from supermarket shelves.

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Although bread doesn’t harm your dog’s digestive system, it also won’t do much to improve it.

However, never feed your dog uncooked dough. The yeast can expand in your pet’s stomach, leading to a whole mess of issues. As you may recall from chemistry class, yeast produces an alcohol called ethanol — and nobody wants to give a dog alcohol poisoning.

Tomatoes: Yes & No

Tomatoes are another tricky one. Their leaves and stems — basically any green part of a tomato plant — contain a substance called solanine, which is harmful to dogs and can cause an upset stomach and even seizures. This also means that unripened, green tomatoes pose a threat.

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As for ripened, red tomatoes, experts have given them the green light. This is good news for quite a few reasons. Substances found in tomatoes are shown to promote strong bones, muscle health and low blood pressure. Low in calories and high in fiber, tomatoes also boost your dog’s digestive system.