We get a lot of questions regarding what foods are safe for dogs to eat, but it seems like no matter what one authority says about whether or not a certain food is OK, someone will have a counter-argument. Maybe your dog has had a bad experience with avocados, but someone else insists, “My dog eats avocados all the time, and he’s never had a problem!” The fact is that every dog is different, and the safety of a particular food can rest on a given dog’s size, physiology and allergies, or how much of the food it eats, or what parts of the food. To clear things up, we’ve focused on some of the most controversial foods we’re asked about, and we’ll explain why these foods may be both safe and unsafe for dogs to eat.
CAN DOGS EAT AVOCADOS?
There seems to be a lot of disagreement about whether avocados are safe for dogs to eat. They are often cited as being toxic, and many pet owners have learned to keep avocados away from their dogs. They may not need to. The toxin in question is persin, which does exist in avocados, though it’s mostly in the pits of the fruit, and the bark and leaves of avocados trees. But there’s little persin in the flesh of avocados, which presumably is what your dog would be eating, and at any rate it would take a large dose of persin to make your dog sick.
“Despite the rumors, avocado is not poisonous to dogs,” says Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist. Dr. Lee says the more likely hazard to dogs from avocados is the pit, not because it’s poisonous, but because it can be a choking hazard. The ASPCA agrees. Their official word: “While avocado is toxic to some animals, in dogs and cats, we do not expect to see serious signs of illness.”
CAN DOGS EAT CHEESE?
There’s a good chance that your dog can eat cheese with no ill effects. But just like people, some dogs are lactose intolerant. In fact, lactose intolerance occurs much more frequently in dogs than in people. Cheese and other dairy products can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation in these lactose intolerant dogs. That’s as bad as it will get, though. Cheese won’t do any permanent or long-term harm to your dog, even if he is lactose intolerant. If you must, try feeding your dog cottage cheese. It’s mild, and goes easy on sensitive tummies.
CAN DOGS EAT NUTS?
For the most part, nuts are OK for your dogs in the sense that if yours eats some when you’re not watching, there’s probably no need to panic, but they don’t tend to make an ideal snack either. First of all, be particularly cautious with macadamia nuts, because these nuts ARE highly toxic for dogs. Otherwise, most other nuts are safe, although walnuts and black walnuts may be toxic, cashews are particularly high in fat, almonds can be difficult to digest and all nuts are hazards if they get moldy. See our article, “Nuts That Are Unsafe for Dogs to Eat” for a nut-by-nut breakdown.
CAN DOGS EAT APPLES?
Apples are excellent as a snack for dogs. They’re delicious, they’re full of healthy fiber, calcium and vitamins, and dogs love an apple’s pleasant crunch. You could do a lot worse than tossing your dog some apple slices to munch on. However, these treats come with a couple of caveats. First, make sure not to offer whole apples to your dog. Apple seeds can be toxic, or even a choking hazard, so throw away the cores. And although apples are healthy, feed them to your dog in moderation, because too many can lead to an upset stomach.
SHOULD DOGS CHEW BONES?
Dogs and bones have gone hand in hand since forever. Every pop culture depiction of a happy dog shows it contentedly going to town on a big, juicy bone. What could be more natural? Actually, chewing bones could be very dangerous for dogs. Says Dr. Jennifer Coates, “I look at feeding bones in the same way I do letting dogs run loose. Is it natural? Yes. Do dogs like it? Yes. Are there some potential benefits? Yes … until misfortune strikes.”
Here’s a list of things that can go wrong when a dog chews on a bone, according to PetMD: Broken teeth, mouth or tongue injuries, bone gets looped around your dog's lower jaw, bone gets stuck in windpipe, bone gets stuck in stomach, bone gets stuck in intestines, constipation due to bone fragments, severe bleeding from the rectum and peritonitis. Doesn’t sound like fun. That’s why they make fake bones.
CAN DOGS EAT EGGS?
Eggs have big nutritional benefits for dogs. They’re an excellent, inexpensive source of protein, vitamins and minerals to help keep coats healthy and shiny. Even the shells are edible and beneficial for dogs. The argument over feeding eggs to dogs is over whether it’s OK for them to eat eggs raw. Many people worry about salmonella, although others contend that salmonella poisoning is much rarer in dogs than in humans, and therefore of little concern. So go ahead and give your dog eggs, but be aware of the potential hazards and prepare them in a way that you think is best.
CAN DOGS EAT CORN?
Corn itself is fine as an occasional treat for dogs. You could argue that the carbs aren’t necessary for the canine diet, and corn can be difficult to digest for dogs with especially sensitive stomachs, but for the most part, it’s a safe snack. The larger danger when it comes to corn is the cob. Just like with bones, dogs love to chew on corn cobs, but doing so can be unsafe. Swallowing a corn cob can cause an intestinal obstruction, which can be very dangerous and even deadly to your dog. If you dog loves corn, make sure to separate the kernels from the inedible cob, and feed in moderation.
CAN DOGS EAT GRASS?
Grass on its own probably won’t hurt your dog, unless he eats a lot of it at once, in which case it may cause an upset tummy, or it could indicate a nutritional deficiency of some kind. Of larger concern is what other substances the grass could contain. If the dog is eating grass from your own lawn and you know it’s safe — i.e., you don’t treat it with any chemicals — there’s probably nothing to worry about. But as you walk your pet through the neighborhood, you should avoid him eating “strange” grass, when you can’t confirm if or how it has been treated.
CAN DOGS EAT RAW MEAT?
Dogs are carnivores by nature, so it seems like a no-brainer that raw meat should be fine for them to eat, but there is a great deal of debate over the issue and no clear answer. Proponents of raw-food diets for dogs can argue all day with those who say it’s unsafe. The main knock against raw meat and raw fish is that they can contain bacteria that may cause food poisoning. On the other hand, raw advocates say that dogs’ systems are much more able to deal with bacteria than the human body is, and any bacteria in raw meat is no threat to dogs. They also claim that organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, who have issued policies advising against raw food for dogs, are in the pocket of the pet-food industry.
CAN DOGS EAT ORANGES?
Yes, dogs can eat oranges. Everything about oranges that makes them nutritional powerhouses for us humans benefits dogs, too. But use caution, because oranges have properties that can irritate and upset your dog’s stomach. First of all, use moderation when feeding oranges to your dog. The fruit is high in citric acid, too much of which can assault a sensitive digestive system. In addition, orange rind itself is rich with citrus oils that are definite bad news for dogs, so be sure to throw away the peel and only feed your dog a few small orange slices at a time, if you must.
Next: Surprising People Food Dogs Can Eat
CAN DOGS EAT BREAD?
Yes, dogs can eat bread safely, as long as you treat it like a treat. That means small portions, and only occasionally. Bread is not a natural part of a dog's diet, so too much of it can lead to problems, especially weight gain, since bread has a lot of calories and packs a high glycemic punch. Plus, too much yeast can lead to indigestion and severe stomach pains, so tread lightly.