Every dog owner knows the drill: you’re preparing yourself a snack in the kitchen, and your dog begins nosing your heels, acting as pathetic as possible and pretending that you didn’t feed her just a few minutes ago. You figure there can’t be any harm in it—and just look at those puppy eyes!—so you slip her a piece of whatever you’re having.
Depending on the food, a bite can be a pleasant treat for your dog or incredibly toxic to her health. So what snacks can you share with your dog? We did the research for you and answer the most-searched-for questions about what human snacks you can and can’t feed your pooch. We also offer tips for making healthy dog snacks at home, as well as good options to buy if you don’t have the time to make treats by hand.
Can my dog eat . . .
Apples? The sweet, crisp bite of an apple is a delightful detour from a dog’s typical meat-and-grain diet, satisfying their sweet tooth in a healthy way. Plus, eating an apple helps your pup take in important vitamins such as vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and phosphorus.
If you’re giving the apple as a standalone treat, keep the stems, seeds, and core away from dogs: Apple seeds contain very small amounts of cyanide, and more importantly the core can pose a choking hazard. Cut the apple into slices to help your furry one chew a little easier, throw away the core with the stem and seeds, and you’ll be golden (delicious).
Popcorn? Many dogs love to vacuum up the occasional piece of popcorn that drops to the floor, and you may have wondered if it’s okay to treat your dog directly. Plain, air-popped popcorn is technically fine for canines in small quantities, just like other treats. BUT popcorn that contains butter, oils, salt, and other toppings—so pretty much all the popcorn that humans eat—shouldn’t be fed to your pooch.
The heavy toppings can upset puppy tummies, and the fats they contain can contribute to obesity and related-health problems. Plus, un-popped or half-popped kernels can pose a choking hazard or injure your dog’s gums and teeth. A piece here and there won’t hurt, but unless you’re feeding your pups plain popcorn and watching them as they eat, it’s safer just to skip this snack.
Grapes? Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do NOT feed your dog a grape, ever. (Or for that matter, a raisin, which is just a dried grape. Even jam is a bad idea.) While researchers are still working out the exact chemical causes, grapes and raisins can cause highly toxic and even fatal reactions in dogs, leading to kidney damage and then failure.
If you suspect that your dog has ingested grapes or raisins, call your veterinarian immediately. If you didn’t catch your dog in the act, other symptoms to watch out for include loss of appetite, lethargy, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of urine production. Quick intervention can save your pooch’s life, and different dogs react differently to grape toxicity, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and call the vet.
Cheese? Dogs love to beg for cheese—but is it okay to feed it to them? As long as your dog isn’t lactose tolerant, cheese is usually fine for him to consume in moderate quantities. In fact, cheese can be a good incentive as you teach your food-motivated furry pal a new trick.
Just like humans, high-fat cheese can upset a dog’s stomach and cause him to gain weight, so opt for lower fat versions with minimal sodium, such as mozzarella. If the cheese contains herbs or other add-ins, it’s usually a good idea to save those slices for yourself, as some dogs are sensitive to these extra ingredients. Fido will still beg for that cheesy goodness, but his tummy will thank you (and you’ll also thank yourself, because you won’t have to clean up after him later).
Can my dog drink . . .
Milk? “Of course dogs can drink plenty of milk,” you think to yourself. “They nurse all the time when they’re babies!” It’s true that puppies can indeed digest some kinds of milk when they are little, because they make a special enzyme that breaks down the sugar in milk (lactose). But as dogs grow up, their bodies stop making this enzyme, which makes it harder for them to digest milk products in large quantities.
Some dogs are fine drinking milk in small amounts, while others are lactose-intolerant and end up with yucky side effects like vomiting and diarrhea. And before you ask, non-dairy products such as almond and soy milk aren’t home-run substitutes. While they may seem like healthier alternatives for your pooch, these plant-based milks can also distress their tummies, since their digestive tracks didn’t evolve to handle almond and soy.
Some dogs may be fine, but others may be allergic to almonds or soy—plus some of the added sweeteners (such as chocolate flavoring) can be downright dangerous for dogs. Make it easier on yourself, and skip these milks altogether.
Alcohol? It may seem like a cute idea to slip your dog a sip of wine or beer at a party, but their livers aren’t built to handle alcohol at all, and their smaller body size only accelerates the ill effects. Think of how terrible you felt the morning after your last rager. You wouldn’t want your dog to feel like that, would you?
Given dogs’ smaller size and lack of alcohol tolerance, it takes only a little bit to make them sick and even trigger alcohol poisoning. Wine is especially dangerous for dogs because of the toxins present in grapes, and canines shouldn’t ingest grape products, even in wine form. Basically, your dog’s life is a dry county, so be sure to have a special dog-approved treat or selfie-worthy dog toy on hand so Rover isn’t left out at your next party.
Choosing Healthy Dog Treats
These are just the most-searched-for questions about feeding dogs common snacks. Many of your other favorite people foods are also safe for your canine companion, including plain bread, unsalted cashews, coconut, corn, cooked eggs, honey, peanut butter and peanuts, and quinoa and other grains. (As always, treat your pooch in moderation, and keep an eye on his or her reactions for any signs of food intolerance.)
If you want to try your hand at making dog treats, here’s some things to keep in mind:
- Do your research on the ingredients, and don’t assume a food item is safe to give a dog just because he begs for it. Repeat after me: not all human food is dog food.
- Know your dog’s food sensitivities, and pay attention to any reactions to new treats. Just like humans, dogs can have food allergies, so keep an eye out for symptoms, especially when trying out new ingredients.
- Keep it simple to start. Consider making your own treats at home—there are lots of recipes out there that only call for three ingredients, so it doesn’t have to be an intimidating or complicated experience.
- See it as an opportunity to help your dog feel like her very best self. Many store-bought treats are packed with processed ingredients that your dog’s body was never meant to take in, like starch fillers and corn syrup. Making treats at home with ingredients you can pronounce will only improve your pup’s health, and ease sensitive tummies in the process.
If you don’t have the time or the space to make handmade treats at home, there are many types of healthy treats that you can buy pre-made. Common varieties that are safe for your dog include soft dog treats, crunchy treats, freeze-dried and dried jerky treats, and dog dental chews.
Just like with human food, “good for you” doesn’t have to mean “gross” when it comes to dog treats, so look for ingredients that both dogs and humans will recognize, like turkey, bacon, apples, bananas, peanut butter, pumpkin, and more. Make sure the treats are free of any weird chemicals, and see if that variety of treat has positive reviews from dogs (typed on their behalf by their loving humans, of course).
Whether you make your dog treats at home or purchase them from a store, you’re helping your pup to live a better, healthier life. Being conscious of the treats your dog is eating alongside her regular food can help cut down on stomach irritation and other health issues, which also reduces your worries (and vet bills) in the long run. Plus, your dogs will thank you for their healthy snacks, probably with lots of sloppy kisses.