Updated - Apr 5th, 2021
Cats and dogs don’t just hold a special place in our hearts and homes……they often hold a special spot at the dinner table, under our desks during WFH lunches, and on our sofa during popcorn and movie night.
While many of us love to indulge our fur kids in the foods that we love, it’s important to make sure we’re sharing foods that are safe, healthy, and in reasonable, pet-sized portions.
Always remember that every cat or dog’s dietary needs are different, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian before baking them up a big batch of special treats. But here’s a snackable breakdown of the fruits, veggies, starches, and snacks that are safe to share, which to avoid, and where you can go to find more information and pet-friendly recipes.
1. First off, let’s talk fruit!
The summer fruit is a real people-pleaser. Peaches are high in sugar, but if your dog likes them, it’s fine to share a small chunk of fresh peach as an occasional treat. You should avoid canned, preserved, or dried peaches that can have other additives.
Most importantly, NEVER give your dog a whole peach with the pit, stems, or leaves of a peach! When cracked or chewed, and digested, the stone that’s found inside a peach pit releases amygdalin that turns into hydrogen cyanide in the small intestines. This is very toxic to dogs (and humans) and would be a medical emergency. You can read more about peaches and pup safety here.
If you’re wondering if dogs can eat cherries, the short answer is no. The risks of this fruit outweigh the benefits – making the cherry a fruit you should avoid sharing with your pup.
One or two cherries probably won’t cause a life-threatening situation in a large dog; however, a small dog could develop cyanide poisoning from even one cherry pit if they chomp down on it. Dogs frequently gulp down their treats whole, and the risk of cyanide toxicity is too great to take that gamble.
Blueberries are brimming with vitamins, minerals, and carry the highest amount of antioxidants for a fruit. That’s a lot for such a small berry, but there’s more!
They are also high in fiber, low in calories, and contain phytochemicals and anthocyanins. All working together to pack a healthy punch for dogs of all ages. Whether you feed them fresh, frozen, dried, or mashed, with only 84 calories per cup, blueberries are a safe treat for your dog. That said, you’ll want to avoid blueberry muffins, commercially prepared blueberry yogurt, blueberry pie, pancakes, or anything with artificial blueberry flavoring.
As with any fruit or veggie, portion control is important. Treats should only comprise 10% of your dog’s diet and be considered an occasional treat. For most small dogs, 10 blueberries would be an appropriate amount. Large dog breeds can tolerate more, but keep the ratio of 10% in mind when offering them.
Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for your dog, but strawberries are one sweet treat that is not only safe for your dog, but is packed with powerful nutrients that support their health.
Like blueberries and cranberries, strawberries are packed with antioxidants, have low calories, and provide dietary fiber. They’re also a good source of vitamin C. If you want to offer your dog strawberries, they are a very healthy and safe superfood. Just offer them in small pieces to avoid choking or blockages.
2. Bring on the veggies!
You probably won’t find a cat that wants to eat it, but celery is an excellent occasional treat idea for your dog. With its hydrating properties and additional vitamins and minerals, this low-calorie veggie is one of the best shareable treats you can enjoy with your pup. As long as you make sure it’s organic or cleaned thoroughly, and chopped up, your pooch will love this crunchy nutritious treat.
Another interesting fact about celery? While it can’t replace proper dental hygiene or brushing, celery may combat bad breath. If your dog’s breath is on the stinkier side, a snack of celery may freshen it up. This benefit comes from the crunchy texture and high water content that stimulates the production of saliva to help wash the bacteria and plaque away.
Let’s dig into ‘shrooms…. Store-bought, organically grown mushrooms are in fact safe and healthy to offer your dog as a treat, or on top of their regular dog food. Rich in nutrients, mushrooms offer many benefits for your pup’s overall health, and some dogs will eagerly gobble them up.
There are over 50,000 types of mushrooms and only 2% of them are toxic, but it’s important to know that wild mushrooms can be poisonous. Since many dogs will eat anything, it’s important to be aware that one of those fishy-smelling mushrooms may be very tempting, but could cause mushroom toxicity or poisoning. There really is NO wild mushroom that is safe for your pooch, so you should know what to look out for in case your dog might have consumed one.
Cucumbers are technically fruit. They come from the same family as zucchini, some melons, squash, and pumpkin. While we haven’t heard of a ton of pups that go crazy for cucumbers, they are healthy for both humans and our beloved canine companions.
Cucumbers are packed with water, are low in calories, and offer the benefits of vitamin C, K, B, and a host of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and calcium. The crunchy cucumber also provides a moderate supply of fiber, making it excellent protection against gastrointestinal sluggishness.
Some studies have shown cucumbers may be beneficial in fighting diabetes in animals because they don’t include starches. And frozen cucumber spears (sans skin) can even be a good treat for teething puppies, as we talk about more in this blog post.
When it comes to pets and tomato safety, it’s all about the color. A LOT of the tomatoes humans consume are in sauces, salsa, and other condiments. And while a perfectly ripe (red) tomato is fine for a dog, all the other forms of tomatoes may not be as healthy and present serious risks.
Once tomatoes are in a sauce or soup, they are far too salty for pets. And the green parts of the tomato plant – the stem, leaves, roots, and unripe fruit – are where solanine and tomatine is found and these can be toxic. The solanine toxicity level is 5%, but as the tomato ripens and becomes red, the toxins decrease to minimal amounts, making them safe for your dog.
Interested in indulging your pup’s saucy side? Be sure to read up on the pros and cons of tomatoes before sharing.
3. Snacks, starches & stuff
What could be better than biscuits or fresh-baked bread? Simple breads are usually safe snacks for pets. But make sure the bread doesn’t contain any other ingredients that could be toxic. Avoid flavored breads that could contain garlic, onions, raisins or chocolate since these foods are all toxic for pets. If you do decide to pass the bread basket to your pooch or kitty, make sure to skip the butter! One big watch out: dogs and cats should never eat raw or undercooked bread dough. The active yeast can cause bloating, lethargy, and even seizures.
Nutritionists consider sweet potatoes a whole superfood. These orange-colored ground tubers, or root vegetables, are nutrient dense. They’re full of nutrients like vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, and potassium.
Many dog food and dog treat manufacturers include sweet potatoes in their products. And plain, cooked sweet potatoes are a sweet snack option for your pet. Just make sure any sweet potato you’re giving your fur baby has no butter or seasonings in it. That means, no Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole or pie since it’s full of sugars, fats, and cream. Nutritionists consider sweet potatoes a whole superfood. You can check out this sweet potato article if you want to learn more, or get some tips for preparing pooch-friendly treats.
Wondering about feeding your pup the other type of spuds? In general, sweet potatoes are a healthier option. But your dog can eat potatoes if they’re properly prepared, and if there’s no green color on the potato’s skin. However, the high starch content puts potatoes in the “occasional snack” category. If your dog has diabetes, is overweight, or fighting cancer – avoid white potatoes altogether.
While white potatoes offer some nutritional benefits to your dog, there are so many healthier options for treats that you might want to consider it a human-only food, and not offer it to your furry friend.
The only thing better than movie night? Movie night with popcorn and puppies. So if you’re wondering if it’s safe to pass the popcorn to your pooch, popcorn, as a treat, is okay but not the greatest people-food for your dog. It can be tough for dogs to digest too, so they can’t really eat enough to enjoy any of the nutritional benefits.
Corn is relatively safe, though perhaps unnecessary, and found in a lot of commercial dog foods. But when it comes to popcorn, the trouble for dogs lies in how we prepare this treat for us pet parents to enjoy. The best way to offer your dog popcorn is air-popped and plain, with any unpopped kernels removed. This is hard to do if you prefer popcorn loaded with salt, butter, or the flavorings we typically enjoy.
Some nuts are safe for your dog, but it’s important to read up on nut safety before indulging your dog and know which nuts are toxic and carry serious risks. Peanut butter, while high in calories, is safe and healthy in moderation. Just pay attention to the ingredients and be cautious of any salts and sugars (especially artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes).
Wondering what nuts aren’t safe? Always avoid almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts. Also, nutshells are never a good idea. They are not digestible and pose choking and blockage hazards. Their hard shells can also have sharp edges that may cause perforations in their intestinal tract requiring surgery.
4. Mmmmm….meat and dairy!
Turkey or Chicken
Dogs (and cats) LOVE meat. Both chicken and turkey are used in many commercial pet foods and are generally considered a healthy option. So, can you share your turkey sandwich or roast chicken with your pup?
White meat without bones or skin is the best choice. However, you should be selective about which piece of turkey you slip your pooch under the table, and always avoid bones, skin, or highly-seasoned meat.
Ham or Sausage
A smoked or honey ham smells and tastes delicious, but it’s not a good option for our animals. Ham contains high levels of sodium and fat, both of which are bad for pets. Ham bones are also off-limits because they can splinter and cause damage to the stomach or intestines.
So while your pet may beg for a bite of ham on Thanksgiving day or at breakfast, it’s best to never share. Our article on Thanksgiving Food Safety goes into a lot more detail about all things ham, turkey meat, skin, bones, and carcasses.
Cheddar, Swiss, or Mozzarella – can you even think of a dog that doesn’t love cheese? Commercial dog foods and treats use cheese to increase palatability, and we stuff it into dog toys to keep our pups busy. But even though dogs love cheese – it’s a snack best served in small quantities. Watch out for the sodium and fat content, plus avoid any additives, artificial flavorings, or sweeteners. For these reasons, natural cheeses are always best, and you can read more about the pros and cons of queso for cats and dogs on our blog.
What about Shrimp?
Shrimp meat CAN be relatively safe for pups and offer some nutritional benefits. But there are a few concerning precautions you should consider before you offer this crustacean to your canine. Shrimp is high in bad cholesterol, and if not cooked properly, can contain bacteria that is dangerous to dogs. Before you let your dog snack on a shrimp, be sure to read about the watch-outs and risks.
Want to share some shrimps with your kitty? Found in many commercial cat foods, shrimp is highly nutritious and most cats love it. But there are some kitty shrimp safety rules to keep in mind. Always avoid processed, ready-to-eat, pre-packaged shrimp, as it is often extremely high in sodium, or seasoning and herbs that can also be toxic. Frozen or fresh shrimp you cook at home, without seasoning or salt, is the safest bet. And as long as your cat doesn’t have a shellfish allergy or dental or digestive issues, it’s generally safe for them to eat shrimp heads, tails, and legs in moderation, assuming they are salt- and seasoning-free.
Eggs for Pets?
Eggs are considered the perfect animal protein and a superfood for us humans. Interestingly, when cooked, they can be just as beneficial for cats and dogs! Many scientists believe they can be a good source of protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals – just make sure that eggs are cooked and not raw before giving them to your pet so you don’t risk salmonella exposure.
Thinking of feeding your kitty huevos? This article explains the things to watch out for. If offered in addition to a high-quality, well-balanced diet, this superfood offers many benefits and essential nutrients, and can help with shiny fur, healthy claws, and improved overall wellness. Just be cautious about amounts and frequency to avoid any tummy or digestion problems.
Obviously this is just a small list of people foods you might want to share with your fur kids. Every animal has unique dietary and health needs, so you should always discuss your cat or dog’s diet with your veterinarian before you indulge them in human treats. Just remember, food doesn’t equal love, and the best treat you can give your pet really is a healthy life!
Learn more about Pumpkin and how insurance can help you give your pet the best care possible, today and furever.