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Pets & Food: The Good, The Bad, and the Okay

Updated on October 22, 2019
CaitBooth profile image

Caitlyn loves animals of all species and sizes. Yes, that includes creepy-crawly bugs and snakes.

Anyone who has a cat or dog in their family would most likely tell anyone that their four-legged friend is just as much part of the family as any human member is. This family mentality often has humans wanting to share every part of our lives with them, including mealtime. Dogs and cats, however, have very different nutritional needs than humans, and foods we can enjoy may make them ill, or worse, poison them.

To avoid harming the cats and dogs in the family, here are some human foods that are good to share, totally off-limits, or are okay to share on occasion.

Note: When changing the diet of either dogs or cats, be sure to do so very gradually. Their digestive systems will be disrupted too greatly if food is added or removed suddenly, which will cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Dogs: The Good

Dogs, much like humans, are omnivores. This means their diet can consist of a wide variety of foods, ranging from meats to leafy greens, and still remain as healthy as ever. So what can dogs eat right along with their human family members?

The list of good foods is extensive, but a few examples of great foods for dogs are coconut (milk or oil), cooked eggs, peanuts, honey, cooked pork, and quinoa. These foods offer many benefits, especially coconut milk or oil, which not only strengthens their immune system, but it can clear up any skin irritants. Dogs will also enjoy chicken, turkey, tuna, and other meats, but be sure to cook them all the way through to avoid food-borne illnesses, and keep the skin/fat to a minimum.

As with cats, avoid sharing foods seasoned or spiced, as some of them can be toxic or irritating to them.

Cats: The Good

Unlike dogs, cats are what are called "obligate carnivores", which basically means they have to eat meat to survive. Sorry, vegetarians and vegans, but your cats can't join in on your meat-free lifestyle and still remain healthy. Some people may not know, however, that cats can eat some non-meat foods, but they should only consume a small amount to keep from upsetting their delicate systems.

Pumpkin, peas, bread, and cantaloupe are a few non-meat treats many cats will love to chow down on. Just be sure to keep any spices off. Cats are often very picky eaters, so they may not like certain foods that other cats love. Like humans, every cat is different, so go slow and introduce things gradually.

Cooked eggs and chicken are perfect sources of animal fats and proteins needed to keep their bodies functioning at their top level; just remember to keep the treats to a minimum to avoid too much weight gain.

Tip: If the cats seem too energetic or become a little too playful/aggressive with the other members of the house, lower the amount of protein in their diet.

Foods Good for Dogs and Cats

Eggs (cooked)
Eggs (cooked)
Fish (esp Salmon) (cooked)
Chicken (cooked)
Peanuts/Peanut Butter
Pork (except ham) (cooked)
Turkey (cooked)

Dogs: The Bad

Dogs can eat quite a bit of the same foods as their humans, but there are also quite a few that are extremely dangerous for them to eat. Foods such as grapes/raisins, macadamia nuts, and garlic are on the more dangerous end of the 'Bad Food' spectrum. Grapes/Raisins are especially poisonous to dogs as it will cause acute kidney failure. These should be kept out of reach, and if consumed, the dog should be taken to the vet as soon as possible. Other foods, such as almonds, ice cream, and cinnamon are not necessarily toxic, but they can irritate the dog or harm the dog's mouth/throat, so they should be kept away from dogs as well.

Any member of the Allium family is toxic to dogs. Foods in this family include onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Garlic is five times more toxic than any other member of the onion family, so avoid giving dogs any foods seasoned heavily with garlic as it can cause anemia, pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness, and collapsing. Poisoning from onions and garlic can be delayed, so they should be watched for a few days if they have consumed any garlic.

Chocolate is the one thing most everyone knows dogs can't have, though this is generally about dark chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and baking chocolate, as there are large amounts of theobromine in these versions. Theobromine can cause heart problems, muscle tremors, or seizures in dogs, so this is not something to take lightly. A dog eating an oreo or chocolate candy, however, is not necessarily a reason to rush them to the vet as the amount of theobromine in them is extremely low, so they can enjoy cookies and be fine.

Generally, though, It is always best to just not share chocolate with them.

Certain nuts should also not be shared with dogs. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts all pose a choking hazard to dogs, as well as causing small tears in the windpipe. Salted nuts of any kind should not be shared as they can cause water retention, which can be dangerous for any dog with heart problems.

One of the more dangerous nuts is the macadamia nut. A dog who consumes this nut can end up vomiting, have increased body temperature, experience an inability to walk, and become lethargic. Macadamia nuts can also cause problems with the nervous system, so they definitely should be kept out of reach of dogs.

Meat and eggs should be cooked thoroughly as raw meat, much like with humans, can lead to food-borne illnesses such as salmonella or E Coli.

Cats: The Bad

Cats, unlike dogs, have a more specialized diet and can actually be quite picky about what they eat. Many cat owners experience the frustration of trying to find a cat food brand and mix that their furry friends will eat (and keep down). Some foods cause vomiting, others feces and urine that smell really bad, and still others can cause sores and allergy symptoms. If the food made especially for them can cause such issues, then it is no surprise that there are quite a few things cats cannot eat that humans can enjoy.

The more dangerous ones - grapes, garlic, and chocolate - should be kept away from them at all costs, while foods such as onions, fat trimmings, and caffeinated drinks are bad, but probably won't seriously harm the cats.

It needs to be noted that cats have very intricate systems inside their bodies, and if they are upset, they can cause catastrophic and costly issues with the cat, so always check with a vet if there is any uncertainty.

Chocolate is a common one among animals because of that theobromine. As with dogs, the lighter chocolates aren't as dangerous as the more unsweetened versions. Keep any baking chocolate, dark chocolate desserts, and other unsweetened chocolates away from any animals in the home. If a cat eats a large amount of chocolate, take them to the vet immediately.

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks may be surprising entrants on this list, but they have their negative side effects. The caffeine in these drinks can cause restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, and muscle tremors. Much like humans, the amount of caffeine consumed should be kept to a minimum, if at all. Caffeine is a great way to perk up humans, but cats do not need such help. If they drink any, there is no need to panic. Just keep an eye on them and keep plenty of water around for them to drink. If something seems really wrong, or if there is concerning behaviors, take them to the vet for an examination.

Unlike dogs, cats being poisoned by grapes is exceedingly rare. Cats generally are great at avoiding things that are not good for them to consume, so there are few cases of a cat being taken to the vet for eating raisins or grapes. Still, they should be kept out of reach just in case.

Raw meats and fishes should not be given to cats as this could lead to food poisoning and/or illness. If they eat any raw meats or eggs, they should be fine, but it is always best to keep an eye on them and to only allow them to eat a small amount. Cooked meats with skin or excess fat should also be limited or excluded from their diets as they can cause vomiting and pancreatitis.

Like with dogs, garlic and onions can cause digestive upset and anemia if eaten in larger quantities, so avoid giving cats large amounts of foods seasoned or cooked with these. Cats generally won't eat food seasoned or cooked in sauces anyway, so it's best to stick to the basics.

Foods Bad for Dogs and Cats

Almonds (choking hazard)
Chocolate (poisonous)
Chocolate (poisonous)
Coffee/Tea/Energy Drinks (irritant)
Cinnamon (irritant)
Fat Trimmings (weight gain/pancreatitis)
Garlic/Onions (poisonous)
Raw meat, eggs, and fish (food poisoning)
Ice Cream (irritant/digestion problems)
Grapes/Raisins (poisonous)
Macadamia Nuts (poisonous)
Onion (poisonous)
Grapes/Raisins (poisonous)
Garlic (poisonous)
Coffee/Tea/Energy Drinks
Raw meat, eggs, and fish (food poisoning)

Dogs: The Okay

Foods on this list are ones that aren't outrightly poisonous or bad for dogs, but that should either be served in small amounts or just given on the special occasion. These are foods that offer no nutritional value or may offer digestion problems in some dogs. Foods on this list include bread, dairy products, and some meats. Be sure to consult a vet if there are any concerns or health problems and remember that just as humans can have food allergies, dogs can be allergic to many different foods.

Dairy products, in general, aren't the best for humans or dogs. Lactose in most dairy products isn't always accepted by the body, which can lead to excessive gas, diarrhea, or vomiting. Milk and ice cream generally shouldn't be shared with dogs, but many love cheese and yogurt as treats (and ways to get them to take pills). If they especially love cheese, keep it in small amounts and only give it to them on occasion as it can be hard for some dogs to digest and can cause diarrhea if consumed in large quantities. Yogurt is a healthy and safe alternative to ice cream, and as long as the dog can stomach it, yogurt offers many benefits for the digestive system. Be sure to only give them plain flavored yogurt.

Many people love to share their sandwiches and burgers with their four-legged friends, which usually includes bread or a bun. Dogs can eat bread, wheat and grains being a common ingredient in their commercial dog food. but it really should be kept to an occasional treat as it has absolutely no nutritional benefits for dogs (or humans). Bread can cause excessive weight gain, and some dogs can have allergies to the wheat, so be sure to limit how much they get at a time.

Earlier, pork was noted as a great food to share with dogs, but ham is not included in that because it is often loaded with sodium and fat, making it more of an unhealthy treat versus a beneficial addition to their diet. Keep any ham sharing to a minimum, and try to give them the portions lower in fat. As always, don't share anything overly seasoned with them as animals are often sensitive to them.

To close out the list is the little crustacean known as shrimp. These protein-packed creatures are a great treat for dogs, but they should only be shared on occasion as the sodium content can be high. Cook them thoroughly before serving, and always remove the legs, head, and tail as these hard bits can be hard to swallow and digest.

Cats: The Okay

Surprisingly, cats have a bit more of an extensive 'okay' list when it comes to food. Many cats can be finicky about their foods, so trying small amounts of various types of food is always a good idea. Some cats love to munch on potato chips or may steal rolls from the dinner table when no one is looking! Keep all the foods on this list to a minimum.

Spinach, if a cat happens to fancy the leafy green, is a wonderful treat for any kitty. They are often called a superfood because of all the vitamins and minerals they contain in just one cup, and these benefits can be shared with the four-legged members of the home as well. They can be dangerous for any cat dealing with calcium oxilate bladder stones, so do not give any to those cats. Spinach is only to be given as a treat and should take up less than 10% of their diet.

Bananas, blueberries, and apples are some fruits that cats may actually enjoy and are definitely safe for them to eat. Bananas can be mashed up for them to enjoy, while blueberries served frozen are a fun summer treat for any cats needing to beat the heat. Apples should be served without the skin and need to be served without any spices.

Like dogs and humans, cats can suffer from lactose intolerance, so dairy products such as milk and cheese should be served in small amounts and only on occasion. Many cats love milk and will drink far more than they should, so keep an eye on them when sharing a bowl of cereal milk with them. Cheese is a great treat for any cat, especially the outdoor ones, but be sure to only give them hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Gouda, and Swiss.

Surprisingly, some cats actually enjoy oatmeal! Oatmeal is full of nutrients, but be sure to only give them a small amount as it can lead to weight gain. Plus, some cats may not love it as much as others, so this reduces waste.

Finally, a possibly surprising entrant is fish. While often thought of a staple in a cat diet, fish can be a wonderful treat but shouldn't be served in large quantities. Fish offer many wonderful nutrients and benefits but are often very oily and fatty. Canned fish can often be full of sodium and other additives, so be sure to read labels! Salmon and tuna are among the best for cats. Always be sure to remove any small sharp bones as these can tear, pierce, or puncture the inside of a cat.

Foods Okay for Dogs and Cats


In Closing

As a final note, these are only a few of the foods cats and dogs may or may not be able to enjoy, so always consult a veterinarian when deciding what should and shouldn't be part of any pet's diet. Like humans, each individual has their own needs and preferences. With some research and a little patience, every dog and cat can enjoy a long healthy and happy life with their families!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Caitlyn Booth


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