By Dr Linda Simon, MVB
Should I Add Other Foods To My Dog’s Meals?
The average canine eats the same meal day in, day out. Most of us wouldn’t eat the same thing every day, even if it were our absolute favourite. So, while a good clam chowder followed by steak and chips, topped off with a slice of gooey chocolate cake may be your ‘death row meal of choice’, you’d probably be turning it away on day three or four.
Of course, it is not really fair to compare dog food to ours. Each meal they eat is nutritionally complete and contains all of their required nutrients. Due to this, it is absolutely fine for them to eat the same thing every day.
Having said this, variety really is the spice of life. There are days when our pooch may need a special treat meal. Perhaps they have been good at the groomers or have excelled in their agility class. For many dogs, their stomach is the way to their heart. So, what can we do?
- Step One: Provide your furry friends with a high-quality diet such as Ziwi Peak.
- Step Two: Consider experimenting with different options. Ziwi Peak has a range of flavours; wet and dry.
- Step Three: Add a little extra. There are plenty of safe and delicious ‘human’ treats we can add to make an extra special dinner.
Which Foods Can I Add to My Dog’s Meal?
There are a wide range of tasty titbits that we can add to our dog’s bowl alongside their meal. Each dog is an individual and will soon let you know which additions they appreciate the most.
Most dogs are real meatheads and will relish the addition of a few pieces of meat to their bowl. Lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, game etc. are all great choices. Lean meat provides a real protein punch and helps build and restore muscle. Meat is an especially good ‘go to’ as a topper for those who are temporarily off their food. Warm water can be added to create a tempting broth. This works especially well with the Ziwi Peak kibble varieties. Ideally, meat should be de-boned to prevent tooth cracking and/or blockages.
Not only is fish high in protein, many are brimming with healthy fats. Mackerel, salmon and sardines contain omega 3 fatty acids which promote a healthy skin and coat. Not every pooch is a fan of fish so start with small pieces and milder tastes such as cod. Most dogs can deal with small fish bones with ease but larger bones should be removed.
Eggs are a real powerhouse in the food world and contain a range of amino and fatty acids. As eggs are highly digestible and rather plain, they are usually tolerated well by those feeling under the weather. Hard-boiled and scrambled eggs are tasty options that mix in well at dinner time.
Vegetables can be given raw (great for the teeth) or cooked. While perhaps not the most palatable offering, some dogs will enjoy the different tastes. The biggest hits tend to be carrot, peas, broccoli and pumpkin. Pumpkin is an especially good option for those who need extra fibre in their diet.
As with veggies, a large number of different fruits can be mixed in with your doggy’s regular diet. Watch out though, as certain fruits are not well tolerated and some are even toxic (read more below). Consider apple (with seeds removed), banana, pears and cranberries. Cranberries are renowned for benefitting bladder health.
What Foods Can’t I Feed My Dog?
We do have to be a little cautious when tampering with our dog’s meals.
It’s important to say that every dog is an individual and some may have food sensitivities and allergies. You know what your dog can tolerate, so even ‘safe’ foods may be off the menu for them. Any time a new food is added, keep an eye on things such as energy levels and stool quality over the next 48 hours.
For all dogs, certain foods are simply a ‘no no’. These include:
- Grapes and Raisins. There is an unknown substance within grapes and their derivatives that can cause acute kidney failure in some. Worryingly, kidneys can be affected if even small amounts are eaten.
- It is the theobromine in chocolate that causes the issue. Theobromine concentration is highest in dark chocolate and non-existent in white chocolate. Signs worsen the more the dog consumes and can include tremoring, vomiting and a racing heart. A large overdose can even prove fatal.
- Onions and Garlic. Allium species such as onions should not be fed to dogs. Over time, red blood cells may become damaged, leading to anaemia. While a one-off ingestion is unlikely to cause a problem, it’s best to not take the risk.
- Corn on the cob. Corn poses no risk at all to dogs but it should never be fed whole; cob and all. Cobs cannot be digested and often get stuck within the gastrointestinal system, leading to an obstruction. For some unlucky dogs, this can mean an emergency surgery to remove the lodged cob. Signs of an obstruction include a bloated stomach, inability to hold food down and lethargy.
- Macadamia nuts. While we generally see mild symptoms if a dog eats macadamias, some may be badly affected. Watch out for trouble walking and an upset stomach.
- Though dairy is tolerated fine by some, it can cause an upset stomach in others. In fact, lots of dogs are lactose intolerant. Dairy is in many foods including cream, cheese and yoghurt.
If you are concerned your dog may have eaten one of the above foods, give your vet a call right away. For highly toxic foods (such as raisins), the sooner a dog is seen by a vet the better their prognosis.
Potential Health Issues From Adding To Your Dog’s Diet
Pancreatitis is a painful condition whereby the pancreas becomes inflamed. Signs can include a loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy. When a dog has a bout of pancreatitis, they may be more prone to future episodes. Some breeds are more predisposed, including the Miniature Schnauzer. The foods that can trigger pancreatitis are typically fatty, greasy things such as fried food.
Obesity in the animal world is becoming a pandemic with over 50% of pets now being affected. Not only can obesity lead to chronic health conditions such as diabetes, it can also dramatically reduce quality of life. Over-feeding and feeding the wrong things are the leading cause of obesity in our pets.
Remember, the feeding guides on Ziwi Peak’s packages assume NO other food or titbits are fed. So, when adding human food to your dog’s bowl, subtract the equivocal amount from their dog food. Similarly, steer clear from fatty foods where possible.
All in all, your dog will most likely happily eat the same thing day in, day out for the rest of their life. But they will surely appreciate some added flavour and change of texture from things like meat, fish, fruit and vegetables and seeing them thoroughly enjoy their meal is also satisfying for us as owners.
As long as you watch what foods you add and how much you are giving, it’s quite ok to go ahead and spice up your dog’s meal time a little – though not with actual spices of course!
Dr Linda Simon is a practicing vet in West London who qualified from UCD, Dublin in 2013. She has special interests in dermatology and canine nutrition. She is kept on her toes by her mischievous Cavapoo Raffie.