You may not think about your dog’s diet, but their food is much more important than you probably realize. This is because the canine digestive system is highly unique. Not only do dogs swallow their food whole (they don’t need to chew), but their stomachs can take more than 24 hours to completely digest a large meal. (As opposed to the human stomach, which takes only about three to four hours.)
Other significant differences also exist between human and canine stomachs. The former passes most food to the intestines, meaning it does little in the way of digestive duties. On the other hand, canines have large stomachs designed to work for only a few hours because of the intensive labor required. The canine stomach is a work facility, whereas the human stomach serves mostly as a temporary holding tank.
These differences help explain why human foods are generally not suitable for dog consumption. They don’t contain the nutrients dogs need and cannot be easily digested by the canine stomach. Some human foods – including chocolate, grapes and raisins, all of which can cause permanent organ damage – are lethal, while others can lead to uncomfortable bouts of nausea and vomiting.
But take heed before you eliminate all human scraps from your dog’s diet. Certain foods we eat offer health benefits to pets as well, starting with a simple source of protein – chicken. Protein is a source of endless debate among dog owners; it passes through the kidneys, leading some to believe too much can cause kidney failure. However, dogs are omnivores who naturally need a balance of meat- and plant-based nutrients. The key is to use animal meats as protein sources, and chicken is the easiest to digest. It makes for a tasty treat, as well as a meal replacement when dogs suffer upset stomachs.
Another valuable source of protein is peanut butter, which most dogs love. All-natural varieties are the best to keep your dog from ingesting unhealthy sugars and preservatives. The oil contained in peanut butter can cause diarrhea, so it should be given only in small amounts. It’s also important to give peanut butter by itself, not combined with jelly and/or bread that dogs cannot easily digest.
Fruits & Veggies
Seeded watermelon is another treat pets can share. This fruit is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, but it consists mostly of water and may cause loose stools. To avoid stomach upset, pet owners should limit melon to warm summer days when dogs need extra hydration.
Berries offer the same health benefits to dogs as they do humans. These fruits contain nutrients that protect against the damage caused by free radicals, meaning they can offer protection from cancer and heart disease. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are just a few of the many varieties to try, either as treats or supplements to dry dog food.
Vegetables like baby carrots, green beans, and lettuce are also healthy options for dogs. They are rich in nutrients but low in fat, so you can feed them to pets without worry. Most fruits and vegetables are healthy alternatives to grain-based dog treats, but owners must avoid fruits with seeds and pits (apple seeds are toxic to canines) and vegetables with dyed or waxy exteriors.
Some dairy products can be given in moderation, but only if your dog is able to handle the lactose. Like humans, canines are known to develop lactose allergies, and vomiting or diarrhea can follow a dose of dairy. The best practice is to stick to those items low in lactose (cheddar and Swiss cheeses, as well as cottage cheese), and give them only as occasional treats