Feeding your dog probably brings up more questions than answers. Even the seemingly obvious food choice, meat, has an extensive list of options today. Does your dog really need to eat kangaroo or wild boar? And what about dairy? Can dogs eat yogurt? Ice cream? Cottage cheese? Specifically, what meats and dairy can dogs eat?
Images of wolves working like a team of Navy Seals to take down a water buffalo may lead you to think that dogs are carnivores.
But alas, their guts are actually designed to accommodate a salad app and veggie sides.
While dogs have a shorter digestive tract and transit time than humans, we are similar in that both species are omnivores.
That means we can digest plants, meats, and animal-based products like milk and eggs.
But that doesn’t mean you have a green light to feed your chow-hound under the table.
It also doesn’t mean that you should be ordering your own dinner from his menu.
Walk into any boutiquey pet food and supply store, and you’ll see food choices that the average dog didn’t have a generation ago.
Kangaroo, buffalo, wild boar, rabbit, venison, goat, salmon, even alligator! The list of exotic meats available for dogs is remarkable, if not shameless. (It’s enough to make you wonder how to keep up with the Boneses when it comes to providing for your dog.)
Then there are all the forms the meat comes in: kibble, canned, raw, freeze-dried, dehydrated, jerky.
When it comes to what meats dogs can eat, the list may be getting longer than the boring standbys of chicken, turkey, beef, steak, and lamb.
The question may not be so much What meats can dogs eat? but What meats are best for dogs?
And, when it comes to sheer practicality, Are all these exotic meats really necessary?
One kind of meat that should be kept out of Fido’s bowl is processed meat – bologna, hot dogs, lunch meats, sausage, canned meats, even bacon. They’re all loaded with sodium and usually contain a lot of fat and not-so-choice fillers.
So what meats and dairy can dogs eat?
Let’s start with meats that dogs can eat.
What meats can dogs eat:
- Chicken: Chicken is the most common meat eaten by both people and dogs. It’s lean, high in protein for energy and building muscle mass, and loaded with nutrients that support healthy skin, shiny coats, and bone health. On the negative side, chicken is one of the most common food allergens for dogs.
- Turkey: Turkey is another source of lean protein that is often mixed with other meats in commercially produced dog food. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), turkey is considered a “cooling food,” compared to chicken, which is considered a “warming food.”For this reason, turkey is actually a better choice than chicken for GI upset and inflammation.
- Beef/steak: Red meat is a nutritious source of protein for dogs and contains an extra surge of vitamins (B) and minerals (e.g. iron, zinc, selenium).Be sure to cut away noticeably fatty areas before cooking.
- Pork: Remember the “P’s”: Pork comes with precaution. It must always be thoroughly cooked (unless properly prepared for a raw diet).If it is otherwise raw or undercooked, it may contain Trichinella.
The preparations that make pork so delectable to humans are not good for dogs. So keep the ham and bacon your own little secret.
- Fish: Fish is loaded with protein and omega 3 fatty acids. It has brainpower and helps to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat. But too much of a good thing isn’t good.Pollutants, especially mercury, in aquatic food sources are one reason to limit fish to twice a week. The potential for putting on the pudge is another.
Sardines and salmon are especially good choices.
- Exotic meats: We mentioned several above: kangaroo, buffalo, wild boar, venison, rabbit, etc. Can Fido eat them? Sure. But does he need to in order to be healthy? No.Understandably, hunters may choose to feed their dogs some of their wild catch, especially common prey like deer, rabbit, and pheasant.
But, as a rule of thumb, it’s simply not necessary…or, in most cases, even affordable.
And, if you have your dog eating exotic meats and you discover a food allergy, guess what he won’t be eating anymore?
Now, what dairy can dogs eat?
Believe it or not, the same bloating, abdominal discomfort, and loose stools that plague lactose-intolerant humans can also plague dogs.
If your dog can’t produce his own lactase to break down lactose, he may present the same GI symptoms as a lactose-intolerant human. He may also show allergic signs like itching.
As a general rule of thumb, the lower the lactose content of a dairy product, the safer it is for your dog.
What are some low-lactose dairy products safe for dogs to eat?
- Cottage cheese (low sodium)
- Ricotta cheese
- Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss
- Goat milk
If you look at the chart here, you will see that plain yogurt lands a little high on the lactose list.
But I thought dogs could eat yogurt!
Yes, they sure can!
And the reason is quite simple: Yogurt contains abundant amounts of the enzyme lactase to help break down lactose. So, it’s actually good for lactose intolerance. (Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt is best.)
Now, at the risk of finishing on a sour (milk) note, here’s the question you’ve no doubt been waiting to ask:
Can dogs eat ice cream?
I mean, c’mon. How are you supposed to say no to the Pup Cup with the cute little doggie bone on top at Dairy Queen?
Well, it’s not so much the dairy as it is the sugar and other hidden ingredients that could cause problems for Fido. Chocolate is obviously a no-no, as are other ingredients (e.g. macadamia nuts) commonly added to ice cream.
And artificial sweeteners, usually not disclosed until the bottom of an ingredient list, can be hazardous or even deadly.
But you can satisfy Fido’s need to feel special by freezing Greek yogurt mixed with other healthful ingredients like pumpkin, bananas, blueberries, and honey.
In our experience.
When it comes to choosing meat products for your dog, you don’t need to break the bank.
And, when it comes to dairy, keep it sparing and low in lactose.
If you’re considering cooking your dog food fresh at home, check out one of these four homemade dog food recipes.
For a printable list of what foods dogs can and can’t eat, download our free what can dogs eat checklist.
Mangia bene, vive bene!