When it comes to tugging at heartstrings, Nicholas Sparks has nothing on your dog. With those sad, sappy eyes, the longing whimper, the I-love-you-please-feed-me snuggles, dogs can turn family dinner into an exercise in emotional extortion, until you’re willing to do anything to make the begging stop.
But even if you eat healthfully, what’s good for you is not always best for your pet. As many as 60 percent of American dogs are now overweight—a percentage that’s identical to that of American people. And canine obesity carries the same risks as human obesity, including joint pain and a shortened life span.
And packing a proper doggie bag is not as easy as simply feeding Lassie a plateful of lentils, says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a veterinarian and board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Some healthy people food is actually harmful to dogs—while other foods found on your plate make smart supplements by providing nutrients that aren’t found in most brands of dog food. Here are some common human foods that can turn your pet into a champion. Find out what’s best for man’s best friend, and then do yourself a favor, too, and check out 42 Ways to Lose 5 Inches of Belly Fat.
SUPERDOG POWER FOODS
High in fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fats, peanut butter makes a great treat. Just be careful about the amount—a tablespoon is about 100 calories, which is a whole day’s worth of treats for a 50 pound dog. And make sure your pet has water nearby, otherwise his tongue is going to get stuck to the roof of his mouth. Funny for you, embarrassing for him. But not all PBs are created equal, whether it’s for your dog or for you. Can you guess the absolute worst peanut butter to eat? We reveal it in our excusive report, The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked!
Blueberries are rich sources of antioxidants. A recent study found that feeding sled dogs 20 grams of wild organic blueberries in addition to their normal food significantly increased the amount of antioxidants in the blood after exercising. In another study aged and young dogs were put on either a regular diet or a diet with added antioxidants for six months. Researchers found that the older dogs that were put on the antioxidant diet did significantly better on cognitive tests.
Healthy omega-3s from fish oil can actually help your pup move better. A 2013 study conducted on adult dogs with osteoarthritis found that adding extra omega-3 to dogs’ diets helped improve their movement and performance in everyday activities. Ask your veterinarian if a fish-oil supplement or a supplemented diet may help your dog. As for human food, sardines are among the best fish sources of omega-3s. If you can teach your dog to a) love the taste and b) catch them in his mouth, you’ve got yourself a heck of healthy seal trick! It’s like instant happiness for both of you!
Packed with antioxidants that could help to slow the aging process, cranberries may also have some benefits for the canine urinary tract in preventing infection.
The crunchy root not only may help keep a dog’s teeth clean, but it’s also high in pup-healthy fiber and vitamin A. Plus, carrots are much lower in calories than most commercial chew treats!
FOODS THAT CAN HURT YOUR DOG
When it comes to people, onions can lower LDL cholesterol and help with heart disease, as you learned in the 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People. But for dogs, onions do more harm than good. In a recent study, dogs were fed cooked onions for two days. Researchers found that large amounts of onion caused hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed, leading to anemia.
The darker the chocolate, the healthier it is for people—and the more toxic it is to dogs. That’s because dark chocolate contains caffeine and other stimulants that give us get-up-and-go, but can cause inflammation, abnormal heartbeat, seizures, and even death in dogs. Chocolate-covered coffee or espresso beans, with their double dose of caffeine, are especially dangerous.
Grapes and Raisins
Fresh or dried, grapes are great for you, but toxic to your pet. A recent case study analyzed four dogs that were hospitalized after eating grapes or raisins. All four dogs experienced vomiting, weakness, and problems with their kidneys, and two of them had to be put down due to their symptoms. One of the dogs ate just five grapes and had to be hospitalized for 12 days.
A mildly upset stomach is about the worst that will happen if your dog eats a lot of the fruit, but if a dog ingests enough cherry seeds, which contain cyanide, he can encounter breathing difficulties and inadequate oxygen intake.
Undercooked Meat or Fish
We know, you read a lot of Jack London in high school and you’ve always seen your dachshund as part dog, part wolf. But domestic dogs aren’t equipped to eat raw meat the way White Fang was. Bacteria in raw meat can set your pup back just as it can you.