As a veterinarian, I spend my days lecturing people on which foods to avoid feeding their pets. Canine obesity is on the uprise, and most of us are aware that feeding our pets too many table scraps can quickly lead to weight gain. Overweight pets can become sluggish and are more prone to disease, which is something no one would wish upon their dog.|
However, as a pet owner myself, I also know that sharing food with our furry friends from time to time can be an important part of bonding. After all, who doesn't want their dog to experience a variety of tastes rather than the same boring dog food day after day?
The truth is, as long as the majority of your dog's calories come from a balanced food source (and you scale back a little on your pet's regular meals to account for treats), sharing food with your pet can actually be a good thing and doesn't have to cause your pup to pack on extra pounds.
Here are ten foods you can feel good about sharing with your dog:
Apples. Apples are sweet, crunchy and delicious--what's not to love? They're full of nutrients, including immune-boosting vitamin C. Whenever I snack on an apple I always slice my dogs a small piece to enjoy.
Baby Carrots. Baby carrots are an all-time favorite treat for my dogs! In fact, they love them so much that I can't even snack on them any more without my pups crawling all over me. Carrots are mostly water, so they also provide a great low-calorie treat option for pets needing to scale back in the weight department. For overweight pets, I often recommend owners replace half of their daily treats with baby carrots. Another bonus? The crunch carrots provide is great for your pet's teeth!
Chicken. What dog doesn't love a little chicken from time to time? As long as it's boiled or baked with no added seasoning, the occasional small portion of chicken makes a tasty treat for your pup. Just make sure to avoid feeding your dog any pieces containing skin or bones.
Peanut butter. Peanut butter is another canine favorite! With so many peanut butter-flavored treats on the market, it's obvious dogs love it. When choosing peanut butter for your dog, just remember the same rules that apply to you also apply to your pet: all natural is best, and nothing with added sugar. Also, due to the relatively high fat content, peanut butter is probably best reserved as an occasional indulgence for your pup rather than a daily treat.
Yogurt. Did you know that yogurt can actually provide your dog with a healthy dose of probiotics in the same way that it does for you? It's true. When purchasing yogurt for your pup, low-fat or fat-free, plain Greek-style is best. Just be sure to stay away from flavored yogurts which have extra sugar that can actually upset your dog's gastrointestinal tract.
Sweet potatoes. My dogs absolutely love sweet potatoes! Whenever I bake one for myself, I always give them each a small piece, and they really look forward to it. Sweet potatoes are full of so many beneficial nutrients such as vitamin A, which is great for skin, and vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system. They're also considered a low-glycemic index food, which means the sugar they contain will be released gradually, which may be beneficial for weight control. You really can't go wrong with sweet potatoes!
Broccoli. I have had many pet owners sheepishly confess to me that they feed their dogs this cruciferous green veggie expecting a slap on the wrist. However, from a nutritional standpoint, I love it. Broccoli contains large amounts of beta carotene and vitamin C, which are antioxidants that help promote overall immune health. Recent research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has linked the regular consumption of broccoli to lowering the risk of certain types of cancer in humans, which is another reason it's a winner in my book. It's true that not every dog is going to be a fan but, apparently, lots of dogs love eating broccoli!
Green beans. Green beans are a healthy snack option and can also be a great "filler" food for dogs that are on a diet. They contain a lot of fiber which can be helpful in keeping hungry pets satiated. Fresh green beans are ideal, and they're crunchy, which most dogs love.
Canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is another great source of fiber for dogs that need to lose weight. It also helps prevent anal gland issues by keeping your pup more regular. Most dogs find pumpkin especially tasty. Since it's generally only seasonally available, I make sure to stock up every fall.
Salmon. Baked, plain salmon (with no added seasonings) is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your dog's skin and coat health. Getting plenty of omega-3s is especially important for pets with allergies. Be sure to avoid any pieces containing fine bones, which could irritate your pet's throat.
Some general rules of thumb to follow when it comes to supplementing your dog's regular diet:
How Stuff Works, "Health Benefits of Broccoli," www.howstuffworks.com, accessed on September 18, 2013.