When it comes to your dog’s food, do you know what you’re really serving? With so many options out there, it can be easy to grab the first economy bag you see on the shelf and call it a day. But as a responsible pet parent, it’s your job to do the research and serve healthy, nutritious meals worthy of this important family member.
In this post, we’ll dive into the truth behind some commercially-prepared dog food, what to know about feeding your dog “human” food, and a great solution for those pet parents who have been wanting to try out a human-grade diet for their pup.
Use these links to jump ahead, or keep reading to learn everything you need to know:
- What’s in My Dog’s Food?
- Can I Feed My Dog Human Food?
- What Human Foods Are Bad for my Dog?
- What is Human-Grade Dog Food?
What’s in My Dog’s Food?
Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on your dog’s food? If you’re feeding them a commercial dry kibble, you might be a little surprised. No matter how many healthy claims and marketing jargon you see on the front, a quick rundown of the ingredients may reveal a less-than-ideal nutritional profile at best, and some pretty gross stuff at worst.
Identifying risky ingredients in your dog’s food
Here’s the catch: most of the yucky additives are strategically hidden. If you see an unspecified “meat” or “meat meal” listed, for example, it’s important to know what that means. With such an ambiguous label, it could be just about anything—including rendered and highly-processed meats. If you’re not familiar with the rendering process, this is when manufacturers take a bunch of meats from potentially-questionable sources (tumor-filled cows mixed with other animal scraps, for example) and cook it down into a powdered “meal.”
“Meat byproducts” is another one to watch out for; this refers to parts of the animal that are technically edible… but certainly not nutrient-dense. Think chicken feathers, beaks, and feet. Vague product labels such as “with beef” only require that 3 percent of the total product is beef, and “beef flavor” simply implies that there is enough beef in the product to be detected. To avoid this, look for specific meats listed in the ingredients, such as chicken, lamb, or beef.
If you’re not choosing whole foods, you might also be serving a host of chemicals and pesticides to your pup. And don’t even get us started on preservatives and artificial ingredients. Ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are the most common offenders, and have been linked to cancer in animals.
What to know about dog food quality standards
Wondering how well-known companies can get away with this? The simple answer is that there’s a lack of government oversight when it comes to the dog food industry. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only requires that pet food be “safe to eat, produced in sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.”
Here at Pet Plate, we believe your dog deserves (in fact, needs!) better than this.
Can I Feed My Dog Human Food?
Now that you know to avoid all of the questionable ingredients above… What’s a responsible pet owner to do? Is it a better idea to just feed your dog human food, then?
The answer to this is a little tricky. Before we explain, let’s dive into some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to feeding your dog human food instead of designated pet food.
What are the healthiest foods for dogs?
The good news is there are tons of great “human” foods you can give your dog!
Some of the best foods to serve are:
- Meats: turkey, chicken, pork
- Fish, especially salmon
- Grains, such as quinoa and rice
- Veggies: carrots, green beans
- Fruits: apples, bananas, seedless watermelon
- Peanut butter
However, keep it in mind that it’s all in moderation. While table scraps are fine every now and then, it shouldn’t be an everyday event. Your dog has unique nutritional needs, so simply making another serving of your family’s dinner and giving it to your pup can be risky if you’re not paying attention.
Here are some examples:
- While carrots are an awesome treat that can even help remove plaque from your pup’s teeth, too much Vitamin A can be toxic.
- White rice can help with an upset stomach, but too much can cause a rise in blood sugar.
- Potatoes can be a great treat, but it’s better to mix with fiber-rich sweet potatoes.
- Eggs must be fully cooked, as raw eggs can lead to biotin deficiency in dogs.
- If you’re serving fish, take special care to remove all bones, which your dog can choke on.
- Peanut butter should be unsalted, with no added sugar or sweeteners.
What Human Foods Are Bad for my Dog?
There are also plenty of foods that are off-limits to your dog. Here are the biggest offenders and why they’re so harmful to your pup:
- Chocolate – contains specific chemicals (methylxanthines) that are toxic to dogs
- Garlic – contains toxic compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates
- Grapes – researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact substance in grapes and raisins, but we know they are highly toxic even in small amounts
- Avocados – contain a toxic substance called persin
- Cherries – contain toxic cyanide, which is found in cherry pits
- Some types of nuts – Macadamia nuts in particular are highly-toxic; others (like cashews, walnuts, and pistachios) are very high in fat and should be limited
Other food and food groups, like dairy and certain grains, can cause tummy issues in some dogs. Limit these and keep an eye on common food sensitivity symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. And of course, avoid anything high in sugar, sugar substitutes, fat, salt, or other “junk”! It should go without saying but never give your dog alcohol or any products containing it.
If you believe your dog has eaten something toxic, call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center right away to get help. The latter is a 24-hour emergency line that connects you to experts who can walk you through common symptoms and help you determine when to take your dog in. They also have a helpful app you can download!
Overwhelmed yet? You’re not alone. While making home-cooked dog food is certainly more popular these days, it’s a lot of work to keep up with. It’s also not a guarantee for nutritional standards; in fact, researchers from the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine found that 95% of homemade diets don’t meet the nutritional requirements dogs need.
The better solution? Consider switching your pet over to a well-researched, human-grade dog food, as we’ll get into next.
What is Human-Grade Dog Food?
So, what exactly is human-grade dog food? Simply put, the label tells us that the food is edible for humans. The food also needs to meet federal manufacturing and packaging regulations set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Pet food labeled “human-grade,” like Pet Plate, means you can count on higher standards overall. Our meals adhere to FDA standards for what goes into human foods, which are much more strict. For meat in particular, you can feel confident knowing you’re getting the same quality that you’d get at your local grocery store or butcher.
Is human-grade dog food better than kibble?
In most cases, yes! But it’s up to you to do the research and make sure the food you select is the best choice for your pup. Look beyond the human-grade label and check out the ingredients list, keeping an eye out for the hidden ingredients we mentioned earlier.
Another important factor is how fresh the food is. If you’ve ever downed a meal full of processed junk food, you probably know why. Fresh (and whole) food makes us feel better, since your body can use the nutrients immediately—the science is the same for both humans and canines alike!
If you’re not ready to make the full switch yet, consider slowly adding in fresh food as a topper to your pet’s regular meals. In one study, Purdue University researchers found that simply adding fresh vegetables to dogs’ diets suggested the prevention or slowing of certain cancer cell growth.
How do you store human-grade dog food?
Unlike dry kibble that uses preservatives to last, you’ll need some space in your fridge or freezer for your fresh, human-grade dog food. Pet Plate meals, for example, arrive at your door frozen. You’ll need to defrost the container in the fridge or microwave; once defrosted, it should be kept in the fridge and used within 5 days.
Selecting the best human-grade dog food
Just like how humans are all a little different, your dog may have unique nutritional needs based on their breed, activity level, weight, and other factors. Some dogs might need to lose a few pounds, others may need a special heart-healthy diet, and others may just be extra picky! Whatever the case may be, Pet Plate can help.
We take quality control and nutritional expertise very seriously, and every batch of food we make is flash-frozen to lock in the freshness. Plus, it’s formulated by our very own veterinary nutritionist, so you know you’re serving the best of the best to your pup.
Get Fresh-Cooked, Personalized Meals for Your Pup
Ready to see the Pet Plate difference? Answer a few quick questions about your dog and we’ll put together a customized meal plan. Choose from four tasty flavors to find your pup’s favorite, and then sit back and enjoy the convenience of deliveries right to your doorstep. No cooking, no shopping, no prepping, no cleaning, and no worrying if your best friend is getting the nutrients they need. It’s a win-win-win!