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Top 5 “human foods” for your pet

We share a lot with our pets. Our homes, our hearts, and even our beds. Some of us even share our favourite foods with our pets. But, many of the foods that humans can digest can actually harm our pets and cause health problems down the road. Here are some safe food options for your furry friend.

We all know the benefits of eating well, which contributes to a healthy lifestyle, more energy, and makes you feel good on both the inside and out—the same goes for our pets. While it may be tempting to share some of our healthy “human” food with our pets, it may be causing them more harm than good.

Dogs and cats, and humans metabolize food differently. It is for this reason that some foods are safe for humans to eat, but are toxic and potentially deadly for our pets. It is important to use caution, and do some research before feeding your pets just any food that lands in your pantry or fridge.

On the other hand, there are several human foods that are perfectly safe, and even encouraged to feed to your pets. Here are the top five food options that you can feel good about feeding to your pet—and just like us, they too will reap the rewards! 

Top 5 Human Foods Cats and Dogs Can Eat

One: Kefir

For those who don’t know, kefir is a fermented product much like yogurt that is made with kefir grains (a special type of bacteria), creating a symbiotic culture of pre- and pro- biotics. You can either drink it or eat it like yogurt. It also comes in dairy-free forms, has a rich creamy-tart taste and is chalk full of probiotic goodness.  It’s great frozen as a cold treat in the warm summer months or on its own to accompany a meal. 

Tip: Make sure to buy plain flavour when giving it to your dog—they don’t need any extra sugar! The recommended serving size is 1–2 tsp for small dogs, and 1–2 Tbsp for medium to large dogs.

Two: Bone broth

The benefits of bone broth can go far beyond this article, it is both vitamin- and mineral-rich, full of collagen, as well as other gut healing components like gelatin which is rich in the amino acid glycine. Studies have shown that glycine has potent anti-inflammatory and brain protective benefits for dogs.

Bone broth is great for inflammation, joint health, recovery, cognition, proper digestion and assimilation, promotes coat and nail strength, and is easy to add to meals. You can also freeze them into moulds and offer them as a treat for your pet!

Making it at home is simple and any excess can be frozen to enjoy later. Just simply heat it up on the stove when ready to consume. If you can find pasture-raised beef or lamb marrow bones that’s even better. Simply place bones in a large pot, cover with water and add 1 Tbsp of vinegar, a pinch of salt, and simmer on low for 24–48 hours.

Tip: When making your own or buying it from the store make sure it is from an organic source and free from ingredients such as onions and mushrooms—and also be cognisant of the sodium content as well. 

Three: Berries

Some examples of pet-friendly berries are blueberries and cranberries. These berries rate low on the glycemic index which means they will not spike your pets’ insulin levels, making them appropriate for consumption in moderation. In addition, these berries are very high in anthocyanins. Blueberries in particular contain a phytochemical called pterostilbene, which is a derivative of resveratrol. According to Canadian veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM, pterostilbene is a very powerful dog-approved antioxidant that has been shown to contain high cancer-fighting properties in animal studies and is especially toxic to breast cancer cells. Mice studies also have concluded that blueberries had anti-tumor and anti-metastasis activity. 

Another great berry to feed your pet are cranberries. In particular, they promote healthy urinary tract function, and also have cancer-fighting properties. 

Tip: Feeding your pet berries is a great choice, but to really reap the benefits of these berries, consider buying them in the form of an organic freeze-dried powder to add to their diet. It’s also important to note that berries should not make up more than 5% of your pet’s diet.

Four: Coconut oil

You may or may not be surprised, but coconut oil is a great fat to incorporate into your pet’s diet. In fact, my pets just eat it off the spoon like peanut butter—they love it! Most of us know how great coconut oil is for both internal and external benefits—even though for many years it was labeled as the “unhealthy” saturated fat. Now, your pet can reap the same benefits as you do by consuming coconut oil. 

Coconut oil is a fat-fighting functional food that is great for brain health, boosting the immune system, cardiovascular benefits, coat health, dental health—the list goes on! The main powerhouse component in coconut oil is the MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides), which helps with candida and yeast/bacteria overgrowth thanks to the higher percentage of caprylic acid it contains. It also makes your pet’s skin water permeable (think hot spots). If your pet is in and out of the water a lot, then coconut or MCT oil can be a great hot spot preventative. 

Tip: Make sure the coconut oil you buy is from a good source, like virgin expeller-pressed and preferably in a glass container. If you are more after the yeast-fighting benefits, it is better to spend a little extra and buy straight MCT oil which will have a higher percentage of the caprylic acid. Studies have shown that coconut oil fed at 10% or less of your pet’s overall diet won’t upset their digestive system or give them any negative health issues.  

Five: Sardines 

A can of sardines can not only be a super tasty treat for your pets but it’s an excellent source of bioavailable protein, and most importantly omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a super important functional ingredient for both dogs and cats. It’s called the “essential” fatty acid because their bodies do not manufacture omega-3 like it does with omega-9 and -6, so it is essential they get it from their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for brain health, coat and nail health, has cardiovascular benefits, and in the right amounts can be a great anti-inflammatory. They are also consuming it from a whole food source, making it easy for them to assimilate.   

Tip: You can safely give sardines to your pet up to three times a week. Make sure you look for ones that are packed in water versus oil, and always check the sodium content. If you are having a difficult time finding ones low in sodium, simply rinse them off in cold water before feeding them to your pet to get rid of the excess salt. 

Extra tip: Drizzle some coconut or MCT oil over your pet’s sardines as the MCT’s actually help the body use omega-3 fatty acids more efficiently and increase the omega-3 concentrations in the brain.  

Dangerous foods for pets:

Foods that are NOT okay to feed to your pet:

  • Cacao (chocolate—especially dark)
  • Citrus
  • Grapes and raisins 
  • Onions 
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Apple and avocado seeds
  • Xylitol 
  • Mushrooms
  • Macadamia nuts

*Note: If you are unsure about which foods will be okay to feed your pet, speak with your local pet nutrition expert or veterinarian for further guidance.

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Author: Lucy Jabrayan is the founder of Thrive4life Holistic Pet Food, and is passionate about helping many pet guardians turn to natural food and alternatives that work. Lucy also appears on pet segments and is a contributing writer to numerous publications.