can dogs eat people food

Q: You give your dog people food?

A: Absolutely!

I don’t think people hear themselves when they ask can dogs eat people food. And while there is some subtle judgment implied along with their inquiry, I try not to judge the person back. But, sometimes I carry on an inner dialogue that goes something like: 

  • What do you think “dog food” is made from? 
  • And what do you think dogs ate before “dog food” existed?

So yes, we’ve been feeding our dog Mina “real food,” “human food,” or “people food,” as many refer to it, and proudly so. We recently purchased an Embark Dog DNA Breed + Health kit, which cleared Mina of all 181 health conditions common for her breed. She’s 11 years old

She also gets rave reviews after every vet visit. Mainly for her shiny coat of hair and her pearly whites. She’s a real “people food” eater, or simply real natural food” as I like to call it. I think the care that we provide for our girl speaks for itself. And the foundation for exceptional health begins with a balanced nutrient-dense diet.

Therefore, in short, the answer to the question is yes, it is okay to feed your dog “people food.” But the key is to understand why it’s okay and how to do it properly.

In this post, I will share with you:

  • How to determine what diet is most suitable for your dog
  • A brief history of the dog’s natural diet
  • A brief history of commercialized “dog food.”
  • And what’s one of the best diets for dogs on the market today.

These concepts will lay the groundwork for helping you understand what to consider when selecting an optimal diet for your dog. 

How to Determine What Diet is Best for Your Dog:

As you continue to read, I’ll advise you of one of the best dog food diets on the market today. But, I recommend that you first understand your dog’s genetics and unique health needs. And as always, consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet

Some breeds have allergic reactions to certain food ingredients like beefdairy, or grains, while others do not. So, if your dog is not allergic to grains, for example, then there is no need to eliminate them from their diet. Including grains may provide your dog with essential vitamins and minerals to help support their overall health. Learn more here.  

For instance, last year, there was a significant food recall on 16 different brands of dog food. And as many of you may know, “grain-free” has been all the craze as of late. You can’t enter a pet food store without almost immediately seeing “grain-free” plastered on various brands of dog food labels. However, this protest against grains is what veterinarians suspect may be the cause for this recent spike of Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs (DCM.)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a report on their findings. While the cause for the spike of DCM is still up for debate, they think it’s diet-related DCM due to the high incidence of “grain-free” diets listed in the reports. Also, many of the dogs that the vets diagnosed weren’t members of breeds that are genetically predisposed to DCM.

You can learn more about the FDA’s report here.

Get an Embark Dog DNA Test:

But this is why I’m such an advocate for Embark’s Dog DNA tests. Because conducting an Embark Dog DNA Breed + Health test first, will provide you with the critical details about your dog’s health and genetics. And this is valuable information that you can share with your vet. 

It will spare you and your dog the trial and error method for trying to discover what diet or brand of food is most suitable. Because when the diet isn’t appropriate, you usually learn of this after the fact. Because, unfortunately, your dog will have had an adverse reaction to the food.  

Adverse reactions to pet food diets can happen even if you provide your dog with the most expensive premium brand of dog food. The key is to understand what foods best support your dog’s unique health needs.  – The Dog Care Guide

And while the answer to the question “Can dogs eat people food?” is yes, there are some healthy natural food ingredients that are not suitable for dogs. But before you start googling a list of foods that dogs can’t eat. I’ll spare you the time. Here is a link to the ASPCA’s comprehensive list. But here is the thing. Our Mina eats some of the items that you’ll find on that list, including nuts and coconut-based foods. 

I’m not saying that their list is wrong. My point is that same as humans, dogs are individuals. Specific patterns can be observed across certain species or breeds of dogs. But that doesn’t mean that it applies to every individual within that group, like your dog

So taking the Embark Breed + health test will allow you to discover your dog’s unique health needs. This test will enable you to get ahead of any potential health risks, and you can partner with your vet to implement an appropriate care plan. So don’t waste your time trying to figuring it out. Take the test now, and share the results directly with your veterinarian

Why Do Dogs Eat Meat?

Dogs weren’t “dogs” before domestication. They were carnivorous “wolves” living freely in the wild. The “grey wolf” to be can dogs eat people foodexact is their closest ancestor. And their diet primarily consisted of meat, which they hunted. 

There wasn’t anyone advising them on what diet was best. And there wasn’t anyone serving the wolves their food. Wolves were self-sufficient. They intuitively knew what they needed for their nutrition and survival. 

They worked together in packs, or sometimes alone to hunt for their food. These foods are the same foods that people eat today. So when you think to ask if dogs can eat “people” food, think back to their days of self-sufficiency.

Their Main Source of Protein

Their meat of choice primarily consisted of wild ungulates. Ungulates are large hoofed animals like bison, elk, donkeys, deer (venison anyone?)

While they based their food choices on what was readily available in their environment, their preference for ungulates was a way for the wolves to hunt and eat efficiently. 

Instead of trying to hunt for several small animals every single day, they opted for the occasional sizeable animal. These large ungulates were more dangerous to hunt. Still, they would supply them with food that could sustain them and their pack for an extended period than smaller prey. So for them, it was worth the risk. 

These wild ungulates also provided the wolves with their vital nutrients, particularly the organ meats. Consuming the organ meats first was their foraging habit, while they ate the bones and marrow last.

Primary Source of Vitamins & Minerals:

Organs such as the heartlungsliver, and kidneys are high in:

  • B vitamins
  • A vitamins 
  • Minerals and fatty acids

All of which are required for maintenancegrowth, and reproduction even today in dogs. Vegetables played a minor role in the wolf’s diet because it is much easier for their bodies to absorb vital nutrients and minerals from meat than from plants. 

Dogs Need Fat:

The bone and marrow that wolves utilized provided them with calcium, and sharpened and cleaned their teeth, and supplied them with healthy fats. To this day, healthy fats are essential to your dog’s (and the human’s) diet. It supports brain and cognitive functions. And since the brain consists of 60% fat, it’s best to include healthy fats in your dog’s diet, whether it’s in the form of:

  • fresh marrow filled bones
  • fish oil supplements, or 
  • directly from a fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, or herring

Implementing this at an early age will help your dog to grow old gracefully and support their brain health. But it’s never too late to start even if your dog is older.  Because dogs are susceptible to conditions like dementiaProviding your dog with a diet that includes healthy fats well in advance of their senior years is highly advisable. 

Read Beyond The “Fat-Free” Label:

Additionally, you may want to carefully assess brands that try to market low calorie or fat-free diets. The “fat” is not the problem. It’s the carbs that generally create unnecessary calories and weight gain.  Dog obesity and their causes are topics for another discussion. Still, the point here is to understand that healthy “fats” are essential for your dog’s optimal health. You should not eliminate them from your dog’s diet. 

In the meantime, if you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, consult your vet. They can help determine if there is an underlying medical issue that would predispose your dog to unnecessary weight gain. Otherwise, to prevent obesityyou have to provide your dog with a healthy lifestyle. They require nutritious and balanced meals and daily exercise that is appropriate for your dog’s age, health, etc. 

The Wolf’s Diet Included Variety:  

Our dogs’ ancestor’s diet also varied based on their geographic location. While their primary source of protein came from meat, the types of meat they selected changed. It was natural for them to take advantage of what was readily available in their environment to survive their feast or famine lifestyle. Their diet included:

  • Fish 
  • Birds
  • Rabbits (small animals)
  • Lizards
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Nuts

Foods that dogs and people still enjoy today. So again, if you’re still wondering, “Can dogs eat people food” this is a clear indication that the answer is yes. However, the critical factor to consider here is the importance of “variety.” 

Providing your dog with a variety of protein sources helps to prevent food sensitivities and allergies. It also ensures that your dog will receive a variety of vital nutrients in their diet

It’s also a best practice to switch up your dog’s meal options because the same kind of kibble, every single day, is not appealing. Most dogs will eat it, but others may begin to reject their food. Dogs naturally desire a variety of delicious and healthy food options. 

Why is The Wolf’s Diet Important to Understand: 

The wolf’s diet is vital to understand because it offers insight into what may be appropriate for the dog’s diet. And while the dog is not a wolf, they are a subspecies of the wolf and still share the same DNA. 

And after many years of evolution and domestication, dogs still maintain similar wolf traits and behaviors. The wolf passed down these traits for the survival of the species. 

Some similarities include:

  • Dog with high prey drive like Huskies
  • Dogs instinctively marking their territory
  • Dogs instinctively howling at sirens to communicate with their perceived pack-mates
  • Dog with teeth designed for tearing flesh
  • Dogs can mate with wolves and produce offspring (wolf-dogs)

While the present-day wolf and modern-day dog are very different, they are similar in many ways.

The Dog’s Dietary Profile Should Not Stray Too Far From Its Roots: 

There are some pet food diets for dogs that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of the dog’s standard diet. And sometimes, these diets are chosen just because the dog’s parent eats that way, like vegan dog diets, for exampleOne of the primary sources of a dog’s natural diet is protein from meat sources, with organ meats providing the most vital nutrition. 

Vegan Diets:

Vegan dog diets provide their protein primarily through vegetable sources like legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) And depending on how these diets are processed, they may not be balanced enough to support a dog’s basic nutritional requirements for growth and maintenance. Again, vegetation accounted for just a small portion of the wolf’s natural diet. 

Here is an abstract from a study that concluded that the vegan pet food diets that they tested did not meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) standards.

The AAFCO provides guidelines for the bare minimum nutritional requirements for pet foods. So if a particular brand or diet is not meeting the AAFCO’s bare minimum standards, then it’s probably best to avoid feeding it to your dog.

A Very Brief History of Dog Food: 

Fast forward from the wolf to the early domesticated dog. Wolves, well now dogs, no longer had to hunt for their food. They relied on their human companions who led a more sedentary lifestyle (as opposed to hunters and gatherers) for food. During this time, their diet consisted primarily of table scraps. Although dogs were domesticated, there was no such thing as “dog food.” 

So yes, this means that early dogs survived from eating the remains of whatever their owners had prepared for dinner. A clear indication that the answer to the question “Can dogs eat people food?” is yes, chances are, these meals were low quality. They probably were not providing optimal nutrition to humans or their dogs.

While dogs survived, thanks to their fantastic genetics passed down from their wolf ancestors- there is a difference between surviving and thriving. And here at The Dog Care Guide, we want your dogs to thrive. That begins with a quality nutrient-dense diet.

The First Dog Food: Ken-L Ration 

Can dogs eat people foodWhen the first commercialized dog food appeared on the market, it consisted of canned horse meat, to be exact. Ken-L Ration was a huge success. However, when World War II began, the government placed rations on metals and meat. Because of this, manufacturers could no longer use it for their canned dog food. They had to devise another plan.

The 2nd Dog Food: Kibble

The dog food manufacturers came up with the idea to produce dry dog food that they could store in a bag. And as such, kibble became the replacement for canned dog food. They created kibble through a method called extrusion. It’s a process that cooks the food at extreme temperatures

And you guessed it, while the food is edible, these extreme temperatures destroy many of the nutrients that are available in the food before being processed. Further, dog food is cheaper to make for manufacturers when they have fewer quality ingredients and more fillers. While you don’t need to break the bank to feed your dog a healthy diet, you don’t want to feed your dog a bowl of wood fibers. 

Powdered cellulose is a filler commonly found in dog food that is made of sawdust.  This article explains why dog food manufacturers add these types of fillers to their dog food and the adverse effects these ingredients can have on your dog’s health.  

Kibble is not the Devil:

I’m not here to demonize kibble. We also supplement our Mina’s diet with a quality kibble. And it certainly comes in hand when we’re traveling or taking road trips with our girl. Also, kibble and dog food have come a long way. There is quality kibble on the market today, and pet food manufacturers must adhere to higher levels of standards than existed in the past.

Also, consumers are becoming more educated and report issues to the FDA or their vet when serious problems result related to their dog’s diet. When the FDA identifies a pattern amongst consumer complaints, they will issue recalls. And the recalls place more quality standards on pet food manufacturers. They must conform, or they risk going out of business when consumers abandon their brand. 

While kibble will get the job done, it is still “processed” food. And while there are quality kibble brands available, unprocessed food is better


In conclusion, I hope that you enjoyed this post, and that I have answered in detail the question, “Can dogs eat people food?” Because understanding the core of a dog’s natural diet makes selecting a one for your dog, far less confusing. 

To recap, we discussed:

  • How to determine what kind of diet is most suitable for your dog
  • A brief history of the dog’s natural diet
  • A brief history of commercialized “dog food.”

And in Part two of this series, we’ll discuss

  • What’s one of the best diets for dogs on the market today

Click here to continue reading this blog series. But before you go:

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Additional Research Sources: 

  1. Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition? 
  2. Learn From The Past