Question: You give your dog people food?

Answer:  Absolutely!

I don’t think people hear themselves when they ask that question. And while there is some subtle judgment implied along with it, I try not to judge the inquirer back. 

But sometimes I carry on an inner dialogue that goes a little something like: 

  • What do you think “dog food” is made of?
  • What do you think dogs ate before there was even a such thing as “dog food?”
  • What do you think dogs ate before they  were “dogs,” and were just “wolves” living in the wild? 

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 conditions common for her breed. And 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 true and blue “people food” eater, or “real food” as I like to call it.

And 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.

So 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 a few key concepts with you, including:

  • 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 to understand what to consider when selecting a 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, you should consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet

Some breeds have allergic reactions to certain food ingredients like beef, dairy, 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 his diet. Including them 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 major 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 store without almost immediately seeing it 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. And 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.

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 all of 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 best for your dog. Because if the diet isn’t appropriate, you usually learn of this fact after your dog has already 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. – Phylecia Terrell – The Dog Care Guide

Also, while again, yes, dogs can eat people food. There are even some healthy food ingredients that are not suitable for dogs. 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 listBut 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.

So, while specific patterns can be observed in their species or in certain breed, it doesn’t mean that it applies to every individual in that group, like your dog

So taking the Embark Breed + Health test will allow you to discover your dog’s unique health needs. You’ll be able to get ahead of any potential health risks and you can partner with your vet to implement an appropriate care plan. 

So don’t your waste 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 exact is their closest ancestor. And their diet primarily consisted of meat, which they hunted. 

There wasn’t anyone there advising them on what diet was best. And there wasn’t anyone serving 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. And these foods are the same foods that people eat today

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

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

Instead of trying to hunt several small animals every single day, they opted for the occasional large massive 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. 

A human example of this would be selecting your dietary needs from your local deli as opposed to the supermarket. The supermarket could supply you with an abundance of healthy food options for an extended period of time.

So similarly, 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 consumed the bones and marrow last.

Primary Sources 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, sharpened and cleaned their teeth, and supplied them with healthy fats. 

To this day, these healthy fats are essential to your dog’s (and the human’s) diet. It supports the 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 now even if your dog is older.  

Because dogs are susceptible to conditions like dementia. So providing your dog with a diet that includes healthy fats well in advance of their senior years is highly advisable. 

Additionally, you may want to avoid brands that try to market low calorie or fat-free diets.  If you’re concerned about dog obesity, consult your vet to see if your dog has any underlying issue that would predispose them to unnecessary weight gain.  Otherwise, to prevent obesity, you have to provide your dog with a healthy lifestyle. This means a balanced diet and a healthy amount of daily exercise that is appropriate for your dog. 

The Wolf’s Diet Varied 

The dog’s ancestor’s diet also varied based on their geographic location. They would eat any and everything they could get their paws on. It was natural for them to take advantage of what was readily available in their environment to survive their feast or famine lifestyle. So their diet included:

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

Foods that dogs and people still enjoy to this day. 

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 have the ability to mate with wolves (wolf-dogs)

Again, while the present-day wolf and modern-day dog are very different, in so many ways, they are the same

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

There are some diets out there for dogs that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to 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 example

One of the primary sources of a dog’s natural diet is meat, with organ meats providing the most vital nutrition. 

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 they tested (not all) did not meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards.

And 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 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 & gatherers) for food. And 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. And chances are these meals were probably not providing their dogs with optimal nutrition.

And while they 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 and flourish. That begins with a quality diet.

The First Dog Food: Ken-L Ration 

When the first commercialized dog food appeared on the market, it consisted of canned horse meat, to be exact. Ken-L Ration became 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. So 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.

Kibble is created 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. 

Also, dog food is cheaper to make for manufacturers when they have fewer quality ingredients and more fillers

So 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. And it’s saw dustliterally

This article lays out why dog food manufacturers add these types of fillers to their dog food and the adverse effects that 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 kibble. And it certainly comes in hand when we’re traveling or taking road trips with our girl.  

And kibble, and dog food in general, 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. And when the FDA identifies a pattern in these complaints, they will issue recalls. And the recalls place more standards of quality requirements that dog food manufacturers must conform to, or risk going defunct when consumers abandon their brand. 

So while kibble will do the job, at the end of the day, it is still “processed” food. So while it’s a viable option, with quality brands available, no different from our human diets, unprocessed food is better

Part 2:

In conclusion, I hope that you enjoyed this post. Understanding the framework for what dogs can or cannot eat makes selecting a diet, or even a treat, far less confusing.

To recap, so far we’ve covered:

  • How you can 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 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:


If you enjoyed this post, I would highly appreciate it if you shared it with your fellow dog parents and dog lovers! 

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Additional Research Sources: 

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