It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that dogs began being kept as companions rather than as working animals. They’d traditionally been fed with table scraps but as pet ownership rose in the 20th century, so did a demand for commercially-produced dog food. In 1922 the first canned dog food was introduced and since then, much research into canine nutrition has been carried out.
In the mid-1980s, the nutritional requirements of dogs were published and these have been updated over the years as we better understand animal nutrition to inform how dog food is formulated. Today, shop-bought pet food is formulated to be complete and balanced, providing everything a dog needs for a healthy diet.
With this in mind, if you feed your dog one of the many dry, wet or raw complete diets available, they do not need any additional food. However, variety is the spice of life and there will be times when you have leftovers on your plate or want to give your dog a treat – especially when training, as exciting treats tend to yield better results.
Dogs’ digestive systems are different to ours, so foods that we might instinctively scrape from our plates into their bowls could actually be very harmful. Only give your dog foods that you know are safe and do so in small amounts so that you don’t exceed their recommended daily calorie intake.
Here’s a roundup of the ‘human’ food you can and can’t feed to your dog.
Dogs are omnivores, meaning they have evolved to eat a diet that includes both meat and plants. If you’re a vegetarian yourself, you might prefer it if your pet didn’t eat meat.
However, it’s very important that your dog still eats a balanced diet including all the necessary nutrients for a healthy body, so look for one of the commercially-produced complete vegetarian dog foods – there are lots on the market these days, which take away the nutritional guesswork for owners.
There’s also dog food made from an insect protein derived from crickets, which boasts being sustainable and more Earth-friendly than the traditional meat used in pet food.
In the UK it is estimated that 40% of dogs are overweight or obese. Overweight dogs are more prone to diabetes, some cancers, heart disease and osteoarthritis, as well as a reduced lifespan. A study by the University of Liverpool found that the life expectancy of overweight dogs could be reduced by more than two years.
You should speak to your vet about what your dog’s healthy weight range is and regularly weigh your dog to make sure they stay within that range. Additional calories from treats soon mount up, so feed them only occasionally. You may also need to adjust your dog’s daily ration to take extras into account.
I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.