I have already written a post on the foods that you should definitely avoid feeding your dog, but there are also some common myths surrounding unsafe foods for dogs that I thought I would debunk.
You definitely don’t have to feed these foods to your dog but, contrary to popular belief, if they tolerate them there is no reason why you can’t include them in a robust fresh diet for extra nutrients and variety. As with anything, it’s important to get to know your dog and understand what works for them, because it might be different to what works for other dogs.
AVOCADO is so commonly misunderstood that it ends up on just about every unsafe foods list ever written. The reason for this is a toxin called persin, which is indeed unsafe for dogs in large quantities. But the thing about persin is that it’s mostly found in the skin, stone and leaves of avocados, with very little in the flesh of ripe fruit. So your dog would have to eat the plant, the skin or the stone for it to be an issue (and I would be far more worried about intestinal blockages than persin toxicity in that case), and even then they would need to consume a lot of persin to experience an adverse reaction. Some dogs do get an upset tummy from avocado, so in this case you should hold off. But the flesh of ripe fruit contains very little of the unsafe compound and is absolutely fine to feed in moderation.
I can’t tell you how many clients I have come to me with concern about feeding WHOLE EGGS, specifically because they are concerned the egg white will lead to a biotin deficiency. Their reason for this is not unfounded – there are many, many articles contributing to this myth and egg white do indeed contain a chemical called avidin, which is a biotin inhibitor. However, even though the biotin in egg yolks may not be super available, biotin is in heaps of other foods, like meat. You would also need to feed a really large amount of egg white for it to become an issue, which I don’t recommend doing anyway.
PEANUT BUTTER is a slightly less straightforward one, because the issues surrounding it are true. However, they’re not unique to dogs – they apply to everyone – and they don’t just affect peanuts. Some mass produced crops, like wheat, soy, corn and peanuts are susceptible to naturally-occurring mycotoxins, specifically aflatoxin, which is produced by mould that lives in the soil of these crops. Aflatoxin is indeed a nasty carcinogenic that has been linked to various cancers and other health problems. But we don’t know for certain that the peanut butter we feed is contaminated and, in the scheme of things, small amounts of peanut butter as a treat is pretty low on my list of concerns when we look at how prolific things aflatoxin susceptible things like wheat, corn and soy are in our current food system, including in a vast number of processed pet foods. There have been numerous kibble recalls due to aflatoxins in recent years.
There is also research suggesting that compounds found in chlorophyll (which is what makes green veggies green) can undo some of this damage. If you ask me this is just more evidence that a fresh, varied diet as nature intended exists as a form of symbiosis and is the best option to ensure a long and healthy life.
I was always told growing up that CHEESE is toxic for dogs and should never be fed. I’m not sure where this comes from because DAIRY PRODUCTS are not toxic for dogs. Cheese is definitely not something I recommend feeding in any significant quantity, but it is not toxic. I imagine this myth stems from the common misconception that dogs are lactose intolerant (although intolerance and toxicity are not the same thing) but, contrary to popular belief, dogs are not inherently lactose intolerant. Some are. Just like some humans are. Some aren’t. Mine’s not (neither my dog, nor my human). If your dog experiences an upset tummy or loose stools from eating dairy products, do not feed them. If your dog tolerates dairy then I highly recommend including some fermented products, like probiotic yogurt, kefir and goat’s milk, for nutritional variety and gut health benefits.
I have already written about GARLIC in this blog post about 5 foods that can boost your dog’s health, but it warrants another mention here due to it’s popularity on unsafe food lists, as well as it being the only thing to appear in both this list AND my previous list of foods to avoid. Garlic contains thiosulphate, which is a compound that can cause haemolytic anaemia and damage red blood cells if fed in large quantities. However, in small therapeutic doses garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties, while also making your dog less desirable to fleas.
So there you have it! Myths busted.
If you’d like to learn more about introducing fresh foods to your dog’s diet, join my FREE 5 Day Fresh Food Challenge!