Healthy Human Foods That You Can Give Your Puppy as a Treat

Knowing what foods young puppies can eat is a major concern for most, if not all, dog owners. Our canine companions have different digestive systems than us, so it's important to know what you can and can't feed them, no matter how adorably they beg.

Newsweek spoke to two canine experts to find out what are some healthy human foods that you can give to your growing puppy as either a regular or occasional treat.

What to consider before giving your puppy human food

Person feeding vegetables to dog
An image showing a person holding a feeding bowl full of vegetables in front of a dog. According to experts, a puppy’s nutritional requirements can vary hugely even among those that are in the same size group. Getty Images.

According to Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at the American Kennel Club in Chicago, Illinois, dog owners should recognize that by giving their puppy human food, they are setting a precedent that is likely to influence their pet's behavior for the rest of its life.

"If you start giving your puppy human food as treats, they will always expect to have human food as part of their day," he told Newsweek.

Generally, Klein said that the recommendations for giving human foods for puppies is the same as the ones for adult dogs:

  1. Learn which foods are safe and which are toxic
  2. Refrain from giving excessive amounts of any human foods to puppies that may prevent them from eating their regular diet
  3. Be aware of excessive weight gain, gastrointestinal issues or potential tracheal, esophageal, stomach or intestinal obstructions
  4. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian

Moderation is key when it comes to giving puppies treats. According to Alyssa Ralph, Dog Behaviorist and Nutritionist at Your Dog's Club based in Chester, England, a puppy's nutritional requirements can vary hugely even among those that are in the same size group.

She said: "A dog's needs change depending on factors such as how old they are, how active they are, and whether they're pregnant/nursing. As a general rule of thumb, extra treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog's calorie intake each day."

Klein highlighted that all dogs, regardless of age, need a balance of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, essential minerals and vitamins in their diet.

She added: "Obesity is the number one preventable health issue in American dogs today, often caused by giving excessive treats and not enough exercise. Chubby puppies, especially in larger breeds, may be more prone to develop certain medical conditions such as hip dysplasia.

"Store bought dog foods should have the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval, meaning it has been found to be "complete and balanced" for a particular life stage of a puppy or dog."

However, Ralph mentioned that in the UK, all dog food is made from human-grade foods. "Sadly, this rule doesn't apply to many other countries," she added. "Whatever you decide to use, all treats should be used in conjunction with a complete, balanced diet to ensure your pup is healthy and getting all the nutrients they need."

What human foods are safe for puppies?

Person holding strawberry in front of dog
An image showing a person holding strawberry in front of the dog. According to experts, owners should always introduce a new food to their canine companions in small amounts spread over several days and monitor over 24 hours for any adverse signs. Getty Images

Klein shared that the following human foods are safe to give puppies as treats (in moderation) due to being relatively low in both fat and sugar:

  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Cheese (including cottage cheese)
  • Green beans
  • Cooked eggs (without butter)
  • Cooked chicken/turkey (without spices, skin, or bones)
  • Cooked fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel (without bones, spices, or garlic)

Klein notes that owners should always introduce a new food to their canine companions in small amounts spread over several days and monitor over 24 hours for any adverse signs.

Ultimately, however, the selection of food and treats depends on the individual dog, said Klein. "What may be fine for one dog may not [be] for another. The important thing is to make sure no foods given are toxic or can potentially cause health issues," he emphasized.

Although a dog's sense of smell is many times greater than that of a human, Klein revealed that its taste buds are not as developed. "[Smell] influences what they eat, which is why a dog will eat anything from prime rib to garbage," he shared.

"Some prefer the flavor of beef and pork, while studies have shown dogs have a preference for chicken or lamb. Most dogs seem to like the flavor of cheese," Klein told Newsweek. "That strong sense of smell is why dogs prefer foods that have a stronger odor such as warm, moist food over cold or dry foods."

What foods should never be given to puppies?

Dog in front of food that's toxic
An image showing a dog lying in front of food that is considered toxic to canines. “There are a surprisingly large number of human foods that are toxic to dogs,” one expert told Newsweek. Getty Images.

Contrary to common belief, "natural is not necessarily equal to safe", said Klein.

"There are a surprisingly large number of human foods that are toxic to dogs," he told Newsweek. "The most common toxic foods include grapes, raisins, chocolate, garlic and onions, macadamia nuts and avocados."

According to Klein, puppy owners should beware of products that contain xylitol, a sweetener often found in some flavored ice creams, peanut butter, yogurts, sugar-free gum and sugar-free baked goods.

Foods that can potentially result in choking hazards or gastrointestinal obstructions in puppies should also be high on the list of "don'ts", including corn-on-the-cob, fruit rinds, fruit pits and apple cores. "It's important to never give [them] meat bones," Klein added.

In addition to foods that are widely known to be toxic to puppies, dog owners must also take into account individuality and preference. "Every dog is an individual and may respond in a different manner from another puppy or dog," said Klein.

Ralph mentioned that there has been a fair amount of research to determine whether puppies and adult dogs differ in how well they digest their food. "There isn't really a consensus," she said. "Because of this, it's best to work out how your own individual dog tolerates a new food each time."

Klein highlighted that while puppy diets don't differ from those of adult canines, as dogs age their systems can actually become more sensitive and less able to tolerate certain ingredients.

"Changes in diet, too much human food and too much fatty food can lead to problems such as pancreatitis, diabetes, or altered immune conditions such as allergies or food sensitivities," he said. "As a dog matures, certain medical conditions may arise dictating dietary decisions: diabetes, pancreatitis, allergic conditions or food sensitivities."