THE BLOG

Dogs: Food for Thought

01/09/2014 16:20 BST | Updated 01/11/2014 09:59 GMT

As a canine dietician, one of the most common errors I see dog owners make is feeding their pet the wrong foods.

It's so easy to give your dog leftovers or spoil them with treats that could upset their stomachs and unfortunately some owners don't find out until it's too late.

It is important to remember that although dogs are part of the family they have completely different digestive systems to humans and some foods we class as healthy can be toxic.

I nursed my rescue dog Elmo back to health after vets told me the most humane thing to do was to have him put down. I ditched the processed pet foods and after lots of research, started cooking him bespoke meals from scratch.

The experience eventually led me to training to become a canine dietary specialist and launching my own business, Elmo's Kitchen.

There are some foods that dog owners should avoid at all costs including chocolate, sweets, grapes and onions.

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Top 10 Foods to avoid

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is a big no-no. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous, but any chocolate can kill a dog, even white chocolate.

2. Sweets, chewing gum and diet foods containing Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free foods such as sweets, chewing gum and diet foods. The Xylitol content of these products can vary widely but significant amounts can cause acute and life threatening low blood sugar as well as liver failure.

3. Grapes and Raisins

I have seen people use grapes and raisins as treats for their dog but that is a very bad idea, as a handful can be fatal.

4. Caffeine

One or two laps of a drink containing caffeine are unlikely to be poisonous but an ingested tea bag may cause death in a small dog.

5. Macadamia Nuts

Never feed macadamia nuts or foods containing them as they are toxic to dogs. Eating as few as six nuts is enough to make your dog ill.

6. Alcohol

Dogs are much smaller than humans, and so the amount of alcohol it takes to cause harm is much less than for a human. Keep it well out of their reach.

7. Fruit pips and seeds

Pips and seeds contain cyanide and can cause digestive blockage. Large pips such as avocado stones can get stuck in the oesophagus, stomach or intestinal tract.

8. Table Scraps

I have no problem with sharing table scraps that are safe and healthy for your dog, but often they contain high levels of fat. Too much fat can cause pancreatitis and obesity, which can be life threatening or have long-term consequences.

9. Cooked bones

Cooked bones should never be fed to your dog as they can perforate the oesophagus, stomach or intestines and cause blockages along the digestive tract.

10. Onions

Onions contain a chemical that can damage your dog's red blood cells and cause anaemia, weakness and breathing difficulties. Don't ever give your dog raw, powdered, dehydrated or cooked onions or anything containing onions.

There are some foods that are great for your dog. Here's my top 10.

1. Egg

A boiled egg is a great source of very digestible protein, especially for dogs prone to digestive upset.

2. Fish

Oily fish is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids which boosts the immune system and can be beneficial for allergies, skin and coat.

3. Kale and Spinach

Kale and Spinach are both excellent sources of antioxidant and help the liver detoxify the body.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli is loaded with vitamins and nutrients but only feed your dog a small amount, no more than 5% of their daily diet.

5. Carrots

A crunchy source of antioxidants and other nutrients, carrots are the most underrated vegetable. Carrots contain an array of vitamins that will help your dog's heart function, reduce the risk of cancer and support eye health.

5. Sweet potato

Sweet potato is full of antioxidants, promotes a healthy heart and keeps your dog's immune system strong.

6. Ricotta cheese

This is low in lactose and has a good ratio of calcium to phosphorus which is great for your dog's health.

7. Blueberries raspberries and blackberries

These little berries are filled with great antioxidants, can aid heart function, help fight cancer and have anti-inflammatory benefits.

8. Apple

Packed with nutrients apples are thought to protect against some types of cancer but make sure you don't feed your pet the core.

9. Quinoa

This little gluten free seed is a powerhouse of nutrients and a great replacement for grains.

10. Banana

Feeding a small piece of Banana to your dog can sooth their gastrointestinal tract and can also be used to treat a minor upset.