What human food do to our pets’ bodies

A rather amusing little scenario played out in my house a while ago. While preparing dinner, I dropped a cooked brussels sprout. My Chihuahua ran at lightning speed to grab it before I could pick it up. And, seeing the opportunity for a fun game, he refused to give it back even upon offering him a doggy treat. With a determined look on his face he went on to gobble up the whole thing – even though the expression on his face was clear: this thing tastes horrible!

As protective pet parents we immediately went online to see if this would be bad for him, as we so often hear about human foods that could be dangerous for our pets. This made me wonder – are there human foods that our pets can benefit from? Dr Anne Fraser of the Ladybrand Dierekliniek gave us a breakdown of the effects of certain human foods on our pets.

A balanced diet

According to Dr Fraser cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they can’t digest plant material efficiently, and certain important nutrients can only be absorbed from animal flesh. Only if that is kept in mind, should they be fed ‘human food’.

Dogs are carnivores but are able to digest other food as well, so they can eat and thrive on a more varied diet – including a variety of human food.

“Balancing your pet’s diet is an intricate science that most people do not have the time for. That is why it is sensible to feed pet food that was formulated by nutritionists to address the specific dietary needs of your pet according to his age, breed, activity levels and/or ailments,” says Dr Fraser.

“In summary, what is bad for you is most likely worse for your pet, so avoid artificial colourants, sweeteners, preservatives and flavour enhancers (MSG) as much as possible.”

To feed or not?

These foods are used commonly in our kitchens, but can they have any benefit for our pets? They can, but there are also factors such as allergy and intolerance to be cautious of. Animaltalk gives you the pros and cons.


√ Rich in the highest quality protein, vitamins and minerals.

X Egg whites should not be fed raw for long periods as they block the absorption of vitamin A.

Cow and goat’s milk

√ Good for the young or frail; good sources of calcium.

X May cause lactose intolerance and diarrhoea.

Red meat, liver and offal

√ Good sources of protein.

X Check for sharp bones, fat and salt content. Do not feed raw unless bought from a reputable butcher as the meat may harbour parasites.


√ Good source of protein and essential fatty acids.

X Beware of sharp bones and salt content. Never feed fish raw as it blocks the absorption of vitamin B1.


√ Brilliant source of protein; digestible and palatable, especially when your pet is sick.

X Be careful of sharp bones.

Rice and pasta

√ Contain hardly any allergens and are a good way to get the appetite going again after disease.

X Starch contributes to tooth decay. If refined starch is fed, brush those teeth.


√ Glucose is an instant source of energy.

X If sugar is used, the teeth must be brushed to prevent tooth decay. Stay away from sticky sweets for the same reason.

Oil and butter

√ Good sources of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids.

X Be careful not to feed too much as it can cause digestive upsets, pancreatitis and obesity.

Vegetables, nuts and beans

√ Pumpkin absorbs any flavour and can be used as a filler for dogs who need to lose weight. Peanuts are safe – but check the kilojoules! And check for sugar or xylitol in peanut butter.

X Not all nuts are safe. While some legumes, vegetables and fruits are a source of vitamins and minerals, they may cause flatulence.


Human foods you should never give your pet include:

  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Xylitol

Did you know?

According to Dr Fraser some foods are specifically contraindicated in certain disease conditions – for instance spinach for cystic calculi, refined starch for diabetes and oil for pancreatitis. Better be safe than sorry. If your pet is unwell, discuss his diet with your vet – it can save a lot of heartache.


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