Is it safe to feed dogs human food to save money?


Veterinary experts draw a line in the sand

Many consumers continue to prioritize pet spending despite the recent rise in the cost of living. On average, dog owners spend $1,130 annually on their dogs' food, and there's no sign that things are going to get easier on their wallet either.

Datasembly reports that the price of pet food has grown faster and higher than everything else in a grocery store. It’s so bad in the South that pet owners in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky are paying 43% more than they did four years ago.

Researchers – and probably pet parents – at Lemonade decided to get to the bottom of the dog food bowl and find out a little more about diets. The Lemonade'ers found that people who’ve got their pooch on a vegan diet are spending $4,274 annually, six times more than those feeding their dogs a conventional diet. Even Paleo and Keto diets are pricey – $2,554 and $1,553 respectively a year.

Can I give my dog human food to save money?

When the researchers dug a little deeper, they found that those owners are searching the web for ways to save on those costs – asking Mr. Google if their dogs can eat bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples, and oranges (all “yes” by the way).

"What we feed our dogs has become a hotly debated topic in the past few years, especially when it comes to recent trends like the raw diet or even a vegan diet,” Dr. Stephanie Liff, Lemonade Vet Health Expert, told ConsumerAffairs.

Liff cautions that the “Can I give my dog human food to save money” is a loaded question.

“Regardless of what you feed your dog, it's important to incorporate a balance of key components like protein and fat, which can differ based on a dog's breed, size, or age. And when it comes to human foods, always double-check whether or not something is dog-friendly, and treat it as a snack," she notes.

"We too often see dog parents coming in with concerns around toxic foods, like chocolate, avocado, and especially grapes—usually avoidable complications that can result in a hefty vet bill if you don't have pet insurance." 

But what about specialty diets?  

Dr. Amanda Flanagan, the owner and medical director of GoodVets clinic in the Chicago area, expressed concern about the Keto (ketogenic) diet, which is high in fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. She said that if it were her dog, she’d take a hard pass on that diet.

“While there's ongoing research about the potential benefits of such a diet for certain health conditions in humans, the same is just not well-established for pets. In fact, for most pets a high-fat, low-carb diet can be harmful,” Flanagan told ConsumerAffairs. 

“Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements and gastrointestinal tolerances than both their wild relatives and ancestors, as well as humans, and their bodies are adapted to process nutrients differently.”

She doesn’t cut vegan diets any slack, either. 

“Dogs are omnivores, which means their nutrient requirements can and generally should be met from both meat and non-meat sources. In some cases, they can adapt to a plant-based diet, however, this must be done with careful planning, supplementation, and guidance from a veterinarian,” she said.

She also noted that feeding a cat a vegan diet can lead to severe health issues, particularly fatal heart disease.

What dog food brands get high marks from consumers?

Many people consider dogs part of the family. It’s important to feed them a nutritious diet to keep them healthy, but how can we do this without breaking the bank? Which dog food brands are trustworthy and worth the money?

“These days, there are plenty of options when it comes to feeding our canine companions,” Cassidy McCants, ConsumerAffairs’, deputy editor of home services, said. “It all depends on your dog’s particular health needs, their preferences, availability in your area, and what you can afford.”

“If you decide to prepare human food for your dog at home, whether for financial or nutritional reasons, ensure they’re getting the right macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Avoid seasonings, artificial additives and added sugars.”

And if you go the store-bought route, McCants says whatever you do, check those labels: Do you recognize most of the ingredients? Does the bag have an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label to indicate it provides balanced nutrition for your pup?

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