Dogs, unlike their feline counterparts, are known for having healthy and indiscriminate appetites. They'll happily and hastily gobble up any morsels that fall from kitchen counters or make off with any unattended snacks from human plates, and they'll beg ever so sweetly for just a little taste of whatever you're munching on.
Knowing which foods are safe to share with your dog and which may be potentially harmful can mean the difference between a happy bonding moment and an emergency trip to the vet.
So, in a world with a growing population of humans choosing plant-based options and vegan foods over meatier, animal-based ones, it's good to arm yourself with knowledge on what is safe to share with your canine companion.
Plant-based Milk Alternatives
Plant-based milk alternatives are enjoying immense popularity. Not just by those lactose-intolerant humans who need to avoid cow's milk, but those who choose to live a vegan lifestyle or aim for a healthier diet. Supermarket shelves are filled with an overwhelming variety of new plant-based milk alternatives – but are these safe to share with your dog?
Most animals don't require milk in their diet once they've been weaned. As a result, many dogs are lactose intolerant and will experience gastric upset from consuming animal milk. If you're willing to give them some plant-based milk, which of the many alternatives is good?
Can dogs drink soy milk?
The answer to this question isn't a simple 'yes' or 'no.'
Let's break it down. Soy milk is generally considered safe for dogs as an occasional treat. It's quite high in calories, so while dogs can have soy milk, it shouldn't be given too frequently as this can cause weight gain.
It should be noted that soy is a common food allergen among dogs, so if you're trying it out for the first time, start with a small amount and keep a close eye on your pooch for signs of allergy. These include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive licking, and repeated ear infections.
Check ingredient labels of your soy milk for dogs carefully. Many brands are sweetened, which is cause for concern for a few reasons. If the milk is sweetened with sugar, it can lead to tooth decay and weight gain. If the milk is sweetened with artificial sweeteners, beware! Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs and can lead to several serious health issues and even death.
Signs that your dog may have consumed xylitol include vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and weakness. If you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol, it's best to get them to a vet as soon as possible.
Can dogs have almond milk?
Almond milk is considered safe for dogs as an occasional snack. It's reasonably high in calories, so your dog should not have almond milk too often to avoid weight gain.
Check the ingredient label to ensure that the almond milk you choose doesn't contain too much sugar, which is bad for your dog's teeth, or xylitol, which is extremely dangerous for dogs to consume.
Other ingredients like preservatives, stabilizers, and additives are also best avoided. Flavorings should also be avoided, especially chocolate, as this is toxic to your dog.
Almond milk, while not dangerous to your dog, offers very little value for your dog's health. Can dogs drink almond milk? Sure. Should they? Well, let's just say that they can live quite happily without it. At best, almond milk for dogs is just an expensive addition of calories into their diet with significantly fewer health benefits.
It is also not recommended for puppies. If you're hand-rearing a small puppy, it's best to purchase a specifically formulated milk substitute for puppies that will provide the pup with all the nutrients they need to thrive. No other milk will have all the proper nutrients necessary for a growing puppy, not plant-based milk or milk from other animals will do.
Can dogs have coconut milk?
Coconut milk is not harmful to dogs and may even offer some health benefits. These benefits include improving your dog's immune system, adding shine to its coat, and improving its breath.
Once again, it's essential to check the ingredients. Many brands of coconut milk are heavily processed and can contain various additives and preservatives that aren't good to give your dog. Aim for the purest coconut milk you can find.
As coconut milk is high in fat, and therefore calories, it's advisable to give this to your dog in moderation. Too much coconut milk for dogs, and your dog can quickly gain weight or develop pancreatitis. Not to mention that if your dog consumes too much fat, it's likely to cause some gastric symptoms like gas and diarrhea.
Other coconut products can be helpful as well, including coconut water and coconut oil. The latter must be used very sparingly to avoid gastric upset and weight gain.
Can dogs have oat milk?
Oat milk offers a few nutritional benefits for your dog and can be given in moderation. While it does contain some vital nutrients like Vitamin B, if your dog is consuming a healthy and balanced diet, it is likely unnecessary to seek further supplementation from oat milk.
But overall, pure, unsweetened oat milk in small quantities is harmless for dogs and won't cause any problems.
That said, oat milk is high in fiber, and if your pooch gets too much fiber, it can cause some upset in their gastrointestinal tract, which will resolve itself in due course. But on a positive note, if your pup lacks fiber in a daily diet, adding a few spoons of oat milk won't harm.
Can dogs have rice milk?
Any dog owner knows that the water that rice has been boiled in is a wonder cure if your dog has an upset tummy. But what about rice milk for dogs? Is it okay to share your rice milk with your canine?
Sure! Rice milk can be safely given to your dog in small doses. It doesn't offer your pooch much nutritional benefits, so in the end, it's just adding carbs to your dog's diet. Still, it won't harm your dog if given as an occasional treat.
Again, check for nasty sweeteners or added sugar, and make sure to keep the portions small and infrequent.
Can dogs drink cashew milk?
Cashews are technically safe for dogs. Though very rare, dogs can be allergic to cashews, and usually, the allergy is quite serious. If you try cashews or cashew products with your dog, keep a close eye on your dog for signs of allergy mentioned above.
Speaking of cashew milk, one should remember that it should be no more than an occasional treat. Regular consumption of this and other plant-based kinds of milk leads to the increased calorie intake, which is not always beneficial for your pup. When choosing cashew milk for your dog, choose unsweetened varieties and those with fewer preservatives and additives.
A note on nuts
Not all nuts and nut products are good for dogs. In addition to the variety of nut milk available on supermarket shelves, there's also a host of delicious nut butter to try too. Still, while some nuts are fine to share with your dog (even though they may be high in fat), some can be disastrous and potentially lethal to your dog. Check out this list of which nuts are safe for dogs and which aren't.
Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores, which means that they derive their nutrition from both plant and animal sources in the wild. Therefore, an ideal diet for a dog will contain some plants – fruit, vegetables, legumes, and grains.
Some plant-based foods are highly beneficial to your dog, adding valuable micronutrients and fiber to their diet, but others can be hazardous. Avocados, macadamia nuts, raisins, and grapes all seem innocent enough. In fact, they can be very dangerous to share with your dog. Just because something's healthy for humans doesn't make it so for dogs.
Can dogs eat tofu?
Tofu is a product made from soy. If your dog has shown sensitivity to soy milk or has a soy allergy, tofu is not a suitable snack. When your pup is trying soy for the first time, keep an eye out for the symptoms of a soy allergy which can include vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, excessive licking, repeated ear infections, and others.
Tofu has a very plain taste and is often prepared with various flavorsome additions which impart their flavor on the tofu. Before giving tofu to your dog, ensure that it hasn't been prepared in any spices or herbs or contains any other ingredients that may be harmful to your dog, such as garlic or onions.
While tofu is generally high in protein, the protein it contains does not fully cover your dog's protein needs. As a result, tofu should never be the main ingredient in a dog's diet. Chicken, beef, fish, and other animal meats can offer your dog a much better macronutrient profile more suited to your dog's nutritional needs.
On the upside, tofu is quite low in carbs and fat and makes a much healthier alternative for a snack, especially in dogs that need to lose a few pounds.
Unfortunately, tofu is also known for causing dogs to bloat, which can be very dangerous. It can be more than simply gas and can cause twisting of the stomach, which must be treated as soon as possible. Some of the most common symptoms of bloat include vomiting, a distended and hard abdomen, drooling, and difficulty breathing.
Can dogs have soy sauce?
While soy milk and other soy products are generally safe for dogs unless an allergy is present, can dogs eat soy sauce?
Because of the high sodium content of soy sauce, it is not advisable to give it to dogs. Should your dog consume more than a teaspoon of soy sauce and have no access to water, they could experience salt poisoning and even kidney damage as a result.
If you suspect your dog has consumed a large amount of soy sauce, look out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, frequent urination, and tremors or seizures, and make sure that your dog has access to lots of water to help them replenish fluids and flush the salt out. It's best to give your vet a call in this instance just to be sure.
In general, high sodium foods are always discouraged as they can cause severe issues with blood pressure. If your dog has a known heart or kidney condition, avoid giving your dog food with high salt content.
Can dogs eat falafel?
For those who are unfamiliar, falafel originates from the Middle East. Made from ground chickpeas and herbs rolled into balls and deep-fried, these golden orbs go well in wraps, sandwiches, salads, or just on their own.
The question is, can dogs have falafel?
Along with soybeans and black beans, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are the safer varieties of beans for dogs to eat, especially when eaten plain and without any additional ingredients.
While chickpeas on their own are not harmful to dogs, when made into a falafel, that changes. Falafel usually contains garlic and onions and so would not be suitable for dogs to eat. Garlic and onions should never be given to dogs as they can cause severe anemia. Other spices often included in falafel can cause stomach upset in your dog.
Similarly, hummus should never be given to dogs if it contains garlic and lemon juice which are both unsuitable for dogs to consume.
Can dogs eat tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented, savory soy product that is often used as a high-protein meat substitute. It's a versatile product that's popular in vegan and vegetarian cooking.
As with tofu, it's necessary to check the ingredient list of your tempeh to make sure that ingredients such as onions and garlic haven't been included. If not, then a tiny amount of tempeh given to your dog as an occasional treat should be fine.
As we've mentioned, though, soy is a common allergen in dogs and may be unsuitable for your pup if they show signs of allergy. It's important to always start off with tiny portions when introducing new food to your dog.
Final Thoughts on Vegan Foods and Plant-Based Milk Alternatives
While dogs are considered omnivores, this does not mean that all plants will be good for your dog. Soy products like tofu and tempeh are usually fine for dogs unless they contain garlic and onions. Then they can become potentially harmful to your pup.
When it comes to milk alternatives and plant-based milk, remember that past weaning, your dog doesn't have a nutritional need for milk at all and can live quite happily and healthily without any form of milk – dairy or plant-based. Any inclusion of milk and milk substitutes in an already balanced canine diet is unnecessary and entirely voluntary.
But if you wish to share your plant milk with your dog, there are a few things to consider. Sweetened plant milk can lead to weight gain and tooth decay, and in the case of artificial sweeteners, always avoid giving your dog products that contain xylitol, as this is extremely dangerous for dogs.
Be always conscious of the fat content of the foods you give your dog. High-fat foods are not only unhealthy for you but for your pooch too, causing your dog to rapidly gain weight if consumed too often. Over the long term, a diet high in fat can lead to pancreatitis and other health concerns. High sodium foods should also be given to your dog with caution.
As always, if you have any concerns about your dog's diet or nutrition, it's always best to rely on your veterinarian to guide you. Drastically changing your dog's diet is not advisable without proper guidance and should never be undertaken lightly.