Freshly cooked dog food. Delivered.

Can humans eat dog food?

Can humans live on dog food? It is a question that is googled by many pet owners. Whether it’s because your child accidentally got into fido’s bag of kibble or because you genuinely enjoy the meaty taste of dog food (hey, we don’t judge!), the human safety of dog food piques the curiosity of many dog owners.

The short answer is that most dog food is safe for humans to consume. Dogs and humans eat a lot of the same foods but require different levels of certain nutrients so while dog food may be edible for humans, it may not be something that is safe or sustainable for long term consumption.

Woman holding a bowl of food out to her golden retriever

Differences in nutritional needs of dogs and humans

Upon first glance, dog food may look like a combination of all the ingredients that you may find in human meals. Both dog and human nutrition revolves around 4 main macronutrient categories; protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins/minerals. These nutrients may be the same between dog and human foods, however the balances of these nutrients vary between the two species.

If you take a look at your dog’s food you’re likely to find ingredients like chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, fish, rice, blueberries, peas, lentils and corn. While these may seem like ingredients that you would find on your own plate, they are included at different levels than what humans would normally eat. This is because humans and dogs have different nutritional requirements.

Protein and fat

One of the biggest differences in human and dog nutrition is the amount of protein required by dogs. Both dogs and humans need protein for proper growth and metabolism. Dogs however, require much more protein and a different balance of amino acids in their diet than humans. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), adult dogs require a minimum of 18% crude protein in their diet and puppies require a minimum of 22% crude protein. On average, dog food contains >25% protein. This is significantly more protein than humans require per day, as it is recommended by nutritionists that a human diet not contain more than 15% protein.

Cholesterol is also much more of a concern for humans. While dogs can still experience elevated levels of cholesterol, it is not to the extreme that humans do. There is much more protein and fat in dog food than what would normally be found in a human diet. This means that if a human were to eat dog food, they would be consuming a greater amount of saturated fats. As a result, the risk of elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease and atherosclerosis would increase if a human were to eat dog food long term.

Vitamin C

Humans are one of the only species that requires vitamin C in their diet. Unlike humans, vitamin C is not an essential vitamin for dogs. Dogs can synthesize vitamin C in their liver and do not need it supplemented in their diet. Certain dog foods may contain supplemented vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) but this is usually added as a natural preservative and is not included in all dog food. Without the supplementation of vitamin C, humans cannot repair or maintain various tissues, including skin, bone, teeth and cartilage. Overtime, vitamin C will result in a fatal condition called scurvy, which may be observed as bruising, easy bleeding and joint and muscle pains.

German shepherd balancing an orange on its nose

Can humans eat dog food long term?

Dog food is not toxic to humans so a nibble here and there is not a problem in terms of nutrition. However, due to the differences in nutritional requirements of dogs and humans, it is not recommended that humans consume commercial dog food long term.

Is dog food safe for humans to eat?

It is not only nutritional deficiency that is in question when humans consume dog food, but also the food safety aspect of commercial pet products. Dog food is processed much differently than people food is and may also include a different grade of ingredients that may not be suitable for human consumption. As a result, consuming dog food may put humans at a higher risk for foodborne illnesses.

Human grade versus feed grade ingredients

A major difference between dog food and human food is the grade of the ingredients. The majority of commercial dog food brands utilize what is called feed grade ingredients for their diets. 

Feed grade ingredients are essentially animal and plant ingredients that have been deemed as not fit for human consumption. Ingredients that have been labeled as feed grade are only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Feed grade ingredients are also likely to contain by products like organ meat, bones, cartilage and feathers.

Conversely, human grade ingredients are finished products that have been deemed legally suitable, safe, and approved by a federal inspection agency like the CFIA or FDA for consumption by a human. So while feed grade ingredients are generally safe to feed dogs, they may not be safe for humans.

Potential for foodborne illness

Foodborne pathogens like bacteria and parasites pose a major risk to human health. The most efficient way to eliminate pathogens in food is by cooking or processing food at a temperature higher than 74 degrees celsius. Fortunately, most of the dog food that you would find at the pet store has been cooked to ensure its safety and shelf life. Product forms like kibble, dry dog food, canned food and freshly cooked dog food have all been cooked to ensure that any bacteria that may have been present are dead.

However, there is one type of pet food that still poses a major risk to humans if consumed. Raw dog food has been trending lately due to its link to the ancestral wolf diet and its minimal processing. Since this product form has not been cooked, it carries a significant risk for microbial contamination. This is evident by the number of recalls by the FDA in the raw dog food sector. If a human were to consume raw dog food, they would be subjecting themselves to risk of infection from several pathogens which include:

  • Salmonella (most common)
  • E. Coli
  • Clostridium Botulism 
  • Listeria
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium perfringens
Bowl of dog kibble and a plate of raw cubed meat

Foodborne infection from any of the following bacteria would cause a human to become quite sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and could even result in hospitalization.

Another popular form of raw food that pet owners like to feed their dogs is freeze dried raw. Freeze dried raw food is safer than true raw dog food but it still carries some risk. Even though freeze dried meat contains very little moisture, many studies have shown that freeze drying does not kill 100% of the harmful bacteria that may be in the meat before processing.

Fresh cooked food is safe for humans to eat

Fresh cooked dog food like the recipes from Kabo are safe for humans to eat. All ingredients are 100% human grade, the very same that you would buy for yourself at the grocery store. Furthermore, there is little risk for foodborne illnesses with fresh cooked food as it is cooked to destroy all pathogens. While we wouldn’t recommend eating Kabo long term as our recipes are formulated to meet the needs of dogs and not humans, a little nibble won’t hurt anyone.

Kabo Fresh Cooked Turkey Recipe for dogs

Kabo recipes so closely resemble human food that one of our customers even made her dog's food into a hot lunch by accident: “My husband made us lunch and our dog’s Kabo food (the chicken recipe) in the sandwiches. It did taste great, heated with cheese, bacon, and tomato.” 

Truthfully, many human members of the Kabo team have also taste tested the recipes from time to time during the development of new recipes. Most of them are not too bad but could use a little seasoning to make it more palatable for people!

Toddler and golden retriever puppy eating out of the same dog bowl on the floor
Toddler and golden retriever puppy eating out of the same dog bowl on the floor

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February 20, 2024
5 minutes
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