You sit down with a bowl of jambalaya and Fido looks up at you with those big eyes. He wants a treat! Surely, a little bit won’t hurt, right? The truth is that spicy foods can easily cause your pup a lot of physical discomfort. Before you give Fido a bite, you should understand the impact of spicy foods on dogs.
What Makes Spicy Food Spicy?
The heat in spicy food comes from capsaicin, the ingredient extracted from cayenne and chili peppers. Capsaicin produces a physical response, it wakes up the nervous system, burns our mouths, and makes our eyes water. Anyone who has ever touched their eye after handling a chili pepper can tell you it is an irritant to the skin.
In addition to hot peppers, there are a variety of spices and spice blends that are commonly used to elevate the flavor profile of a spicy dish, depending on the type of cuisine. These include allspice, curry powder, ginger, harissa, wasabi, and many more. Ginger offers health benefits to both dogs and humans as it helps aid digestion and alleviates nausea.
The bottom line: while is no one formula for spicy food when it comes to feeding your dog, it’s generally safer to avoid it. If you choose to feed your dog spicy food, you’ll have to be diligent about the individual ingredients to avoid accidentally giving your dog something harmful. The time and risk simply may not be worth it.
Is Spicy Food Bad for Dogs?
Just like their human companions, dogs have varying degrees of sensitivity to spice and heat. A certain dish might set off a five-alarm fire in one mouth, but not register on the heat-o-meter of another. Oddly enough, for dogs, it has nothing to do with actual taste. It is highly unlikely dogs can even taste “spice”.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs only have around 1,700 taste buds compared to the 9,000 humans have. Dogs taste with their noses more so than their tongues. If it smells delicious, your dog wants to eat it! Even though dogs can’t taste spice the same way you do, spicy food may upset your dog’s stomach and cause digestive issues such as diarrhea or vomiting.
Spicy food is often high in sodium and fat. Diets high in sodium and fat may contribute to serious health conditions in dogs such as heart disease and pancreatitis. Senior dogs are even more susceptible to these conditions.
Eat This, Not That!
If you want to give your dog table food as a special treat, there are lots of foods that provide health benefits to our beloved pets and don’t include spice. Low-fat meats like chicken, turkey, and pork are good sources of protein, just be sure to remove any excess fat and seasonings. Some fruits and vegetables are packed with healthy nutrients and vitamins that dogs need (but be careful, some contain toxins that are harmful to dogs, such as grapes). As a safer alternative to chilis and jalapenos, you can offer your pup vitamin-rich bell peppers, carrots, or apples. It’s best to peel the skin and remove the seeds to prevent choking.
Always consult your veterinarian before including table food in your dog’s diet. While some spicy foods are safe for dogs, the excess flavor isn’t necessary. Why take the risk that your dog may end up with a burning nose and upset stomach? It’s unlikely he can taste all that flavor anyway, and his tummy will thank you for it.
Featured Image Credit: Huahom, Pixabay