Run out of dog food? You’re not alone! Many pet owners have faced an empty dog food cupboard due to busy schedules, forgetfulness, or tight budgets. Fortunately, in a pinch, your dog can safely enjoy various human foods from your fridge and pantry.
If you have run out of dog food, your dog can enjoy a range of proteins, e.g., beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, and eggs. Dogs can also eat carbs such as rice, pasta, potatoes, and some dairy like yogurt and cheese. Fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and peas are also safe.
Okay, That’s the short answer. Let’s go over exactly what you need to know when putting an emergency meal together for your dog. We’ll cover the following:
- Key Pre-Feeding Considerations
- Safe Foods for Your Dog
- Foods to Avoid
- Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas
- Tips to Prevent Future Dog Food Shortages
Remember, while the “human foods” and recipes suggested are safe for your dog, they should only be temporary solutions. They aren’t fully nutritionally balanced like regular dog food.
So, if you’re wondering what to feed your dog when you’ve run out of dog food, you’ve found the perfect guide!
Let’s get to it!
Essential Considerations Before Feeding Emergency Dog Food Alternatives
Before diving into exactly what you can and can’t feed your dog, we need to consider the essential safety rules, as your dog’s digestive system is vastly different from humans.
Before feeding your best friend an emergency meal, bear in mind the following:
- Meats should be cooked unless your dog is used to a raw diet. Ensure the meat is lean and free of bones, as small bones can easily splinter and cause injury or choking. Avoid processed meats such as sausage, ham, and bacon, as they contain high amounts of salt or seasoning.
- Cook all fish as it can contain bacteria. Don’t add additional oils or seasonings, and remove all bones. Longer living fish species such as mackerel and tuna may contain high amounts of mercury, so feed sparingly if you opt for these types.
- Most vegetables should be cooked. Dogs will find cooked veggies easier to digest. However, some can be given raw such as carrots and green beans.
- Remove pits from fruits. Stone fruits such as nectarines, peaches, and plums contain toxic cyanide traces in the pits, which are also choking hazards.
- Dogs with lactose intolerance should not eat dairy products. Your dog may be able to tolerate some foods and not others. For example, my dog can eat cheese and plain yogurt, but she cannot handle the tiniest amount of heavy cream.
- Avoid giving dogs too much fat or salt. Excessive sodium or fat can cause stomach upset and cause vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Don’t feed raw eggs. Most veterinarians advise cooking eggs before feeding them to your dog due to the risk of salmonella, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and weakness.
So now we have the “dont’s” when feeding your pup “people food,” let’s investigate what foods your dog can safely eat when your pet food supplies have run dry.
What Can I Feed My Dog If I Ran Out of Dog Food?
Although dogs metabolize foods differently from people, many “human foods” are perfectly safe and healthy for dogs to eat. Here are the best foods to feed your dog when you’ve run out of dog food.
|Pork||Potatoes (cooked)||Green Beans|
|Peanut Butter (Organic)|
The below proteins are excellent for dogs who need a minimum of 22% protein during growth stages and 18% protein as adults.
Dogs can eat beef. Dogs need a high-protein diet to provide the energy they need, and beef contains essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to give your dog healthy joints, muscles, skin, and a shiny coat.
Ensure the meat is lean, plain, and with no salt or seasoning before feeding.
You should cook all meat you give your dog unless he is used to a raw diet and the food is hygienically prepared. A few shredded pieces will go down a treat and can always be part of your dog’s meal when you’ve run out of dog food.
Your dog can eat chicken, and as a high-protein food, it provides your dog with lots of energy. It’s also a great source of Omega 6 fatty acids and is good for the skin and coat. Chicken also contains glucosamine for healthy bones and essential amino acids.
Ensure the chicken is plain and avoid the skin as this is high in fat. Also, don’t feed raw chicken due to the risk of salmonella unless your dog is accustomed to a raw diet.
Never feed cooked chicken bones, as these are fragile and can break in your dog’s mouth, causing nasty injuries. They can also cause your dog to choke.
Your dog can eat pork as long as it’s cooked and free from seasonings and spices. This high-protein food is rich in many vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc and contains nine essential amino acids for your dog’s growth and maintenance.
You shouldn’t give raw pork to your dog as it contains a parasite, trichinella spiralis larvae, that can cause trichinosis resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, or chills. You should remove all fat, as too much fat can lead to an upset stomach.
Avoid cooked pork bones as they are very brittle and can splinter into sharp pieces in your dog’s mouth or lower down his digestive tract. Pork bones are also a choking risk.
Processed pork meats, such as bacon, ham, and sausage, should also not be given to your dog due to their high salt content.
Dogs can eat salmon. Salmon is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids that keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy, support his immune system, and reduce inflammation. It is a high source of protein found in many top-quality dog foods and is an excellent substitute in an emergency.
Never feed raw salmon, and ensure it’s thoroughly cooked as it contains parasites that can cause poisoning. Also, make sure it has no bones, so it’s best to choose a boneless fillet if you decide to give your dog some of this tasty “people” food.
Dogs can eat tuna fish, an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart and eye health and make your dog’s coat shiny.
Tuna also contains many healthy vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, B12, B6, iron, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.
One thing to note is that there is often mixed opinion about whether dogs should eat tuna due to its higher mercury levels than other fish.
However, as with most human foods you give to your dog, moderation is key, and a little tuna in an emergency will not cause harm.
If feeding a small amount of canned tuna, ensure it comes in water with no added salt.
Dogs can eat turkey. This high-protein food contains vitamins, including vitamin B, thiamine, and riboflavin. It’s also loaded with minerals, including zinc, phosphorous, and selenium, to help regulate metabolism.
It’s no wonder this high-energy food is a prevalent ingredient in commercial pet foods. Therefore cooked turkey is excellent to give your dog when you’re out of regular dog food.
Turkey breast is healthier as the legs contain more fat – and don’t feed the skin as it’s also high in fat. Ensure no bones are in the meat, as cooked bones can easily splinter in your dog’s mouth, and they’re a choking hazard.
Dogs can eat eggs. They are an excellent source of protein and are loaded with healthy vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. Eggs are best cooked first before feeding your dog as there is a risk of salmonella in raw eggs – although this risk is low.
You can even further minimize this risk by using free-range eggs and storing them in a cool, dry place.
Eggs have the perfect balance of nutrients. Despite the controversy around eggs decades ago, scientists have since concluded that their high levels of dietary cholesterol are NOT associated with heart disease and that saturated fat has a far more significant effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Peanut Butter (Organic)
Dogs can eat peanut butter, a nutritionally well-rounded food containing protein, healthy fats, and fiber. It also has various minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins E and B, and is a good source of folic acid.
One caveat is that peanut butter must be organic and not contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. It should only really be used as a high-value treat as it includes a lot of fat and is calorific, but if you’re limited to other foods in a pinch, then it is perfectly okay.
Aim to add a small number of carbohydrates to your dog’s meal.
Dogs can eat pasta as long as it’s cooked and given plain. Although high in carbs, it does provide nutrition, and whole grain is typically healthier. A little pasta with some simple chicken is an excellent meal for your pup.
Avoid pasta sauces as they usually contain garlic and onions, both poisonous to dogs. Dogs with a wheat allergy or a sensitivity to grains or eggs shouldn’t eat pasta.
The below photo is of my dog Willow with a massive plate of pasta in front of her. Of course, she can’t have all that, just a tiny amount!
Dogs can eat plain white rice. However, brown whole-grain rice is a healthier option. Rice is an excellent source of calcium, fiber, iron, vitamin D, thiamine, and riboflavin.
As it is often added to dog food anyway, it goes without saying it’s an excellent quick-fix substitute.
Like pasta, a little cooked rice will go a long way to making a great off-the-cuff meal in a crisis. It’s easy for dogs to digest; hence it is often given with chicken to dogs with diarrhea, but as a carbohydrate, you must feed it in moderation.
Dogs can eat potatoes as long as they are cooked. This starchy vegetable contains vitamins, including vitamins C and B6, minerals, fiber, and potassium, to fight disease and aid digestion.
They provide lots of energy, but as a high carbohydrate food, feed sparingly and balance it with a protein source.
When giving potatoes to your dog, you should remove the skin and thoroughly cook them. Raw potato (or if the potato is green on the outside) contains solanine, a toxic compound; however, the cooking process entirely removes this danger.
You can mash, bake, or boil them but don’t add butter or salt.
Dogs can eat bread as long as it’s plain white or brown. However, you should only feed it now and again as it is high in carbohydrates and calories and has little nutritional value being low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
A few pieces of bread can temporarily substitute dog food if your dog isn’t sensitive to wheat. But don’t let your dog eat any uncooked yeast dough if you make your bread at home, as it can rise in the stomach and cause severe problems, from GDV (bloat) to alcohol toxicosis from the fermented yeast.
Dogs can eat oatmeal. This staple food is high in fiber and contains nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also contains linolic acid that helps to keep your dog’s skin healthy.
Mix the oatmeal with water instead of milk, as some dogs can’t tolerate milk, and serve cooked without butter or syrup. Your dog will enjoy one or two spoonfuls but remember, this food is a carbohydrate and is high in calories, so feed it in moderation.
A small amount of plain boiled noodles is a safe human food for dogs. Noodles are made with soft flour milled from common (bread) wheat mixed with water or eggs.
Although not high in nutrients, they contain micronutrients such as iron, folate, manganese, and B vitamins.
Noodles are not the healthiest of foods for dogs but are okay in moderation. Chop them up into small pieces, add to some plain cooked chicken or beef, and you have a good dog food substitute.
You can use the veggies below to add to your doggo’s emergency meal.
Dogs can eat broccoli in small quantities. It’s high in fiber and vitamin C and is excellent for the immune system. Broccoli also helps protect against heart disease and supports healthy skin and bones.
The only downside of broccoli is that it contains a chemical that can cause significant gas in some dogs! If you are feeding the stalks, make sure you cut them into small pieces.
Dogs can eat carrots, which are excellent, either cooked or raw. They are low in fat and contain high amounts of fiber and potassium. They also contain beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A, which is good for healthy eyes, bones, and the immune system.
Raw or frozen carrots are also perfect for giving a teething puppy. My dog loves crunching on a raw carrot, which helps clean her teeth. I think carrots are one of the best “people” foods you can give your dog, and most people will usually find them in the pantry to add to a homemade doggy meal.
Dogs can eat green beans. They are highly nutritious and are good for overall health. Green beans contain many vital vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are low in calories. It’s best to cut them up into small pieces to prevent choking and aid digestion.
Most dogs will love green beans, and you can also give your dog canned green beans as long as they don’t contain salt or other additives.
Dogs can eat parsnips. They are excellent vegetables to feed your dog as they contain lots of potassium, folic acid, and vitamins C and B6. They are also good for healthy kidney function, support your dog’s nervous system and metabolism, and contain antioxidants to help fight cancer.
Parsnips are better cooked when added to a meal, but you can give them raw as long as you chop them into small pieces.
Make sure to feed sparingly, though, as parsnips are quite starchy (like other root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots).
Dogs can eat peas. Peas are good for boosting energy levels being starchy carbohydrates. They are good for the eyes, heart, and skin and contain vitamins such as vitamins A, K, and B. Peas also contain iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Peas are excellent human food that you can quickly and easily add to some protein. They are also gentle on your dog’s digestive system. Fresh or frozen peas are okay, but avoid the canned variety due to their high salt content.
Dogs can eat pumpkins, including their seeds. Nutritionally, they are loaded with a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, potassium, and iron, and contain a high amount of the antioxidant beta-carotene.
They’re full of insoluble and soluble fiber and are, therefore, suitable if your dog is constipated or has diarrhea.
Cooked pumpkin is preferred as your dog will have difficulty digesting it raw. It can be mashed and effortlessly added to your dog’s emergency meal ingredients. As it’s low in calories, it’s also great for overweight dogs.
When you replace your kibble, some owners like to reduce it and add some pumpkin.
Dogs can eat sweet potatoes. They are good for your dog’s overall health, contain beta-carotene, which is good for growth and vision, are a natural source of fiber, and contain vitamins such as C, B6, E, and A. They are also more nutritious than white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes should be cooked (and the skin removed) before feeding them to your dog. You can bake, mash, or puree them. Due to their nutritional value, they are a popular source of carbohydrates in high-quality dog foods.
As sweet potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate, they are probably best avoided if your dog is overweight, less active, or diabetic.
You can add the following fruits to a homemade dog’s dinner.
Dogs can eat apples. They are a good source of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and C, essential for maintaining healthy bones and tissue. Most dogs like the crunchy texture and the sweet taste of apples, which also helps keep their teeth clean and freshen their breath.
Cut the apple into small pieces, and don’t feed the seeds or cores.
Dogs can eat bananas. They are high in potassium, supporting kidney and heart functions, and high in vitamins, biotin, fiber, and copper. They are also low in sodium. However, bananas are high in sugar, so feed sparingly.
Don’t feed the peel, as it’s hard for your dog to digest.
Dogs can eat strawberries. They are full of fiber, vitamin C, and Omega-3 and are good for skin and coat health. They are high in antioxidants that slow the aging process and strengthen the immune system. Strawberries also contain a teeth-whitening enzyme.
My dog loves strawberries and would eat them all day long – if I let her!
Dogs can eat raspberries. They are low in sugar and calories and contain fiber, manganese, vitamins C and K, and antioxidants. Raspberries are good for improving your dog’s overall health and boosting the immune system, and with their anti-inflammatory properties, they help joints making them ideal for older dogs.
The only drawback is that raspberries contain a small amount of toxic xylitol in high dosages. However, a large dog would have to eat over 30 cups of raspberries to be in any danger! As they do contain a small amount of natural sugar, feed sparingly.
Dogs can eat cantaloupe. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and potassium. It is also high in antioxidant qualities to promote healthy cell function and help to reduce the risk of serious diseases such as cancer and arthritis.
Cantaloupe is low in calories and high in water content, making it a pleasant and refreshing treat for your dog. It is high in natural sugars, so only feed one or two pieces, and remember to remove the seeds and rind.
Dogs can eat pears. They are high in potassium, copper, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, K, and fiber, reduce the risk of strokes, and have anti-cancer properties due to their antioxidants. Vitamin K is known for increasing bone density.
Pears contain a high amount of sugar, so feed sparingly and remove the core and seeds to prevent poisoning, choking, and possible digestive blockages.
Dogs can eat blackberries, and they offer incredible health benefits. Blackberries contain many valuable antioxidants that prevent or slow down cell damage and strengthen the immune system.
They are full of vitamin C and fiber and are low in sugar, making them kind to teeth.
It’s never a good idea to include dairy foods as the main component of your dog’s diet, even if your doggo isn’t lactose intolerant. However, when you’re caught short and don’t know what to feed your dog, you can add a small amount of the below dairy foods to his meal.
Dogs can eat cheese. This high-value protein treat is a great human food that your dog will love. Cheese is full of nutrients, including calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A and B12. However, it is high in calories and fat, so you should only feed it in moderation.
Many owners use tiny pieces of cheese as training treats, and I love feeding my dog pieces of mild cheddar for a well-deserved treat. Healthier options are low-fat varieties or cottage cheese, but my dog turns her nose up at these!
Warning! Some dogs may be unable to tolerate cheese due to its lactose, so you will need to experiment first. Also, don’t feed blue cheese and other “moldy” cheese, as the mold produces a mycotoxin poisonous to dogs.
Dogs can drink milk. Milk contains high amounts of calcium, which is good for healthy teeth and bones. It’s also fortified with vitamin D and contains potassium (good for the heart), essential amino acids, nourishing vitamins, minerals, and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
A few tablespoons of either cow’s or goat’s milk are safe, enjoyable foods for your dog.
Check out the above photo of my dog enjoying a small amount of milk. However, as in all dairy foods, try it first to see if your dog isn’t lactose intolerant.
Dogs can eat yogurt. Yogurt is high in calcium and protein and can act as a probiotic, so it’s excellent for your dog’s digestive system. As with all dairy foods, some dogs cannot endure yogurt, so you must first experiment with a small amount.
There are two types of yogurt that your dog can eat. These are Greek yogurt and low-fat, plain, natural yogurt. Ensure the yogurt doesn’t have artificial sweeteners (xylitol) or added sugar and fat, and only feed a tablespoon or two to prevent a tummy upset.
What Can Dogs Not Eat?
When throwing together a homemade meal for your dog, some foods are unsafe and can cause harm. Here are the main foods that dogs can not eat.
|Food||Reasons Your Dog Should Not Eat It|
|Onion||Onion can kill red blood cells in a dog. Even onion powder in a broth can have this effect.|
|Garlic||Garlic can make your dog anemic. Make sure any food you prepare contains no garlic flavor.|
|Chocolate||Theobromine and caffeine in chocolate and chocolate-adjacent products are toxic to dogs.|
|Sweeteners||Products like peanut butter may have xylitol, which can drop a dog’s blood sugar. Ensure you choose organic.|
|Grapes & Raisins||The biological cause of grape toxicity is yet to be discovered. Still, enough cases of canine kidney failure following grape consumption have been documented to keep them on the “must avoid” list.|
|Nuts||Nuts in excess can lead to vomiting and tremors. Macadamia and black walnuts are the worst at this.|
|Cooked bones||These can cause constipation because a dog’s stomach cannot digest cooked bones. Raw bones are fair game, though, as long as they’re wider than the muzzle.|
|Avocado||The avocado skin can result in episodes of vomiting, so your dog should be kept away from this fruit.|
|Fruit pits||When you feed fruit to your dog, you need to make sure that you remove the pits as they can block your dog’s intestines or cause choking.|
You can find a more comprehensive list of foods toxic to dogs at the Pet Poison Helpline.
Quick and Easy Recipes
So now you have a list of the primary human foods your dog can safely eat. Check your cupboards to find the ingredients you need for the below quick and easy recipes to muster up a meal for your doggo in no time.
Turkey and Brown Rice Blast!
This favorite of mine will make 10 cups of homemade dog food in a pinch. You can make this meal in around 25 minutes, and it’s really simple to make. Remember, it’s not nutritionally complete, but it is a great starting point.
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 2 cups brown rice
- 16-ounce pack of frozen peas and carrots
- 6 cups water
Place the ground turkey, rice, and water into a large cooking pot. Stir the mixture until the ground turkey is broken up and distributed evenly. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Finally, add the frozen peas and carrots, and cook for another 5 minutes. Cool before serving and refrigerate the remainder.
Beef and Brown Rice Bonanza!
My dog loves this concoction, and the eggs give her added protein and variety. You can use white rice if you don’t have any brown. This simple recipe will make about 13 cups and takes around 30 minutes.
- 2 pounds of cooked ground lean beef
- 6 cups cooked brown rice (3 cups uncooked rice)
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
- 3 medium-sized carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
Cook the eggs, rice, and beef separately. Combine all of the ingredients in a large container and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate in between feedings.
Let’s Wrap This Up!
Here are the key takeaways from the article:
- Before you put together a meal, be aware of which foods are safe for dogs and which ones to avoid.
- There’s a good chance you have everything you need to make your dog a meal or two if you run out of dog food.
- Given that they are not as nutritionally complete or balanced as commercial dog food, human meals for dogs are not long-term solutions.
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