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The Lowdown on Whether Trendy Human Foods Are Good for Dogs

There are some increasingly popular food trends in the human world that target our desire to be healthier, thinner, and prettier. And while we know our pups can’t get any more gorgeous, healthier (and possibly thinner) is our greatest wish for our canine friends.

Avocado: Perhaps the trendiest of all people foods right now, this yummy fruit is packed with healthy fats and over 20 vitamins and minerals. However, avocados also contain persin, a toxin found mostly concentrated in the leaves of the plant, but it’s also present in the seeds, stem, and fruit. Dogs are more resistant than other animals to persin, but that does not mean that avocados are safe for dogs. All parts of the plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and avocados are frequently listed among the top 10 people foods that are dangers for dogs.

Turmeric: This rhizome contains the chemical curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and possibly even anticancer properties. The curcumin in turmeric can be hard for your dog to absorb, however, if it’s given by itself, so it’s important to combine turmeric with a healthy oil like olive or coconut oil. This can increase the absorption significantly. Talk with your veterinarian about beginning this supplement, though, as it may interact with some medications and can be contraindicated in certain disease conditions.

Hempseed Oil: Manufactured from varieties of cannabis sativa that do not contain significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element present in the cannabis plant, hempseed oil is of high nutritional value because of its 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids. This raio matches the balance required by humans and dogs. Anecdotal benefits of hemp for dogs include treatment of pain, arthritis, seizures, anxiety, inappetence, cognitive dysfunction, and more. Many veterinarians are still reticent to recommend as peer-reviewed scientific studies are lacking in this area. I, however, have used it successfully in my own pets and patients for anxiety and arthritis pain, so I’m a believer. Talk with your veterinarian to see if hemp oil may be right for your pet.

Flaxseeds: These seeds have been used for their health benefits since before 3000 B.C. These powerful little seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids (powerful anti-inflammatory fats), lignans (which have estrogen and antioxidant qualities), and both soluble and insoluble fibers. The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseed can help ease symptoms of arthritis, lower blood pressure, improve kidney function, maintain healthy skin and coat in dogs, and potentially even fight cancer. Talk with your veterinarian to see if incorporating flax seed oil into your pet’s diet makes sense.

Coconut Oil: This stuff has been popular for centuries for its beauty benefits, but the fat-burning, cholesterol-lowering, potentially anti-pathogenic and brain-health boosting medium chain triglycerides are what have been responsible for its resurgence in popularity over the last decade. Coconut oil may well be the next great thing, but it’s wise to take into account the healthy skepticism that surrounds it. Before you make the decision to use it for whatever ails your dog, talk to your vet and understand there have been no credible studies proving that coconut oil aids in thyroid dysfunction, weight loss, gum and teeth diseases, or cancer prevention. Additionally, coconut oil does not provide the daily fat requirements that your dog needs (like hempseed or flaxseed oils do). So, for pets, its primary use may just be topically to help improve skin health, and orally to help deliver supplements (like turmeric mentioned above) or medications that require fats to metabolize.

Katy Nelson, D.V.M., is the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show With Dr. Katy” on Washington, D.C.’s news channel 8. She is a certified veterinary journalist accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists and is passionate about health and fitness, striving to help dogs and cats to live the longest, fullest life that they can lead by staying fit and trim.

 Are you a San Francisco Bay Area veterinarian who would like to write an article for the Ask Dr. Dog column, which is authored by guest veterinarians practicing in the Bay Area? Bay Woof is accepting submissions. Send email to


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Main article photo by: Photo by damedeeso-istock