Can dogs eat spicy food, and what exactly can they taste?

So, you love sharing ‘people food’ with dogs. You also love spicing up your meals or snacks — and sometimes, you think your pooch might also enjoy the flavors. Well, not so fast. Adding a pinch of garlic or chili powder to your dog’s dinner may cause health problems. It’s important to remember that our pets have different nutritional needs than we do, and our bodies react differently to food.

For example, while eating garlic may boost a human’s immune system, canines who eat garlic could develop anemia. Veterinary experts caution that feeding spicy foods to dogs can cause diarrhea, vomiting, gas, stomach pain, and pancreatitis. And according to PetMD, too much nutmeg causes hallucinations and a high heart rate in dogs.

dog looking into grocery bags

Can dogs eat hot sauce?

Veterinarians recommend not feeding hot sauce to your dog. Remember that some common ingredients used in hot sauces are toxic to pets. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, onion, garlic, and chives can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia.

Pet parents should consider a dog’s strong sense of smell when it comes to spicy food. If cumin powder smells strong to you, just imagine how it smells to your dog. Also, like us, dogs can experience a burning sensation in their mouths and throat from eating spicy food. They react to this sensation in different ways, including:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Pawing at their faces
  • Gagging or dry heaving

Can dogs taste spicy food the way we do?

Nutritional experts believe that dogs don’t experience the flavor of spices the way we do because they have fewer taste buds. Humans have 9,000 different taste buds while canines have about 1,700. So, while dogs might taste the bitter flavor that accompanies spicy foods, it won’t taste as strong to them. However, as mentioned previously, dogs will certainly experience the burning sensation that accompanies spicy foods.

Some spicy foods may provide health benefits

When given in moderation, some spices offer health benefits to dogs, veterinary professionals believe. But to be on the safe side, check with a vet before adding any spice or supplement to your dog’s diet.

The most common spices and foods thought to offer health benefits to dogs include:

  • Cinnamon: When added to the diet in small doses, cinnamon is believed to improve brain function, digestion, and circulation.
  • Bell peppers: While you should never give your dog hot peppers such as jalapeños or chili peppers, veterinary experts say that bell peppers offer health benefits to dogs. They are rich in vitamins A, E, B6, and lutein. Bell peppers are also a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help boost a dog’s immune system.
  • Turmeric: There’s evidence that turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help manage pain in dogs living with arthritis.

What to consider before feeding people food to your dog

Some people food is healthy for dogs. For instance, baby carrots and sliced apples with the seeds and core removed make for healthy treats. However, before treating your best friend with something from the fridge or countertop, keep these tips in mind:

  • A lot of common household food is toxic to dogs. These foods include avocados, caffeine, chocolate, grapes, raisins, salt, salty snack foods, and yeast dough. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers a roundup of people food to avoid feeding pets. If in doubt, consult with a veterinarian.
  • Adding people food to a dog’s diet can upset the dog’s digestive system. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea and be especially problematic for growing puppies.
  • Feeding dogs food from the table creates a bad habit. It can lead to counter surfing or stealing from the garbage cans. There’s always a danger that one day your dog will eat something toxic.

Just as with people, the healthiest dogs eat a well-balanced meal and get enough exercise. It’s best to feed them high-quality nutritionally balanced food. If you’re home-cooking for your dog, check in with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you’re feeding a healthy diet.

Editors' Recommendations