Want to kick up your canine’s cuisine but don’t know where to start?
Look in your pantry!
Tons of kitchen staples double as dog-friendly eats.
Bonus ingredients not only improve the flavor of your pup’s food, but they also make for a better texture and a more enriching eating experience. Best of all, some dog-food additions are loaded with nutrients.
Below, we’ll share some of our favorite bonus ingredients to mix with dry dog food and what pantry items to skip.
As with any dietary change, it’s best to consult your vet before adding extra ingredients to your dog’s meals. Even the most innocuous ingredients can interact with some canine medications and medical conditions.
19 Awesome Bonus Ingredients to Mix with Dry Dog Food
Bonus ingredients can pack a punch of flavor, fun, and nutrition into your dog’s bowl. Best of all, chances are, you already have some of these barkin’ good bonus ingredients in your pantry to share with your pup.
Remember: These are bonus ingredients, not stars of the show, so less is more, especially when your dog is trying out new food.
Stick to a tablespoon or less for a bigger pup and a teaspoon or less for a small fry when you’re starting out. After establishing that your pooch can tolerate the new ingredients, you can gradually increase the amount included (assuming your vet gives the green light to do so).
Now let’s dig in!
1. Common Proteins
Adding bonus bites of real meat is a win with most dogs, particularly pickier pups that need enticing. The real meaty taste gets tongues wagging (or the drool drippin’), while the texture gives your pup a chance to nibble on something more than dry kibble.
Everyday dog-friendly proteins to add to your barker’s bowl include:
- Chicken: Rich in protein, chicken is a tasty meat most doggos enjoy. While it’s a relatively lean meat, stick to cuts of boneless and skinless breasts to avoid any excess fat that can cause tummy upset in dogs.
- Beef: Beef packs a wallop of flavor and a decent amount of protein but also contains a fair amount of fat if you select the wrong cut. Opt for the leanest cuts like chuck or round steak to prevent stomach upset.
- Pork: Pork is a powerhouse of flavor and has a lot of protein. That said, it’s one of the fattier proteins, especially if you pick the wrong part of the pig to serve your sniffer. Only use lean loin cuts with your pooch, and never offer bacon or other processed options.
Cook all proteins to the proper temperature to prevent foodborne illness, as raw meat can make pups sick. Only use lean cuts of meat and cook without seasonings or oils to avoid triggering pancreatitis or digestive upset in your dog.
2. Less Common Proteins
Exotic or “novel” meats are another great addition to your dog’s bowl if her tummy can handle them (and if you happen to have them lying around!) They often have a gamier taste that drives pups wild, plus they add texture for a more enjoyable eating experience and extra protein for nourishing your mutt’s muscles.
Some less common proteins to try with your pup are:
- Duck: Duck offers dynamite flavor that dogs love, but it’s due to a higher fat content than most proteins. Picky palates usually love duck, but it’s not a good choice for dogs on a diet. Opt for boneless, skinless breast meat to keep the fat content as low as possible.
- Turkey: Chicken’s bigger, less attractive friend contains less fat and slightly less protein but packs funky flavor dogs either love or hate. This lean meat is good if your doggo is watching her waistline. Prevent tummy upset by only using boneless, skinless turkey breast.
- Goat: Goat is a bahhhhd-ass addition to your dog’s food because it has fewer calories and fat than most other meats and only slightly less protein per serving. It’s great if your pup needs to watch her weight while still getting some goodies but stick to loin cuts to avoid any sneaky fat.
- Venison: Deer meat is often used as a leaner alternative to beef. It’s a good source of protein and has a flavor fur kiddos enjoy. Serve the leaner cuts like deboned shoulder, foreleg, and neck.
- Lamb: Lamb has a strong taste dogs tend to love. It’s a leaner meat with a decent amount of protein, but opt for leanest cuts like tenderloin, bone-removed leg, and boneless loin chops to prevent belly blues.
- Bison: Bison are seen as cows’ hairier cousins, but their meat is much different than their beefy buddies, as it’s much leaner and contains a bit more protein per ounce. The best cuts for doggos are lean servings of chuck or round meat.
- Alligator: This swamp dweller isn’t a fridge staple for most, but if you have some, it’s a good addition to your doggo’s dinner with its decent protein content and relatively lean nature. Tail meat is best for dogs, but alligator meat can have elevated levels of mercury, so it shouldn’t be offered to puppies or pregnant females.
- Rabbit: This hoppin’ good meat is loaded with flavor that dogs adore, and it’s packed with protein and Vitamin 12, making it a solid bonus ingredient in your barker’s bowl. It’s a lean protein already, but always choose the leanest cuts for your pup, like boneless thighs and shoulders.
As with any protein, cook exotic meats without seasonings or oils to the proper temperature to avoid foodborne illness and stomach upset, and only serve the leanest cuts.
3. Ground bone
While feeding regular, whole bones is a huge risk for broken teeth, choking, mouth injuries, and more, ground-up bone is usually okay for canines. Ground bone won’t add much texture or enrichment, but it’s an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus.
Because ground bone is so rich in calcium, double-check with your vet before serving to ensure it’s a good fit for your four-footer’s diet.
4. Bone Broth
Bone broth is a tasty bomb of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Spooning some over your canine’s kibble adds a burst of delicious flavor, plus it softens kibblets that may be too crunchy for dogs with missing teeth to eat.
Another fun option is to freeze bone broth into small broth cubes to hide in your dog’s kibble for extra enrichment.
5. Organ Meats
Many humans may be reluctant to dig in, but organ meat is a fantastic source of nutrients like vitamin A, iron, phosphorus, and copper. Organ meat is cheap and can be sourced directly from your butcher. The varying textures are enriching for dogs to chow down on, and most pups like the taste.
Some awesome organ meats for dogs are:
- Liver: Liver is a powerhouse of nutrients like folate, iron, vitamin A, and CoQ10. Beef and chicken liver are most readily available and can be fed in small amounts, but the strong taste of the organ isn’t a hit with every dog.
- Heart: Heart is an excellent source of taurine, which promotes, you guessed it, heart health. It’s also filled with iron, phosphorus, and CoQ10. Beef, chicken, and lamb hearts are most readily available for pups and can be served in small portions. The flavor is gamey instead of iron-heavy, so dogs like it more than other organ meat.
- Kidney: Kidney packs a good amount of core vitamins like vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin A, and niacin, plus it has minerals like iron and selenium. Chicken, beef, and pork kidneys are good options, but not every dog likes the pungent taste of this organ.
- Lung: Lung is loaded with protein, vitamins like vitamin B12, and nutrients like iron. It’s also low in fat. Beef lungs are most commonly found, but the strong taste receives mixed responses from doggy diners.
- Stomach: Also known as “tripe,” the stomach lining of lambs, pigs, and cows is a good source of B vitamins and selenium. It can be quite chewy, but its flavor is milder than liver, so most dogs like it.
- Gizzards: Found in the digestive tract of birds, gizzards are an organ rich in protein, iron, zinc, and taurine. Gizzards also have glucosamine, benefiting joint health in dogs. Chicken and turkey gizzards are readily available at most butcher shops, and if you stock up and freeze around Thanksgiving, you’ll be set all year long.
- Tongue: Tongue is rich in healthy fats and vitamin B12. Beef tongue is the best and most readily available, but the texture isn’t always well-liked by dogs. That said, it’s pretty affordable, and a little goes a long way, so you can freeze extras for an occasional treat at mealtime.
- Eyeball: Not all of us can stomach this one, but eyeballs are a good source of vitamin A if you can look past the ick factor. Beef and lamb eyeballs are most commonly used for doggos.
Less is more with organ meat, as it’s super nutrient-dense and can make your pup sick, particularly small dogs and puppies. Skip brains, as the risk of prion disease just isn’t worth it.
Organ meat – like muscle meat – must be cooked to the proper temperature to avoid making your pup sick.
Fish is filled with skin and coat-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids, making it a bangin’ bonus addition to your dog’s meal. The smell can be off-putting to human noses, but most dogs go bonkers for fish, so much so that it’s often used as the star protein in dog food for picky eaters.
Dog-safe fish for your floof include:
- Salmon: Salmon is a super fatty fish that’s an excellent source of protein and amino acids, plus it’s loaded with Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. It’s a low mercury fish compared to others and packed with flavor, tempting even the pickiest of pooches. Small portions of boneless filets are best for doggos. Just make sure it’s always cooked – raw salmon (though typically safe for humans) can transmit parasites to dogs.
- Whitefish: Whitefish is an umbrella term used for white-fleshed fish like whiting, haddock, cod, and pollock, among others. It’s a leaner fish than salmon and milder in taste, so it’s a good choice if your pup doesn’t like salmon’s fierce flavor, and it still contains protein and omega-3s. As with salmon, only offer bits of boneless filets.
- Tilapia: Tilapia is an affordable place to start if you’re unsure if your dog will like fish. This mild-tasting fish is low in calories and fat, too, making it a good choice for doggos on a diet. Tilapia has a decent amount of protein, but its firm, flaky texture can be off-putting for some dogs. Opt for chopped portions of boneless filets.
- Trout: Trout is a relatively low mercury fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids for brain and eye development in puppies, plus protein for promoting lean muscles. Most dogs go gaga for the taste, but it is a bonier fish, so be sure to carefully check for them before offering your pup chopped bits of boneless filets.
- Canned fish: Canned fish is a convenient way to give your dog fish’s fatty acids and protein without breaking down an animal or cooking anything. Opt for those not packaged in oil or loaded with salt. Try small amounts of canned sardines, salmon, or tuna for a fun, fishy bonus, and skip albacore tuna, as it can be high in mercury.
- Shellfish: Though shellfish aren’t true fish, they can still be incredible sources of omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals. Most dogs like the taste, but keep it simple without butter or seasoning. Cooked shrimp, scallops, muscles, clams, crabs, and lobster are all dog-safe.
- Cephalopods: OK, so these aren’t technically fish either, but you’ll find them in the seafood department, so we’re putting them here. This family consists of octopus and squid, which are good sources of lean protein and vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin B2. These fishy critters are mild in flavor but can be rubbery if hammered in the oven. Use basic preparations like boiling or oven baking (not frying) to prevent tummy upset.
Fish comes with the worry of mercury, which is dangerous to any doggo, but particularly puppies and pregnant females. Avoid fish known to be high in mercury, like tilefish, king mackerel, ahi tuna, shark, swordfish, and marlin. If you’re unsure how safe a certain fish is for dogs, ask your vet before offering it to your pup.
Like other proteins, you must cook fish to an appropriate temperature to avoid foodborne illness and parasites like worms. Be sure to carefully check all shared bits for bones, too, as these can seriously injure your pup’s mouth or digestive tract.
Eggs are a cheap protein universally enjoyed by dogs. They’re usually easy for pups to digest and loaded with protein and healthy fats. Dogs who need to gain a few pounds can benefit from adding the occasional egg to beef up their caloric intake.
Eggs have a softer texture that older doggos and those with missing teeth can enjoy, something other proteins lack. You can also prepare eggs in two ways for added enrichment, with scrambled eggs (made without lots of icky butter or seasoning!) ideal for mixing in kibble and hard-boiled eggs offering an oddball texture most dogs will love.
Eggcellent egg additions to your dog’s bowl include:
- Chicken eggs: Chicken eggs are the most readily available type of egg and have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, and riboflavin. They have a mild taste most dogs love.
- Duck eggs: Duck eggs are a little pricier and harder to come by, but they have a richer taste dogs love. They’re fattier, however, so keep this in mind while portioning a serving to your pup.
- Pheasant eggs: Like the bird that lays them, pheasant eggs have a gamey taste that dogs love or hate. They’re a good source of Vitamin B and Vitamin D, plus they have a lot of protein. They’re rare, though, so you’ll have to pay a pretty penny.
- Quail eggs: These tiny eggs make for cute #dogbreakfast photos and have a mild flavor dogs like, but they’re a real bite to handle because of their small size and delicate nature. They’re also pricier than other eggs.
- Ostrich eggs: If you have one of these gargantuan eggs available, they’re a good source of protein, but overall they have similar vitamin content to chicken eggs when you compare serving sizes. Ostrich eggs have a thick shell that’s hard to crack and make a ton of servings at once, so they’re best for multi-dog families who don’t mind freezing leftovers.
Larger dogs can eat one chicken-sized egg daily, while smaller doggos are best eating about a fourth of one or less to avoid a sour stomach and packing on too many pounds.
Always cook eggs to temperature to avoid salmonella. If your dog has a chicken allergy or sensitivity, chicken eggs should also be avoided until they’re ruled out by your vet as a trigger ingredient, as egg allergies often go hand-in-hand with chicken allergies.
Vegetables contain heaps of essential vitamins, but most importantly to doggos, they’re often crunchy, adding exciting texture to otherwise boring everyday kibble. They also add a burst of fresh flavor, encouraging your dog to get her eat on. Stick to fresh or frozen varieties, as canned vegetables are usually packed with salt.
Some dog-safe vegetables to share with your sniffer include:
- Carrots: Carrots are loaded with Vitamin A and are a great low calorie-treat instead of chews like bully sticks. They can be served raw or baked, but raw carrots are preferred, as they offer crunch dogs can’t resist.
- Peas: Peas have a sweet pop of flavor that dogs enjoy and are full of fiber and vitamins like A, B, C, and K. They can be served raw, steamed, or frozen for a cool summertime snack. There are concerns about peas and other legumes’ ties to DCM, so ask your vet before offering them to your pup, especially if she’s a DCM-prone breed like a Doberman.
- Brussel sprouts: These smelly little buggers aren’t a win with every woof, but they do have some excellent nutrients for dogs that do enjoy them, like Vitamin A and C. Steaming these stink bombs works best, but skip these entirely if your dog is prone to gas or she’ll turn into a fart factory.
- Potatoes: Cooked potatoes have a softer texture that’s ideal for older pups or those who struggle to chew. They’re tasty and have some vitamins but not much, just a bit of Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. You can serve them mashed or roasted, but don’t offer them to dogs with diabetes.
- Sweet Potatoes: Cooked sweet potatoes offer a fair dose of fiber, plus Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and more. Its soft texture suits older dogs, and they’re best served mashed, boiled, steamed, or roasted.
- Green beans: These fiber-packed veggies are rich in manganese and vitamins like A, B, C, and K. You can boil, steam, or serve them raw for a texture-filled snack most dogs enjoy. They’re a great treat replacement for dogs on a diet, too.
- Celery: The crisp crunch and shreddable nature of celery make it a hit with most dogs. It’s a good source of Vitamins A and C and has trace amounts of fiber. It’s also great for freshening your dog’s breath. Serve it raw in stalks or chop it down for bite-sized bits of crunchiness.
- Broccoli: Broccoli has a crunchy texture dogs love, but the flavor isn’t always a favorite for dogs. It’s a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and manganese. Serve it raw, steamed, or roasted, but you may want to skip it if your dog is known for toxic toots.
Many vegetables are super rich in fiber, so keep serving sizes to a minimum until you know how they’ll affect your floof. If your senior pup can’t enjoy crunching her veggies anymore, consider juicing them for a tasty addition to her bowl.
Remember to wash vegetables thoroughly before serving to eliminate any potential ickies.
Fruit is a sweet treat that dogs can enjoy in moderation with meals. While rich in vitamins and sometimes fiber, it’s also usually high in sugar, which can be a problem for some sniffers. Most fruits should be served raw and skip canned varieties, as they’re typically soaked in high-sugar syrups.
The best dog-friendly fruits for bonus ingredients are:
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are OK for dogs, but offer them in moderation as their acidic nature can be tough on your dog’s tummy. Tomatoes have fiber, folate, and potassium, as well as vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin K. Small cherry tomatoes add a fun pop of texture to your dog’s meals, but you can also add slices of raw tomatoes.
- Olives: Pitted plain olives are great sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K, plus they’re packed with nutrients like zinc and potassium, making them a solid addition to your dog’s bowl. That said, not every dog is a fan of the flavor.
- Apples: Apples are packed with fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, with the skin especially rich in fiber (just make sure to remove the core and seeds). The fruit’s crunchy texture is a hit with most dogs, but you can also mash it into homemade applesauce for older dogs who struggle to chew.
- Blackberries: These tasty berries are excellent sources of fiber and have lots of vitamins, including Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Vitamin C. Dogs usually love the poppable texture of this fruit, though some can be tart.
- Strawberries: Fiber and vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin K are this fruit’s star features. The sweet taste is typically well-liked by dogs but cut large berries down so they’re not choking hazards.
- Blueberries: Most dogs love blueberries, as this antioxidant-rich fruit has a sweet taste and interesting texture. They’re a good source of fiber and Vitamin C but should be fed in moderation to prevent doggy diarrhea.
- Pears: Pears contain fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, but feed them sparingly since they can lead to a sour stomach. Serve them chopped up for a crunchy texture, or mash some for doggos who can’t chew well.
- Pumpkin: Most people consider pumpkin a veggie, but it’s technically a fruit, so we’re leaving it here. It’s a fiber-rich addition to your doggo’s diet and a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It’s commonly used to soothe tummy trouble and can be roasted, pureed, or roasted. You can also make it into delicious DIY pumpkin treats.
- Squash: Roasted zucchini and summer squash are good bonus ingredients, as they’re decent sources of fiber and magnesium. The texture adds some variety to your dog’s kibble, and the taste leans bland, so it’s not likely to strike dogs as especially gross.
- Pineapple: Raw, cored pineapple is a fabulous source of Vitamin C, plus it packs in nutrients like riboflavin, niacin, and folate. It’s also high in fiber and sugar, so it should be fed in moderation. Cubed pineapple has tons of texture, but you can up the ante by freezing it for a great summertime snack.
Like veggies, wash fruits thoroughly before serving to your fur friend, and if you’re unsure of a fruit’s safety for dogs, ask your vet before adding it to your dog’s diet.
10. Dog-Safe Yogurt
Add a small dollop of plain, unsweetened yogurt to your canine’s kibble for a lickable serving of natural probiotics. You can serve it right from the fridge or freeze it for a pupper popsicle bite. Going with Greek yogurt is best, as it’s lower in lactose and less likely to cause tummy trouble.
Always double-check a yogurt’s ingredient list for xylitol before serving, as this artificial sweetener is toxic to dogs.
Most dogs appreciate the richness of cheese, and it’s an okay source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin A. It is calorie-dense, however, so it can pack on pupper pounds if you’re not careful. Some dogs are also lactose intolerant, making cheese a no-go.
The best cheeses for dogs include low-fat varieties like:
- Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese has a lumpy, bumpy texture that dogs enjoy, with most finding the bland flavor appealing. It has less lactose, fat, and sodium than other cheeses and is sometimes used to help dogs recovering from a sour stomach.
- Mozzarella: Some forms of mozzarella are low in fat, so adding a small chopped or grated portion to your dog’s kibble is a fun way to add extra texture. It’s not a flavor bomb, but it’s a nice contrast from kibble for added enrichment.
- Swiss: This hole-punched cheese is lower in fat and salt than most cheeses, so it’s a better fit for Fido’s food bowl than other picks. It doesn’t offer a ton of texture, but dogs tend to like the funky taste.
- Parmesan: A sprinkle of parmesan goes a long way in bringing a burst of flavor to your dog’s kibble. It’s super fatty and salty compared to other cheeses, so it isn’t the best option unless you’re trying to entice your dog with a tiny amount over her kibble.
- Cheddar: Small chunks of cheddar are great training treats, but you can also grate it over your dog’s food for finer bits in every bite. Cheddar has a flavor most dogs adore.
- Goat cheese: Goat cheese has protein, magnesium, and calcium, so it brings some nutrients to your dog’s bowl along with an intense flavor that pups either love or hate. It’s very high in fat, so only use small amounts.
Skip blue cheeses like gorgonzola and Roquefort entirely, as they can make your dog extremely ill. As with any new food, stick to small amounts of cheese (a tiny chunk) in your pup’s kibble to avoid gastric upset. If your dog can’t tolerate fats, opt for another bonus ingredient.
12. Grains and Pseudo-Grains
Dog-safe grains and pseudo-grains can add some bulk to your dog’s bowl, helping active dogs maintain their weight, but they can pack on pounds if your floof isn’t as fit. They’re a mixed bag of nutrients, with some having useful vitamins and minerals while others are strictly for enrichment only.
Top-notch grainy additions to your dog’s kibble include:
- Rice: Cooked white and brown rice have fiber, but brown rice has more, plus B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus. Rice is a fun texture for your dog to enjoy but has little flavor. It’s a good bland ingredient to have on hand in case your dog has an upset tummy.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is actually a seed, but it’s often lumped with grains, so we’re running with it. A great source of calcium and magnesium, it’s a nutritious eat with a cool texture most dogs enjoy as added enrichment mixed in kibble.
- Oatmeal: Cooked plain oatmeal is a good source of fiber and protein. It has more mouthfeel to it than other grains, though it is bland, so not every dog is a big fan.
- Corn: Despite its bad rap, corn is easily digestible for most dogs. It’s affordable and has nutrients like Vitamin E, fatty acids, and beta-carotene. Best of all, it’s tasty, with most dogs loving the naturally sweet flavor. Always cut it off the cob to ensure safe eating.
- Pasta noodles: Cooked pasta noodles are a fun texture to pop into your dog’s kibble occasionally. They won’t add much nutrition, but they’re great for enrichment. Just ensure they’re not cooked in any seasonings and don’t feature toxic ingredients like garlic or onion.
Extra grains can increase your dog’s blood sugar, so stick to small treats here and there or avoid them if your doggo is diabetic.
Herbs add a surprise sprinkle of flavor to your dog’s food, but they can be overwhelming, so keep them to a minimum. They have some nutrients too, so they’re not just a growlin’ garnish.
Hound-friendly herbs for dogs include:
- Rosemary: Antioxidants are this woody herb’s top perk, giving your dog’s immune system a gentle nudge in the right direction. Add a tiny amount of fresh, chopped rosemary to your dog’s food, but remember that the flavor’s strong. Some dogs may find it too intense.
- Basil: Small amounts of fresh, chopped basil to your dog’s kibble introduces some antioxidants for immune support. It’s not as overbearing of a flavor as other herbs, so most dogs don’t seem to mind it.
- Dill: A pinch of dill over your canine’s kibble adds some antioxidants, but too much can cause tummy upset. The flavor isn’t too strong, so most sniffers are fine with it.
Avoid parsley, tarragon, sorrel, oregano, and mint, as they can make your dog quite ill.
14. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a good source of healthy fats that can help prevent a dry, itchy coat and soothe inflammation in dogs. It’s also rich in antioxidants that boost your four-footer’s immune system.
As with other oils, too much olive oil can lead to stomach trouble in your pup, so never overdo it. It’s also dense in calories, so too much olive oil too often can lead to weight gain. Flavor-wise, it doesn’t add much, so don’t expect your dog to do backflips for it.
Stick to one teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight daily, and skip it if your dog needs a low-fat diet.
15. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil isn’t as rich in omega fatty acids as other sources, but it has some that can aid in cognitive function and skin and coat health. It has a mild flavor most dogs won’t notice in food, and some owners think it aids in freshening a doggo’s breath. It’s high in fat and calories, so opt for one teaspoon a day for large breeds and a ¼ teaspoon for smaller pups.
As with other oils, less is more with coconut oil. Too much can lead to weight gain or stomach upset. Never offer coconut oil or other oils to dogs with a history of pancreatitis.
16. Peanut butter
Dog-safe peanut butter is a sticky snack that’s healthy for your hound in moderation. This pantry staple is a good source of protein and healthy fats, plus it has niacin, Vitamin B, and Vitamin E. A little goes a long way in your dog’s food, too, and most dogs love the flavor. Just don’t give your pup too much, as this calorie-dense treat can pack on the pupper pounds.
Shop with caution, however, as some peanut butter contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener highly toxic to dogs. Others contain excessive amounts of sugar and salt, too, so stick to the all-natural, dog-friendly versions.
17. Wet Dog Food
Adding a spoonful (or more, depending on your dog’s diet and size) of wet dog food is a welcome addition to kibble for most dogs. Available in pate-style meat mashes and stewed varieties with gravy, wet dog food mixes great into kibble and entices even the pickiest of canines to lick their bowl clean.
Since wet food is made for dogs, you don’t have to worry about any toxins, but always check the ingredients list for any sensitivity triggers your dog may have.
18. Commercial Dog Food Toppers
Dog food toppers elevate everyday kibble to a lip-smackin’ concoction of textures and taste. Usually rich in gravy, they mix easily into and coat kibble well, ensuring your pup doesn’t simply eat around her usual food.
If you feel like popping on your chef hat, you can also make homemade dog food toppers. They take some work, obviously, but it’s a fun opportunity to bond with your dog, and your pooch won’t mind tasting the fruits of your labor (or face-vacuuming the floor for any fallen veggies!)
Relatively low in calories, plain, unsalted popcorn is a crunchy addition to your canine’s kibble that she’ll love to munch on. It doesn’t add much flavor or crazy high amounts of nutrients, but it does have traces of zinc and manganese. The main perk of popcorn is enrichment and changing up your dog’s dinner.
Things You Should NEVER Mix with Your Dog’s Dry Food
While plenty of your pantry favorites double as great bonus ingredients to your barker’s bowl, others are downright dangerous to dogs and should be avoided.
Never give your pupper any of these toxic foods for dogs:
- Artificial sweeteners (especially xylitol!)
- Macadamia nuts
- Bread dough
- Wild mushrooms
If you’re unsure how safe a food item is for dogs, err on the side of caution and skip it until you can ask your vet.
Why Add Ingredients to Your Dog’s Dry Food?
Most modern dry dog foods have the basics of what your pup needs, so you don’t need to add any bonus ingredients, but it doesn’t hurt.
Adding bonus ingredients to your dog’s kibble is great for:
- Improving the taste: Eating the same thing day in and day out gets dull, even for dogs. Picky pups may outright demand enticing. Adding bonus ingredients makes bland kibble more exciting and encourages your pup to chow down.
- Adding texture: Similar to taste, the same old crunchy kibble texture gets old. Sprinkling in crisp celery or poppable blueberries makes your dog’s food more texturally interesting. Other cool textures are creamy dog-safe peanut butter, gloopy yogurt, or shredded meat.
- Increasing nutrients: Your dog’s kibble is most likely well-rounded enough to meet her needs, but introducing a tiny extra serving of protein or antioxidants here and there never hurts. You can also target the ones you’re adding to your dog’s life stage, with cooked fish’s omega-3s benefiting brain and eye development in puppies, for example.
- Benefiting a health condition: Bonus ingredients can address your dog’s specific health concerns, such as yogurt with probiotics for digestive support or a little cooked salmon for extra fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat.
- Adding enrichment: Bonus foods enrich your dog’s life, introducing new tastes, textures, smells, and more to kibble, whether it’s the crisp snap of a carrot or a gloopy glob of cottage cheese. This makes your dog’s mealtime more interesting.
Bonus ingredients aren’t intended to complete your dog’s diet but add to it. If you’re concerned that your dog’s kibble alone isn’t meeting her nutrition needs, consult your vet.
Adding Things to Your Dog’s Food: Tips & Tricks
Introducing bonus ingredients to your dog’s kibble is fun, but there are some rules of the road to follow to ensure everyone is safe, including:
- Cook proteins thoroughly: Heat all proteins to the correct temperature to avoid foodborne illness and kill any hidden parasites.
- Use dog-friendly cooking methods: Never fry your dog’s bonus foods or saturate them in fat-laden oils. Stick to lean cooking methods like boiling, baking, roasting, and steaming. This prevents triggering a super painful case of pancreatitis or stomach upset.
- Avoid adding salt/seasoning: Too much salt can make a dog ill, as can seasonings with hidden ingredients that are toxic to dogs. It’s natural to want to “flavor” the food, but know that bonus ingredients have plenty of yummy taste as they are for dogs.
- Keep food safety in mind: Always practice food safety when prepping, handling, and storing bonus ingredients. Unwashed hands after handling raw protein can make you and your dog sick, for example.
- Store leftovers carefully: Tied into food safety is safe food storage, as improperly stored leftovers can make you and your dog very sick. This includes everything from fish to meat to produce and even rice.
- Practice moderation: Don’t immediately add ten new bonus ingredients to your dog’s bowl tonight. Keep it simple with one new food at a time in small amounts and rotate them to see how your dog’s system reacts. This slow rotation protects your pup’s stomach and keeps bonus ingredients exciting.
- Be mindful of calories: Bonus ingredients have differing levels of calories, but all add extra calories to your dog’s everyday diet. Too much of anything can lead to weight gain.
- Double-check toxicity: Never give your dog food if you’re not positive it’s dog safe. When in doubt, double-check with your vet.
- Get creative: Remember to have fun with bonus ingredients. They’re meant to be an enriching experience for you and your dog. Don’t be afraid to experiment, whether you’re hiding ingredients at the bottom of your dog’s bowl as a reward or using them as training treats before serving her supper.
Does your dog enjoy any of these bonus ingredients in her food? Is there another dog-safe item she’s gaga about? Share with us in the comments. We’d love to hear.