Can I Give My Dog Pasta?
Some foods are universally loved across people of all ages, cultures, palates, and dietary restrictions. Pasta is one of those foods. Regardless of your favorite type of cuisine, your vegetarianism, your gluten allergy, or your high-protein diet, there is a type of pasta that you are more than happy to consume. Some people love pasta with marinara, whereas some prefer pesto or meat sauce. But almost everyone loves some form of pasta. It’s the ultimate comfort food, and it’s versatile enough that we can tweak it to fit any occasion.
Because pasta makes its way into lunches and dinners so frequently, it’s a common leftover in many household’s refrigerators. For pet owners, who love to pass off two-day-old leftovers on their canine companions, this creates a dilemma: can we safely give Fido the noodles sitting in the fridge? Can dogs have pasta?
Assuming we’re talking about plain, unseasoned pasta without any sauce, the answer is: yes, but it really isn’t recommended. Pasta isn’t toxic, but it isn’t beneficial either. Even if your pasta is made up of one hundred percent whole grains, or gluten-free, it isn’t a healthy choice for your dog. Pasta does not have many of the nutrients canines need to thrive, so it winds up being a big source of empty calories. If you have a small amount of leftover noodles, feel free to give them to your dog as a treat, but don’t let it become a habit.
White pasta, which is made from refined flour, is the worst offender. White pasta has had all the nutrition stripped out of it. Giving your dog a serving of pasta made from refined flour is the same as giving them a serving of white bread. The simple carbohydrates are likely to cause a blood sugar spike, which results in a spike in insulin levels. Shortly after they eat, their blood sugar will drop again and they may feel lethargic and hungry. This is why dogs who have insulin resistance or diabetes should not eat any pasta.
Pasta made from whole grains will offer more nutrition than white pasta—whole grain options contain more fiber and protein, which help negate the negative effects of the carbohydrates present. Whole grain pasta is less likely to cause a spike in insulin, so it is a better option for your dog.
Even whole grain pasta, however, is high in carbohydrates and calories. Dogs do not need high-carbohydrate foods like pasta; as true omnivores, they tend to do well on foods that contain moderate amounts of protein and fat. Dogs who eat pasta regularly are likely to start packing on the pounds and may become overweight or obese. Pets who struggle with extra body fat are more likely to develop other health problems, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and several types of cancer. All of these diseases are likely to cut up to two and a half years off your dog’s lifespan. If your dog is already overweight, they should not be eating any pasta—there are other, lower-calorie foods that will serve as much safer, healthier treats.
It’s also important to avoid giving your dog pasta sauces. While some sauces, like plain marinara, may be safe for dogs, heavily spiced pastas can be downright dangerous. Most pasta sauces contain ingredients like garlic and onions, which are extremely poisonous to dogs. If your dog eats pasta sauce and demonstrates symptoms such as vomiting, excessive drooling, diarrhea, loss of energy, muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat, labored or accelerated breathing, or pale gums, take them to the vet immediately. Garlic and onions can cause toxicity in dogs that is often fatal if left untreated. The sooner your dog receives treatment, the better their chances of survival.
Things to Consider
If you want to give your dog the full ‘spaghetti experience,’ mash up some fresh ripe tomato and dump it on top of the pasta. Be mindful, however: tomatoes can cause digestive distress in some dogs. The best policy is to give them food that is as plain as possible.
In conclusion, pasta is not poisonous to dogs, but it is far from being an ideal part of the healthy canine diet. This food is low in the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that dogs need to be healthy, yet high in carbohydrates and calories that may contribute to diabetes and obesity. It is safe to give your healthy dog plain pasta as a rare treat, but it should not make a regular appearance in their food bowl.