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Dog food as a last resort – Can you eat dog food in an emergency

What to do when no other food source is available? Can dog food be eaten? Here you will find tips on this and learn what to pay attention to.

from Martin Gebhardt | Survival | 3 comments | reading time 5 Min
Updated on 27 January 2024 14.190 views 100% found this guide helpful
Dog food as a last resort – Can you eat dog food in an emergency

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Dog food can be eaten in emergencies as it provides ample calories from protein and carbohydrates.
  • However, some essential vitamins and minerals that humans need are missing, which dogs do not require. Therefore, long-term consumption can lead to malnutrition.
  • Dog food often contains questionable ingredients, and the standards for ingredient care and production are lower than those for food produced for human consumption.
  • There is a risk of serious bacteria, especially in wet dog food, and it is difficult to detect spoilage early on.
  • Dry dog food is generally considered more palatable than wet food, but contains the same ingredients and usually more grain volume and additional binding agents.
  • It is recommended to seek other food sources such as wild herbs, roots, berries, fish, or trapping if possible.

Imagine a situation in which you have nothing but a can of dog food with you.

Your food supplies have long been exhausted, and your dog has run away.

Well, this scenario is far-fetched and quite extraordinary – but not unlikely.

Could you eat this dog food?

Let's get to the bottom of this question!

Can you eat dog food in an emergency?

If you find yourself in a survival situation with a severe calorie deficit, you may need to expand your menu a bit.

If you're lucky, you can get some wild animals or even some nutritious, edible plants. If not, you'll need to improvise, and an often overlooked source of calories is dog food.

Is it okay to eat dog food in an emergency? In general, yes, but the food carries a certain risk. Dog food is not adapted to the human body, and several essential vitamins required by humans are missing. However, it provides a considerable number of calories: protein, fats, and many other vitamins and minerals. Dog food typically contains very questionable ingredients, however.

That means: if the situation looks bleak and there is no other easily available source of calories, dog food could be your emergency food. However, if you have a choice or influence over what you eat, you should try to find something else that is better suited for human consumption.

In the rest of this guide, we will delve further into the details of dog food as an emergency ration.

Dog food contains the necessary calories

We all know that calories are simply fuel that we need to keep our bodies running and maintain important processes.

So if you're feeling tired and low on energy, you now know that dog food can definitely provide you with enough calories and general nutrients in emergencies.

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Furthermore, these calories come from ingredients that are commonly found in human food. These include animal proteins, animal fats, various types of grains, and additional vitamins and minerals. You may even discover eggs, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich ingredients in dog food.

Dog food is usually made in much the same way as human food, to ensure that a working body receives everything it needs for good health.

However, this does not mean that you and your dog have similar biology. Your dog can eat (with appetite) things that would turn your stomach or seriously make you sick.

Unfortunately, several of these ingredients are present in dog food.

Dog food contains undesirable ingredients

I'm not going to beat around the bush: The animal protein in typical dog food comes from what is generously referred to as "animal byproducts."

Simply put, these are parts of the animal that most people will not or cannot eat.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Organs
  • Brain
  • Skin
  • Blood
  • Bones

Dog food often contains flavors, dyes, and other undesirable additives to make it more appealing to your furry friend.

You may think, "That's fine, people used to eat organs and other parts too." Well, it gets worse…

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The fact is: The standards for ingredients that end up in dog food, as well as the standards for the care of those ingredients and the production, are far lower than those for food produced for human consumption.

Preservatives, chemicals, and flavor enhancers that are not authorized for human food are regularly used in dog food and found in large quantities.

Add to this: the condition of the animals that provide the protein for dog food is often drastically worse.

Animals that have been chemically euthanized or have died from terrible diseases and other parasitic conditions are often processed together with the "good" animals and converted into a raw protein slurry production for dog food.

Dog food probably contains serious bacteria

It's obvious that the ingredients commonly found in dog food are disgusting.

Since dogs are scavengers and their biology reflects this, your dog will happily and contentedly eat almost anything in nature. Dogs also consume decaying animals, and a can of dog food is likely a royal meal for him.

In general, dogs are less susceptible to the types of bacteria that would make most humans seriously ill, thanks to their short digestive tracts.

Our long digestive tract does not tolerate exposure to the same bacteria very well.

In general, healthy adults can usually eat dog food without major health effects. If you don't vomit from the ground up, you probably won't feel sick from dog food.

However, this does not apply to people who are already sick or suffer from an immune disease or are weakened by exertion or inadequate nutrition.

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To be clear: Just because you are completely healthy does not mean that consuming dog food will have no trace on you.

Another danger with dog food, primarily with wet dog food, is that it is difficult to detect spoilage early. Usually, it already looks and smells unappetizing.

In contrast, it is easier to detect spoilage early with human food. If you are forced to eat dog food, you do not have this advantage.

Does dry dog food have any advantages?

Dry dog food is generally more pleasant than wet food, but unfortunately, the ingredients are the same in both wet and dry food. Dry food usually contains more grain volume and additional binders.

If you have the choice, I recommend choosing dry food. Not for any other reason than that it is easier to eat without vomiting.

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Conclusion: Dog food is edible – with conditions

As disgusting as it may sound, dog food is edible in emergencies and will reliably provide you with plenty of calories from protein and carbohydrates.

However, dog food lacks some essential vitamins and minerals for humans, which dogs do not need. Long-term consumption can lead to malnutrition unless you supplement your diet with other foods.

So, as long as you don't consume a whole can in one sitting every day or make dry food a permanent cereal substitute, nothing harmful should happen.

However, I advise against eating dog food. I admit I have ethical concerns, and after reading this article, you will understand why.

From a medical perspective, it may not be the worst thing you can consume, and some doctors would not object to eating dog food.

However, keep in mind that in an absolute emergency, there are sometimes other things you can eat with less risk. You can also find protein and vitamins in wild herbs, roots, and berries. With some knowledge, you can also find them in winter (here's my list of 41+ natural foods for that purpose).

You can also secure a food source through trapping or fishing. Everything takes some practice, but eventually, it will undoubtedly give you a better feeling.

Overall, it's up to you how you handle such situations, but you should consider your diet carefully.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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Free 35 Survival Hacks you'll love!

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