In times of crisis (economic or otherwise), humans are forced to think of creative, unorthodox ways of ensuring survival. As a prepper proactively thinking of an emergency’s plan B, you might wonder whether resorting to alternative food resources might come in handy in times of need. Since dogs comprise the most significant percentage of household pets worldwide, is it possible to consume the food you once bought for your pup if necessary?
Humans can eat dog food for survival if they have stored the product correctly. Dog and human diets require a similar nutritional profile. However, long-term consumption is not advised, as the quality of ingredients included in these foods can’t sustain a human for prolonged periods.
Therefore, in the following sections, I’ll give you the facts about eating dog food, including how long you can survive on a dog food diet, the risks related to the practice, whether these products are palatable, and so on. Keep reading to find out more.
How Long Can Humans Eat Dog Food for Survival?
Even though the answer to the question “can humans eat dog food for survival” is a semi-confident yes (there are a few exceptions I’ll delve into in the following sections), regarding how long this practice is sustainable, the answer becomes a bit more complex.
Humans can eat dog food to survive for up to a month without any adverse reactions. However, this timeframe is a generalization, and depending on the quality of the product you’re consuming and your general health, the period through which you can safely eat dog food can be longer or shorter.
As you can see, too many variables are at play here to determine a specific time frame for safely consuming dog food. As a rule, you should always treat this practice as a last resort and avoid it for as long as possible, especially when eating only dog food for extended periods.
The better choice for survival is storing food with a long shelf life before a disaster strikes. I like the 3-month emergency food supply from Ready Hour.
However, if consuming dog food is your last resort, here are some considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when evaluating the product’s safety:
- How well it has been stored. Dog foods stored at the right temperature and humidity level are notably safer. Even though we don’t tend to pay much thought to how we keep our pups’ meals, you’ll want to consider them like any canned human product and follow the manufacturer’s storing instructions to a T.
- Ingredient list. Even though, as you’ll see in one of the following sections, all dog food is generally manufactured to be safe for human consumption, not all products are the same. While some brands take their items through rigorous quality-control tests and use only premium-quality components, others don’t. Moreover, you’ll want to ensure that the food you’re eating provides you with enough protein, fat, and fiber.
- Micronutrients. Again, I’ll delve more into this topic in a separate section, but it’s still important to note that dog and human diets mainly differ in their micronutrient requirements. Therefore, a product fortified with a wide range of vitamins and minerals might sustain you much longer than a more cheaply-made counterpart.
You can only consume dog foods for a limited time because there are significant nutritional disparities between our dietary requirements and a dog’s. While not stark enough to affect your health within a week or two, these nutritional disparities will catch up with you as time passes, resulting in many health-related risks.
The most significant difference between a dog and a human diet is the type and amount of micronutrients each species requires. For example, if not intentionally fortified, most dog foods don’t provide enough vitamin b12 and b9 to sustain a human adult.
If sustained for long periods, these deficiencies can result in the following:
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Vision loss
Similarly, consuming dog food for extended periods can also lead to vitamin C and vitamin A deficiency. Dogs naturally produce these vitamins in their bodies, but humans do not. Therefore, we require a more significant dietary supplementation of these vitamins to support our health better.
These are only a few micronutrients you’ll miss out on while on an all-dog-food diet, so the practice isn’t sustainable long-term.
However, vitamin deficiency isn’t the only issue you should worry about when on a dog food diet, as you’ll also be at risk of vitamin toxicity. Some micronutrients included in dog foods are perfectly healthy when ingested by animals. However, they can pose a serious health hazard when consumed excessively by humans.
For example, vitamin k3 is a nutrient that can become toxic when ingested in high doses, so you’ll never see it included in any of the products catered to humans.
Lastly, even though dogs’ macronutrient needs are remarkably similar to humans, they tend to require far more protein than the average adult is comfortable consuming. As a result, digestive issues and discomfort may occur when consuming a high-protein brand.
Why Is Dog Food Suitable for Human Consumption?
Considering we’ve been raised by our parents to never touch the dog’s food, to some, it may come as a surprise that these products manufactured specifically for pets are even safe for us to eat, even in the context of a short-term window.
However, manufacturing plants supplying US supermarkets with dog food have taken into account that children are likely to ingest some of their products at one point or another and that families living in poverty often resort to the cheapest option on the shelf, regardless of its purpose. Therefore, they make sure that all of their products are at least safe to consume by humans.
Dog food is suitable for human consumption because it contains a similar nutritional profile to what our bodies naturally require. Moreover, dog food manufacturers make a conscious effort to make their products safe to consume by humans.
In short, most dog food brands pack their products with plenty of protein, fat, and fiber while fortifying them with additional vitamins and minerals. Therefore, considering the nutritional label alone, dog food seems like an ideal replacement for its human equivalent in times of need.
However, a wide array of micronutrients is still missing from dog foods, and as you can imagine, these products don’t follow the same safety standards as human food. Therefore, while edible, they’re still not the best choice for your body in the long run.
For example, many brands (especially those that seem suspiciously budget-friendly) may contain animal bones, skin, and damaged organs that you would never include in a human meal.
When consumed in small amounts, cooked, and handled properly, these ingredients, while unappetizing, are unlikely to cause any serious health concerns. So, keep an eye out for them if you consume these products for prolonged periods.
Let’s return to the phrase “serious health concerns.” I’m using this term to describe severe pain or death-inducing illnesses in this context. However, minor digestive issues and discomforts are to be expected when switching to a dog food diet, as the poor quality, never-tried-before ingredients can cause quite a bit of a shock to your system.
What Are the Risks of Eating Dog Food?
The risks of eating dog food include nutrient deficiencies and bacteria-related foodborne illnesses. Possible consequences of consuming dog food for prolonged periods include digestive discomfort, heart palpitations, infections, and even death.
Even though the dog food industry is heavily regulated, its quality control practices don’t have the same standards as its human food counterpart. While dog foods are manufactured in sterile facilities, the handling and storing practices aren’t as closely observed to ensure optimal conditions.
Dry dog food is especially risky, as its fats can often oxidize and go bad or expose you to infections such as E. coli and salmonella. On the other hand, canned dog foods are generally safer, as they’re prepared using a high enough heat to kill most foodborne pathogens.
However, caution should be applied in both cases, as consuming dog food for more than a month can even lead to death in some extreme cases.
Who Can Consume Dog Food for Survival?
Healthy adults can safely consume dog food for survival for up to a month without suffering significant adverse effects. However, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing health conditions should avoid consuming dog food at all costs.
It’s important to note that all the tips and advice in this article are based on the presumption that the reader is a healthy adult. These individuals have the best chances of consuming dog food for up to a month without suffering severe health-related consequences.
However, this isn’t true of all demographics. For example, children and the elderly should avoid consuming dog food at all costs, as their immune systems are significantly weaker, leaving them much more exposed to foodborne illnesses.
Moreover, dog foods may pose a choking hazard to small children, as they’re often chunky and hard to chew and swallow. Therefore, keep this in mind when considering giving your child dog food for survival, especially if the product is dry kibble.
Dog food can be just as dangerous for pregnant women, and people with pre-existing health conditions since foodborne illnesses and nutrient deficiencies are even more likely to occur in these demographics.
Does Dog Food Taste Good?
Dog food doesn’t taste good to most people. However, it’s still palatable. A dog’s sense of taste is widely different from ours, and these products cater to the former. Dog food is usually too odorous, too gritty, and not flavorful enough for most humans.
Dog food isn’t enjoyable for most humans, neither texture nor flavor-wise. The components make for a strange mouthfeel many of us aren’t used to, and most products will leave an unpleasant, metallic taste in your mouth – and I’m not even talking about the rancid odor that comes off most of these foods.
Depending on your personal preferences and the brand of dog food you choose, you may be able to come across a tolerable or even pleasantly-tasting product. However, in most cases, chances are you won’t get any benefit other than nutrition from consuming dog food for survival.
How Should Dog Food Be Prepared for Humans?
Most dog foods don’t need to be prepared for human consumption. However, if you’re trying to make the product more palatable, heat it and add a few of your favorite spices or flavorings before eating it.
Regardless of whether you’ve opted for wet canned food or dry kibble, technically, the food doesn’t need to be prepared to be safe for human consumption. Kibble and wet foods have been pre-cooked in the manufacturing facility, meaning most foodborne pathogens have been eliminated.
The only exception to this rule is if you’ve chosen to consume freeze-dried raw dog food. You’ll want to heat the product until its protein source reaches its safe internal temperature. If unsure of what that is, I highly recommend referring to this guide.
However, if you’re trying to make dog food palatable, heating it will do you a favor either way. The process will immensely help the product’s texture and flavor, so always heat dog food before consuming it.
Humans can eat dog food for survival. However, they can only do so in the short term. Generally speaking, consuming dog food for more than a month will expose you to a wide range of foodborne illnesses and nutrient deficiencies, both of which can lead to death in extreme cases.
Therefore, if you must eat dog food in an emergency, consider your health status, the product’s quality, its nutritional value, and how well it has been stored. Wet canned dog food is usually the safest option. However, don’t forget to heat it beforehand to make it more palatable.