Chinese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. After all, 1.4 billion people in China eat it every day. Joking aside, Chinese food is popular all over the world. People enjoy it in restaurants, as take-out, and pick it up in the frozen section at their supermarket. Have you wondered whether dogs can eat Chinese food? That’s a complicated question. Chinese food is actually made up of numerous regional and ethnic styles of cooking. Depending on the dish, it can use many different kinds of ingredients and spices. Find out more about what you should – and should not – share with your dog below.
China is not only a vast country but it has one of the oldest cultures in the world. As a result, Chinese food is extremely varied. Staples of the diet include foods such as rice, soy sauce, noodles, and others, as well as tea.
There are eight well-known regional cuisines recognized by most chefs today but the most popular styles familiar to people in the West are usually Cantonese, Shandong, Jiangsu (especially Huaiyang cuisine), and Sichuan. They differ based on ingredients, geography, history, cooking techniques, and lifestyles in their respective areas. Other popular styles include Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Fujian. Noodles are more widely consumed in the northern regions due to wheat being grown in the area. Rice is more popular in the south.
Some of the vegetables popular in Chinese cuisine include baby corn, bok choy, snow peas, Chinese eggplant, Chinese broccoli, and straw mushrooms. Bean sprouts, watercress, lotus roots, pea vine tips, chestnuts, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots are popular in some regional cuisines.
Other popular vegetables include green beans, peas, and mushrooms in different varieties.
Various seasonings are an important part of Chinese foods. Fresh ginger root, garlic, cilantro, scallions, and sesame are used in many regional cuisines. In some regions, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, and white peppers are used. Many recipes also used Chinese mushrooms, dried baby shrimp, dried tangerine peel, and dried Sichuan chilies.
Many dishes also use soy sauce, made from fermented soybeans and wheat. Hoison sauce, ground bean sauce, and yellow bean sauce are also used. Oyster sauce, fish sauce, and furu (fermented tofu) are also popular sauces. Flavored vinegars are also used in some recipes such as clear rice vinegar, Chinkiang black rice vinegar, Shanxi vinegar and Henghe vinegar.
As for the nutrition in Chinese foods, it really depends on the individual recipe. In any Chinese restaurant you should be able to find healthy food options. However, many foods are higher in sodium. That can be a combination of salt, soy sauce, and other ingredients that add to the sodium content. You may also have to make an effort to find meals that contain more vegetables.
As for protein, seafood options are often some of the healthier choices, though beef and chicken can be good choices, depending on how they are prepared. Deep-fried foods are problematic for most people because of the deep-frying and higher fat content. Menu options that are steamed or grilled usually contain fewer calories and less fat.
The sauces that come with your meal often determine how many calories and how much sugar your meal will have. Sweet sauces are delicious but they usually contain lots of added sugar. If you are concerned about your sugar intake or trying to eat healthy, choose menu items that don’t have such sweet sauces.
Brown rice is slightly healthier, with more fiber than white rice, if you have a choice.
Based on a menu of one eggroll and one cup of General Tso’s Chicken, you could expect to eat about 654 calories. One cup of fried rice contains about 238 calories. One-half cup of Chinese vegetables contains 50 calories (no sauces). However, one-half cup of beef with broccoli contains 119 calories. If you eat that entire meal, you can expect to consume 1060 calories. It would be high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.
You can make your own Chinese food at home. You can buy frozen Chinese food at the market. It’s easy to prepare on the stove top or in the microwave. Depending on the brand, it can have slightly fewer calories and less fat than the Chinese food you buy in a restaurant.
You can also make your own Chinese food from a recipe. In that case, you can control how the food is made and what goes into it. That’s often a good way to make sure a dish is lower in sodium and calories.
Some Chinese restaurants also use MSG (monsodium glutamate). MSG is a flavor enhancer. It makes food taste better because it gives it a savory flavor. Chinese restaurants are not alone in using MSG. Many fast food restaurants use it. In fact, it’s added to many foods today. However, not all Chinese restaurants use it.
Can You Give Your Dog Chinese Food?
Based on the ingredients alone, Chinese foods probably seem like they could be good for your dog. They usually feature chicken, beef, or seafood, plus some veggies. These are all things that dogs enjoy. However, there are some reasons why you shouldn’t share this food with your dog – at least not unless you make the food yourself.
As we mentioned earlier, many Chinese foods tend to be high in calories, fat, and sugar, especially if they use sweet sauces. The salt content also tends to be high. All of these things are bad for dogs.
In addition, many recipes also use spices and ingredients such as scallions and garlic. Spices, especially anything hot, is a bad idea for your dog. (I’ve offered my dogs a bite of leftover Chinese food and they won’t touch anything that’s spicy!) And any ingredients in the onion or garlic family is a big no for your dog. They can be very dangerous.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is harmful to dogs in large amounts. The small amounts found in food intended for humans is unlikely to harm your dog but it’s still not a good ingredient to give your dog if you have a choice.
Even some foods that use tofu can be bad for your dog if they are smothered in an unhealthy sauce.
In general, we suggest that you don’t give your dog any Chinese food that contains spices, onion, or garlic. Don’t share anything that’s very high in calories, fat, or sugar.
What Kinds of Chinese Food Can Your Dog Eat?
If you really want to give your dog some Chinese food, you will have to keep the food very plain. You could let your dog have some white rice or some noodles, for example, as long as they don’t have any added spices. Even vegetables tend to be stir-fried in oil so they can be higher in calories than most other ways of preparing them.
You could also give your dog something like beef with broccoli, as long as it didn’t have any sauce or spices.
Fried rice is not the same as white rice. As the name suggests, it is fried which makes it problematic for dogs. Most of the popular dishes you find in Chinese restaurants are unsuitable for dogs such as Sesame Chicken which tends to be very sweet. Wonton soup is high in sodium. Egg rolls and spring rolls are both deep fried. They can also contain ingredients such as scallions and garlic which can be harmful to your dog. And, any foods made with soy sauce can be bad for your dog because of its high sodium content.
General Tso’s Chicken is made with garlic and chili peppers so it’s not good for dogs.
You can make Chinese food at home and share some with your dog. That way you can control not only the ingredients but how the food is made. You can avoid frying the food and limit the fat, salt, and sugar. If you make Chinese food at home, you should be able to share a moderate amount with your dog as long as you use safe ingredients.
It’s important to avoid the sauces used in Chinese cooking as well as the spices. These are the parts of the cuisine that are most likely to contain ingredients that would be harmful to your dog. Remember, no garlic, onion, or other members of the allium family.
Most dogs will avoid hot, spicy foods but there are always some dogs that can’t seem to help gulping down food, even if their brain is telling them they shouldn’t eat it. If your dog does eat Chinese food that’s hot and spicy, or if he eats a lot of Chinese food when you’re not looking, watch him closely. He may vomit or have a bout of diarrhea. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.
If your dog burns his mouth on the hot, spicy food and then drinks a ridiculous amount of water, contact your veterinarian. In these cases dogs can sometimes bloat from drinking far too much water.
If your dog does eat Chinese food that contains garlic or onions, you may need to contact your veterinarian. This usually depends on the size of your dog and how much onion and/or garlic he ate. For small dogs, even a small amount of garlic and onions can be serious.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Pale gums and mucus
If you have a large dog, he would usually have to eat quite a bit of the food to have a serious reaction. However, he might have some digestive problems such as diarrhea. Keep an eye on him. Call your veterinarian if you are worried.
How Much Chinese Food Can Your Dog Eat?
Most Chinese food is not recommended for dogs unless it’s very bland. We suggest that you do not give your dog more than one or two bites of any Chinese food. If the food is hot and spicy, don’t give your dog any of it. Try to avoid giving your dog any Chinese food that is high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar. Avoid giving your dog Chinese food that has sweet sauces since they are usually high in added sugars.
How Often Can Dogs Eat Chinese Food?
Don’t make a habit of giving your dog Chinese food. If you want to give your dog a bite of your leftover Chinese food once in a blue moon, that probably won’t do any harm. Make sure you know the ingredients in the food before you share any with your dog. Avoid sharing sauces and fried foods.
Chinese food is so popular, you may bring some home occasionally. If you want to share a little with your dog, make sure the food doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients such as onions or garlic. Ideally, the food won’t be high in fat, sugar, salt, or calories. Most dogs can safely eat one or two bites of Chinese food as long as the food isn’t hot or spicy. However, we recommend that you don’t make a habit of giving your dog this food unless you make it yourself and you can make sure that it’s a healthier, blander version.