In our house, things tend to fall apart come Friday night.
Tired after a week at work, the thought of cooking dinner can seem like a step too far.
Out comes the menu for the local Chinese or in seconds the Deliveroo app is fired up.
And not only do we get lazy when it comes to not cooking our dinner but often we just eat our Chinese food on the sofa.
Which our dogs love because then they can get up close and personal to the food!
Can dogs eat dishes like chow mein or should they just settle for getting woozy on the fumes?
What is chow mein?
At its simplest, chow mein is fried noodles. The type of noodle might vary but in an authentic chow mein, they need to be fried.
In a real chow mein the noodles dominate- they are the headline act.
Other ingredients or sauces can be added but only in amounts that are smaller than the noodles.
How does chow mein differ from lo mein?
This is another area in which confusion seems to reign.
The difference between a chow mein isn’t in the type of noodle that is used or the way that the noodles are cooked.
Instead it is in the relative balance of the ingredients.
A lo mein has noodles and it will probably have a combination of meat and vegetables (much like a chow mein) but its stand out feature is the sauce.
An authentic lo mein is covered in sauce.
And I have written more about lo mein and dogs here.
Can dogs eat noodles?
A survey from 2013 found that 59% of Americans ate noodles or pasta at least once a week.
And I would think that number has increased since then.
And the variety is simply mind boggling.
But in this section I want to focus on the basic ingredients used in some of these noodles and whether they are safe for dogs.
And so I will look at egg noodles, wheat noodles and rice noodles.
Having looked at a couple of best selling brands of egg noodles on Amazon, the list of ingredients used to make egg noodles is short.
They contain wheat flour and eggs.
Wheat flour and eggs will not be toxic to most dogs.
But there is one obvious exception to this.
If your dog is wheat intolerant or has a gluten allergy then
And these noodles are then fortified with Iron, Thiamine, Riboflavin and Folic Acid
Like egg noodles, the main ingredient in plain wheat noodles is wheat and a bit of salt.
These are dog safe unless your dog has a wheat intolerance as I spoke about in the previous section.
The big surprise with rice noodles is that they aren’t made with wheat flour but with rice flour.
If you are desperate to add noodles to your wheat intolerant dog’s diet then rice noodles could be the way to go.
Rice noodles must be the most dog friendly type of noodle out there…
Having looked at three different types of noodles, it is now time to look at vegetables and to find out if there are any that might cause trouble for your dog….
What vegetables can dogs eat in a chow mein?
Looking online at a few menus from my local Chinese restaurants, there seems to be no limit to the variety of vegetables that can be put into a chow mein.
But the most popular seem to be cabbage, red pepper, carrots and spring onions.
None of these vegetables ring any alarm bells apart from the spring onion.
Any member of the wider onion family (including onions of any colour, garlic, leeks, spring onions and chives) are toxic to dogs and need to be avoided.
As a rough guide, a dog of about 45 lbs would need to eat a medium sized onion in order to put themselves in any danger.
Now on the one hand that equals lots of spring onions but when you consider that together with the spring onion you might chuck in a bit of garlic, the toxicity levels soon start stacking up as far as it goes for your dog…
And as far as dogs are concerned, there are very few vegetables that they really shouldn’t touch.
The onion family we have mentioned.
Asparagus is a strange one. Although it isn’t toxic to dogs it is a very tough vegetable for dogs to chew and so they might try and swallow it whole and choke themselves.
Whether or not dogs should eat mushrooms causes quite a bit of hand ringing within the dog world but as long as the mushrooms you use are bought in a local grocery store and don’t come from your garden or a local forest, they should be fine.
And finally tomatoes. These are fine to be eaten in moderation by dogs but the stems and the leaves of the tomato plant are known to be poisonous to dogs.
But then since I can’t find any chow mein recipe that mentions including the stems and leaves from the tomato plant, I think that using the odd tomato in your recipe will be fine.
Having looked at a variety of vegetables that might be included in your chow mein, it is now time to turn our focus to the possible meat selections.
What meats can dogs eat in a chow mein?
No meat is off limits to dogs as long as it has been cooked correctly.
And I think that the danger comes from the fact that chow meins are meals that are cooked very fast.
This is fine if you serve the noodles or a vegetable a little “al dente” but it doesn’t work for meat.
Chicken and beef are the most commonly added meats in a chow mein and chicken in particular needs to be cooked thoroughly.
Raw chicken sometimes plays host to a few really nasty pieces of bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter.
And these bacteria can knock your dog for six as much as they can us.
And undercooked chicken is one of the biggest causes of food poisoning in the US.
Beef, which many people eat when it is partially cooked, is much less of a risk in terms of it not being cooked thoroughly.
And the final meat that I want to look at is shrimp.
Although undercooked shrimp isn’t as dangerous as undercooked chicken, more care needs to be taken with it than you would do with beef..
The next ingredient I want to discuss is neither meat nor a traditional vegetable.
Can dogs eat tofu?
Where does tofu sit on the food spectrum- meat, dairy or vegetable?
Most tofu is made from soaking them in water then boiling them and finally mashing them up and adding a chemical that binds them all together.
So the great news for us as dog owners is that tofu is perfectly safe to be eaten by our dogs.
OK. We have nearly made it. In the next section I want to look at chow mein sauce.
Do the most popular sauces contain any ingredients that could floor our dogs?
Can dogs eat chow mein sauce?
I have just looked online at a couple of popular chow mein sauces that you might buy and they don’t look particularly dog friendly.
This one, by Blue Dragon, contains onion puree, garlic powder, garlic puree to name a few.
The onion and garlic ingredients aren’t in the top six ingredients used in this sauce so it might be that these ingredients aren’t used in amounts that are toxic to dogs but we just don’t know.
To my mind, there are so many variations of onion and garlic that I would leave this sauce alone.
This chow mein seasoning contains fewer ingredients but garlic powder and salt do make an appearance fairly high up in the list.
As I wrap this article up, in my final section, I want to look at an important difference between chow mein that you might get from your local restaurant and chow mein that you might make at home.
Can dogs eat MSG?
MSG is a flavour enhancer which is added to Chinese food amongst other things- the Chinese food that you buy from your local restaurant or grocery store.
Although it has been categorised by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as “generally recognized as safe” its use is a bit controversial.
Although there has been no scientific proof the use of MSG has been linked (anecdotally) to many unpleasant side effects such as headaches, nausea and chest pains in humans.
Many people believe that MSG can have an even worse effect on dogs by damaging their brains.
But none of the pages that mention brain damage, link to any scientific studies or other clear proof that it causes brain damage.
But there was also a study done in which dogs were fed a 10% solution of MSG for two years and they suffered no obvious ill effects.