Should you Feed your Dog People Food?

Should you Feed your Dog People Food?

The struggle is real.  All dog owners know “the eye”.  You know, the look that Fido gives you when you’re chowing down on something particularly tasty designed to let you know that he’s ready and willing to take on a bite or two himself? Many pet owners feel that giving people food to their dogs is detrimental to them, and a lot of veterinarians would agree.  Yet, in today’s society, it is quite common to feed dogs cooked and raw diets sourced from human grade ingredients.  Even some of today’s producers of the highest quality kibble make use of food intended for human consumption in their kibble preparation.

So, what’s the answer?  Is it okay to feed your dog people food?

Some things to consider

There are a lot of factors to bear in mind when considering allowing your dog to enjoy some people food.  It is important to remember that our dogs’ digestive systems are quite different from ours, and they also have differing dietary needs in order to maintain a healthy canine body.

Here are some important facts to ponder in your search for your answer to this question:

  • Balance is important.

As with all things in life, balance is important.  It cannot be overstated that this is key when it comes to proper nutrition.  Some people make the assumption that healthy food in its natural state is better for their dogs than a product containing processed chemicals.  While this can be true, there is more to this than first meets the eye.

Most high quality commercially prepared kibbles are formulated from top quality human grade ingredients, but they also contain something for your dogs that your roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy doesn’t—essential vitamins and minerals. While your homecooked meal might be delicious, and Fido is only too eager to lap it up and hope for more, a consistent diet of home cooked meals designed for people but not supplemented for dogs could lead to health issues down the road.

There are many recipe books for home cooked diets out on the market.  The best of them were formulated by expert canine nutritionists and/or veterinarians. A diet must be balanced for the canine body in order for it to be a proper diet to feed your dog.  For those interested in a switch to a home cooked diet, both Monica Segal and Dr. Hilary Watson offer cookbooks and balancers to ensure that your dog’s dietary requirements are met to guarantee optimal canine health.

  • Some foods are toxic to dogs.

There are some foods that are healthy and nutritious for people, but that are toxic to dogs. For example, grapes make a wonderful, low calorie snack and are a great alternative to other sweet treats for those of us who have a penchant for sugary things.  However, grapes are toxic to dogs, and raisins even moreso.  Simply because a food is beneficial for the human body, does not mean that it is something your dog should eat.

Among the foods that humans can freely enjoy but that are toxic to our dogs even in small amounts are chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, avocado, the seeds of fruits such as pears and apples, macadamia nuts, and yeast doughs.

Another no-no is the sweetener Xylitol.  People love it because of its plant-based natural derivations making it a safer alternative to chemical-based sweeteners such as Equal or Sugar Twin.  While this sugar substitutes might be a preferred choice for human consumption, it is processed differently in the canine digestive system and thus should be avoided. Minute amounts can lead to death from hypoglycemia or liver failure.

Xylitol poisoning takes effect from 10-60 minutes after ingestion of the substance and takes as little as 50 mg per pound of body weight to trigger a serious response.

  • Foods that are too rich can lead to serious illness.

People should limit the amount of rich, fatty goods they consume.  However, the results on the human body are quite different to what our canine friends experience.

Foods that are too rich for the canine digestive system can trigger pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be acute or severe, and most often requires a trip to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Salty items such as bacon are also high in salt which can result in excessive thirst.  The additional drinking of water can lead to problems with kidney function and even bloat.  

  • The quality of what you feed is important.

In the good old days, dogs looked forward to the day their owners cleaned out the fridge because there were a lot of “goodies” coming their way.  But if a food has expired or is looking sketchy enough that you wouldn’t eat it, it’s best not to give it to Fido either.  

  • Bones can be problematic.

As an experienced dog owner, you are aware that cooked bones can be a problem for our dogs.  Certain types of cooked bones such as chicken and pork should never be given to dogs because of their tendency to splinter and create intestinal problems. However, their larger counterpart, cooked beef bones, can also prove hazardous.

Even raw bones, which are far less likely to chip or splinter, can wreak havoc on our dogs’ systems and even lead to problems with choking.  While it is far more advisable to allow your dog to enjoy a meaty raw bone to a cooked one, bones must always be given to your dog only when you are there to properly supervise.

  • Feeding table scraps can lead to picky eating.

Has Fido been turning up his nose at his kibble?  Table scraps are likely to blame!  Feeding people food in addition to a commercially prepared, high quality kibble diet can lead to picky eaters.  Dogs are master manipulators, and they learn very quickly that if they don’t eat their kibble, something better might be coming later!  Because we tend to worry about dogs that suddenly aren’t eating, we are more prone to give in, and our little canine opportunists learn to count on that and exploit it.

For best results, switch entirely to a properly balanced raw or cooked diet or severely restrict the number of people food rewards you permit in a day.

The Bottom Line

To feed people food or not?  With the proper precautions in place, it is perfectly acceptable to allow your dog to enjoy a few high quality, nutritious morsels of people food.

Of course, it is always wise to consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions regarding the food you feed your beloved dog. 

Has Fido been giving you “the eye” a lot this week?  A well thought out, nutritionally balanced treat or two will not harm him, but to keep him healthy and happy, err on the side of caution.

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