One of the best parts of having a dog is the fact that they keep us company. Even better, they look at us with those adoring eyes and give us love no matter how badly the day went. With that said, being a pet parent has some responsibilities. Exercise, a comforting dog bed, and vet care all require our attention on a regular basis. And food. Let’s not forget food. Other than the kibble or canned diet, most dogs love their treats. Commercial treats are, of course, available. But should we give in when Fido really wants people food? Here’s what you need to know.
Some people food can be healthy
Here’s the one thing which everyone can agree on: commercial dog food is made with many of the same ingredients as people food. In particular, the typical dog food will have some mixture of meat, grain, and vegetables. From this vantage point, we can start to get a picture of what’s safe for our fur babies. However, it’s a bit more complicated than this, because some choices are better than others. Furthermore, some of the foods we consider healthy for humans are toxic to dogs.
Say yes to lean meats
One thing which experts approve of is lean meat. In fact, some dog trainers use small pieces of cooked chicken as a training aid. This chicken should be cooked with the minimum oil to prevent sticking (read, cooking spray) and have all skin and fat trimmed off. You should also take it off the bone. Similarly, lean pieces of beef or pork can be used.
Fish? That’ll work too
Similarly, many dogs get off their comforting dog bed for small pieces of fish. With the exception of sardines, the bones are a choking hazard and must be removed. Also, ensure that the fish is well cooked to prevent possible food poisoning.
Some veggies and fruits can be good
Like people, dogs can benefit from the vitamins and minerals in fresh fruits and vegetables. In particular, baby carrots, green beans, potatoes, and peas offer healthy options for vegetables. Fido-favorite fruits include apples, bananas, and even watermelon. So, if these appeal to your pet then they’re an appropriate treat.
A few foods are toxic
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people foods that are toxic or dangerous to dogs. If your buddy eats the items on this list, you should get him off that comforting dog bed and off to the vet. Nobody wants this to happen, right?
Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and the more cocoa it contains the more likely you’ll have problems. Many doggies have stolen chocolate from their kid’s Halloween candy stash only to spend days at the animal hospital. To that end, if you love both Fido and chocolate, the latter should be carefully secured.
Onion, garlic, and spices
Any type of onion or garlic should be avoided. These too have caused pets to get very sick, and even die. Other spices, such as nutmeg, are also toxic. Besides the poisonous ones, many spices are irritating to your dog’s stomach or respiratory tract. Don’t feed your buddy anything with spices on it.
Grapes and fruit seeds
While many of us love grapes and their products, doggies don’t. In fact, many dogs must leave their comforting dog bed after eating them. The reason? Grapes contain chemicals that can cause kidney failure and death in pets, so any ingestion of these calls for an immediate trip to the vet. Likewise, although many fruits with seeds are OK for dogs, some of their seeds contain cyanide. Examples include apple seeds and stone fruit pits, such as cherries or peaches. In addition, seeds are a choking hazard. Don’t forget to remove them.
Calorie intake is a concern
When giving a dog “people food,” you need to think about calories. Even “healthy” options like boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces need to have their calorie intake counted. Dogs are much smaller than their humans, so what seems like a little bit for us can be a cheeseburger to dogs.
One way that dogs are just like people is that they need to keep their body weight healthy. While part of this is always getting them adequate exercise before they cuddle on that calming dog bed, calories always play a role. To that end, when you give your pet people food, make sure that it isn’t loaded with unhealthy fats. Poultry skins and fat from your steak should always be avoided, for example. Dogs can and do develop obesity and pancreatitis from excessive dietary fat.
People food can be good
Besides their use as training tools, there are situations where people food can be advantageous. One of the more famous with experienced dog owners is when a dog needs to be medicated. Many pets refuse to take capsules or unflavored tablets without coaxing. Pet food companies have developed pill-encasing treats in recent years, but an old reliable option is peanut butter. It’s high in fat, though, so be careful.
Another great use of people food is as medicine. Sometimes vets will recommend a plain dish such as chicken or hamburger with rice if the dog is experiencing an upset stomach. Likewise, canned pumpkin is a great remedy for diarrhea and other digestive issues. In both cases, a vet visit is recommended unless you know the cause of Fido’s problem.
Don’t allow bad behavior
Lastly, one of the bigger concerns with feeding people food is the risk of bad behavior from your pet. While “those puppy eyes” are cute to you, it can be an issue if they’re begging for table scraps. All the uses for people food mentioned above are appropriate in a controlled environment, such as pill giving or training sessions. Dogs should never be fed directly from the table.
For decades the pet community has been divided over the topic of people food. One reason for this is the mixture of risks and benefits for our fur babies. Hopefully, this article will help you decide what to give your dog, if anything. And as always, the advice of a vet is indispensable.