Do’s and Don’ts of Sharing Food with your Pet

June 8, 2017

Do you food share with your precious pup or favourite feline? Pets Training & Boarding caught up with Dr Sarah Goldsmid, a Specialist Small Animal Surgeon from Animal Referral Hospital to get her thoughts on this hot topic.

It’s no surprise that most of us food share with our pets. As our dogs and cats have grown to become integral members of the family clan, it’s no wonder that humans want their furry four-legged companions to share in all aspects of human life, including food.

But what should we know about food sharing with our pets?

“My own opinion is that food sharing now and then is probably not a big deal – and my pug cross often gets the odd tidbit of bacon when we go out to breakfast at Balmoral,” Dr Goldsmid says. “But there are certain foods to completely avoid; for instance, don’t feed bones (particularly cooked), high-fat scraps (pancreatitis is common in dogs), high sugar scraps, chocolate, grapes, raisins or onions to your pet.”

Knowledge is power, so understanding the foods that are toxic to our pets is vital if you want to food share.

FOODS TO NEVER SHARE:

  • Chocolate
  • Cooked bones
  • Highly fatty foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Onions
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Nuts – Macadamia are the worst but they all have a high fat content and are best left for human consumption
  • Very salty foods
  • Any foods containing xylitol

“Certain human foods are toxic to dogs e.g. grapes will cause renal disease, chocolate will cause potentially fatal neurological and cardiac signs.”

Many pets will end up in an emergency hospital because of uneducated or over-indulgent food sharing, so caution is needed to protect your pet. “It is not uncommon for a dog to be presented with diarrhoea or vomiting because they ate human food that they were not used to,” Dr Goldsmid says. “Many dogs are really prone to pancreatitis and when this flares-up, usually if they have access to fatty human food, they can be hospitalised for days on IV fluids and in significant pain and nausea – occasionally needing surgery, or worse still, potentially fatal.”

Cooked bones are also a big no-no when it comes to food sharing. Throwing the dog, a leftover lamb chop could potentially lead to a trip to the emergency ward. “We constantly have dogs presented to us with oesophageal foreign bodies – particularly cooked bones- that have often been stuck there for several days. They can be fatal, or at the least very expensive to remove with the risk of further complications afterwards, like strictures and reflux.”

The best way to food share is to treat your pet occasionally with ‘safe foods’. The key word here is OCCASIONALLY. Another great idea is to bake your own cat/dog friendly treats.

Throwing your dog the crusts from your toast now and again is fine, but allowing Rover to feed on ample bread and butter on a daily basis may cause problems.

SAFE FOODS – OCCASIONALLY

  • Cold meats
  • Vegetables – raw carrots etc
  • Apples – remove core and seeds
  • Cheese – small doses only
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter – great to use in home-made treats

What About Weight?

Another issue with food sharing is obesity. “Obesity is a big problem in our pet populations and feeding them human food regularly is often part of the problem,” Dr Goldsmid warns. “Owners often feel they should be giving their pets a ‘variety’ and worry about feeding them the same food every day. Dogs and cats are perfectly ok to eat the same diet every day. In a lot of cases, this can be life-saving.”

If you have an overweight pet, food sharing isn’t such a good idea. Sadly, obesity in our pets is increasing with people over-feeding and over treating their pets. “I frequently have to explain to owners that they are effectively shortening their dog’s life and decreasing their quality of life by not feeding them correctly,” Dr Goldsmid says. “Obesity causes many issues or aggravates others – e.g. osteoarthritis, neurological diseases, breathing issues, urinary incontinence, skin disease, heart disease, diabetes. There are very good studies proving life span of pets that are kept at a healthy weight are significantly longer than those that are overfed.”

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