The Do’s and Dont’s of Sharing Food with your Dog

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Sharing food from the table can be great for your dog’s health 

By Elizabeth Pask and Laura Scott| moderndog

 

Most of us have heard that giving “people food” or table scraps to dogs is not a good thing. While sharing food directly from your plate probably isn’t the best idea, there are lots of table scraps that are safe and healthy to share with your canine companion. Just because it comes from the table or counter doesn’t mean that it’s bad for your dog. Many people make their own dog food, and their dogs eat “people foods” without a problem.

Moderation is the Key

A common concern with feeding table scraps is that it causes obesity. While this is certainly a concern, it does not need to be the case. Any time you give your dog extra food, you are adding extra calories, so if the food you choose to share with your dog is high in fats, sugars, and calories, then there is a real risk of your dog becoming obese. This risk is higher for small dogs, as it takes very few extra calories to cause weight gain. However, sharing healthy foods in small amounts or reducing your dog’s regular food by an equal amount will help to prevent your pooch from packing on the pounds.

Foods which are high in fat can also contribute to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas with symptoms that range from mild discomfort to a blood infection (sepsis) and internal bleeding. High-fat foods to avoid include bacon, paté, sausage, gravy covered meat, beef trimmings, and poultry skin. A little piece (not more than 1 cm x 1 cm per 20 lbs of dog body weight per day) of any of these items is unlikely to cause a problem as long as your dog does not have an underlying health issue.

Carbohydrates can be an excellent source of highly digestible energy. For this reason, we need to be careful in the amounts that we feed dogs. Dogs that have diabetes should absolutely avoid table scraps that have high amounts of carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice. Table 1 (see next page) gives a basic guideline for the maximum amount of extra food that your dog should be consuming a day per pound of body weight. Letting your dog have the last bite of toast or some plain spaghetti is a fine way to share these types of foods; giving him a plate of pancakes complete with syrup is not a healthy choice.

In human nutrition, high salt intake has received a lot of press lately. Consuming a high salt intake may put you at risk for health problems; however, this is not true for healthy dogs. The only exceptions to this are dogs with chronic kidney problems, since research has shown that high-sodium diets can exacerbate kidney failure. So, dogs with kidney problems should avoid excess sodium intake. Remember also that salty foods are often high in calories and fat, so should be limited for that reason.

What Can You Feed Fido?

Healthy foods are the same for us as they are for dogs. Fresh fruits and veggies are the best treats for your dog. Fresh fruit is high in water and a good source of fiber, so you don’t want to share large amounts as it can result in gastrointestinal upset. In addition, dried fruit can be a good treat, but it tends to be sweeter than fresh fruit because the sugar is more concentrated. It is very easy for dogs to binge on dried fruit and end up with severe diarrhea. A shared piece of watermelon on a warm day is a great treat for your dog. For dogs that are picky drinkers, including fruit in their diet can be a good way of increasing water intake.

Lean meat is an excellent treat for your four-legged friend. Lean chicken, turkey, fish, or beef are great sources of protein. High quality sources of protein (without visible fat) will have approximately 3.5 kcal/gram of meat. So, as with the added carbohydrates, follow the guidelines listed in Table 1. Saving a few small pieces of leftover meat without sauce to share with your dog after dinner or to add to his breakfast the next morning is a good way to share these healthy foods with your dog.

Dog’s Weight10% of caloric requirement
for a healthy adult dog
Amount of extra lean meat
and carbohydrates/day
5 lbs16 kcal4.5 g
10 lbs29 kcal8 g
20 lbs49 kcal14 g
40 lbs83 kcal83 kcal
60 lbs112 kcal32 g
80 lbs140 kcal40 g
100 lbs165 kcal47 g

Many herbs and spices are recognized as having health benefits, and research is being done to determine exactly what they do and how they can benefit both humans and animals. While there is limited information available on this subject, cinnamon has been suggested to have anti-cancer and anti-bacterial benefits. Adding a small amount (a half teaspoon or less for large dogs) to your dog’s regular meal may ha