Dr Felicity: Leftovers, anyone?
This month Dr Felicity Banks tackles the topic of feeding your dog leftovers.
Do you feed your dog table scraps? I personally feed 4Legs most of the time, but I love nothing more that topping my precious pooches’ bowls with some salmon skin and buttered greens… Or some mashed pumpkin that my toddler emphatically rejected for the thousandth time… Or that crunchy edge of lasagne that no one wants. I love spoiling my dogs and feeding them special human food treats at mealtimes because I am a nurturer and it makes me happy. Am I mistakenly humanising my pets? Well, maybe just a bit!
Some vets suggest never feeding table scraps and recommend only a commercial diet, while others believe feeding appropriate table scraps can vastly improve a pet’s diet. Some pet owners are too scared to feed table scraps, while others (like me) love to feed leftovers as it makes them feel like they are including their pet as one of the family. Love them or hate them, if you are going to feed them you need to know how to tackle feeding human leftovers and table scraps safely.
Feeding table scraps can be an excellent way to introduce variety into a dog’s diet. It provides not only a variety of nutrients but also adds interest and sensory experiences to what can otherwise be a standard, sometimes boring meal. It is, however, important to remember that a diet of table scraps is unlikely to be balanced, so they should only make up 10-30% of the overall calorie intake of a dog, provided the rest of the diet is complete and balanced. If you are feeding a good commercial diet, then there is nothing wrong with feeding some fresh food for two or three days per week, or supplementing the regular diet daily with some home-cooked yummies.
If you are feeding table scraps, you must be sure to avoid foods that are toxic to dogs, or foods that can cause adverse reactions like pancreatitis. Foods that are toxic to dogs include large amounts of onions, garlic and chives. Avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes, sultanas, raisins, currants, chocolate, coffee and caffeine sources should also be avoided.
Foods that cause pancreatitis are those that are very high in fat, like meat off-cuts and nuts. These should be avoided. Caution should also be exercised with feeding large amounts of richer meats like pork and lamb in older or overweight dogs that can be more predisposed to pancreatitis. Smallgoods should be fed with caution but ideally avoided as they are usually high in fat, contain preservatives, or both. Many potential adverse reactions are dose-dependent so feed small dogs, in particular, small amounts of anything new, even if you think it is safe.
Never, ever feed cooked bones of any type!
I find the table scraps from my childrens’ meals are often quite appropriate to put in my dogs’ bowls. And yes… guilty… if the food ends up on the floor, the little dogs love to clean up for me once I’ve ensured there’s nothing toxic on the floor! Our pets really are part of our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.