Did you know there are some restaurant chains that have a secret dog menu? Or how about Tim Hortons having to start charging for the dog Timbits because demand was too high?!?! As a fellow dog owner, I know how tempting it can be to feed table scraps to our fur kids. However, as a Vet, I understand how bad that can be for our dogs. Since dogs have different digestive physiology (compared to humans), I’ve seen the pain and gastrointestinal discomfort your dog can experience from eating something that wasn’t meant for dogs. I’ve also seen how heart-breaking it is for pet owners to learn they made their dog sick… or worse. That’s why for this article, I wanted to share with you the reasons we shouldn’t feed human food to dogs.
HUMAN FOODS THAT ARE TOXIC
There are many foods that we like to enjoy that are toxic to dogs, some of the most common include:
- Garlic (fresh or powdered)
- Macadamia nuts
- Onions (fresh or powdered)
- Raw potatoes
Aside from the whole foods listed above, there are processed foods containing artificial sweeteners that are harmful to pets such as xylitol. Chewing gum, many candies, even some brands of peanut butter have xylitol.
A WORD ABOUT CHOCOLATE
One of the biggest concerns dog owners come to us about, is their dog accidentally ingesting chocolate. It’s true that chocolate can be very dangerous to dogs, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The ingredients in chocolate that dogs need to stay away from are methylxanthine and theobromine (which is similar to caffeine). Details about how much is poisonous are below. For reference, keep in mind that the average chocolate bar is about 1.5 ounces.
- DARK & BAKERS CHOCOLATE are the most dangerous to dogs because they contain the highest amounts of theobromine. Consider 0.1 ounce of dark chocolate is about two or three chocolate chips. As much as 0.1 ounces per pound of body weight can be poisonous. That means ¼ cup of dark chocolate chips is poisonous to a 20-pound dog.
- MILK CHOCOLATE can still be harmful, but in higher doses. Ingesting anything higher than half an ounce per pound of bodyweight is likely to cause chocolate poisoning. An added concern to milk chocolate though is the amount of sugar added during processing. A lot of sugar can also make your dog very sick.
- WHITE CHOCOLATE has the least amount of risky ingredients, but still has concerning amounts of sugar and shouldn’t be fed to any pet
It’s usually safe to say that a dog who is fed table scraps is also overweight, even if it’s just a little bit. Many dog owners are good about sticking to a feeding schedule with a set amount of food, however, they’re not as good at reducing the amount of food to compensate for the table scraps. It can be helpful to look at the treat from a dog’s point of view. For example, a single ounce of cheddar cheese might not seem so bad, but to a 20-pound dog, it’s the caloric equivalent of a very big cheeseburger.
As you can see, it’s very easy for these little bites and scraps to add up to extra pounds on your pup. Those pounds lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other weight-related issues including joint pain, early-onset osteoarthritis. A good rule of thumb is for your dog to never consume more than 10% of their calories from treats or human foods. So, remember, if you do give him a piece of chicken at lunch, you need to compensate for that at dinner
A side effect of feeding your dog human food is the negative behaviour it reinforces. If your dog knows there’s a possibility (even a tiny possibility) of getting a taste of your dinner, he’ll stare at you with those big, beautiful eyes. While it might be cute to you (because it’s cute to us too), guests may not be so appreciative of your pup’s stare at dinner time.
Additionally, some dogs take their obsession with human food too far by refusing to eat their own food, in hopes of getting the table scraps from their owners. Human food can be a very difficult habit to break.
A HEALTHIER WAY TO TREAT
- Stick to treats you know will benefit your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
- Consider the calories of human food from your dog’s perspective and be sure to adjust accordingly at mealtime.
- Avoid processed foods. Instead opt for fruits like blueberries, pieces of apple, veggies like cooked sweet potato, fresh cucumber, and lean cuts of unseasoned meat.
- Never feed from the table or from your plate. Treats should be a reward for training and to reinforce good behaviour, not for actions like begging or to use for reinforcing unwanted behaviours.
If you suspect your pet may have ingested a poisonous substance or food, please call the ASPCA Poison Control Centre in Canada at 1-888-426-4435.