People often have strong feelings about table scraps. Some veterinarians will say you shouldn’t give them to your dog. Some dog owners are horrified at the thought of them.
But are they really bad for your dog? Will it hurt your pet to give him some table scraps?
Many vets dislike the idea of feeding table scraps to dogs; here are two common reasons:
1. If scraps are all you feed your dog, then your dog won’t get a balanced diet and he will be unhealthy.
You can’t rely totally on table scraps for your dog’s nutrition. Maybe 100 years ago, when people raised their own food, butchered their own hogs and gave their dogs lots of things they raised on their own land, it would have been okay to feed the dog a diet of leftovers, but that’s not how most of us live now.
If you give your dog junk such as your leftover pizza for dinner, he’s not going to thrive. And table scraps are not enough in and of themselves.
2. Vets often see dogs with pancreatitis, which can occur when a dog eats food — such as table scraps — that contains lots of fat.
Animal clinics get a lot of pancreatitis cases after Thanksgiving and other holidays when owners feed their dogs leftovers and their dogs have an acute attack. Does this happen to every dog who eats some leftover turkey and skin? No. But a lot of dogs aren’t used to eating rich food, and suddenly they are presented with the richest human food, which leads to a health problem.
Can You Feed Your Dog Table Scraps?
As an occasional addition to the normal diet — and not the whole diet — yes.
If you feed your dog a good pet food and sometimes give him some healthy leftovers, most dogs can eat them without any problem, depending on what you give him. There are some common-sense things to keep in mind.
For instance, don’t give your dog the following:
- Cooked bones
- Grapes and raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Large amounts of garlic
- Persimmons, peaches, plums (the pits)
- Corn on the cob
- Food with gobs of fat
Some of these foods are toxic to dogs, and others could be dangerous if eaten, such as cooked bones. Cooked bones can break and leave a jagged edge that can scratch or puncture a dog’s esophagus or gastrointestinal system.
How Much Is Too Much?
You shouldn’t give so many table scraps that they make your dog ignore his regular food.
Too many table scraps can upset your pet’s nutritional balance. If you are offering healthy table scraps, don’t give him more than one-third of the diet in table scraps in terms of calories. Remember that calories in human food will add up much faster than the calories in your dog’s food. A cup of dog food might contain 375 calories, while a cup of table scraps could contain considerably more.
Veterinarian Michael W. Fox says, “I advocate giving suitable table scraps as treats (no cooked bones or high-fat scraps) to dogs after they have had their regular food, or mixing no more than 10% with their regular food.”
Dr. Char Wilson, DVM, agrees, saying, “I think it’s okay to give table scraps, if it’s kind of like what the family ate, and they have a good diet. So if you had some chicken and some broccoli and some mashed potatoes, that would be great.”
Two More Reminders
- Remember to avoid giving large amounts of fat. Even dogs that are accustomed to eating table scraps can eat too much fat, leading to pancreatitis. Meat and vegetables are better.
- Don’t reward your dog with table scraps if your dog begs at the table for food. You can help avoid this issue if you put the scraps into your pet’s food dish instead.
My opinion: If you are careful about what you give your dog from the table or kitchen, and you don’t alter the nutritional balance of your dog’s normal dog food, table scraps can be a harmless addition to your dog’s diet.
What do you think? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below.
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This featured contribution was written by Carlotta Cooper, who has written extensively about dog nutrition and is a contributing author for DogFoodInsider.com, a website that specializes in detailed dog food reviews. Carlotta is also a contributing author for Dog News Magazine and is involved with many organizations related to dog rescue, obedience training, using positive reinforcement training and more.