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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Not People Food?

People food. Table scraps. Call it what you want to, but it's something that people commonly give their pets, especially dogs. You look down and see those big brown eyes and the pitiful expression, and you can't help yourself. Your little pup looks so cute and adorable that they can't be resisted. So you give in and give them some of your supper or a few potato chips. And since they enjoy it so much, you give in again another time. Pretty soon it's a regular habit. And since nothing bad seems to happen, you keep doing it. Then you wonder why your vet gets on your case about you doing this. Well, I'm going to try and help try and explain it.

Remember yesterday's discussion of how dogs and cats are different than their wild ancestors (if not, go back and read it)? Well, the differences are even greater between humans and our pets. What might be good for us may not be as good for dogs and cats, and can even be toxic. For example, onions are very toxic to cats, and even onion powder in foods can cause serious illness or even death. It also means that pets may have difficulties digesting our foods. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis (remember that I mentioned this two days ago). I have treated numerous cases of pancreatitis after pets have gotten a plate of table scraps or gotten into the garbage to eat human leftovers. One of my patients, a shih-tzu, died from pancreatitis after eating a plate of stir-fry.

Besides digestibility issues, human foods are not nutritionally balanced for pets. Feeding your pet a large amount of your food means that he or she may not be hungry for regular dog food. Eating less dog or cat food can lead to nutritional imbalances. Large amounts of human snacks and foods can also lead to obesity.

Another problem comes in the form of picky eating. Many dogs, especially small breeds, can be very finicky eaters. If you start feeding a little human food, they start to get a preference for it. Then they realize that their dog food isn't as good as that bowl of hamburger. So they turn their nose up a their pet food. Now people usually start to panic because their little doggie has just skipped a meal. They don't want little fluffy to starve, and since the only thing the dog will eat is people food, that's what they give. Congratulations, you've just been trained by your dog. And the more you allow this, the harder it will be to switch them back to regular pet food. Sound familiar to anyone?

Commercially available dog and cat food is always the best way to go. Yes, many people are still scared after the problems with toxins in pet foods two years ago, but that was still in a minority of pets and many of the recalls were as a precation and not because toxicities were found. Regardless of that, human food is never a good idea to give. It's nutritionally imbalanced, can lead to a picky eater, makes health problems more likely, and can even cause serious illness or be toxic. Simply put....don't do it!

So with all of these discussions about feeding and nutritional issues, what pet foods are really the best? Tune in tomorrow for the answer!