recently received a question from Dan, a question that
has been asked and discussed for many moons between
clients and their veterinarians. Is it OK to feed his
dog human foods and, if so, what things are safe to feed
the dog? I suspect if you asked this question of 10
different veterinarians you would get 10 different
answers, but since you are asking me, Dan, Iíll give
you my answer.
reason this issue is an issue at all is because human
foods can be detrimental, even dangerous, to our
companions, especially if there are underlying diseases
that may be at work. In Danís question, he refers to
feeding other than "dog food" to dogs but I do
want to discuss this issue in reference to other
companions as well.
digestive system, the structures and substances
responsible for turning food into energy, is extremely
complex and very different from species to species. The
digestive system of a feline is totally different from
that of a dog, which is totally different from that of a
parrot, which is totally different from that of an
iguana Ö well, you get the picture. Each has adapted
to a specific diet that in the case of non-domestic
species is provided in the specific environments in
which they live. In the case of companion species, we
provide their diets.
development of diets for companions of various species
is a dynamic process that has evolved over time through
trial and error as well as, most currently, extensive
research into animal nutrition. And this research
understand more about proper nutrition in companions,
study of their non-domestic counterparts in their
habitats has been revealing. In the case of cats, we
have learned much about their nutritional requirements
by observing lions, tigers, jaguars and other wild cats.
Wolves provide a non-domestic model for dogs, as
unlikely as that may sound looking at some of the breeds
of dogs we have created. Itís hard to believe a
chihuahua is related to a timber wolf, but metabolically
they are brothers.
these observations, we know that dogs and many avian
companion species are what we term omnivores. This means
they are designed to eat a variety of foods of plant and
animal origin. Humans fall into this category, too. Do
not infer from this, however, that humans and dogs are
identical in their nutritional needs. Cats, we know, are
true carnivores designed only to eat meat-sourced foods.
Through proper processing, diets can be formulated to
mimic protein from meat sources using proper blending of
proteins from plant sources, but this blending must be
very exacting to provide their nutritional balance.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, iguanas, horses and chinchillas,
among others, fall into the group we call herbivores.
These creatures are designed to eat plant material.
does all this mean? Especially in the case of dogs and
cats, it means we as caretakers should pay close
attention to their diets and stick to foods specifically
formulated for them. It is especially important to use
specific diets for our companions with certain digestive
problems. These diets are specifically formulated to
provide proper nutrition while dealing with a digestive
problem. This is something you and your veterinarian can
decide based on your companionís condition.
said this, I realize that for some of us it is
impossible to keep from feeding our companions from our
plates. I know how hard it is to resist them when they
give you "that look" ó you know the one: the
anxious eyes, anticipating, hoping. How can you resist?
I know thatís what my dog counts on. My bird is much
more brazen. He flies right up to the plate and tries to
snatch whatever he fancies. To avoid inappropriate
supplementation of your companionís diet, I suggest a
solution that has worked well for me. I do not eat in
front of my dog and my bird is not within eye contact.
avoiding your companion(s) during mealtime is not an
option and you find it impossible to resist feeding them
your food, please show discretion. At all cost, avoid
foods that are high in fat. Meat and meat scraps can be
especially dangerous and in my opinion should absolutely
all is doom and gloom. There are human foods that can be
used as treats, although I personally prefer to stick to
treats specifically formulated for your companion. That
said, I have been known to recommend "baby"
carrots as a treat. They have no fat and are helpful in
scrubbing a bit of plaque from the teeth. The key in my
opinion is always to avoid foods that are laden with
fat. Too many times, I have seen dogs become very ill,
even fatally so, when treated with high-fat human food
it is best to avoid all human foods for our canine
companions, lest we begin to slide down that slippery
slope to the point where we are being trained by our
dogs to feed them what they want from our table rather
than what is best for them.