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Your Happy Pet: Feeding table scraps to pets OK if limited

Original Publication Date: May 19, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Your veterinarian has no doubt told you not to feed table scraps or people food to your pet. A high quality pet food should provide a balanced diet that meets his nutritional needs.

However, it is difficult to look into the sweet eyes of your pet and resist the temptation to share. A treat is probably acceptable if your pet has no health problems and you choose the food wisely.

Some foods including onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and xylitol (artificial sweetener) are toxic to pets and should never be given. Remember the onions and garlic you use for flavor can still be toxic for your pet even after they are cooked.

There are treats that are not toxic but can cause a variety of health problems. Fatty or greasy foods can contribute to pancreatitis so should be avoided. Small bones can create a choking hazard or cause damage to your pet's digestive tract so should never be offered.

There are good treats that your pets can have including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy. My dogs love peeled apples, berries and melons. Watermelon is a particular favorite.

My crew also likes a variety of veggies that are good for them including carrots, broccoli, cooked squash, zucchini and potatoes. Granted, Irish Wolfhounds are not particularly finicky eaters, but I have furry friends of other breeds who also like their fruits and veggies.

Rice and pasta from the grain family also make healthy pet treats.

My guys even like quinoa, which is high in protein.

The inner carnivore in most pets will surely show its face if you offer a piece of your steak, chicken, turkey, or hamburger. Just be sure to remove the fat from the steak and the skin from the poultry. Small amounts of lean meat are fine. You may want to reserve these tidbits as treats when training your pet to perform a new trick.

Finally, an occasional taste of vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt can be fantastic for a special occasion like a birthday.

Even healthy people food treats should be given in moderation. Treats add up to extra calories which can quickly add up to extra pounds on your pet. As a rule of thumb, healthy table scraps should make up less than 10 percent of your pet's diet. Do the math and be realistic about how much food constitutes 10 percent of your pet's diet. For example, half a cup of food is a little less than 10 percent of the daily diet for a 175 pound Irish Wolfhound. In contrast, a half a cup of kibble is the entire daily diet for a 5 pound Chihuahua or other toy breed. Their treats should be limited to a few small bites.

Your pet deserves a treat now and then, and a few bites of healthy foods can enhance his regular balanced diet, keep him happy and healthy, and make you a hero in his eyes.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at