The family dog is, after all, family, but if you are fond of treating her to a piece of your own food now and then, you should proceed with caution. Some foods meant for human consumption can be dangerous, and even deadly, to your dog.
How Are People Different from Dogs when It Comes to Food?
Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says that an animal’s body processes food very differently. “Our bodies may break down foods or other chemicals that a dog’s can’t tolerate”, Stamper says.
Moreover, while people can at times have severe allergic reactions to foods, it’s different with dogs. “Allergies in animals tend to manifest themselves more in skin or ear issues”, Stamper explains.
Moreover, a given food might harm one dog but not another. The effect depends on a number of factors, including the animal’s genetic make-up and size, as well as the amount that animal eats. “A big Lab that eats a bar of dark chocolate may not have any problems”, Stamper says, whereas a Chihuahua could get dangerously ill.
What Human Foods Top the List?
“In summer, be particularly careful of foods eaten at picnics and barbecues”, Stamper advises. Among the foods you want to withhold from your dog are:
- Raw meat. Raw meat can contain E. coli, Salmonella, or other harmful bacteria. If you are making hamburger patties or setting out steaks and chicken breasts for the barbecue, for example, make sure they are well out of reach of your dogs; you are not doing them any favors by tossing a chunk or two.
“Food safety is important to you and your pet”, Stamper cautions. Don’t handle raw meat and then give your dog a treat unless you’ve washed your hands first. And remember that it works the other way around, too.
“People can get sick after handling contaminated dog food, not washing their hands, and then using their hands to eat a sandwich or a slice of pizza”, Stamper explains.
- Grapes, raisins and currants. These can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Stamper says that not all dogs are affected, but if you think you are giving your dog a healthy snack, you could be disastrously wrong.
But what about other fruits? For example, can dogs eat apples and bananas? According to Stamper, yes, they can, just make sure that with apples, you don’t feed your dog the core or seeds.
- Fried and fatty foods. These can not only give your dog a stomach ache, but can also cause a potentially life-threatening disease called pancreatitis. Even if your dog is eyeing the fried chicken with longing, resist the temptation to give him his own piece to chew on.
- Moldy foods. These are not something you would feed your family and your dog shouldn’t eat them either. If you put moldy cheese rinds or hamburger buns in the trash can, make sure your pet doesn’t then get into the garbage.
Similarly, if you have a compost heap and it’s the first place your dog makes a run for, be sure the moldy scraps are well out of reach.
- Onions, garlic and chives. These, as well as onion and garlic powder, can be harmful to your dog, particularly in large amounts. If you have put a lot of onions and garlic powder in your salsa, marinade, or beans, don’t let your dog get into the leftovers.
- Salty snacks. In large quantities, salty snacks could also cause problems in your dog. “Feeding the odd potato chip or pretzel probably won’t do any harm”, Stamper says. But if your dog gets into a whole bag of them, he could get really sick.
Make sure that your dog has access to plenty of water at all times, particularly if he gets into salty snacks.
- Macadamia nuts. These can be very harmful to dogs. If you are packing white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, make sure they stay in the picnic basket and out of reach of your dog.
- Xylitol. Many dog owners know that chocolate is bad for their dogs, but they may not realize that xylitol, a sugar substitute used in many sugarless products, can be deadly for them. Xylitol is found in sugarless gum, candies, oral products and some peanut butters and other nut butters.
“If you feed your dog pills coated in peanut butter, or put peanut butter in their hollow chew toys, make sure to check the list of ingredients first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol”, Stamper says.
Cats Are Different
Stamper says that cats are far pickier eaters than dogs and do not often get into trouble by eating foods that will harm them. She cautions, however, that cats are super sensitive to onions, garlic and onion and garlic powders, so make sure your cat has no opportunity to eat foods made with these ingredients.
Obesity in Dogs
Within the past few years, the obesity epidemic in all companion animals, with an important stress on our canine companions, has reached an all-time high. Many veterinarians maintain that there is a connection between the nutritional habits of owner and dog. These habits include overfeeding, choosing the cheapest food as opposed to the most nutritional, laziness and most importantly table scraps (human food).
With overfeeding being the main cause of animal obesity, those who have the tendency to overeat themselves, are usually among the same people who have a tendency to overfeed their animals. Overfeeding can include the presentation of more food in the dog’s food bowl then is necessary for that sized animal. Another cause includes the failure to regulate a time limit in which the animal can feed.
There is a certain amount of food that should be laid out each night for a calculated amount of time depending on the dog’s weight, size, breed, age and condition. With the help of a veterinarian, owners will eliminate the hassle of having to work out these several equations on their own.
Some owners also have a tendency to lean toward the cheapest or most easily accessible food, however, that choice is not always what is best for the health of the dog. Just as a Big Mac has the tendency to be a quicker and cheaper lunch than a home-made salad, the type of food your dog takes requires as much time and effort as your own diet.
It is important to take time to research what ingredients are used to make your dogs’ daily meals and should be carefully chosen according to your dog’s nutritional needs.
The laziness of the owner can also be relayed into their dog, leading to obesity and causing other health problems in your dog. Owners who wouldn’t normally go out for a run on their own free time, don’t tend to find or make the time to give their dog the daily exercise it requires. However, it is very important for an owner to make this time.
There are certified veterinarians who can calculate a customized exercise plan for each owner’s dog specifically, thus eliminating any concerns that an owner may be experiencing in under-exercising or maybe even over-exercising their pet.
And then there is the problem of table scraps some owners give to their pets. When considering table scraps, “no” is always the appropriate answer.
Obesity in Dogs Can Lead to Health Problems
Obesity in dogs has been linked to many secondary conditions, such as type-two diabetes, respiratory and heart disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, skin disease and multiple forms of cancer.
Many of these health issues caused by obesity are overlooked and perceived as laziness. If your dog is lying around the house all day, your dog may be experiencing health issues. This can be a very serious issue, considering any one of these major illnesses can lead to overall diminishing health of your companion animal.
Factors Which Lead to Obesity in Dogs
There are multiple factors which cause obesity, such as breed, age, sex and, most importantly, the owner. The lifestyle and diet led by the owner directly affects the canine. Many overlook the fact that table scraps from the owner’s diet are having the same effects on the dog’s body.
Many owners who tend to spoil their dog with treats add significant amount of calories to the dog’s daily diet and if an indoor lifestyle is being led, those excess calories are not being burned off.
- Age. Nutritional needs change with age, as serving size, carbohydrate levels, fatty acid levels and protein levels increase. With growth, energy requirements increase while immune and digestive development becomes vital to ensuring a healthy companion.
Once a dog reaches their maturity and senior periods of their life, we want to ensure that the diet can help to maintain that youthful vitality. By doing this, it is crucial for an increase in the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and glucosamine.
While protecting the immune system, an increase in natural immune defenses such as vitamins E and C, along with taurine, lutein and beta-carotenes are essential. These micronutrients will aid your canine through a healthy aging process.
- Height, weight, sex and breed. All of these factors are considered in configuring your dog’s ideal or optimum weight. By maintaining an optimal weight you can add 1.8 years to your companion’s life.
Dogs that are kept at their optimal weight also have more energy and vitality, as well as fewer health problems. Putting your dog in a category of its breed is simply not enough, as many ideal weight charts for specific breeds show up to a 23% range in weight. These charts also do not consider mixed breeds or the sex of the breeds.
Your dog has a personalized ideal weight that can be determined by your veterinarian that is specific to your dog’s body. It is crucial to seek the expertise of your veterinarian before taking any steps in a weight loss program. Tampering with your pets diet without the vet’s recommendation can lead to greater health issues.
- Breed. Each breed is unique, as the canine species is the most diverse of all species, and each breed carries certain characteristics and are prone to specific health problems. Therefore each breed needs particular nutrients to aid in the prevention of prone chronic diseases.
It is obvious that a Yorkshire Terrier differs from a Mastiff and their diets should differ as well. One example is that hair types require different fatty acids. On the lines of health problems terriers are more prone to joint problems needing more protein, while Labrador Retrievers are prone to obesity and should be given a diet lower in carbohydrates.
Another example would be that the German Shepherd breed has tendencies to develop hip dysplasia as they approach adulthood. This hip dysplasia occurs when the “Ball and Socket” joint between the pelvic and femoral bones are abnormally structured and as a result the ligaments, connective tissue and muscles are loose altogether rather than taut, forcing the surfaces of those pelvic and femoral bones apart.
Over time this subluxation will cause the bones to change size and shape. This will result in the German Shepherd to experience slow degeneration of their walking ability, which inevitably leads to this specific breed gaining more weight as they increase in age and the dysplasia takes its toll.
By adjusting the certain food fed to these specific canines to contain more calcium than the rest, we would hope to establish stronger pelvic or hip bones in their breed throughout its life. This would work to limit the chances of your German Shepherd developing this same genetic issue that haunts so many other dogs of its kind.
Such breed specific-issues inform us that it is important to educate yourself as a dog owner on the health problems your canine may be more prone to. When ensuring a healthy diet for your pet, there are many other factors that should be considered when purchasing the right food for your dog. By making effort to research your dog’s food, along with a veterinarian-recommended weight-loss goal, you can help your canine to live a healthy life.
- Activity level. After recording the weight and breed of your companion, it is important to account for the average daily activity level your pet receives. Just like humans, active dogs need a greater level of daily caloric intake than dogs that lounge around all day long.
It is very important that, along with the adjustment to the dog’s caloric intake, in order to modify the animal’s diet, the dog be exercised accordingly. Whether it be a walk around the block, or a scheduled three trips to the local dog park a week, these actions must be performed in order to insure the continued decrease in your dog’s weight to a healthier amount.
Exercise comes in different forms, but however it may occur for your pet, the basic amount of time your dog should be exercising daily is about 30 minutes. The importance of this step cannot be overstated! If exercise is not included in the dietary process of helping your dog lose weight and become a healthier animal, you will fail to achieve the desired weight loss.
Of course, owners can take the opportunity and exercise along with their pets. By sticking to an exercise course that will benefit both dog and human, owners can ensure that their dog stays on track while they themselves stay on track, establishing a healthier household.
Image credit: Wikimedia.