Thursday, September 23, 2010

'People' Foods Your Dog Can Eat

By Pamela Babcock September 22, 2010
Excerpt from WebMD Pet Health Feature Reviewed by D. West Hamryka, DVM

http://www.pets.webmd.com/


As a rule, keep your food to yourself. But as a rare treat, these foods may be OK.

Looking for ways to help your
dog lose weight? Can’t resist throwing table scraps? You’re not alone.Most people know dogs should never eat things like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic. As a rule, dogs should eat dog food. But there are some “people” foods that are OK to give to dogs.

Foods most dogs can safely eat in moderation include melon, berries, bananas, cooked chicken (with skin and bones removed), peanut butter, and cream cheese. Usually, it’s better to leave out the salt and other seasoning.

Bernadine Cruz, DVM, a veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, Calif., often recommends green beans, carrots, or fruit like apples for overweight dogs.“Some people are shocked to hear that it’s OK to give dogs some people food,” Cruz says. “People usually follow exactly the letter of the law -- by not giving any people food. Or they go to the other extreme, where all they give is ‘people’ food. And then there are those clients who only give “people” food as an occasional treat.”

General Guidelines

People and dogs can be emotionally close. But there’s a big difference between what humans and dogs can safely eat.

Human systems are designed to break down and digest complex carbohydrates and plants. Dogs do better when a higher portion of their diet is animal-based. In general, lean meat -- chicken, turkey, fish, and even pork -- is probably fine for dogs, as long as it’s cooked.

To help dogs lose weight, Lisa P. Weeth, DVM, Diplomate ACVN, a veterinary nutritionist with Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, N.J., has a list of recommendations. In addition to baby carrots and green beans, it includes plain, unsalted rice cakes; unsalted no-butter popcorn; vanilla or strawberry yogurt without artificial sweeteners; and even vanilla-flavored animal crackers.

“I have some dogs that love those and some pet owners who love to give them,” Weeth says.Other generally safe foods include squash, peas, sweet potatoes, and ice cubes made with diluted chicken or beef broth. One note of warning: Dogs can crack their teeth on ice cubes.

Don't Overdo It

Most veterinarians recommend a high-quality, well-balanced manufactured diet.
And for good reason, says Cruz, who is a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council and is featured on the company’s nutritional consultant web site. “Commercial foods are generally more balanced, more nutritious, and safer for a dog than ever trying to feed home-cooked foods,” Cruz says.Moderation is key. “As long as it’s not more than 10% of the dog’s diet, a little treat here and there is probably going to be OK,” Weeth says.

That’s because commercial diets are designed to provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition. But when more than 10% of your dog’s diet is filled with other foods, you begin to dilute the essential nutrients in the commercial diet.The amount of “people” food you give also should vary based on your pet’s size. After all, “a little bit for a Great Dane is a meal for a Chihuahua,” Cruz says.

If you dramatically increase the amount of fat, you may see diarrhea, or worse, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas.). If you increase fiber with whole-wheat pasta or a complex grain, such as brown rice or barley, your dog may get constipated, or food may pass through undigested.

No Begging

Table scraps aren’t necessarily bad as long as you avoid fatty, sugary, and salty foods or foods with heavy sauces. About 40% of the dogs in the U.S. are overweight and we know that exacerbates diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes,” Cruz says.But it’s important that your pet realizes it’s a snack and not a regular meal.

Sharing your food with your dog may make for a finicky dog -- for instance, one that holds out for a bit of your steak, rather than its own dog food.If you give table scraps as a treat, Cruz recommends mixing a very small amount into your dog’s regular food and offering it when you’re not eating.

Sickness to Health

Certain “people” foods can help otherwise healthy animals. Like if your dog gets into the garbage and has a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.Cooked chicken breast or cottage cheese mixed with boiled white rice is highly digestible. It can provide nutrition and calories without being hard on the digestive system.A small amount of peanut butter or cream cheese to hide medication also is OK occasionally, Weeth says.

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