Thursday, February 10, 2011

Healthy Hounds Series: When “People Food” isn't Just for People

Written by Reggie and Gemma's Adoptive Mom

One of the most common questions that dog owners will ask each other seems to be “Does your dog get people food?” There really is only one way to answer this question if you don't want to her a litany of advice advising against it. I've stopped lying and I now fully admit that my dogs get people food. Of course that doesn't mean I feed the dogs whatever they want from the table...I'd have VERY heavy dogs. Choosing foods to share with your dog is a particular process with lots to consider:

1. Is this a toxic food? The most important question to ask! There are lists all over the internet of foods that dogs cannot properly digest or that are flat-out poisonous to their systems. Among those items are the classics like chocolate and raw eggs, but did you know that other seemingly benign items like grapes, cherries and onions can also be bad for your dog? Even something as small as a macadamia nut can be hazardous to your dog's health. Print out a list like this one about Toxic foods for dogs and keep it close by. Before you toss your dog that extra scrap while making dinner, check the list as your first precaution.

2.Is this even considered a healthy food for humans? Sharing a bag of potato chips with your pup may not directly poison either of your systems but just like saturated fat and high sodium content aren't good for you, they are certainly aren't good for your dog. You may feel like you're being a good “dog parent” by sharing a little of dinner every night but in reality, lasagna is no where to be found in a dog's natural diet. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether the food in question is considered “healthy” for you. If the answer is “no” or even “not really” then you should reconsider offering that particular snack to your dog. He may not think so, but you're really doing your dog a favor by not giving it to him.

3.Does this “people food” provide a specific health benefit?- Just as blueberries offer rich antioxidants to you, they do the same thing for your dog! Pick foods that strengthen digestion, that contain vitamins or that boost the immune system. Just for some ideas to get you started, my dog LOVES clementine orange segments. They're a rich source in Vitamin C so I give him a couple per day when I'm snacking on one myself. My mom's pug loves carrots which are packed with nutrients like Vitamin A & Vitamin E so he gets those as healthy treats. Some healthy foods for dogs:

Apples and Mangoes (be sure to remove the seeds as they are poisonous!)
Carrots
Zucchini
Potatoes- a great carbohydrate supplement to use in place of foods high in grains.
Leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage
Oranges & Grapefruits
Yogurt- low sugar is better, Greek-style is best.
Salmon
Pumpkin and sweet potatoes – awesome fiber sources!
Green Beans (my dogs love the freeze dried kind from our natural foods store)
Oatmeal- Plain, low sugar with dog-friendly fruits like blueberries.
Plain, white meat chicken breast- No skin and low salt!

NO RAISINS!

4. How many calories are in this?- A simple question that gets forgotten so quickly! Just because the treats you're giving your dog are healthy, it doesn't mean they should be overdone. For example, if you decide to give your dog oatmeal for breakfast on a Saturday morning, keep the portion close to their normal caloric intake for that particular meal. As with everything- People foods are best for dogs when given in moderation and as a supplemental addition to a healthy base-diet.

It's so important to keep your dog's diet varied and by implementing a few “people foods” here and there, you'll be adding not only to the health of your dog but to their quality of life as well: I've never met a dog that doesn't like a hand-out! Just make sure the foods you hand out are the right foods to keep your pup around for years to come.

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