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Table Scraps: Healthy Dog Treat or Canine Catastrophe?

Written by: Michelle Toma Olson

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Time to read 6 min

We pet parents all consider our furiends part of the family. So it makes sense that we would want them to partake in family dinner, right? Wrong! Well, usually, anyway.


While some human table scraps are okay for pet tummies and make safe and even healthy dog treats, most of the time this is a no-no. Dog digestive systems are not like ours. While they are capable of ingesting many things in the wild that would make us sick, by the same token there are many human foods that could make most doggos sick, have a reaction, choke – or worse. Even though the safest choice for a healthy pet treat is one made especially for them of high-quality ingredients, like ours at Farm to Pet, there are some human foods we can share with our fur babies. Here, we break down parts of the human diet to identify some of the foods that are okay to share with Shirley the shih-tzu, others that are off limits for Ollie the otterhound, and why.

The Dangers of Using Human Food as Dog Treats

Dog at a table waiting for food
Pup waiting for human to serve healthy food

Even though dog tummies are much higher in acids that can break down a lot more materials and microbes than human stomachs can, that doesn’t mean that they are garbage disposals! Dog constitutions are meant for simple sources of nutrition. As we have learned from our past blog posts on the subject, limited-ingredient foods and single-ingredient treats like our turkey and chicken chips are the best choice for low-calorie, high-nutrient meals and healthy pet treats. Not only do doggos not need extra seasoning, aroma, or texture from salt, pepper, herbs, spices or added fats, many of these things we use to flavor our foods can cause adverse reactions in dogs – and others can be downright dangerous. Some of the problems that can be caused by feeding dogs from our human tables include:


Digestive issues – complex combinations of foods or foods your dog has never eaten before can upset her stomach, vomiting or diarrhea. This is usually caused by new flora introduced into her digestive system that simply don’t gibe. While they usually resolve on their own, these symptoms can linger and cause dehydration and even more long-lasting issues, so as with any of these adverse reactions, it’s best to play it safe and seek the help of your veterinarian. 

 

Allergic reaction – again, new foods or those hidden inside a complicated recipe can cause an allergic reaction in your pup. While most allergies to proteins like beef and dairy are already known to us pet parents, we might not know if our dogs are allergic to soy or wheat. Plus, allergies are more likely when multiple ingredients are combined together, like in human dishes, rather than eaten singly. Exposure to allergens usually causes itching and rashes, and can also trigger diarrhea and vomiting.

 

Weight gain – sometimes, the threat of eating human table scraps is longer term, as with weight gain. It may not happen overnight, but feeding our pets fatty human foods, or even too much of a good thing, can show up in a thicker waistline. This is dangerous for many reasons, including joint and back issues, diminished respiratory capacity, and even pancreatitis. Sticking with a balanced, low-fat, and high-nutrient diet is best for all of us, whether four-legged or two!

Table Scraps for dogs
Table Scraps -- Healthy or Not?

Choking or Blockages – the risk of choking and blockages usually come from similar things, namely bones or pits that a dog might chomp down before you can get it away from him. Even though dogs might love a bone and they are fine for wild canines, for domesticated pups even uncooked bones can splinter or break. This can present a choking hazard, and if your dog manages to swallow it, can pose a threat of perforating intestines or getting stuck in the digestive tract – both of which could require surgery. A better choice for healthy dog chew is an elk antler, like ours , which are much less likely to break but provide the chewing satisfaction and nutritional value of a bone.

 

Toxicity – this is the most important thing we need to protect our fur babies from. So many things that seem like an innocuous or even healthy dog treat can actually be uber dangerous or quickly lethal. Below are the top threats to our pets’ well-being that we need to avoid at all costs. Seek veterinary help immediately if your pup ingests any of them.

  • Raisins and grapes – these seemingly healthy fruits can cause irreversible kidney damage and failure in many pets, and there is no way to know if your dog is susceptible or not, or why. 
  • Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine – the methylxanthines in these human favorites are super dangerous to dogs, leading to a plethora of medical conditions. And what’s worse, they build up in dogs’ systems, so every exposure becomes more dangerous.
  • Onions, Garlic and Chives – at best, these flavorful foods can cause intestinal irritation in our furiends, and at worst they can damage red blood cells and even lead to anemia. 
  • Xylitol – this artificial sweetener found in gum, toothpaste and some sweets prompts insulin release that can lead to liver failure. Keep these items well out of reach of your doggo at all times.

How to Safely Share Table Scraps with Our Pets at Mealtime

Dog looking in the fridge for food
Mom, where is my food?

Many of us have trained our dogs – or perhaps vice versa! – to think they get to eat every time we do. We whip up breakfast, and there they are. When we make lunch, they are lingering at our feet. And dinnertime? That is prime begging time! They look at us with those (literal!) puppy dog eyes, and we think “how can I resist that face? A little bit won’t hurt.” Unfortunately, sometimes it can hurt – a lot. And what’s more, it is bad behaviorally for several reasons. 

 

First, it undermines us as the pack leader by allowing our pet to command us to act instead of vice versa. Additionally, it creates bad habits of begging from guests and even strangers who might offer something our dog might wolf down but that isn’t healthy for her. Lastly, it also increases the risk of exposing our precious puppos to table scraps or other foods they shouldn’t eat even accidentally from spilling or dropping or leaving something unattended that they don’t have the control to resist because they think the world is their buffet!

Dog at the table with human food
Table food for pups

We can create good habits and behaviors by signaling what is acceptable and rewarding it, such as by limiting feeding to certain times of day or certain activities or as a reward, as well as only feeding meals and snacks directly from their bowls rather than the kitchen counter or dinner table. Still, if you want your fur baby to eat when you do, here are some options to use as healthy pet treats using foods you might be eating yourself at mealtimes.

 

  • Breakfast for Dogs – a small piece of banana or apple, or a few blueberries make perfect healthy pet treats at breakfast time. 
  • Pup Lunch – making a PB&J? A small spoonful of all-natural peanut butter in her bowl is a great lunchtime treat.
  • Doggy Dinnertime – if you want to share some cooked low-allergen foods with your dog, like chicken, beef or rice, just cook a small portion without seasoning and be sure it’s cool before putting it in his bowl.

Say YES to Healthy Dog Treats!

Dog feeding bowl with Farm to Pet Chicken Chips
Feeding bowl with Farm to Pet Chicken Chips

As you can, see there are some safe ways to incorporate human table food as healthy pet treats. As long as we avoid table scraps and foods and ingredients that are dangerous or even toxic to our beloved pet, limit the amounts, and present them in behaviorally appropriate ways, we can treat them to some of the foods we enjoy ourselves every day. Of course, the safest and best treats for our canine children – and those sure to avoid catastrophe! – are those that are explicitly made for them using high-quality, responsibly-sourced and limited or one ingredient, like our Farm To Pet turkey and chicken chips. So we encourage you to treat – and your dogs to crunch – away!

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