Is it safe to feed my dog table scraps?

Dr Gretta Howard - Veterinarian profile picture

Dr Gretta Howard - Veterinarian

BVSc (Hons), MVS (Sm.Anim.Pract.), MANZCVS (Sm.Anim.Med.)

Dr Gretta Howard is an Australian veterinarian with over 20 years experience with a strong interest in growth and development, nutrition and small animal medicine of dogs and cats.

Is it safe to feed my dog table scraps?

Dogs are experts in knowing exactly when their human parents are preparing to eat, and you’ll often see them hanging around even before you know it’s dinner time. But is feeding table scraps to dogs actually safe?

There are three main risks associated with feeding table scraps:

  1. Pancreatitis
  2. Toxicity
  3. Obesity

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Everyday meals at home, and especially around Christmas and holiday times, are synonymous with gatherings and celebrations, involving deliciously rich sauces, cheese, bacon, sausages, and creamy desserts.

During food preparation or while enjoying a meal, we are easily tempted to offer off-cuts of fatty meat or other fat-rich foods to our furry family members, but this can be quite risky.

Unlike humans, a dog’s gastrointestinal system cannot handle a diet high in fat.

In fact, this can trigger a nasty cascade of events leading to pancreatitis.

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a severe inflammatory disease affecting the pancreas.

The pancreas is the organ responsible for digestive enzyme and insulin production.

Under normal circumstances the digestive enzymes are activated once they reach the stomach, however, with pancreatitis the enzymes are activated too early, in the pancreas itself, setting up a painful and potentially life-threatening condition known as an acute abdomen.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Collapse

Treatment for Pancreatitis in Dogs

It is best to avoid pancreatitis in the first place. Keep rich fatty foods out of reach of your dog (including securing the household garbage bin) and do not offer your pet leftovers after dinner.

Pancreatitis in dogs needs to be addressed urgently, usually with intravenous fluid therapy, strong pain relief and sometimes antibiotics if indicated. Treatment continues until the pancreas settles down and the inflammation has resolved. Without prompt treatment, pancreatitis can be fatal, so be sure to immediately consult your vet if you suspect your dog has pancreatitis.

Foods That are Toxic to Dogs

Besides fatty foods, there are some foods that humans commonly include in their diet, particularly around Christmas time, that can be harmful to your dog . So do your best to ignore those cute puppy eyes begging for food and think twice!

There are many foods that can be harmful for your dog, these ones are particularly harmful along with the symptoms to watch out for. It is recommended to keep your dog away from these and save yourself a trip to the Vet.

Chocolate Vomiting, diarrhoea, heart arrhythmias , tremors, seizures, death due to theobromine found in chocolate – dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate
Onion and garlic Weakness and pale gums due to anaemia from red blood cell destruction
Macadamia nuts Incoordination and neurological signs
Grapes/sultanas/raisins Kidney failure – susceptibility varies between individuals and is unpredictable
Xylitol (sweetener) Low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure – often found in chewing gums, artificial sweeteners in drinks
Caffeine Vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, heart arrhythmias, tremors, seizures, death - found in coffee beans, tea bags, energy drinks

 

If you suspect your pooch has ingested any of these foods, please get in touch with your vet immediately. Depending on the time between ingestion and your vet visit, your vet may decide to induce vomiting or advise further decontamination and treatment.

Dog Obesity

Apart from pancreatitis and toxicity, the additional calories in table scraps can cause chronic health issues and obesity.

For a dog to eat a slice of toast in the morning is similar to our eating a hamburger after breakfast.

Eventually, all those extra calories add up and our pooches lose their waistlines and begin to resemble a tabletop.

Sticking to a strict calorie-controlled diet with a premium dog food is much safer than supplementing your dog’s diet with extra titbits from the table, not to mention the increase in flatulence and risk of diarrhoea - not a desirable end for anyone’s party!

So, to avoid a doggy disaster, my advice is to remind your guests not to give in to your dog’s beautiful begging eyes at the dinner table and instead, stick to their regular routine and the occasional delicious dog treat.

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