We all know our furry little friends like a table scrap here and there. Heck, who would turn down a piece of steak or the opportunity to lick the bottom of your bowl of ice cream? It is hard to turn down those puppy dog eyes and cute little faces, right? What harm could a tiny, little piece of food do to my dog or cat? The answer is simple — more bad than good.

I have compiled a list of things I commonly see related to people feeding table scraps. By no means is this an exhaustive list of all that is bad with feeding table scraps, but what I think are the more important.

  1. Obesity — the reality is that the majority of dogs and cats that come into my clinic are overweight. This is not due to neglect or disease, but often times the result of us loving our pets too much. Ideal body condition score is not that complicated —- find the happy medium between balancing calorie intake vs calories burned. If you eat more than you burn then you will be overweight. So if your dog or cat eats their normal daily allowance of calories from their primary dog/cat food, then, in addition, getting table scraps, bones and treats then what is sure to happen? Weight gain. Simply put —- give you dog what they need not what they want. As we all know, obesity can later lead to heart, endocrine, metabolic and orthopedic disease.
  2. Diarrhea and Vomiting — Hands down the number one cause for vomiting and diarrhea is diet indiscretion. This means that when something foreign is intro cued to your intestinal tract then the result will be upset bowels — this is manifested as vomiting and diarrhea. A great example would be if a vegan ate a piece of meat. They would get pretty sick. If young Scruffy had never had milk and you give them ice cream, don’t be surprised if you’re at the vet the next day for diarrhea and/or vomiting. Why do you think vet clinics are so busy the day after holidays?
  3. Picky eaters — Dogs and cats only get what is offered to them. The more options we offer, the more things they know exist. Thus when you start introducing table scraps and a variety of canned foods and treats , they will now become more picky upon what they like and don’t like. Take kids for example. If you give healthy fruit every morning and that’s all the kids think is an option, they will make the best of it. However, when you start to introduce Captain Crunch and Fruity Pebbles, they have now found something that tastes better.
  4. Begging — Similar to creating a picky eater. When you start offering table scraps there is a positive reinforcement to the pet. When I beg I get a reward. If all they get is their dog or cat food then they don’t see the benefit in begging from you. If they have never had it chances are they won’t beg for it.
  5. Toxicity — Often times you may toss a table scrap to your pet not thinking about possible toxic risks. Common human foods they may be toxic to your pet are as follows: chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, xylitol (sugar free gum). Even if you don’t directly give the product to your pet they may opportunistically get one of these toxins if it is left out or hits the floor while cooking. Not only may these toxins be lift threatening but also result in large hospitalization bills at the vet or emergency room

My general advice to every pet owner is limit your variables of what can cause illness to your dog or cat. By simply giving their primary diet you will eliminate a lot of trips to the vet. So next time you are about to give a table scrap to your dog or cat ask yourself, “ Is this 3 seconds of enjoyment worth major medical risks?”

Dr. Adam