Don't feed table scraps to your dog

December 31, 2007 

Have you ever felt manipulated by your dog? Perhaps your dog is so good at it that you do not even realize when you are being manipulated.

I must admit, I have fallen under my dog's spell in the past and I fight it almost daily; I am here to tell you all to be strong.

This time of year is especially tough, as there is a lot of good food lying around. It seems dogs become especially adept at teaching us to feed them things that we may or may not realize are not good for them.

You've seen the look, right? They cock their heads a bit to the side and look at you with ever-so-longing eyes that unequivocally say, "That piece of roast beef really looks good and I am sure it is harmless."

I suspect the temptation is strong this time of year, with Christmas and New Year's and all the food associated with this season.

Don't do it! Well, at least I talk a good game ....

There are few absolutes in this world, and this command never to give human foods as treats to our dogs is not one of them. I am not naive enough to think that just because I tell you it is wrong, you are not going to do it. In fact, it doesn't even mean I am not going to do it. Yes, I, too, have succumbed to being manipulated by my dog when it comes to giving him my food.

That said, I must try to redeem myself as a member of the veterinary profession and spokesman for the proper nutrition of our pets.

If you are going to give your dog "people food," you must, and this is important, be discriminate. There are certain foods that are acceptable and, in fact, can be healthy; however, the converse is also true. There are certain human foods that can be disastrous for our dogs.

If you are going to treat your dog to your food, I offer these few guidelines and this mantra: Be strong and know you are doing what is best for your dog. Remember, it is not supposed to be up to them what they eat, it is up to you to make proper nutritional choices.

Does it sound like I am trying to convince myself here?

Try to look at your dog as a very young child, say about 2 or 3 years old. Would we let that child decide what to eat? Here, sweetie, a bowl of ice cream and a bowl of broccoli, which would you like to eat? Not likely, right? The same needs to hold true for your dog.

  • Stay away from meat and meat scraps. Meat is too high in fat and can cause digestive problems ranging from diarrhea to vomiting and even severe pancreatitis. I know there are some of you who have been feeding meat to your dogs all their lives and have had no problems. I also know of several cases where dogs that received meat almost daily died from pancreatitis that was uncontrollable.

  • Chicken can be OK if is it skinless and lean, as are the complex carbohydrates such as breads and pastas and potatoes. Remember, dogs are omnivores and get most of their energy from carbohydrates. My dog likes carrots, of all things (and they help keep his teeth clean).

    I do not want to provide an exhaustive list of acceptable treats. I hope only to help you in making choices that are best for your dog, knowing that we are all somewhat powerless when it comes to them.

    Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

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