For many pet owners, the act of sharing food with their furry companions is an expression of love and a way to strengthen the bond between human and canine. While the intention is often good-natured, there are potential dangers associated with this seemingly innocent act that deserve careful consideration. This is especially important to remember during Thanksgiving, a holiday centered around sharing food with the people we love.
Pets Are Family, Too
Many pet owners want to include their dogs, and their cats, in holiday celebrations because their pets are part of their family. Many of us dress our dogs up for Halloween, make them a special meal on Thanksgiving, and get them gifts for the winter holidays. Unfortunately, this is a time when dogs (and sometimes cats) are often exposed to excessive amounts of food, and the potential for them to come in contact with food that could make them sick is significantly higher.
Aside from owners wanting to share in the festivities, it’s also common for dogs to get into food they shouldn’t due to scraps being dropped, food being left out where pets can reach it, or children feeding them from their plate (and sometimes the other adults do it, too).
The holiday can be shared, but it should be shared thoughtfully and safely to ensure that your beloved companion doesn’t experience unintended consequences, such as weight gain or becoming sick.
The Potential Dangers
One of the most immediate concerns when sharing human food with dogs is the potential for digestive upset. Dogs have different digestive systems than humans, and some foods that are perfectly safe for us can be harmful or even toxic to them. Spices, high-fat foods, and certain fruits and vegetables can cause gastrointestinal distress, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Certain human foods contain substances that are outright toxic to dogs. For example, chocolate, grapes, onions, garlic, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol can be extremely harmful and, in some cases, fatal to dogs. Even a small amount of these substances can lead to severe health issues, including organ failure and neurological problems.
Obesity is a growing concern among pets, and sharing high-calorie or fatty human foods can contribute to weight gain in dogs. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for a dog’s overall well-being and longevity. Regularly indulging in rich foods can lead to obesity, which is associated with a range of health problems, including diabetes, joint issues, and cardiovascular issues.
Sharing food with dogs can inadvertently reinforce undesirable behaviors, such as begging. When a dog is consistently rewarded with treats from the table, they may develop a habit of begging for food, which can be challenging to break. This behavior not only becomes a nuisance but can also lead to a dog consuming inappropriate or unsafe foods when they manage to snatch something from the table.
Just like humans, dogs can have food allergies or sensitivities. Sharing food without knowledge of a dog’s specific dietary needs can trigger allergic reactions, including itching, skin irritation, and digestive issues. Some common allergens for dogs include dairy, wheat, and certain proteins, which are frequently found in human food.
Thanksgiving for Pets
When it comes to sharing Thanksgiving with your dog or cat, there are some things to keep in mind. While many of the foods are safe to share, they should only be given to your pet without added spices, butter, or other extras and sweeteners. Plain turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin are all great options for your furry family member.
Keep in mind that cooked bones are absolutely not safe for dogs, and even uncooked bones should be avoided. A better option is to purchase a dog-safe bone or treat that you can give them to chew on. Make sure any turkey you share with your pet doesn’t have bones remaining in it when you serve it to them.
Of course, always give human food in moderation. While you might be going back for seconds or thirds and enjoying the meal to the fullest, make sure your dog isn’t getting access to excessive amounts of human food during the holiday season.
Trust Maryland Veterinary Surgical Services With Your Companion’s Health
Your companion’s health is important, and the team at MVSS is ready to provide the best care possible for your furry family. We are dedicated to combining comprehensive exams and assessments with informative and honest discussions of your companion’s care. Once we have worked with you to decide on the best course of action for your dog, our professionals will use their surgical expertise to work towards the goal of giving your companion an active and pain-free life. We are proud to serve loyal companions in Catonsville and Baltimore. To learn more about our services, give us a call at 410-788-4088 or visit us online. For more information and tips for pet health, follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.