Your Happy Pet: Feeding table scraps to pets OK if limited

May 20, 2014 at 12:20 a.m.

By Sue Furman

Your veterinarian has no doubt told you not to feed table scraps or people food to your pet. A high-quality pet food should provide a balanced diet that meets its nutritional needs.

However, it is difficult to look into the sweet eyes of your pet and resist the temptation to share. A treat is probably acceptable if your pet has no health problems and you choose the food wisely.

Some foods - including onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and xylitol (artificial sweetener) - are toxic to pets and should never be given. Remember, the onions and garlic you use for flavor can still be toxic for your pet even after they are cooked.

There are treats that are nontoxic but can cause a variety of health problems. Fatty or greasy foods can contribute to pancreatitis, so they should be avoided. Small bones can create a choking hazard or cause damage to your pet's digestive tract; it should also never be offered.

There are good treats that your pets can have, including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and dairy. My dogs love peeled apples, berries and melons. Watermelon is a particular favorite.

My crew also likes a variety of veggies that are good for them, including carrots, broccoli, cooked squash, zucchini and potatoes. Granted, Irish wolfhounds are not particularly finicky eaters, but I have furry friends of other breeds who also like their fruits and veggies.

Rice and pasta, from the grain family, also make healthy pet treats.

My guys even like quinoa, which is high in protein.

The inner carnivore in most pets will surely show its face if you offer a piece of your steak, chicken, turkey or hamburger. Just be sure to remove the fat from the steak and the skin from the poultry. Small amounts of lean meat are fine. You may want to reserve these tidbits as treats when training your pet to perform a new trick.

Finally, an occasional taste of vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt can be fantastic for a special occasion like a birthday.

Even healthy people-food treats should be given in moderation. Treats add up to extra calories, which can quickly add up to extra pounds on your pet. As a rule of thumb, healthy table scraps should makeup less than 10 percent of your pet's diet. Do the math and be realistic about how much food constitutes 10 percent of your pet's diet. For example, half a cup of food is a little less than 10 percent of the daily diet for a 175-pound Irish wolfhound. In contrast, a half a cup of kibble is the entire daily diet for a 5-pound Chihuahua or other toy breed. Their treats should be limited to a few small bites.

Your pet deserves a treat now and then, and a few bites of healthy foods can enhance his or her regular balanced diet, keep him or her happy and healthy and make you a hero in his or her eyes.

Sue Furman has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at



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