Dogs & Table Food: Why to Avoid Feeding Them Scraps

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When the begging starts, it's hard to resist giving your pooch a bite from your dinner plate. But, do you know that table food for dogs can be harmful?

Can Dogs Eat Table Food?

The question isn't so much can your dog eat scraps, but rather, is it good for your pup to do so? Here are a number of reasons why feeding your dog from your plate is a bad idea.

It Can Cause Digestive Problems

Dog sitting next to a woman in a black and white polka dot dress behind a casserole dish.A dog's digestive system is different from a human's. Typical human food is much too rich and fatty for a dog to properly digest; eating it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and even more severe conditions like pancreatitis. Many human foods also contain an unhealthy amount of sodium for dogs.

Some Table Food Is Toxic to Dogs

Human food often contains ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, almonds, onions and garlic are all dangerous for dogs to eat. If you don't know exactly what's in the restaurant leftovers you brought home, you could unknowingly hurt your begging pooch by feeding them a spoonful. Many processed foods also contain artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, which are extremely harmful to pets.

It Can Lead to Weight Gain

Typically, dogs who are fed table scraps also eat regular daily meals. While you might think that a bite or two here and there won't cause your dog to gain weight, you might be surprised by how little it takes. To a 20-pound dog, a single ounce of cheddar cheese is the caloric equivalent of one and a half hamburgers for a person. Small bites can quickly add up and lead to weight gain that can lead to a whole host of health problems, like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Your dog should never consume more than10% of their daily caloric intake from treats or other human foods.

It Encourages Unwanted Behavior

Another problem with table food for dogs is that it reinforces begging behavior. And while you might find it cute, dinner guests may not appreciate your dog hovering over their plates. Your dog might also decide that, since they're fed from the table, it's fine to take a bite (or more) of food sitting on the table or kitchen counter. Some dogs may even start refusing to eat their own food when they fill up on human food.

Healthy Ways to Treat Your Dog

Husky peeks nose over picnic table to look at food sitting in the center.The best way to treat your dog is by giving them healthy, high-quality dog treats and factoring them into their daily calorie requirements. That doesn't mean that the foods you eat are totally off-limits to your dog, however. In fact, many human foods are fine for dogs to eat in moderation. Here are some guidelines for giving human food to your dog:

  • Avoid processed and prepared foods: Even meals you cook yourself can contain ingredients that could harm your dog, so stick to single-ingredient treats, such as an unsalted egg, a spoonful of natural, salt-free peanut butter or a bite of fruit or unsalted vegetables.
  • Consider the calories: Before handing over that snack from the table, consider how many calories it is and let that factor into your decision. Your vet should be able to help you understand the recommended daily calories your dog should be getting, so you are aware of the impact that a single table scrap will have on your pup's health.
  • Educate yourself: Learn which foods are toxic to dogs so that you can make sure you never let your dog near them.
  • Don't feed them from the table or your plate: Instead, give your dog a bite of healthy human food the same way you'd give them any other dog treat — as a reward for obedience or for being a good dog. And avoid giving them a treat when they're begging. It can also be a good idea to put them into their regular dog food bowl, so that they understand that they can only get food to eat from their normal bowl.

Importance of Choosing the Best Dog Food

Dogs aren't good at regulating the amount of food that they eat. Many dogs will continue eating until they make themselves sick, so it is important that you oversee their meals and calories. Feeding a complete and balanced dog food optimal for their lifestage,  size and activity level ensures that they are getting the necessary nutrients they need to be healthy. Despite those big puppy eyes, feeding the right dog food in the right amounts is more than enough to keep them happy and energetic.

So, can dogs eat table food? Dogs will eat — and enjoy — a number of foods; but just because they'll eat it doesn't mean it's good for them. As an informed pet parent, you can help your dog stay healthy by restricting what you allow your pup to eat. While it might be hard to say no to those big, pleading eyes, remember that it's for their own good: A healthy dog is a happy dog.

Jean Marie Bauhaus