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We all like to provide our pets with that extra something special. While it is easy to wag one's finger and admonish pet owners for any breech in their pet's feeding regime, especially regarding table or people food, it is much harder to resist the pining faces of our pets as they longingly gaze at our dinner plates! Perhaps a more realistic credo would be the "everything in moderation" adage. As I am guilty of sneaking the odd bit of food in Dharma and Charlie's (my yellow labs) directions, here are the rules I follow:
1. Always ensure that your pet is on a premium quality diet designed for their stage of life or healthcare needs. Never try to improve a marginal or poor diet through supplementation – it just doesn't work!
2. Treats (both bought and from the table) and supplements to your pets diet should never comprise more than 10 per cent of their daily intake, unless your veterinarian instructs otherwise.
3. Never feed direct from the table – place any table treats into their dish for consumption. This way you avoid the table stalker.
4. Never give your table scraps as treats – if its inedible for you (e.g., fat, gristle, etc.) the same applies to your pet.
5. Avoid food items high in fat because, even if fed in moderation, they can quickly lead to obesity and may cause other health problems (e.g., pancreatitis).
6. For pets with special medical needs or that have easily upset stomachs, it's best to stay away from any diet supplementation/treats unless cleared by your veterinarian.
Page 1 of 2 -- Do you know what human foods are toxic to pets? Find out on page 2.
Here is a list of absolute no-nos when it comes to giving your pet food:
• Onions, garlic, chives, grapes and raisins
• Corn cobs because pets may inadvertently swallow them whole, causing bowel obstruction.
• Whole fruit (with pits) and nuts (in the shell), both because they can break a tooth as cause bowel obstruction if swallowed. Pieces of fruit are fine in moderation -- but not grapes, raisins, or any plant/fruit seeds
• Bones for the same reasons as above and because their splinters can damage the bowel wall leading to serious health problems
• Milk because most animals do not have the necessary enzyme to digest milk resulting in bowel upsets
• Any food (both human and pet) that is beyond its "best before" date
• Alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning that, as in people, is very serious
Also, ensure that garbage is well stored to avoid the multitude of problems that can be associated with "garbage gut" ingestion. Be especially cautious of toothpicks, as these often have the remnant smells of something good, piquing your pet's culinary interest. When ingested, toothpicks can penetrate through an animal's intestinal wall causing serious illness.
Page 2 of 2 -- Learn what rules to follow when allowing your pet human food on page 1.
About Dr. Walt Ingwersen
Dr. Walt Ingwersen is Chief Veterinary Officer at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. He is a 1982 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College. Board certified in Internal Medicine, he has the distinction of being the first Canadian editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, a position he currently holds.
Involved in many aspects of the national and international veterinary community, "Dr. Walt" is the recipient of the President's Award for outstanding contribution to the veterinary profession awarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). He is also Chief Veterinary Officer and Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Board at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. -- Canada's leading provider of insurance for dogs and cats.