As pet parents, we often find it hard to resist those adorable eyes pleading with us from under the table. It's tempting to share our meals with our pets, but is it really a good idea? Let's explore why feeding pets table scraps can be more hazardous than you might think.
The Pancreatitis Peril
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that aids in digestion and hormone regulation. It can cause severe health problems, and in some cases, can even be fatal. Feeding pets table scraps typically with foods high in fats, such as meat scraps and skin, dairy products, or sweets, can trigger an episode of pancreatitis in dogs and cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), while pancreatitis can occur in any dog, it's more common in females and in dogs that are overweight1.
Weight Gain and Obesity
Similar to humans, pets can become overweight or obese if they consume too many calories. Unfortunately, table scraps are often high in calories. Dogs and cats have specific nutritional needs, and their regular, balanced pet food typically meets those needs. Adding high-calorie table scraps can lead to an increase in their daily calorie intake, causing weight gain over time.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight or obese in the United States in 20182. Obesity in pets can lead to a range of health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, several studies have shown that obese animals live up to 3-4 years less than dogs that are kept at an ideal body weight.
Many common foods that are perfectly safe for humans can be toxic to pets. For example, foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, certain types of nuts like macadamia, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause serious harm to pets if ingested. It's critical to have an emergency at home detoxifier on hand for accidental ingestion of toxins like these.
Additionally, alcohol and caffeine are harmful to pets, and bones, especially poultry bones, can splinter and cause internal injuries. It's crucial to be aware of these potential hazards and keep these foods out of your pet's reach. Not feeding your pet table scraps is a great way to avoid these possibilities!
The Formation of Bad Habits
Feeding your pet table scraps can also lead to the formation of bad habits. Pets can quickly learn to expect treats during meal times, which can lead to begging, refusal to eat their regular food, or even stealing food from the table.
Besides being a nuisance, these behaviors can lead to tension between pets and their human family members. A consistent routine with clear boundaries is essential for pets to feel secure and understand their place within the family unit.
Other Health Concerns
Feeding your pet table scraps can also lead to other health issues. High-sodium foods can cause sodium ion poisoning, especially in smaller pets or those with existing health issues4. Symptoms can range from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures or even death.
Rich, spicy, or unfamiliar foods can upset your pet's stomach, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, or other digestive issues. Repeated episodes can damage the digestive system and lead to chronic health issues.
While it's hard to resist those pleading eyes, it's important to remember that as pet parents, our responsibility is to ensure the health and well-being of our pets. The potential risks associated with feeding table scraps to pets far outweigh the short-term joy of sharing our food with them.
Instead of table scraps, consider healthier alternatives like pet-friendly fruits or vegetables, or specialized pet treats. Treats are a great way to bond with our pets and reward them, but it's important to do so responsibly. Let's keep our pets healthy and happy with appropriate, nutritious food, ensuring they're with us for many years to come.
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet's diet, it's always best to consult with your veterinarian. They can provide guidance based on your pet's specific needs and health status.
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "Pancreatitis in Pets". https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/pancreatitis-pets
- Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). "2018 Pet Obesity Survey Results". https://petobesityprevention.org/2018
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets". https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets
- VCA Animal Hospitals. "Salt Toxicity in Dogs". https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/salt-toxicity-in-dogs