“Upset stomach” is one of the most common problems that veterinarians see. Although there are many illnesses that can cause vomiting and diarrhea the most common cause is table food. That’s right table food. I know what you are going to say; “Not my dog Dr. Miller, ‘Buddy’ has been getting table food ever since he was a puppy. His stomach is tough.” I would reply to that the same way I respond to my clients when I hear this. I tell them; “I can drive without a seatbelt and never have a problem, but it only takes one time. You wouldn’t drive without a seatbelt, so I wouldn’t feed my dog table food.”
What is table food? Table food is defined by most veterinarians as “people food”. The disclaimer; there is some people food that’s “ok” to feed. However, most table food should be avoided.
Acceptable People Food
Plain skinless boiled chicken breast
Vegetables (avoid onions and garlic)
Apples and bananas
The Bad Table Food
Steak, Ground beef
Fried foods (chicken, eggs, bacon)
All dairy products (large servings)
Lunch Meat, hot dogs
Foods that are toxic to Dogs
Grapes and Raisins
Raw Chicken and Steak /uncooked eggs
Table foods, especially those high in fat and grease, can irritate (cause inflammation) to areas of their digestive tract. The three most common general conditions being; Gastritis (inflamed stomach), Colitis (inflamed colon) and Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas). All of which can be fatal, if severe enough or left untreated. Bones are not always easily digested. Aside from them irritating the digestive tract they can also cause a blockage or perforation and need emergency surgery. Dairy products in large amounts can also irritate the digestive tract. Dogs and cats lose the ability to break down lactose as they become adults. Dairy products can cause gastrointestinal upset similar to people who are lactose intolerant. I know giving a cat a bowl of milk is popular on television and in the movies, but it should be avoided. You can, however, still use cheese to give your dog medication. For the most part, very small amounts of foods like cheese are tolerated by most dogs.
The other reason why table food should be avoided, and acceptable people food be fed in small quantities is it can contribute to your pet becoming overweight. What seems like only a small amount to us is a rather large quantity to them. Table food is one on the leading causes of pet obesity. Studies in veterinary medicine demonstrate that being overweight can lead to multiple health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, heat stroke and shorten their life expectancy.
I also do not advise Home cooked, natural diets or “raw diets”. I know many pet owners were put off by the pet food recall many years ago and were looking to switch to a home cooked one. The reality is a balanced diet for your pet is very hard to replicate. A true well balanced diet cooked at home is very labor intensive and expensive. Raw diets can be harmful especially when they advise the ingredients such as raw chicken, raw meat or uncooked eggs. Dogs and Cats are at the same risk for E.coli and salmonella from raw meats and eggs that people are. Potentially, they could act as a carrier for these bacteria and pass them on to you and your family without them showing any visible signs of illness. Raw foods should be avoided.
I encourage you to discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian. Nutrition is a very important part of our practice, and your pet’s health. The moral of the story: “pet food is for pets, and people food is for people.” Following that simple adage will help your pet have a healthy life, and avoid extra trips to hospital.