People have been tossing table scraps to dogs since the first canine bellied up to the village campfire with a pleading look in their eyes. But sharing meals with your pooch fell out of favor once commercial dog food hit the shelves. Why is that? Dogs are meant to eat our scraps.
These days, home cooking and raw feeding for dogs are back. So many dog food and treat recalls happen every year that dog parents want more control over what their pets eat. And who can blame them? Dogs are our best friends. We want to keep them safe, happy, and healthy for as long as heavenly possible.
Most of the foods that are good for us humans are also good for our dogs, and the reverse is true, too. In other words, do feed them lean meats, and vegetables. Don’t give your dog grains or dump leftover lasagna, rolls, or fries into your dog’s bowl. The junk food that is bad for you humans is also bad for your dog.
How to introduce people foods into your dog’s diet
The doggie digestive system doesn’t do well with a sudden switch from plain kibble to lots of people food.
“If you ate nothing but bread and water and then someone gave you a steak, it’d upset your stomach, too,” points out British Columbia vet Grant Nixon, co-author of Better Food for Dogs. Grant advises introducing people food slowly.
So start by topping your dog’s usual fare with tidbits of plain (no butter or seasoning) meat or vegetables. Chances are, their kibble has too much grain in it already.
If you want to transition to an all-homemade diet, put a little less kibble and a little more cooked or raw food in your dog’s bowl each day over the course of a week. Then, you can transition off the kibble for good if that’s your choice.
Use veggies, too
Although meat is the mainstay of a good canine diet, veggies and an occasional taste of fruit are also healthy for them.
“Dogs, like us, are omnivorous,” says Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University and co-author of What Pets Eat. “They like and can handle a variety of foods.”
Get the right balance
If you want to switch to an entirely homemade diet, always consult your vet first.
Keep in mind that puppies, seniors, and dogs with certain health conditions have different nutritional needs. If you want to cook for any dog other than a healthy adult, get guidance from a vet or veterinary nutritionist first.
Watch the fat
It’s an essential part of the canine diet, but too much can cause stomach upset or even pancreatitis. Skip too much fatty meat, skin, butter, and other high-fat fare.
Beware of bones
Cooked bones can cause choking or intestinal tearing. Although raw bones are popular among some natural pet food advocates, some experts think they’re risky too. Marrow bones are considered safe, however, so long as they’re at least 2 inches long to avoid splintering. The bone should not be large enough to get stuck on your dog’s muzzle.
Don’t feed your dog what you wouldn’t eat
“When vets say don’t feed table scraps, we mean don’t feed what’s left on the plate when you’ve finished all the good things that would go into the garbage disposal if you didn’t have a dog,” says retired vet Jean Hofve, an advocate for home cooking for pets.
Fat, gristle, and skin aren’t any better for your dog than for you.
Steer clear of certain foods
Foods that are fine, and even healthy, for you can make your dog very sick, such as grapes and chocolate.
Do your research
Changing how you feed your dog will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. But make sure to do your homework. There are many great books and resources out there. Make sure you know what foods are toxic for dogs and always consult a vet before making any changes to your pup’s diet.
The only way to really have control over what your dog eats is to prepare the food yourself. You may be surprised how easy and fun it is to make balanced meals for your dog. When you take an interest in what your dog eats, you’ll find that you care more about what goes into your own body. Many people report that when they take a deeper interest in what they feed their pets, they end up getting healthier themselves!