Saturday, December 29, 2007

People Food For Puppies...?

I'm a pretty relaxy-flexible sort of person, especially when it comes to dog training. Having fun, and being able to adapt to puppy silliness makes learning a positive experience for everyone involved. There are very few absolutes in my world, but I feel strongly that feeding dogs food that is not specifically made for dogs is generally a bad idea. Here's why:

1. First off, most people food is typically difficult for dogs to digest. This translates to rather disgusting poop. Enough said about that one...

2. Secondly, some delicious human foods can make your dog very sick. Some of these foods can even kill your dog. You may think that if you know what these foods are, you can simply avoid them and everything will be fine. However, human foods often consist of lots of different ingredients, and since many of the foods we eat are already premade, we're rarely aware of every single ingredient that goes into the recipe. These are three of the most dangerous human foods that I strongly recommend you eliminate from your dog's diet (along with the reasons why):

Chocolate: Lots of people seem to know about this one, but just in case you haven't heard... Chocolate contains something called theobromine, which is a stimulant that is toxic to dogs. It increases the heart rate, and it can also cause the heart to beat irregularly, both of which can lead to death. After eating chocolate, many dog owners assume their pet is fine due to a lack of obvious symptoms that something might be wrong. Pet parents should keep in mind that in this case we are most concerned about the heart, which is an internal organ (that you can not see!) Related externally visual symptoms such as hyperactivity, extreme thirst, vomiting, and seizures may show up quickly, hours after ingestion, or sometimes not at all. Cocoa powder and baking chocolate are the most toxic forms because they are the most concentrated (followed by semi-sweet and dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, then white chocolate.) Carob is a popular chocolate substitute for health-nut humans, and it's a wonderful alternative for dogs, too!

Onion: This one is scary because we put onions in so many foods! Onions contain a toxin called thiosulphate. Pets affected by onion toxicity can develop haemolytic anemia (red blood cells burst while circulating in the body.) Not fun. At first, pets usually show stomach symptoms (vomiting, yucky poops, loss of appetite etc.) They become supersleepy and breathless. The breathlessness occurs because the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number. Poisoning may not occur until days (yes, DAYS) after the pet has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, and cooked onions. Onion poisoning can occur with a single large quantity ingestion or with repeated meals containing smallish amounts of onion. This is the number one reason why I'm so against table scraps! Boo to table scraps!

Macadamia Nuts: The toxic compound is currently unknown, but the effect can cause muscle tremors, weakness, or paralysis of the hindquarters. Dogs are often unable to rise. Some have swollen legs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated. This is something you don't want to see your dog go through, and some dogs have shown these symptoms after eating as few as only six macadamia nuts!

FYI: While not seen as dangerous, grapes, raisins and large doses of garlic are also foods that most modern vets urge dogs to stay away from.

3. Lastly, when done in a casual manner, sharing food with your dog can interfere with your leadership status. If you DO choose to share (dog-safe) human food with your dog, please take the time to turn the behavior into a positive ritual:

Make sure your dog sees you eating first (remember, leaders always eat first!)

Make a habit of placing the food in your dog's dish, at your dog's normal eating spot. Feeding scraps from the table encourages begging behavior (which is rude!)

If you're sharing on the go, and away from the table, remember to make your dog work for the deliciousness (for example, have her do a sit stay or down stay before eating.)

Consider adding a modern, high-end dog food to your dog's diet. Many companies such as Halo now actually use human-grade ingredients!

Limit your sharing only to healthy foods: Refrain from random scraps or leftovers. Instead, choose healthy foods specifically with your dog in mind. You might try some of the veggies and fruits listed in my low-calorie treats post. Maybe purchase a "cooking for dogs" themed cookbook (there are actually LOTS of them published these days!) The Rachael Ray Show website has several pages filled with really yummy, made-for-dogs recipes, too. And the ever-classic chicken breast & rice almost always makes an excellent meal for lucky pups (and while you're at it, feel free to bring me some!)

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