Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 30, 2014

People Food?

Posted at 08:47AM - Comments: (12)

I don't know why it always surprises me when someone refers proudly to their strict adherence to prohibiting their dog from getting any "people food."

I understand they are proud because they believe they are doing the right thing – that they think "people food" is somehow bad for dogs and that they are keeping their dogs well (and well - behaved, even) by not "spoiling" them.

What I don't understand is how people have come to regard what I'm going to call * real food * could be bad for dogs.

Of course, there are a few foods that shouldn't be given to dogs, such as chocolate and macadamia nuts – both contain substances that are toxic to dogs. The list of prohibited foods gets much longer if you include foods that no one in their right mind would actually FEED to a dog, such as avocado pits, raw bread dough, and gum containing xylitol. And then there are foods that shouldn't be given to dogs in large amounts, the absolute amount of which is dependent upon the dog's weight: onions, raisins, grapes, and fatty trimmings from meat.

But generally, these individual items are not what people are talking about when they say they don't give their dogs "people food." What they really mean is, leftovers. And there is no good reason at all to NEVER give your dog leftovers from healthy foods you eat yourself. Healthy food is healthy!

The converse is also true: foods that are unhealthy for you (such as fast food burgers and fries, pizza, mashed potatoes loaded with butter and sour cream and fatty gravy) are no healthier for your dog. Moderation in all things! An occasional treat of a reasonable portion of one of these foods is fine; it's not going to ruin your dog!

Common sense applies. I wouldn't recommend sharing from your plate in response to whining or begging behaviors – unless you love those behaviors and never plan on eating with your dog in front of other people.  Reduce the total amount of food that a dog receives on the same day that he receives a lot of table scraps so you don't make your dog fat. Don't replace the majority of your dog's "complete and balanced" diet with a nutritionally incomplete and wildly imbalanced diet. I mean, they could surely survive and even thrive on our scraps – and dogs do survive and thrive on nothing but table scraps all over the world, and have for millennia! – but for optimum health, you want to make sure they receive a full complement of the proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that dogs need (human and canine requirements being different).

But do give your dog some "real food"! With the exceptions noted above, good food – fresh, home - prepared, heavy on the vegetables and whole grains and lean meats – is good for him, too.

Comments (12)

To Hanksmomma: Don't worry too much, the 'best' diet for any dog is what he/she does well on. Look at the WDJ guidelines for dry dog food, and choose among those that have real ingredients that you would eat yourself. I personally do pretty much what Olivia does - I supplement a variety of good quality dry food with some homemade cooked meat & rice mix to make it more tasty. And save just a bit of my dinner to give to them as a treat. The dogs know to wait patiently until the tell-tale scritch scritch of cutting up the last bit for them!

Posted by: MadderScientist | January 27, 2015 12:05 PM    Report this comment

Those people watch too much TV adds by greedy dog food. Dog food companies just care about $$$ PROFIT. They do not care about your dog. They would not put all those preservatives and grains and contaminated meat by products in their dog food, if they loved dogs as much as they LOVE $$$. I feed my dogs a good quality dog food, no fillers, grains or other junk. I feed them food that I buy at the grocery store.
I do not subscribe to advertisements that one company's products are better than another's. I do not pay higher prices that are used for advertising. I buy what it on sale. Those people that do not want to feed their dogs "people food" are just lazy. It is easier for them to open a can instead of cook for their dog. They are too stupid to realize that they have been brainwashed by the dog food companies. They have their heads stuck so far up their a$$ that it is not worth my time to tell them any different. When their dogs get sick from that junky dog food, will they take the dog to the vet or a shelter and abandon the one thing that truly loves them ?

Posted by: sandi13 | January 18, 2015 9:37 PM    Report this comment

I have two awesome dogs and I am so confused about what to feed them! I buy expensive dry food with lamb and brown rice, they also get people food as I have grandchildren that live with us. Dry food, canned food, homemade food??? What is the best for them? Please help!

Posted by: Hanksmomma | December 31, 2014 8:46 PM    Report this comment

I have owned two dogs at one time and I'm 76 yrs. old. Never will I feed my dogs whole grains as it is just a filler. People who have IBS and other familiar problems will tell you that is the first thing not to eat with sugar and corn. I give my dogs homemade cooked beef, chicken and lucky enough to give them fresh caught salmon. I either cook the right veggies gently or put them into the processor. Brown rice also is good. Always had large dogs and healthy ones. I feed my guys eight in the a.m. and 5 p.m. Never the same cooked meal one after another. Oh yes my dogs get limited fruits, blueberries, apples sweet potato and yams. Daily long walks and a run does dogs great, 12 months a year, rain,sun or snow. and helps me keep in shape lol. My asthma thanks me for not putting on weight lol.

Posted by: liz3809 | December 30, 2014 11:06 PM    Report this comment

I completely agree with Kitti. Grapes and raisins are NOT dose dependent and most owners are not aware of how many their dog actually has eaten. I was also an ER vet and saw cases of renal failure in medium to large dogs. They were in the hospital for several days on IV fluids and had large bills. Fat trimmings are another issue. Some dogs are prone to pancreatitis which can be set off by small amounts of fat and which in some cases can be fatal. Raw vegetables and some fruits make better snacks/treats than packaged treats that are often higher in calories and full of additives.

Posted by: bafugl | December 30, 2014 6:49 PM    Report this comment

I have lived with dogs since the day I was born. Big dogs. By the age of 8 it was my job to feed the dogs. Back in the 60's they got a can of dog food and whatever leftovers we had. We never analyzed the canned food nor their "people food". Didn't know any better and they all lived to the age of 12 or more.
For hundreds of years before commercial dog food existed domesticated dogs lived on leftover "people food" and whatever they could catch in the wild. I don't know the statistics. Those dogs probably did not have the longevity that our dogs have now. But I think that would be due more to modern vet care than eating "people food". Rabies, parvo, heartworms, flea infestation care and surgical interventions that were not available then.
My dogs do just fine on a mixture of highly rated kibble and "people food". AND they enjoy their meals. I an not indiscriminate about leftovers though.
Just for the record, I tried the vet prescribed, dog food only diet for my last two dogs. They had the shortest lives of all my dogs.
So do what works for you and your dogs.

Posted by: GRMOM | December 30, 2014 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Raisins and grapes are not dose dependent. Some dogs seem to be able to tolerate large amounts. Unfortunately, you don't know if they are a "tolerator" till after they have eaten and survived. If they can't tolerate grapes and raisins, you end up with a dog in renal failure, and a large bill at the Emergency Clinic. I saw many cases in my 11 years as an ER vet.

Posted by: Kitti | December 30, 2014 4:41 PM    Report this comment

I had Jack Russel he was 15 years old when he died. I fed him Kibble but he ate just about everything I ate. He was one of the healthiest dog I had ever seen or had.over the 15 years of his life. He had no health problems what so ever. But then I live out in the country and I do think that has a lot to do with a dogs and how they live.He would want to be out side most of the time but would come in at night .He was a good dog and friend. I have a Briard now he is 12 weeks old so on to another adventure for sure.

Posted by: Castaway52 | December 30, 2014 4:28 PM    Report this comment

A diet as close to what wild canines eat is the best to aim for. Wild canines usually obtain vegetable matter from the stomachs and intestines of what they've caught and killed - pre-digested. Some fruit is eaten, such as berries.

Posted by: Tamara Heikalo | December 30, 2014 2:15 PM    Report this comment

Dear Sir;

I have read many articles on the topic of whether or not a dog should receive table food or human food. One article indicated that a lot of the dog foods damage a dog's kidneys, not allowing the dog to live as long. It goes on to indicated that in the early days when they only received table scrapes and other people food they where healthier and lived longer lives. (This makes sense!)

When I got my yellow labrador retriever the first thing I was told by the veterinarian was not to feed him any human food. I was instead given 'Eukanuba' dog food.

Posted by: ezekiel | December 30, 2014 1:38 PM    Report this comment

This is an ongoing discussion that we have with adopters. We foster dogs and we cook "home made" dog food to supplement the premium kibble that we give to all of the dogs in our house. We have done all home made diets(no kibble) when we only have a few dogs. I buy a different flavor and brand (from the WDJ list) every time I buy kibble. We cook beef & chicken & pork & fish & liver & veggies (gently cooked & chopped or put in the food processor, use the cooking water to warm their kibble). We do a lot of talking about food with adopters....it is amazing how many people think you should feed the same food for the entire life of the dog.....I always ask if they eat the same thing twice a day for 14 years.....

Posted by: Olivia | December 30, 2014 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Wow, I was surprised to see the last paragraph, heavy on the vegetables and whole grains, really?? I agree with the premise that people food is OK for dogs. But definitely not grains or heavy on the vegetables. I have had dogs most of my life (57 years) and in the last few year have learned about feeding a raw diet. My 2 dogs (GSD and Dachshund) on it now have benefited so much from this new knowledge I have and the raw diet. They are much healthier than other dogs I had on commercial dog food.

I don't feed grains for a couple reasons. Dogs have no nutritional need for grains of any kind and they are terribly hard for dogs to digest. Grain is also one of the main offenders in allergy problems in dogs. Those 2 reasons alone are good enough for me to not include grain in my dogs diets. Veggies are OK in my book if they are the right ones, I don't feel that my dogs need the veggies, but sometime they enjoy left over steamed green beans or broccoli from our family meals. Vegetables need to be broken down by cooking or pulverizing for dogs to be able to access any of the nutrition and since cooking destroys the enzymes, the best way to serve veggies is raw and pulped or pulverized in a food processor.

Posted by: tdickman | December 30, 2014 9:37 AM    Report this comment

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