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January 21, 2013

Pet Talk: Should you scrap the table scraps?

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As winter break comes to a close, numerous students find themselves back at home with a fridge full of leftovers. For many pet owners, this means fewer trips to the store for pet food. While sharing lunch with your four-legged friend is possible, owners should realize that your pet has particular dietary restrictions it must follow to guarantee that it stays happy and healthy.

“People enjoy sharing food with their pets, it is part of the bonding process,” said Deb Zoran, doctor of veterinary medicine, and associate professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “But proper control of the types and amounts of food pets are served is crucial for its safety.”

“For example, a diet consisting too high of fats can be very dangerous for dogs, even causing such problems as diarrhea or in severe cases of pancreatitis,” Zoran said. “The additional calories found in average table foods can also lead to obesity problems in your pet if not controlled.”

 These problems arise not from the food itself, as whole foods such as meat and potatoes are very nutritious and well digested, but from the many spices added and the food not being in the proper balance for the pet.

 “The food itself is perfectly good for our pets,” Zoran said. “If owners want to feed ‘human food’, and are willing to follow prescribed recipes set up by a nutritionist, then it is an excellent way to meet their nutritional needs.”

 Choosing to feed your pet in this fashion also leaves the owner with the responsibility for meeting their pet’s proper nutritional needs, which are different for dogs and cats. Chicken is an excellent and frequently used meat source to feed pets, with the fat removed for dogs and left in place for cats.

“Generally high fat things are potentially very problematic for dogs, while cats don’t need carbs in their diets at all,” Zoran said. “Spices and seasonings, especially onions, capsaicin, and other additives are all potentially problematic in your pet food as well.”

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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