Table Scraps: A Risky Treat

By: Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM)

TVMA Member
College Station, TX

Published July 2015

When we’re sharing a meal with friends and family, sometimes we are tempted to include the pet in on the deliciousness. However, this can often do more harm than good. In order to prevent visitors from inadvertently making your pet sick, pet owners should be vigilant in informing guests what’s okay and what’s not okay to feed your pet.

Animal Products

By definition, table scraps usually consist of the food that was left over from your meal. Things such as fat or grease from meat, animal bones, animal skin and food with a high fat or sugar content can be dangerous to your pet. For example, if the bones from turkey, chicken or roast are given to your pet, they may not chew them properly and they can get lodged in the esophagus. This could require that your pet visit an emergency center for evaluation and object removal. It may also be necessary for bones to be removed if they have advanced to the stomach but cannot be passed appropriately through the digestive track.

Fatty Foods

Feeding your pet table scraps that contain high amounts of fat can also make them feel unwell and require an emergency visit to your local veterinarian. High fat foods can upset the digestive tract, causing vomiting and/or diarrhea, which can lead to loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration if not treated appropriately. If this happens, it is important to not give your pet any medications or attempt to treat this at home. Take your pet to your local veterinarian for evaluation and proper medical care.

Sensitive Pets

Pets that have special dietary needs and must be fed a specific diet should never be fed table scraps. If your pet has special dietary needs, communicate this with all guests, emphasizing how important it is to respect your pet’s needs. Even a small amount of inappropriate food can be a major setback in your pet’s health.

Sweets

This time of year also leads to extra sweets such as candy, cakes and pies being around the house. Some candies or dessert foods can contain the ingredient xylitol, a sugar substitute. Xylitol is toxic to pets, and special care should be taken to ensure it is not ingested. Even in small amounts, xylitol can cause the blood sugar levels to become dangerously low, seizures, liver failure and, in extreme cases, death. Chocolate is another substance that is toxic to dogs and cats. Chocolate toxicity will cause anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, seizures and, in extreme cases, death. If you are concerned at any time that your pet may have ingested something inappropriate, please notify your veterinarian immediately.

Taking a few precautions, such as taking out the trash frequently, tidying up leftover dessert and notifying everyone in the house that your pet cannot eat unfamiliar foods, will help ensure less stress and a healthy pet.

Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), is a registered veterinary technician who graduated from Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Ms. Plummer works in the Feline Internal Medicine Department at the Texas A&M University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in College Station, Texas.