A recent article provided by a Montana Veterinarian, published on Montana News Station.com, warned pet owners not to feed table scraps. This same warning has been surfacing for years, originally started as a marketing tactic developed to sell more dog and cat foods. The warning however, is not completely true.
Dr. Laird Goodman, DVM, a Beaverton, Ore. veterinarian warns pet owners not to feed table scraps; instead Dr. Goodman suggests to pet owners to ONLY feed a quality diet “that both you and your dog can count on.” http://www.montanasnewsstation.com/Global/story.asp?S=9360994&nav=menu227_3 Dr. Goodman’s warning has been told to pet owners for years; it all began as a marketing trick.
Years ago, dogs and cats were left to provide their own meals by hunting small prey, and were fed some household leftovers. Scraps of meat and vegetables, whatever was leftover from the family meals, were fed to the family pets. Big business took note of this family pet feeding ritual, and realized leftovers from the processing of people foods could be turned into a profit instead of an expense to destroy. Commercial pet food began.
In the 1960’s with the rise in popularity of many convenience foods, pet food manufacturers were trying to sway families away from the well established habit of feeding leftovers to pets. Fewer pets fed leftovers meant more sales to emerging pet food companies. Their method used to discourage this practice was using veterinarians to tell pet owners leftovers were a no-no.
The Pet Food Institute is a lobbying organization that touts representing the interests of 95% of pet food manufacturers. This organization developed a clever campaign to reach veterinarians and pet owners in 1964, warning of the ‘dangers’ associated with feeding pets table scraps. A press release was sent to thousands of newspapers, and articles were published in 16 magazines including top sellers Redbook and Good Housekeeping warning pet owners to the dangers of feeding their pet table scraps; along with warning alerts aired on 91 radio stations across the country. These print and radio messages to pet owners all quoted warnings from veterinarians; few pet owners in the 1960’s went against the advice of a veterinarian. This warning campaign developed by the Pet Food Institute was very effective, more than likely responsible for the huge growth of commercial pet food ever since.
The problem is that there is no real truth to this warning, and the message continues to be spread to this day. There is no scientific evidence (to my knowledge) that proves a few table scraps are harmful to your dog or cat.
Almost every pet food label will state 100% balanced. This message to pet owners means that the food provides 100% of the required nutrients your pet needs to consume. However, the nutritional standards pet food companies must comply with are very dated (some more dated than others), and pet owners need to realize not every meal your pet consumes needs to be 100% balanced.
As an example, let’s say you are having a prepared meal for your dinner. It includes a salad, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and bread. According to human nutritional guidelines, this meal includes 100% of the recommended nutrition for an adult. However, what if you added meat to the tomato sauce; would your health be at risk because you added an ingredient to a already nutritionally balanced meal? Of course not. The same holds true for your pet. If you have some meat or quality vegetables left over from your dinner, you need not worry about giving them to your pet.
There is however, some additional information you need to take into consideration before feeding your pet table scraps. For starters, dogs especially can become very accustomed to added goodies to their food. Many of which will refuse to eat unless those goodies have been added. Guilt ridden pet owners, believing their dog will soon turn to skin and bones, will continue to raid the refrigerator for more and more goodies to add to the food. Soon, the dog maneuvers its meals to be more goodies than pet food which can end up preventing him/her from receiving the necessary nutrition. In other words, don’t fall into this trap; only add goodies occasionally.
Another issue is the balanced meal; pets do need a balanced diet. Table scraps alone probably won’t provide the proper balanced diet. While every meal does not have to be 100% balanced, your pet’s diet as a whole does.
My own feeding schedule is as follows: I feed my dogs dry kibble in the AM, canned at a early afternoon meal with any added leftovers (such as meat), along with a fish oil supplement and a probiotic supplement, and dry kibble in the PM with warm water added. My cat has access to dry kibble all day, and has a ½ can of food with added fish oil, probiotic and warm water as a late afternoon meal. I know what is typical eating behavior for my pets, both dogs rarely miss a meal, and my cat is a little more finicky. The point is that I pay close attention to any unusual eating behavior, which could be an early warning sign of a health problem. I also monitor daily ‘deposits’ to the back yard and the litter box; another early warning sign of a health problem.
Don’t hesitate to give your dog or cat that piece of chicken breast left over from dinner; be cautious of breading or spices. Feed your pet a quality pet food made from human quality ingredients, no ingredients from China, free of risky chemicals and by-products – and feel comfortable throwing in a few leftovers now and then.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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