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Should You Feed Table Scraps

It may be tempting to let your dog eat table scraps, especially when they are staring at you throughout your meal. You may even think you are giving them a nice little treat.

However, the high-calorie, high-fat foods we take such pleasure in are some of the worst foods for our pets. Just one generous helping of a fat-laden meal or seemingly innocent leftovers can have serious impacts on your dog’s health.

Here’s why you should think twice about letting your dog eat table scraps.

What Can Happen to a Dog That Eats Table Scraps?

Dogs that eat table scraps are at risk for a variety of health problems. Here are just a few.


Pancreatitis is a condition that’s caused by eating fatty foods, and it can be fatal in dogs.

Normally, thepancreasreleases enzymes into thedigestive tractwhen food has been ingested to help break all the fat down and promote digestion.

Pancreatitis occurs when these enzymes are released prematurely—before the food reaches the digestive tracts—which causes the pancreas to start ingesting itself and induces inflammation.

These enzymes can also leak into theabdominal cavity, causing damage to adjacent structures and other organs, like the liver,bileducts, gall bladder and intestines.

Though high-fat foods are not the only thing that can causepancreatitis, they’re thought to be one of the main causes ofacutepancreatitis.

The clinical signs that you see depend upon the severity of the pancreatitis, but they can include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In very severe cases, pancreatitis can be fatal.

The severity of the disease will determine the treatment, which sometimes can require the hospitalization of your pet.

Gastrointestinal Upset

Not every pet’sgastrointestinal(GI) system is capable of taking on new foods and digesting them properly.

If you know your pet has had digestive sensitivities in the past, you should avoid introducing anything new into their diet, especially human foods.

New foods have the potential to disrupt the balance of your pet’s gastrointestinal linings and flora, which can cause inflammation in the GI tract.

This can cause your pet to suffer from issues such as:

  • Stomachaches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy

If you see these signs, take your pet to the veterinarian right away. They will be able to help your dog recover safely and ensure there are no continued issues.

Toxin Exposure

While it may be well-intentioned, treating pets to tables scraps can lead to them ingest toxic foods.

Human foods that contain raisins, grapes, chocolate, xylitol (a sugar substitute seen often in gum and candies) and onions can all be toxic.

These foods might be introduced in seemingly harmless ways, such as in raisin breads, soups, brownies and any other food combinations with these ingredients.

Many of these toxins can have serious ramifications. For example, raisins and grapes have been associated with kidney toxicity in pets, and xylitol causes extremely low blood sugar that can lead to death.

Foreign Bodies

Another concern is intestinal foreign bodies, which are foreign objects within the GI tract.

Common foreign bodies that dogs ingest include pieces of toys, bones, peach pits, corncobs, pieces of blankets, socks, underwear, hair ties, carpet and ropes. Foreign bodies often cause a GI obstruction, which can be fatal if not treated.

Symptoms of a GI obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a foreign body, call your vet immediately. Sometimes, if you get to their office immediately, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting, but this is not always recommended.

Some obstructions are easy to diagnose, while others are more challenging. Oftentimes, X-rays will need to be repeated, or an abdominal ultrasound will be recommended if it is unclear.

Depending on diagnostics, your vet will advise you on the best treatment for a foreign body obstruction. The common recommended treatments are surgical removal or aggressive fluid therapy.

Bone Splinters

Bones are also potentially hazardous to pets.

This applies to pork and steak bones, but it’s especially true for bird carcasses and bones (e.g., turkey and chicken bones that you might have considered giving to your dog as scraps).

The cooking process dries the bones, making it easier for them to splinter and get stuck in the passages of the digestive tract.

The splintered pieces can be caught anywhere from the mouth to the throat (esophagus) or stomach. They can even become embedded in the intestinal walls.

Larger chunks of bone can also become stuck in the small bowel, causing pain and distress to your dog because other items are not able to pass through the narrow passage.

In fact, in some cases, internal bone fragments may require surgical removal.

Talk With Your Veterinarian About New Foods

While you may be tempted to fix your pet their own plate of leftovers, it is important to be aware of the potential hazards that table scraps pose for pets.

If you have any questions regarding what is safe for your pet, always call your veterinarian. This will help you best avoid any potential problems and keep your pet safe.

By: Dr. Monica Tarantino, DVM