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IMG_6413sIf you’ve got a dog, you can probably relate to this – it’s the most difficult test in resistance and constraint known to man – the ability to resist the urge to share your table scraps and Thanksgiving leftovers with your best four-legged pal.

Even when we’re diligent all year, it seems that many people throw their will power to the wind during the holiday season, and start freely tossing those scraps as if they’re fattening up a hog for Christmas dinner.

It’s just a piece of turkey or some stuffing, and it’s only once a year, right? I grew up in a family that scraped dinner plates into dog bowls after dinner, so it must be OK. And what about taking a doggie bag home from your favorite restaurant? Face it, we love giving our dogs table scraps – they’re our loyal friends and there’s no better way to say “I love you” than to give your dog the rest of your uneaten Philly Cheese Steak.

Looking back now at my childhood, I realize that none of the dogs in my family lived really long, full lives. Sure, there was Lady – the first dog I knew. She was there when I was born, and she lived to be 13. She was always a fat dog, though. Consequently, she saw the veterinarian a lot. She died a fat dog with arthritis. The other dogs in our family – and there have been quite a few – all seem to have an average life span of about 10 years. Though all different breeds, they all had one thing in common – table scraps.

If you weren’t standing in the dog food aisle, you may think that this is a delicious stew in the canned soup aisle at your grocer.

Is it so bad to give your dog table scraps? After all, don’t just about all dog food packages flaunt pictures of the most appetizing gourmet plated dishes that make your mouth water? Or at least their descriptions do. Aren’t we programmed to buy dog food which appeals to our own tastes?

If we’re enticed by that can of Beef Stroganoff dog food, because we love beef stroganoff, it would make sense that we’d want to share our own “people food” table scraps with our four legged friends.

Some people even think that it’s a great show of love and affection, or that they’re somehow doing their dogs a favor by giving them a sample of their culinary masterpieces.

Like I said, it can sometimes feel impossible to resist those big brown eyes, and sad puppy dog faces when they’re sitting by your side at the table. Maybe an occasional whine or tap on the leg, or perhaps that incredibly desperate look while Fido’s resting his head on your leg will get the attention he’s looking for.

I’ve been nearly accused of animal cruelty for having a “no scraps” law in full force at my house since I adopted Stitch from the SF SPCA. But, it’s true – Stitch is never fed table scraps, and for the record, I don’t buy his food based on my appetite.

On some occasions, I’ve prepared food from fresh ingredients for Stitch. For example, if he has a case of tummy upset or diarrhea, I’ll shred a boiled chicken breast, and mix with white rice and cottage cheese.

Feeding dogs table scraps is the leading cause of canine obesity in the United States, but that’s almost the least of the problems table scraps can cause.

Table scraps – even occasional feeding – can cause chronic gastritis, enteritis, acute and chronic pancreatitis, early-onset liver failure, and early-onset kidney failure, to name a few. Food prepared for human consumption is simply not formulated for the canine digestive system. Aside from causing intestinal upset, table scraps contain far more calories than most dogs need, and when served in small pinches, we tend to fail to notice the calories piling up.

Feeding table scraps teaches a dog to beg. While it may seem cute at first, it can lead to serious behavioral problems. Stitch likes to be close by, and he’s always welcome in my dining room, provided he minds his manners. He doesn’t sit at anyone’s side, begging for a bite of their food, because he learned early on that people do not share their food with dogs.

Table scraps aren’t healthy for dogs because they’re generally soft and stick to the teeth. Dogs require hard food and/or bones to help remove tartar along the gum line. Dog food is the only food dogs should be fed, and although you think you might be doing your dog a favor by giving him treats of table scraps, they can cause more serious problems than you ever thought possible. If you love your dog and want to spend many years together, avoid the temptation to feed him table scraps, like I do. I know that Stitch appreciates that I’m looking out for him, and there are plenty of other healthy ways to share my affection for him.

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.

  • David Forbes

    Rosy did get a bit of turkey this year, but at least we put it in her food bowl.

    • http://www.stitchesndishes.com/ StitchesnDishes

      Something baked, preferably white meat or something with little to no fat and seasoning isn’t really so bad.

  • http://twitter.com/msmir Miriam Slozberg

    I have to be careful with giving my dog any scraps. If he gets too much he pukes. Ick. But chicken seems to sit well with him.

    • http://www.stitchesndishes.com/ StitchesnDishes

      Yep… some dogs can be really sensitive to anything they don’t eat regularly, Miriam.