While we happily indulge ourselves with the fabulous holiday foods of this season, we need not exclude our furry companions. Adding that little extra bit of real food to our dog’s dry or canned meals is not only fun, it can be nutritionally beneficial.
But there are some things to keep in mind. First, remember you are adding food, so it would be wise to cut back slightly on the usual portion of canned or dry food you’ve been feeding your dog. Also, always confer with your veterinarian when contemplating any adjustments to your dog’s diet. Specifically ask them to talk to you about what foods — such as onions, macadamia nuts and raisins — you need to avoid feeding your pet.
Eggs, meats and cottage cheese are all easy and nutritional foods to add to make that bowl of food a little bit different and special. Maybe you’re baking a pie and have an extra egg; you could scramble or hard-boil it and include in your dog’s dinner that night. Or maybe you could toss in a few pieces of leftover baked turkey or roast beef from the meal your family enjoyed last night. Because commercial dog foods usually are high in carbohydrates, toppings of fruits and/or vegetables should be limited. I’d also tend to avoid adding stuffing (especially if you’ve made it using salt or onions), peas (if your dog has issues with peanuts, because both peas and peanuts are of the legume family) and mashed potatoes (white potatoes may aggravate arthritic conditions). But if you’re baking sweet potatoes, why not bake an extra one and give your dog a bit of it in her next meal? They’re a great source of fiber and vitamins A, C and B6.
If this is the first time you’ve fed your dog anything other than canned or dry commercial food, I would recommend adding a small amount of one new thing at a time; just some pieces of baked turkey, for example, or a bit of egg. Not only do you want to see to see if your dog even likes it (dogs, like humans, have food preferences) but also you want to make sure they’re digesting it well.
Finally, a word or two about bones. Under no circumstances should you give your dog cooked bones. Cooking makes them hard, brittle and easily broken or splintered. Raw bones are a different story for a different article, but much can be found on the benefits of raw bones. If curious, check out websites such as b-naturals.com or dogaware.com. The cooked, sterilized bones you can buy in the pet stores are OK provided your dog won’t try and break the bone into pieces, which could cause possible external (teeth) and/or internal (organs) damage if ingested. If your dog is a great chomper, you’d be better off giving her a stuffed hard rubber Kong on which to chew.
Feeding our pets can be a fun and rewarding experience, and it doesn’t have to always come solely from a can or a bag. We can enhance our dog’s meals simply with guidance and by adding a bit of nutritional real food.
Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.