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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Is it really so awful that I feed my pets "people" food?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23288 points ) October 6th, 2010

I always hear that you should not feed your pets table scraps or “people food”, but I always have. My family always has, also.
I feed my dogs eggs, raw and cooked veggies (they love carrots), fruit (they steal apples and pears right out of the yard that have fallen from the trees), meat, raw bones.. even cheese on rare occasion. In many cases they do get dinner leftovers, but I never allow them to have takeout or fast food. I have a friend that is always trying to feed them french fries and it drives me nuts.
All of my pets get plenty of exercise and only one of them has a weight problem (which is a cat that has been enormous since he was a kitten, of course he doesn’t get the same snacks as everyone else).

I don’t see how this can possibly be worse to feed them than strictly kibble. Am I wrong?

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63 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

This is a list you should peruse.

marinelife's avatar

Pet food is a very recent invention. It was arrived at by the meat industry to get rid of scraps and diseased animals (nice, huh?).

As long as you are cognizant of nutrition, you can feed your pet “people food”. I feed raw food.

DandyDear711's avatar

No – not so bad! I think they are pretty lucky! Good luck with this Q – bet you will get a lot of bashing; though I hope you don’t… :-)

Aster's avatar

We have always fed our two dogs both dog food and people food. There is , I think, a lot of bs out there by the dog food companies.
My daughter’s dog lasted 17 years and never had one shot of any kind nor hardly any dog food. I take exception with the bones part, though. I don’t do bones.

faye's avatar

You can see commercials for expensive doggie stew now that is ‘people’ stew at three times the price. As @marinelife says, there didn’t used to be ‘pet food’ and there were still lots of pets.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

There are certain things that animals absolutely should not eat. But everything on that list looked fine to me. Also, most pet “food” is terrible for pets to begin with, even the expensive doggy stews.

JilltheTooth's avatar

And this and this and this. Hope these help.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth thanks for the links, though I deliberately avoid anything that I know to be poisonous to cats or dogs. I’ve had cats and dogs for 28 years, so that is something I’ve come to learn over time. Thanks for sharing those, though.

Zyx's avatar

@JilltheTooth I was actually wondering earlier today what effects onions and garlic might have on small animals since they’re natures anti-biotics.

mickhock's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie You say you have had dogs for 28 years ? so surley you if anyone would know the answer to your question .

JilltheTooth's avatar

I figure if they’re not sick or overweight, and you’re aware of some of the possible dangers, they’ll be fine, and certainly delighted with your generosity! My dog loves anything egg related…

josie's avatar

Here is the history of people and dogs.
Once, humans were hunters and gatherers.
Dogs, which are scavengers, would roam around their encampments to wait for left over scraps of the kill.
Humans began tossing scraps to the dogs.
Dogs began following humans around until they became “pets”
The point is, dogs became companions for humans because humans fed them scraps.
There you go.

DandyDear711's avatar

@josie – so dogs aren’t as dumb as they look!

Blueroses's avatar

Question almost any vet about what they feed their own pets and you’ll get the admission to giving “healthy” people food. And @TheOnlyNeffie french fries are sometimes approved as a treat on a strict allergy diet. Potatoes being one of the least likely carb sources to cause a reaction. Not that fried foods are recommended at all. Often the “no people food” comes from a training standpoint where you don’t want Muffy jumping up to get your dinner.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@mickhock I’m 28. I meant that I’ve had pets all of my life, which is true, and my parents and grandparents also fed their pets table scraps and “people food”... and we’ve had many pets that lived very long, healthy, happy lives. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it at all, frankly I think it is better than store bought food. But there seems to be a very negative stigma around feeding your pets “people” food… and I just don’t understand it. That’s really all that I meant.. but you are right in that I don’t see anything wrong with it, always seemed like a good thing to me.

@Blueroses I would feed my dogs potatoes, maybe even homemade french fries (though I never have).. but I would never let my dog eat McDonald’s. I figure it is bad for us and we are often 3,4, 5 times their size… can’t imagine what it would do to them! lol.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@josie They were wolves, not dogs, when they were domesticated.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth my dogs go crazy for eggs, too. Eggs and raw carrots, if I’m preparing either one they are never very far away looking hungry. :)

josie's avatar

@DandyDear711 No, they are not.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie : Mine is nuts for carrots, too. How silly is that?

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I wouldn’t doubt that the pet food companies were the first ones to say that. I actually prefered making my (now deceased) dog(s) his own food. We believe my labs death was associated with the tainted dog food incident. The only issue I think is if you feed them directly from the table while you are eating, because that can lead to bad behavior, but I’m sure you know that having grown up with pets.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@tragiclikebowie yeah, it definitely makes sense from a training standpoint. I do understand that. Sorry about your dog, it is always hard to lose a pet.

DandyDear711's avatar

@josie – my dog won’t eat canned spinach. another example that dogs aren’t as dumb as they look.

Blueroses's avatar

Working in the animal health field for quite a while, I can see why the go-to answer is “no people food”. Example: An older lady had a fat Cocker, allergic to everything. She shelled out a lot of money on allergy tests and prescription diets with no changes in the dog. I went to her house and found the barely used bags of food and on the floor was a dish with some scrambled eggs, 2 slices of bacon and some cheese. “Buffy doesn’t like the dog food.” “No shit!”
It’s easier to forbid it all than to assume that some people are responsible enough to feed things that aren’t crap.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Blueroses that makes a ton of sense, good point!

mickhock's avatar

The answer is that you must give your animal the best food possible because it’s your duty to do so ,if giving it cream cakes or beef stroganof seems to be causing health problems the you are guilty of cruelty and neglect .

Is “people food” made of people?

Mikewlf337's avatar

I had a german shepherd mix that live to be 20! We fed her scraps all the time. Take note that it was always meat we fed her. There are foods in a human diet that is terrible for dogs. I only give my dog meat if I am to give him any human food. Nothing with sugar. Nothing with caffiene. Definitely no chocolate!

Blueroses's avatar

Now I might contradict my previous post by saying my own, personal observations. Dogs that are only ever fed one brand of good dog food for their entire lives and then follow the dog instinct of getting into the garbage, just once!... are more likely to have intense gastrointestinal distress than a dog who sometimes gets table scraps. ***this is not a professional opinion*** I think some variety in diet contributes to general health!

Frenchfry's avatar

Just ever feed the a dog chocolate. I , however, love giving my dog peanutbutter. It’s always a good laugh.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

My thoughts are it’s mainly a bad idea if you’re feeding them junk foods, fried foods or a lot of sweeties. If putting on weight isn’t an issue and your dogs don’t get diarrhea or throw up then why not.

My vet told me people foods might cut my dog’s life short by a few years but I wanted my dog as happy as possible in his captivity. It’s because he doesn’t digest well that I don’t let him have all the things he favors like pears, watermelon, cured fish, caviar, meat dumplings, strawberries, shank marrow, etc.

Frenchfry's avatar

Don’t give dog chicken bones. They will choke.

Blueroses's avatar

Anything can be a hazard. We had one client give a rawhide knot to her dog to distract her from itchy anal glands. The dog swallowed the knot and ended up in surgery when it expanded in the narrow entrance to the stomach.
I had a dog swallow a Greenie treat and spend an entire day expelling it (whole!)
Point being, it isn’t necessarily people food that causes problems.

Randy's avatar

My mom has a tiny dog that my dad feeds “people food” to, so anytime she sees someone with food, she begs, pleads and tries her damnedest to either get the person to give her some or steal it when they’re aren’t looking. It drives me insane. When I got my puppy, I vowed not to let him be an annoying bastard like my mom’s dog. He only gets dog food and dog treats except on occasion when I give him a wing bone after I get done eating wings. I’ve left plates of food within his reaching distance and he may go smell at it but he’s never taken any. There’s nothing wrong with feeding them table food but, it just personal preference not to in my situation.

Jabe73's avatar

With alot of the petfood being manufactured in China/or who knows where you might be better off. I always feed my cat anything I cook for myself like steaks, chicken, turkey, bison, hamburgers, pizza even. She likes this stuff better than her own food. I’m not sure if this is healthy either but she seems happy.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

It’s not a problem so long as it’s not causing any health issues. My understanding was that a lot of the idea behind separating people food and pet food (besides giving money to pet food companies…) was that then pets wouldn’t try to eat people food and constantly be begging for it. So it was a really complicated way to teach manners.

faye's avatar

My daughter’s little dog loves both. He has a special plate for people food and waits beside it happily through a meal for his ‘scraps’. I give him tastes of whatever I’m cooking. He ran around for a couple of days chewing on a soft carrot, and likes slices of raw turnip.

jca's avatar

I have a cat with chronic UTI’s and i think one thing i am going to start doing is feeding all my cats cans of tuna or canned chicken.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@Randy I hope you don’t mean chicken wings. Dogs should not eat cooked chicken bones. They are brittle and can splinter and get lodged in their innards and do a lot of harm. Raw chicken bones are generally okay.

DandyDear711's avatar

(raw chicken wings with bones are wonderful for dogs @Randy)

(I meant @the person who @ed Randy)

Randy's avatar

@tragiclikebowie Yup, I mean cooked wings. I’m not buying raw meat to feed my dog. I love him and all but some weeks I have trouble buying meat for myself to eat. He hasn’t had any problems with splintering bones yet (not that it happens often) and if he ever does, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Coloma's avatar

Just like us, in moderation.

I used to feed my dogs plenty of extras but nothing too rich like Lasagne. lol

Cats are trickier, tuna or some fresh turkey/chicken is about as far as they go.

Not too big on Cheerios. haha

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Coloma I don’t really understand that, though. Why would I feed my dogs fresh meat and eggs and vegetables in moderation, but feed them processed kibble that is full of grains daily? Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me. I can understand if this is given mostly as behavioral advice – so that you don’t end up with a pooch whining at your knee while you’re eating dinner, but not as health advice. As long as they aren’t eating anything known to be toxic, why would it not be better to feed them real food? I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around that.

Blueroses's avatar

@jca Be careful with that diet. Not a scientific study but every time we had a chronic UTI case I could have won an office pool by guessing the owner fed Friskies or canned tuna on a regular basis.

rooeytoo's avatar

My dogs eat raw meat (roo, beef, lamb, chicken frames or pieces) plus a mixture of rice and all the veggie peelings and left overs in the fridge. Once a month or so I cook up the rice and nuke all the veggies that I have chucked into the freezer over time. I do throw in a small handful of a good quality dry food just in case, but really no more than a handful. In the evening they get a big raw meaty bone. I have a 13 year old akita who has been on this diet for the last 10 years, also a little brown dog who has been on it for her whole life. And I now have a 3 year old dingo/kelpie etc. mix. They are all in excellent weight, have beautiful teeth, great coats and too much energy. Dog food in a bag is waste sprayed with fat, the canned is not much better. Vets push it more these days because they sell it and also because it is easier to dump some of that in a bowl than to fix a raw diet.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie It is better to feed them real food. As long as it’s okay for their diet and digestion. I’m not an expert on that so I can’t tell you what would and would not be appropriate. The processed pet foods are like @rooeytoo said, waste sprayed with fat. I think the biggest problem with people food is that most of us also eat like crap (not saying that you do) so feeding pets that isn’t much better than their canned or bagged crap.

Blueroses's avatar

@rooeytoo excellent home diet. I really don’t think vets push a diet (at least none that I know, and I know quite a few). We would always recommend a home diet if it were feasible and the markup on commercial diets is not really that much in a vet’s income. We only stock prescription diets with proven results for specific conditions.
Otherwise. Check Consumer Reports or other unbiased sources. Purina makes excellent pet foods and so do the companies sold under Kirkland, Rancher’s Choice, Whole Pet
Most of those are made by the same companies and marketed with different branding (people will pay for perceived value).
Sorry if I get a little irritated with people insinuating that vets get a kickback from foods. We only get a small discount on large orders and we stock the foods that we believe make a difference in medical conditions. That may vary, and some practices might have an affiliation with certain brands, but mostly we get just as frustrated as the consumers when the recommended food has a price increase.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Blueroses – I know the margins, I sold the food and I have seen the brands in vet’s offices for a tidy profit. I guess it depends on the vet.

I am most opposed to the artifical colors, flavorings and preservatives in commercial foods. I think virtually everything purina makes has Ethoxyquin which many believe is a carcinogenic. See this link for more information. I would not recommend any food that uses it as a preservative for animals or humans.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Well, i think that feeding them the same foods we eat will cause them to possibly have some of the same (and other) health problems that we have, especially if we’re not eating a healthy diet (too much unhealthy fats, salts, preservatives etc). Also, one must remember that they are primarily carnivores, so they shouldn’t eat more veggies and other stuff than meaty things. I subscribe to a cat health letter, and it said one time that you should NEVER feed your cats onions in any form, as it is VERY bad for them. Same for chocolate. Even people’s canned tuna isn’t good for cats as it has too much salt in it.
Otherwise i’m sure feeding dogs people food won’t be too bad, if you’re careful.

Blueroses's avatar

@rooeytoo yes, I’ve seen the potential profit margins as given by the reps and it does depend on the practice’s pov . I suppose there are some who could gain from pushing one particular brand…. but… it is a large overhead to stock prescription diets based on foreseeing the client need. We pay for it and we pay to have it sitting on the shelf. When it comes down to space vs. profit, food is our lowest income earner. We’re lucky to break even. We make a hell of a lot more on point of sale things like leashes and collars.

BoBo1946's avatar

@JilltheTooth Glad you posted that. Was not aware of some of those, but having said that, I never give Sadie people food, but the best food money can buy. Also, buy her some real expensive treats that have Omega oils in them. If I get up while watching TV and get a snack, she gets one too. She is my queen! Love my Sadie!

Leanne1986's avatar

There are certain “people foods” that can be harmful to dogs but what you listed sounds fine. My dogs get a lot of our left overs too (nothing goes to waste in my house). It sounds like you have common sense on this issue and providing your dogs are healthy and you stay away from the foods that are potentially harmful (grapes for example) then I don’t think you need to worry. Basically, I agree with @marinelife.

thekoukoureport's avatar

Had a friend of mine who was from panama. One day we ate some chicken and he threw his bones to his dog. I said you know, its not good to give your dogs chicken bones he could choke? He looked at me, smiled and said, “Poor dogs don’t care”.

Aster's avatar

My bichons even like salad. And raw bell peppers. They amaze me.

Coloma's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie

I agree that a healthy human diet is great for pets, just not junk.

Feeding eggs, meats, veggies etc. is awesome, but feeding leftover stuff loaded with butter and salt and grease is not.

A bowl of string beans vs. a bowl of stuffing. You get where I am coming from I am sure. ;-)

I would talk with your vet about supplements too, kibble may not be the greatest thing ever but, it does have certain additional vitamins & minerals that dogs & cats need.

I support your endeavors to feed your pets well.

BoBo1946's avatar

MsC…good morning!

Coloma's avatar

Mr.B Back at’cha! :-)

Nullo's avatar

My dog has actually been prescribed a diet of hamburger, rice, and carrot bits, mixed with bone meal.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Nullo – you have a smart vet, he believes in real food, not pulverized offcuts dried and sprayed with fat!

LittleLemon's avatar

My situation before the long-winded response: Lemon eats canned food currently, until I’m able to wean her onto a cat-specific raw food diet.

My big beef (ha, I went there) with Purina is the amount of by-products and gluten in their formulas. Before I continue, I have to stress that I know nothing of doggie nutrition, so this is coming from a cat-lover’s POV. Gluten should never be one of the top ingredients in a cat’s food, which you’ll find is the case with a lot of Purina’s dry formulas. No amount of vitamin supplements could possibly justify feeding a cat a dry food diet. Without even touching on the whole “not getting enough hydration” thing: Cat’s thrive on a low carb, moderate fat and high protein mixture. It is nearly impossible to find a dry food diet that matches this description. After months of research, I finally gave up trying and went with wet food (which can still be god-awful for them, if it’s from certain brands like Friskies, just as @blueroses said).

Even if you can manage to find a wet cat food that doesn’t have soy or gluten in it, be mindful that many (including Purina, I’m sorry to say) have carrageenan, which is bad juju all around. If you don’t want the scientific analysis, all you need to take from the internet is:

There is evidence from studies performed on rats, guinea pigs, and monkeys that indicates that degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) may cause ulcerations in the gastro-intestinal tract and gastro-intestinal cancer.[18] Poligeenan is produced from carrageenan when subjected to high temperatures and acidity.

For some, this is just hippie silliness, and maybe they’re right. You can get cancer from anything, as the old saying goes. But if you’re on the safe/neurotic side, it feels like you’re feeding your pet a ticking time-bomb. As for the heavy amount of byproducts, that’s more of an ambiguous point that is up to the consumer to decide the final verdict on. While I don’t personally believe it’s okay for my cat, I understand that while our pets are eating diseased animals (which is the definition of “by-product”), their stomachs can in most cases tolerate low doses of salmonella and e. coli (much unlike ours).

While I don’t believe vets get a huge cut from selling these products (if any cut at all), I do believe it’s more and more common to find a vet that has been around products such as Purina throughout their entire medical history, and this can be troublesome if the bigger picture is not considered.

Admittedly, it’s hard to consider the other half of the coin when you’ve endured years of learning otherwise. Imagine if your local veterinarian touted a homemade raw food diet for your pet, with additional vitamin supplements for optimal health. A good portion of their patients would think they were crazy, and complain that all they wanted to do was feed their pet something easy. It makes sense that vet clinics sell the products they do. Most customers want convenience, and that is their choice. I do wish the raw food movement would speak out more frequently as a viable alternative (and not come off as crazy kooks so much), but progress is being made, nonetheless. If anyone’s curious on this, here’s a great place to start.

To bring this ‘round full circle, the short answer is: feeding your pet “people food” can’t be any worse than feeding them dry food (or some wet foods), as long as you stay away from the no-no foods that the brilliant minds of Fluther have already suggested above.

At the end of this response, I’m still just a white-collar worker, with no professional medical background to speak of. What I do have is an insane love for my kitty and too much time on my hands that allows me to research all of this extensively.

This was a GQ, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the responses here!

Coloma's avatar

@LittleLemon I just switched my cats from Science Diet to Taste of the Wild. They love it, and it’s a good, not over the top pricey, food from what research I have done. They do get regular canned food, but, all they do is lick the gravy off. Someone ought to just sell cans of gravey. lolol

LittleLemon's avatar

@Coloma If they made cans of gravy for pets, I think I’d be too tempted to eat it myself.

Coloma's avatar

Admittedly, the cheese in some of the cat food entrees looks pretty good. lolol

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s no big deal. The problem is, though, it turns the animals, especially the dogs, into annoying beggars.

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