WASHINGTON – We’ve all done it — slipped a morsel of food from a plate to a furry four-legged companion waiting patiently table-side during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. But the Food and Drug Administration recently warned that consumers may want to resist the urge to pass the family pet foods meant for human consumption.
According to the agency, dogs and cats process food much differently compared to humans. The human body may break down foods or other chemicals that pets can’t tolerate, said Carmela Stamper, DVM, a veterinarian at the FDA. Additionally, the size of an animal also is a factor to consider.
“A big lab that eats a bar of dark chocolate may not have any problems,” she said, whereas a Chihuahua could become dangerously ill.
Macadamia nuts can be harmful to dogs; and xylitol, a sugar substitute, can be deadly. “If you feed your dog pills coated in peanut butter, or put peanut butter in their hollow chew toys, make sure to check the list of ingredients first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol,” Stamper advised.
So, before consumers consider passing a ‘treat’ to the family pet, FDA provided a list of additional food items that should stay out of the family pet food bowl:
- Raw meat can contain E. coli, Salmonella, or other foodborne pathogens. “Food safety is important to you and your pet,” Stamper explained. Also, Stamper advises consumers to prevent cross-contamination by hand washing before giving out pet treats and to remember that the food poisoning door swings both ways. “People can get sick after handling contaminated dog food, not washing their hands, and then using their hands to eat a sandwich or a slice of pizza,” she said.
- Grapes, raisins, and currants can cause kidney failure in some dogs. However, dogs can eat apples and bananas — just make sure to remove the core and seeds from apples.
- Fried and fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening disease called pancreatitis.
- Onions, garlic, and chives — as well as onion and garlic powder — can be harmful to dogs, especially in large amounts.
- Salty snacks, in large quantities, could also cause problems in dogs. “Feeding the odd potato chip or pretzel probably won’t do any harm,” Stamper said. But a whole bag of them could make a dog very sick.
- Stamper advises pet parents to ensure the family dog has access to plenty of water at all times, especially if it gets into salty snacks.
- Finally, moldy foods are not something consumers would feed family members, so the family dog shouldn’t eat them either, Stamper advised. Make sure pets can’t get into the garbage. Also, for consumers who have a compost heap, consumers should be sure the moldy scraps are well out of reach.
Most of the FDA’s advice applies to dogs because cats are picky eaters by nature and don’t often get into trouble by eating pet-unfriendly foods. But Stamper cautioned that felines are super-sensitive to onions, garlic, and onion and garlic powders. So it’s probably not a good idea to allow a cat to lick the orange ‘cheese’ coating off Doritos.