I grew up on a farm. We always had several really large, mixed-breed dogs that spent their days running off all their energy. When we cleared off the table after supper each night, we would give all the table scraps to the dogs. The only rule my mother had was that we could not give them chicken bones. Everything else was fair game. And the dogs loved us! But that was a long time ago, before the days of the internet that has made us all more aware of the importance of healthy eating for both humans and animals. Some 30 years later, I live in town with a little Pomeranian, and my mother is still on the farm, now with a Great Dane. Both of us are still guilty of giving our pets table scraps, but now we are more careful about what we dish out to them. We all know of the big no-no’s –chocolate and grapes – but what else is bad for your dogs? When I want to give my dog table scraps, it is usually not a piece of chicken or a green bean. It is usually some prepared dish, like green bean casserole or tuna salad. So I made a list of all the leftovers currently in my refrigerator and did some research using American Kennel Club recommendations to determine which of the leftovers were safe for my dog. Here are a few general comments:
Seasonings – What is going to make most prepared foods bad for your dog will be the seasonings used while cooking the dish. Onion, garlic, and nutmeg are highly toxic for your dog and should always be avoided. And dogs, just like humans, should limit their salt intake. And while some spicy seasonings are not particularly harmful for your dog, spicy foods could upset their stomachs or cause diarrhea.
Dairy – Like humans, some dogs are lactose intolerant. So while dairy, especially low fat products, are safe, you should make note if your dog shows signs of an upset stomach or diarrhea after consuming dairy treats. Keep this in mind when giving the cheese, yogurt, milk, butter, and cottage cheese I mention in my leftovers below. I have given my dog lots of dairy in his life, and I have not noticed any signs of lactose intolerance.
Fat – Once again, dogs, like humans, should limit foods with high fat content. Not only could these foods cause your pet to become obese, but could also cause upset stomachs and diarrhea.
Now for the leftovers in my refrigerator:
Fried pork chops – Cooked pork in moderate amounts is not only safe, but very good for your dog. Be careful, though. Some seasonings that may be on your pork chops are not good for your pet. Onion and garlic powder can be toxic, and salt should be limited. The pork chops in my refrigerator were fried in oil with a coating of flour, salt, and pepper. I scraped off the coating and gave my pooch a few bites. Not too many, since the meat probably had some residual oil from frying. My finding – safe for my dog after scraping off the breading and spices.
Tuna Salad – How dog friendly your tuna salad is depends on the ingredients. Mine consisted of canned tuna (packed in water then drained), low-fat mayonnaise, chopped boiled eggs, and diced celery. All these ingredients are safe for your dog in moderate amounts. Tuna and eggs are excellent sources of protein. Fatty foods such as mayonnaise are not good for your dog, but small amount of low-fat mayonnaise will be ok. Usually I add diced onion to my tuna salad. Onions are very toxic to dogs! Had I put onions in this tuna salad, it would not be dog friendly. My finding – safe for my dog.
Mashed Potatoes – Cooked potatoes are good for your canine friend. It is safe to give him small bites of your mashed potatoes if they are not loaded up with lots of butter, cream, salt, and pepper. If you go easy of these extras when making your mashed potatoes, small amounts will be fine. Raw potatoes can hurt your pet’s stomach and should be avoided. Because my husband prefers to add extra butter, salt, and pepper to his potatoes on his plate, I prepared these potatoes with just one small dollop of real butter, a touch of milk, and a small amount of salt and pepper. My finding – safe for my dog.
Plain Yogurt – Plain yogurt is safe to give your pet. Yogurts with lots of sugar and flavorings, or with fruits that are not healthy for dogs, should be avoided. Cherries and strawberries are frequently found in yogurts and are not safe for your pet. I recently took the leap from flavored yogurt to plain yogurt a while back for my own health. It turns out it was a healthy choice for my dog as well. My finding – safe for my dog.
Garden Salad – Normally I wouldn’t keep left over garden salad in my refrigerator, but I had made a large garden salad, and just put the lid on the leftovers and popped it into the fridge. It contained ice-berg and romaine lettuce, grated cheese, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes cut in half, and small chunks of bell peppers. All of these ingredients are safe for dogs! The green part of tomatoes is not healthy for dogs, but these were cherry tomatoes cut in half with no green parts. Also, be sure the salad is undressed. Most all dressings would contain too much fat and too many spices to be good for your dog. I must note that while the lettuce is safe for dogs, my pet will generally eat everything else and leave the lettuce. My finding – safe for my dog.
Fruit Salad – This fruit salad was made at the last minute by adding whatever was available in my kitchen as a treat for my grandkids, so don’t try to make this at home! It contained grapes, mandarin oranges, walnuts, cottage cheese, bananas, apples, strawberries, celery, blueberries, maraschino cherries, and plain yogurt. About half of this salad was safe for the dog. Grapes and walnuts are big no-no’s, as are strawberries and cherries. Because my cottage cheese was low fat, and my dog can tolerate dairy, this is actually ok to give him. The celery and other fruits – oranges, bananas, apples, blueberries – are all dog friendly. Unfortunately, there are too many foods unsafe for my pet in this fruit salad. My finding – not safe for my dog.
Baked Beans – I made these with canned pork and beans, then doctored them up with a little extra brown sugar and mustard. Plain cooked beans are a good source of protein for dogs. However, baked beans generally contain too many spices (including onion powder), sugars, and fats to be a good choice. Also, canned beans contain preservatives that are not healthy for your dog. My finding – not safe for my dog.
Bacon – When I cook bacon for breakfast, I generally cook the entire package and then serve BLT’s, my most favorite sandwich. Even my dog loves the smell of cooking bacon. But while pork is safe for dogs, processed meats such as bacon and sausage are not. They are found to be very carcinogenic, both to humans and to dogs. But even without the cancer threat, bacon is very fatty and salty, and can be very hard on your pet’s stomach. My finding – not safe for dogs.
Jalapeno Cheddar Smoked Sausage – Now this is our favorite unhealthy eating splurge. But for your dog, it is off limits. While the jalapeno is not toxic to your dog, most dogs are not accustomed to spicy foods and could develop a stomach ache or diarrhea. The cheddar cheese is ok in small amounts, but the sausage is definitely off limits. As mentioned above, sausage is a processed food containing spices, fats, as well as carcinogens. This leftover is big no-no for your dog. My finding – not safe for your dog.
We all love our dogs and want them to lead long, healthy lives, and giving them treats along the way is part of showing our love! But you must remember that they get all the nutrition they need from their dog food and anything you give them from the table is considered “dessert.” We limit our dessert, so we should limit their dessert, too. Other than that, make sure to keep an eye on the treat recalls. You can see the list of recalls on FDA website.