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Pets and Special Treats -- Everything in Moderation

Reviewed by Dr. Robert M. DuFort, DVM, DACVIM on Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Posted December 26, 2013 in Dog Diet & Nutrition

Nobody wants to deprive themselves or their pets of life’s little enjoyments. Certainly when I am watching my calories, I try to find solace in the knowledge that someday I will have another piece of fried chicken or another candy bar. I just can’t eat them every day, and I certainly can’t eat three at a time. I use my decidedly un-carrot like understanding of future treats as my proverbial carrot-on-a-stick to keep me on course; however, the key is that at some point I will get that favorite snack again as my reward.

Likewise food rewards are an important part of our relationships with our pets. We use treats not only for training our dogs and cats but also for bonding with them. We feed them, they love us. We feed them special things, they love us even more. Certainly I’ve always counseled my clients that it is okay to give their pets small bits of people food. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t. After all, I have one cat that loves papayas and another that adores saltine crackers. There’s no way I would know their favorites if I didn’t occasionally offer them food from my plate, hence the old adage -- ‘anything in moderation.’ As long as I don’t overdo treats and risk upsetting the wholesome balance of their finely-crafted, commercially-prepared diet I won’t do them any harm, and we all get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

When not to feed your pet special treats
There are, of course, a few important considerations with this approach. First, there are certain foods that can be toxic to our pets even in small amounts: seemingly healthy things like onions, garlic, raisins, and grapes. Secondly, there are certain medical conditions that influence what is or is not healthy or safe for your pet. For instance, dogs prone to pancreatitis should steer away from fatty treats. Diabetic animals need always be careful and consistent with what they eat. Animals with irregular bowel habits may need the appropriate type and/or amount of fiber in their diets. You should always check with your veterinary professional and research individual foods before you introduce them into your pet’s diet. 

What to watch out for if you feed your pet special treats 
So what about just a wee bit of white meat turkey at Thanksgiving? What about just a tiny piece of candy at Halloween?

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.