What’s the harm in feeding your dog table scraps?

My wife keeps nudging me to stop feeding the dog from the table.  When asked why I do it, I simply reply, ‘ the dog likes me to!’  Do I have to be concerned with feeding extra goodies?   

-Wanting to Please My Pet

Dogs and cats are traditionally raised on fairly fixed diet protocols.  Feeding different foodstuffs can create mild problems like diarrhea and/or vomiting.

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In other cases, even the smallest change in diet can create worse conditions, like pancreatitis, or inflammation/infection of the pancreas organ; or, more severe gastrointestinal upset with relentless vomiting and/or diarrhea that looks more like blood than stool. 

Around holiday times, so many goodies in the household can pose additional risks to pets.   Large to giant breed dogs frequently present at the emergency clinic with swollen abdomens, as a manifestation of a stomach engorged with gas, fluids and possibly food materials.  This latter condition can prove life threatening in very short order.  So, although we all love to spoil our family pets as we spoil our kids, feeding extra goodies off the table is not a good idea.  Sorry, but I have to agree with your wife on this one. 

Dear Dr. Doug,

My vet suggested that our little 8-year-old dachshund, Schtunkie, needs his teeth cleaned and polished.  I remember we just had this procedure done less than one year ago.  How important is it to put Schtunkie through another dental?  I worry about the cost and my vet says he has to put him under gas to do it. 

-Concerned Momma

What you have explained sounds absolutely reasonable and correct.  Dogs need to have regular dental care, not unlike humans. Many breeds, especially larger dogs, seem to accumulate less tartar and plaque in any given time period, as compared to smaller lap breeds where tooth care protocols often require more frequent visits and formal dental procedures.  Dogs and cats do not produce dental caries/cavities as in people, but do have frequent problems with gum disease (gingivitis), and tooth decay secondary to injury or infection to the ligaments supporting the tooth in its socket.  The latter condition is referred to as periodontitis.  You will also note that your pets tend to accumulate more tartar and plaque on their very large canine or eye teeth, as well as on their molars and premolars.  Most veterinarians utilize technologies like ultrasonic dental cleansers and polishers, not unlike what you experience in your own dental visits.  You may even find your vet suggesting a complete x-ray review to look for insidious root decay in pets like your own Schtunkie.    Finally, any formal anesthesia at the vet’s office should include a hand’s on physical exam, blood work and more, to be sure anesthesia and the accompanying dental work can be performed safely.  Go for it.

Dear Dr. Doug,

Alex, our family cat, has suddenly begun to urinate everywhere but in his cat box!  I have had the carpets cleaned twice this month alone, and I fear Alex is not long for this household.  We all love him so much, but he is more of a handful than we hoped for when we first adopted him last year.  Help!  Is there any hope here? 

-Frustrated Cat Owner

You are not alone.  This condition of “inappropriate urination” is a change in behavior that can either represent something physically abnormal like a true urinary tract infection or a behavioral issue. Resolving this problem so that Alex can continue to enjoy his life as the beloved pet cat of your household may require some actions.  First and foremost, try to jot down any patterns surrounding this activity to include locations, times and dates of accidents, issues of stress around the home that may directly or indirectly impact Alex.  Take this information to your vet. He or she, along with a thorough examination, will likely suggest reviewing a urine sample, and possibly both blood work and x-rays to rule out conditions like bladder infections, bladder stones, or more.  In many cases, husbandry management, special therapeutic diets and other therapeutic actions will be integrated in order to help resolve Alex’s urination issues and bring him back into your heart.  Hang in there.  This too shall pass.

Dr. Doug Pernikoff, a local veterinarian who has practiced for more than 30 years, is based in Chesterfield at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic. He can be heard with Frank O’pinion on KTRS radio each Wednesday afternoon.