Won’t People Food Give My Pet Diarrhea?

Molly's dinner and mine ... can you tell whose is whose?

Molly’s dinner and mine … can you tell whose is whose?

Just chatting with a fellow dog-lover, I mentioned Molly’s recent case of hollow leg syndrome. I gave her a big bowl of grilled chicken. She ate it and said, “Got anything more?” So I popped open a can of sardines. She ate that and asked, “Got anything more?” So I topped it off with some dehydrated lamb lung. She ate that and asked, “Got anything more?” After which I told her she’d had plenty for one meal. 

My friend cocked her head. “And she doesn’t get the runs?” My friend knows I cook for my dog, but chicken, sardines, and lamb all in one meal–surely a recipe for GI distress!

We’ve had it drilled into our heads by our vets that “people food” is a no-no for dogs and cats. It’ll give them diarrhea. This is one reason many people are suspicious of homemade diets for pets.

So how does Molly–and thousands of other dogs and cats eating “people food”–survive? Easy. It only takes two steps.

  1. The right kind of people food 
  2. The spice of life: variety

Don’t feed your pet junk food. I’m talking greasy hamburgers and fries, the last bite of your doughnut, your salty potato chip, and the frosting off your cake. There is clearly no nutritional benefit from these foods, for pets or for people. We seem to process them okay (until diabetes and heart disease stalk us in later life), but your pet’s body may say right away–in the back yard or the litter box–that this food isn’t working for them.

But one of the biggest reasons “people food” may cause diarrhea is because your dog simply isn’t used to variety. We somehow got hooked on the idea of marrying our pets to one kibble or canned food for their entire lives. So when you throw in something new–even if it’s a healthy grilled chicken breast with a side of veggies–your pet may react.

The key here is to introduce new foods in small amounts and increase variety over time–until you get to the point where your pet, like Molly, can down chicken, sardines, and lamb in a single sitting with no ill effects.

And quite honestly, I wonder how much of this objection to “people food” is unfounded fear. Almost everyone has stories of their cat or dog liberating unguarded food. (My friend’s puppy has mastered the art of swiping chips right out of her hand.) Yet rarely do these cases seem to end in GI distress for the pet.

What do you think? Have you ever snuck your pet a bite of “people food?” How’d it go?

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