Pet Docs 3-02-18 (copy) (copy) (copy)

Perry Jameson (left) and Henri Bianucci. File/Staff

Living in such a wonderful place means friends and family want to visit. This past weekend, we (Perry Jameson) had members of my family visit, two of whom were under 10 years of age. Our dog Flipper loves this as usually food is being dropped or even fed to him intentionally under the table.

As my wife and I both are veterinary internists, we are pretty strict about what he is allowed to eat. Too many of our patients present to us for being allowed to eat something they should not have. Sometimes intentionally, while other times they found the food by accident.

When our back deck was being repaired, the workers would break for lunch daily. Multiple times when they were not watching their food, Flipper would grab it and run off, devouring wrappers and all before they could stop him. Fortunately, he never became obstructed, requiring endoscopy or surgery to remove plastic. Usually he would vomit the foreign material overnight for us to find the next morning.

So when we have friends and family over, or workers around our home, we stress to them not to feed our pets and to keep their food out of Flipper’s reach.

We all want to make our pets happy. And offering a treat that is usually forbidden, and different from their routine diets, is a way to do this. First, however, let us review some foods to never feed them.

When Flipper looks at me with those puppy dog eyes, it is hard for me to not to think of him as my second son. Dogs, however, are not small people. Based on differences in how they metabolize things, some foods that are safe for humans are harmful to dogs.

All alliums should be avoided as they can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. These are bulb-type vegetables that include chives, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and scallions.

Grape and raisin consumption can result in life-threatening kidney failure. We are not sure what it is about grapes and raisins to make them toxic, but not all of them are dangerous. There is a microscopic mold that grows on their surface that may be the culprit. This is an example of something perfectly safe for us but not dogs. 

Nuts are not a good snack either. The high fat content may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Macadamia nuts, in particular, should be avoided as they may cause neurologic symptoms, tremors and weakness.

You would think artificially sweetened food would be OK, as low-calorie foods are good for dogs, but again, because their metabolism is different from ours, this is not true. Avoid anything containing xylitol (common in foods for diabetics and chewing gum) as this will cause life-threatening liver injury and hypoglycemia.

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My cats love to drink the milk from our leftover cereal bowls. In reality, I should avoid this habit as many cats are lactose intolerant and may develop GI distress from drinking milk.

If you want to give your dog a treat, and we all do, stick with safe foods. Vegetables are a great option. Raw celery and carrots provide a crunch for young dogs. Cooked green beans are a favorite of mine as Flipper sees them as a human food and they are full of fiber. Fruit is a safe choice, too, and dogs love the sweet flavor. Small amounts of lean meats and seafood are OK as well.

Cats are more particular than dogs and rarely like sweet foods since they do not have sweet taste receptors. Being more of a carnivore than dogs, they prefer protein. Lean, cooked meats such as turkey, chicken and seafood are OK. Vegetables are safe, but my cats never seem interested.

Remember that all these treats are not calorie-free. So if you add a treat in daily but do not cut back on their regular food to compensate for this, they will gain weight.

It is OK to give your pets human food as a treat, but be sure the food is a safe one and count the calories.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to