Every year, no matter what the holiday season is, we can expect to get bombarded with advice about being super careful to not feed our dogs any leftovers or table scraps. “No people food for dogs!”, trumpet the vets. “Dogs can’t eat table scraps – it will KILL them!”. Oh, the horror of contemplating a world where dogs eat leftover macaroni salad – how shall we all live through it?
I’m here today to sing the praises of lowly leftover table scraps for dogs, in spite of what authorities might have told you.
This weekend, we ate barbecued steak and chicken, caesar salad, tossed salad, grilled zucchini and peppers, steamed asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, fresh bread spread with roasted garlic. Anything that didn’t get finished or eaten – bits of steak, gristle from the chicken, left over veggies and salad, that last bite of garlic bread – got dumped into one big bowl in the fridge, that we fondly refer to as the ‘dog food bowl’. In fact, any ‘healthy’ leftovers are fair game for the ‘dog food bowl’ – plate scrapings of stew, the last bit of pasta, the turkey that’s worn out its welcome, the dessicated piece of cheese rind. Nothing too spicy (no jambalaya or chili) or too greasy (no cooked chicken skin or pork fat), and of course, no bad for dogs ingredients like raw onions or grapes. Everything else goes in the bowl, chopped if needed but usually just left as is.
Come dinner time for the dogs, each one gets ladled out a portion of the leftovers as a topper for their regular food – and believe me, you have never seen dog food bowls get emptied as quickly as they do when there’s bits of steak and garlic bread in there. For kibble feeders, think of this as a canned topper, minus the canned. For raw feeders, it’s a nice way to give your dogs a different taste and texture, and you’re not giving them enough cooked food to throw their diet off track.
Sure, you need to use some common sense – don’t dump an entire bowl of gravy out for your dogs. Don’t give them cooked bones of any kind. Don’t give them a ton of cooked fat (raw fat or trim, on the other hand, is usually just fine). No raw onions, grapes or chocolate. Exercise moderation, for the obese dog or the dog with a dodgy tummy. But you know all of this already, right?
Up until fifty or so years ago, leftovers pretty much defined ‘dog food’ for most dogs in North America and Great Britain, and leftovers still account for the daily meal of many dogs in developing nations. Feeding your dog isn’t rocket science. Got a kid? Managed to raise them to adulthood without giving them rickets or anemia? Congratulations – you’re probably smart enough to create a balanced meal for your dog – or at least an occasional topper for their regular diet.