I have a Lab.
This means I KNOW about mooching. The long stares, the rope of drool hanging down, maybe even the occasional heart-rending whine. Of course we want to share the bounty! It would make the dog SOOO happy, right?
Or not. There are so many reasons not to feed the dog from the table. Let’s look at a few:
ONIONS AND GARLIC:
I love onions and garlic in my cooking. What veggie dish is not better for some onions?
The problem is that dogs can get really sick from onions and garlic: they wreck hemoglobin! Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in your blood cells that transports oxygen to your tissues. The folded shape of the protein is what lets it hang on to the oxygen. In dogs, the folds are “pinned” into shape by hydroxyl bonds.
There is a sulfur-containing compound in onions and garlic that wrecks these bonds – the protein unfolds! Unfolded hemoglobin does not work, and the blood cells full of unfolded hemoglobin break apart. The result: anemia (low red cell count), and extremely impaired ability to get oxygen to the tissues.
Note – it is even worse for cats! Their hemoglobin has eight times as many hydroxyl bonds as dog hemoglobin, making them even more sensitive to this kind of damage!
GRAPES AND RAISINS:
Are raisins the special extra touch to your stuffing? Or the crowning glory of your pecan pie? Then don’t give any of these to the dog.
No one is exactly sure what is the agent in grapes and raisins that damages dogs’ kidneys, but just a handful can put some dogs into kidney failure. There seems to be a genetic component we don’t know about: some dogs seem to handle a little bit of grapes or raisins OK, and some will be really sick after a small amount. There is no test to identify which dog is sensitive! So let’s just not experiment – NO grapes and raisins for dogs!
FATS IN FOOD CAUSING PANCREATITIS:
Sadly, cases of pancreatitis are SO common after any holidays. Pancreatitis in dogs starts when tiny blood vessels serving the pancreatic cells get choked off, often by microscopic globules of fat in the blood-stream. The problem comes when the domino-effect kicks in: one dying pancreas cell leaks out the enzymes it was making to aid digestion. Those enzymes “digest” and kill its neighbours. They leaks out their enzymes, and kill their neighbours.
The damage spreads through the organ in a fast and furious way, and it is SO painful for the poor dog. Now that little indulgent treat has put the dog in the hospital on IV fluids and pain-killers.
Yeah, I know, dogs and bones are just meant to go together, right? Well, when dogs are eating prey, I am pretty sure it was not broiled first. Cooked bones are an issue!
Bones are made up of mineral crystals held in a protein matrix. The whole point on cooking food is to break down proteins to make then easier for us to digest. Well, the proteins in bones break down just like the ones in meat. So now, all that is left structurally are the mineral crystals. Now, when a dag gnas on an uncooked bone, it breaks down to bits like sawdust and gravel. A cooked bone, however, breaks into shards like knife-blades and needles. If these should jam cross-wise during their passage through the intestine, they can poke right through!
Some bones are more likely to make these little blades than others. Flat bones, like ribs and shoulder blades, have their protein structure running in parallel lines in the first place – knife-blades waiting to happen! Tiny bones, like poultry, are predisposed to break on an angle making a “spear-point”.
So, if you really feel compelled to give your dog a bone, get him a dog bone: a smoked one from the pet store (smoking is not high enough temperature to wreck the proteins, it just clears up the potentially smelly fragments from the surface), or a big old soup bone or knuckle bone (uncooked!) from the butcher.
It’s not just a matter of what we give, it’s how much!
Digestion up in the stomach and small intestine can only handle so much. Plus, dogs tend to make digestive enzymes for ingredients they are used to seeing in their diet – new foods take a period of adjustment while the appropriate enzymes for the new ingredients are induced.
This means that too much food, or new food, can end up not getting digested. It passes through the small intestine intact, making it down to the large intestine and the bacteria that live there. This is what I refer to as the Bacterial Smorgasbord. The hind gut bacteria gorge on all this unaccustomed goodness, causing excessive production of acidic waste products. This acid gut environment actually ends up killing off the “good guy” bacteria and letting the more acid-resistant “bad guy” bacteria have a free rein.
The acid byproducts, plus the irritating wastes produced by “bad guy” bacteria irritate the large bowel lining like crazy. The result: blow-out, urgent, can’t-make-it-to-the-door diarrhea, often with profuse blood. This is the point where you should call back whichever of your guests thought it was a good idea to feed the dog and make THEM clean it up!