It was the Christmas of 2014. I’d thrown a huge party and the table was loaded with goodies. The next day, my black Labrador, Hotdog, started throwing up and had loosies as well. By evening the vomiting had stopped but the loosies continued. I called my vet in desperation. He knew I’d had a party the previous day and he asked me whether I’d overfed Hotdog. I firmly said no. I do give my dogs ‘human treats’ like biscuits, sandwich etc, but I give small quantities and am very careful about what I feed them.
Please note: Giving ‘human treats’ can be bad for your dog’s health and I am in no way saying that you should do it. I give my dogs treats that I know their stomachs can withstand. However, most vets will NOT recommend them and you would be wise to follow your vet’s advice.
Anyway, coming back to my tale of Hotdog’s diarrhoea, I was perplexed and wondered whether he’d managed to pick up some food that had fallen on the ground, which hadn’t agreed with him. Anyway, we started him on medication and he began to improve.
A couple of days later, a friend of mine popped in. She was all praise for my Christmas party and the food, and then she smiled widely and said, “That chocolate lava cake was delicious. Hotdog was looking at me so longingly that I gave him two.” TWO! Two whole chocolate lava pastries with chocolate oozing from them. I was shocked. I gently told her that chocolates were harmful to dogs and they could die from over-consumption. It was my friend’s turn to look shocked.
This is something everyone needs to know. NEVER FEED SOMEONE’s DOG when you are visiting them WITHOUT THE OWNER’S PERMISSION. It sounds like I’m shouting this out by putting it all in caps. Maybe I am. My dog could have died from chocolate poisoning. Luckily, he didn’t.
And my point is – most people don’t know what is poisonous or harmful to dogs. So, you could be giving someone’s dog something poisonous without even knowing it. Yes, I know how difficult it is to ignore those beautiful, pleading eyes of a dog as it looks at you hopefully, waiting for a bite of whatever you are eating. Well, steel your heart and look away.
Alternately, ask your host. Some people are okay with guests giving their dogs morsels of food. But they know what agrees with their dogs and what doesn’t. At least this way, you have the owner’s permission to give the dog food.
In my case, my dogs are only allowed to beg from me. I make it very clear to family and friends who visit me that they are not to feed my dogs scraps from the table or even snacks that we are eating in the living room. It takes an owner immense effort to teach their dog not to beg; if guests come and feed them indiscriminately, the dog isn’t to blame. The next time a visitor comes, the dog will beg, because he has been conditioned to think that it’s okay to beg from guests.
I remember once, someone had brought their friend over to my house. I had served some snacks and this lady casually broke up a piece of murukku and threw the pieces at my dogs. I politely told her not to feed the dogs in the living room. After a few minutes, she did it again! I told her again. Then she did it a third time and my husband and I exchanged glances. Short of ticking off a stranger who was a guest in my house, there was nothing I could do. So, I quietly told the dogs to ‘go’. The lady in question was oblivious to my anger. She laughed and told me how she loved dogs and that was why she couldn’t resist giving them food.
Now I understand that totally. I am a sucker where dogs are concerned. I find it difficult to not give them something when they look at me longingly. I know that guests feel they are showing love by giving the dog whatever they are eating. They mean well. But, it is not right. You could cause the dog harm or you could be encouraging it to beg. When I go someplace where there are dogs, and if they are following me around with hungry eyes, I always check with the owner. Some owners have no issues with you even feeding the dog scraps at the table.
As Dr Eric Barchas says in Dogster, his website, “Even dogs with strong constitutions, no dietary restrictions, perfect behaviour, and no philosophical dietary limitations can suffer from problems if treats are fed in excess. Consumption of large quantities of rich foods can cause pancreatitis, a severe digestive system problem that can be life-threatening in extreme instances. It also predisposes dogs to diabetes. These well-meaning people simply don’t understand that they can cause harm to the dog they are trying to befriend.”
So, the next time you are at someone’s house and their pooch gazes at you yearningly for food, always check with the owner before you toss the little guy anything.