It's Summer and That Means Parties, Barbeques and Fun!
Party Foods You Can and Should Not Feed Your Pets

As the writer of this blog, I admit I feed my pets, dogs, cats and tortoises human food way too often. My dogs eat steak, my cats eat cheese and they both eat Rotisserie Chicken. My two Sonoran Desert Tortoises eat strawberries and Romaine lettuce. Having said this, there are a whole host of foods that our pets should never eat for multiple reasons. So, while many of us feed our pets human food, please note that doing so requires some knowledge and discretion if you are going to protect your pet's health and well-being. The following foods, some of which might surprise you (they did me), should not be fed to your dog:

Hot Dogs

Not all hot dogs are created equal. Some are certainly better for us humans than others, but for the most part it should not come as a shock to anyone that hot dogs are not the healthiest food for anyone or anything to eat. As bad as they are for us, they are even worse for pets.

Hot dogs contain tons of salt and preservatives, both in levels that dogs are not used to and thus can lead to diarrhea and indigestion. They can also cause excessive thirst, urination and lead to dehydration. Even turkey dogs contain the same ingredients that will more than likely make your dog sick or sick to his/her stomach. If you do decide to give in to temptation, cut the hot dog into bite-size pieces to avoid choking hazards and serve in moderation. Again, if your dog doesn't feel well afterwards you really should cease the hot dog feeding all together.

Bones

This may come as a surprise to you, but you might not want to ask for a doggy bag next time you have restaurant leftovers from foods such as ribs, steaks, chicken and wings because the bones can be very dangerous in the mouth of your dog and other pets that might like to consume them.

Bones can splinter easily and if they are digested they can cause puncture wounds in your dog's mouth, stomach or digestive tract. They can also lead to obstructions and other health hazards including choking. Make sure everyone in your family knows this and knows where they can safely dispose of their foods so your pet doesn't find and get into them on its own.

Snacks

Potato chips, crackers and pretzels are also loaded with salt that can cause excessive thirst and urination. Snack foods are just as unhealthy for dogs and cats as they are for us. If your pet consumes too many snacks it can lead to sodium ion poisoning, the effects of which can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and even death.

Fruits and Desserts

Fruits in general are high in sugar and can lead to blood glucose issues but the main ones to avoid when it comes to your pets are grapes and raisins since they have been shown to cause serious kidney issues and even death when consumed by dogs. Desserts that include chocolate or Xylitol are no-nos for dogs, as they can prove fatal quickly.

Hot dogs contain tons of salt and preservatives, both in levels that dogs are not used to and thus can lead to diarrhea and indigestion. They can also cause excessive thirst, urination and lead to dehydration. Even turkey dogs contain the same ingredients that will more than likely make your dog sick or sick to his/her stomach. If you do decide to give in to temptation, cut the hot dog into bite-size pieces to avoid choking hazards and serve in moderation. Again, if your dog doesn't feel well afterwards you really should cease the hot dog feeding all together.

Choking Hazards

Many cookout foods are choking hazards. Hot dogs, bones and corn cobs are among those that can get lodged in your dog’s airway. Keep an eye out for anything that is larger than bite size. Even some dog bones can be choking hazards so if your dog or pet is eating something unique, other than dog or pet food, you should watch them swallow just to be sure the item makes its way down.

Alcohol

An ice cold beer or mixed drink might be the perfect refreshment on a hot summer day, but it is not going to have the same effect on your pet. Even a small amount, just a few licks or sips, can be dangerous and/or fatal. In a festive environment, once drinks start pouring it’s not uncommon for a few glasses to get abandoned here and there, so make sure you clean-up after your forgetful friends.

Foods Your Pet(s) Can Enjoy

Okay, cookouts, parties and barbeques are all about fun and food and why should our beloved pets not take part? They can have fun too, as long as we are responsible and make it safe for them! The following are people foods your dog and other pets can have.

Shrimp

A few shrimp every now and then is fine for your dog, but only if they are fully cooked and the shell (including the tail, head and legs) is removed completely. Shrimp are high in antioxidants, vitamin B-12, and phosphorus and low in fat, calories and carbohydrates.

Cheese

Yes, cheese is okay in small to moderate quantities. As long as your dog or pet isn’t lactose intolerant, which is rare but still possible in canines, cheese can be a great treat. Many cheeses can be high in fat, so go for low-fat varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella.

Peanut Butter

Just like whole peanuts, peanut butter is an excellent source of protein for dogs. It contains heart-healthy fats, vitamins B and E and niacin. Raw, unsalted peanut butter is the healthiest option because it doesn’t contain Xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs.

Bread

Small amounts of plain bread (no spices and definitely no raisins) won’t hurt your dog, but it also won’t provide any health benefits either. It has no nutritional value and can really pack on the carbohydrates and calories, just like in people. Homemade breads are a better option than store-bought, as bread from the grocery store typically contains unnecessary preservatives but it’s best to avoid it all together.

Ice Cream

Who or what doesn't like ice cream? Your pet's tummy, that's what. It is really best not to share your ice cream with your dog or other pets who might like it. Canines don’t digest dairy very well, and many even have a slight  intolerance to lactose, a sugar found in milk products. Although it’s also a dairy product, frozen yogurt is a much better alternative. To avoid the milk altogether, freeze chunks of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples and give them to your dog as a sweet, icy treat.

As mentioned earlier, you can give in and treat your pet to normal cookout fare but it is important that you remember what is poisonous, what can be a choking hazard and what you should feed in moderation. If your pet is determined to get into the entire spread, it might be a good idea to take them indoors or to another part of the yard where they can stay out of harm’s way. Have fun this summer, but be safe — even if your pet whines just a bit because you deny him/her the buffet, they will appreciate your mindful discretion in the long run!