Okay, so let’s say I have a dog. Let’s say that, through no fault of either party, she came to me a lot earlier that would be ideal. Like, a lot.
The first lesson this has taught me is never, never adopt a puppy younger than eight weeks old. (You try crawling out of bed every two hours to soak kibble in lukewarm puppy milk, and begging a tiny but impassive canine to eat, eat, because some of us have to go to work tomorrow. The powers that be only know what fall out her crippling curtailed socialisation with her mother and litter will have on her development, but I digress. No use crying over spilt formula.)
The second is never, ever to parent from guilt. Once, when Cliff was very small (five and a half weeks, and 1.7 kilos, if anyone is asking), she took it into her head that premium junior biscuits were boring. Like any new parent, I panicked. She would eat them soaked in puppy milk, but she was really starting to outgrow that so… I switched to regular. Um, most dogs are lactose intolerant. Mine sure is.
The diarrhoea was spectacular. No one at the clinic is going to let me live that down in a hurry, but no permanent damage was done, except to the odd couch and carpet. And curtain. Like I said, spectacular.
But it got me thinking… what if it had been worse? I’m not talking about what to feed your puppy, because that’s easy. Greater than 80% of the diet should be a premium, high quality diet; Royal Canin, Eukanuba or Hills, tailored to their size, and measured out to age, especially important for the first year, and really, really important for large breed pups. But the tricky thing is what not to feed.
It’s that pesky 20%.
We all feed treats. If you want to hear some embarrassing stories, ask anyone else at the practice when I’m out of ear shot what my dog is guilty of scrounging. But what is right out? To the point of being definitely non-negotiable?
Well, poisonous things for a start. Not just chocolate, but all sorts of odds and ends that it would never occur to a reasonable person to think of as toxic. Macadamia nuts can cause spasms and collapse. Grapes and raisins can wipe out kidneys. Onions, garlic, even their milder cousins shallots and spring onions, are deadly foes of the canine red blood cell, and can cause life-threatening anaemia. And different dogs have different tolerances. What one might cope with just fine might kill another. So it’s better to be on the safe side and just avoid them entirely.
Then, things that will probably be all right, but maybe won’t be. A basic rule is if it isn’t good for you, it’s probably not good for them. But probably worse. So if it’s a toss up between sneaking the pup week old left-overs that have started to smell, but not yet visibly grow stuff and toss it… probably better to let them go. Dogs can get fungal toxicity just as much as you can. Same reason they shouldn’t be routinely chowing down on the compost. Something else to worry about is anything can get stuck, wedged or plugged. Some popular ones seem to include bones, corncobs, skewers or string (for example, like you’d find stretched over a roast). So if bones are really important, give them raw, make them monitored toys, and pick size appropriate ones.
High Fat Foods
And then my especial foible particular, and particular bugbear: high-fat foods. They don’t just pack on the pounds; they can easily cause extremely painful pancreatitis, which can have far reaching effects even once they have been nursed through it. So take the skin off chicken, if you must feed cooked mince, go heart-smart, or at the very least rest it to drain the fat, and only offer a little.
Toxins and Drugs
And then there are the things that happen by accident, things that do require emergency veterinary attention. If it’s edible, semi-edible, or inedible but not nailed down, dogs will probably eat it. Antifreeze is sweet and palatable, but dogs are more likely to stumble across coolant in costal Australian, which is poisonous in a similar way. People drugs are mostly sugar coated, and absolutely not formulated for dogs (even less so for cats, but that’s a whole other article), especially things like ibuprofen. Then other, non-prescription drugs, alcohol can cause collapse, low blood pressure and death, tobacco a fast heartbeat and seizures. And then, less, um, illegal narcotics. They tend to have similar effects on pets, but to a much higher degree. Just a note on those, please be completely honest with us about what they may or may not have eaten. Firstly, we really only care about getting the best treatment possible, as soon as possible. Secondly, we know what a TCH toxicity dog looks like. We’ll just waste valuable time figuring it out.
The best rule of thumb with dogs’ diets is, when in doubt, leave it out. And if you’re ever not sure if something might be a problem, just give us a ring. Any time. And if it is a problem, we’re always there.
Just make a quick mental note of the appropriate time and degree of panic before someone sneaky gets a hold of something unplanned.