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Dogs don’t need ‘human food,’ says Virginia veterinarian: ‘No reason for it’

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Plenty of dog owners across America like to spoil their pets as they would their own children, with some even preparing elaborate meals for them typically reserved for dinner guests.

South Florida resident Sara Valdivieso, a mother of two children, has three dogs: Ruby Lulu, a 5-year-old Airedale terrier; Lola Chicky, a 4-year-old mutt; and Sabel Daisy, a 1-year-old miniature goldendoodle.

Valdivieso feeds her pets dog food twice a day, she said — but that’s not all. She also makes sure they’re regularly fed healthy human food.

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“It’s definitely at least once a day, but it’s not a full meal,” she told Fox News Digital. “It’s more like, I would say, supplementing.”

Valdivieso said carrots and mangoes are some of her dogs’ favorite “people food.” They also enjoy cauliflower and strawberries, she said.

Sara Valdivieso's dogs Ruby Lulu, Lola Chicky and Sabel Daisy

Sara Valdivieso’s dogs Ruby Lulu and Lola Chicky, shown next to each other on the left, and Sabel Daisy, right, eat “people food” seven days a week. (Sara Valdivieso / Fox News Digital)

“They’ll also eat some of our proteins that we’ll have,” she said.

When it’s time to go grocery shopping, Valdivieso’s dogs are top of mind. “I make sure that they get their own portions,” she said.

“I make sure that they get their own portions.”

On special occasions like birthdays and holidays, Valdivieso has also given her dogs treats that include a “frozen yogurt cup kind of thing with a candle in it” and whatever protein she and her family are eating – usually steak.

“They’ll probably have that instead of their actual dog food dinner,” she said.

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But Valdivieso said she knows better than to give her dogs grapes or onions, for instance.

“We’re careful with that kind of thing,” she said.

Valdivieso said she and her husband feed their dogs on a plate on the floor or, in the case of dog food, in a bowl. But, she admitted, “Our children probably slip it to them under the table.”

Some human food can be toxic to dogs

Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy, said it’s important for pet owners to know their dogs and what foods are safe for a pooch to eat. (See the video at the top of this article.)

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, with her family and dogs, Nelson said that ultimately, it comes down to each individual dog.

Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian for Chewy, is also a dog owner.

Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian for Chewy and a dog owner, says it’s important to “know what foods are safe and what foods are not.” (Dr. Katy Nelson/Chewy)

“Know your own dog and understand their sensitivities,” she said. “And then also know what foods are safe and what foods are not.”

There are certain foods that, while safe for humans, are toxic to dogs.

Pure protein, Nelson said, “is not going to be severely dangerous to your pet because they’re already eating beef or chicken or some other sort of protein in their foods.”

Fatty pieces of steak or bacon can lead to upset stomachs. 

“But it’s when you go outside of that,” Nelson said, “that it gets a little more dicey.”

Fatty pieces of steak or bacon can lead to upset stomachs, she said. “And then going outside that to vegetables and seasonings and sauces and all of this stuff — that’s where it really gets dangerous.”

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Just like people, dogs can struggle with weight — that’s another consideration for dog owners. Nelson said more than 50% of dogs in the United States are considered obese.

“Knowing what you’re looking at, knowing what you’re feeding and then knowing your dog’s typical response is the best way to kind of navigate that,” Nelson said. 

Other foods that are very dangerous for dogs include chocolate, salty snacks, grapes and raisins, leftover bones, milk products like ice cream and more, according to Rodale. 

Some dogs know to ‘patiently wait’ for leftovers

Natasha Tomlinson of South Florida has a bit of a different approach to feeding human food to her two dogs, Koko, a miniature poodle mix, and Kaylee, a Maltese-Yorkshire terrier mix.

Natasha Tomlinson's dogs are Kaylee and Koko.

Natasha Tomlinson said her dogs Kaylee, with the white coat, and Koko, with the brown coat, know to “patiently wait” to be fed by her. (Natasha Tomlinson)

Unlike Valdivieso, Tomlinson doesn’t go shopping for extra portions for Koko and Kaylee, her two older dogs who “run around like they’re puppies.” 

But Tomlinson will make sure there are leftovers for them after dinner, she said – typically chicken, steak or pork – seven days a week.

She said she cooks mostly at home and that her dogs are conditioned to “patiently wait” until the end of a meal. They are never fed from the table, she said. 

Bad behavior from table-fed dogs is more on the “dog parents,” she said. 

She said bad behavior from table-fed dogs is more on the “dog parents.”

Maryland resident Adam Insley has also been known to feed leftovers to his dog Pebbles. 

Pebbles is fed a piece of bacon

Maryland resident Adam Insley feeds his dog Pebbles a piece of leftover bacon near her dog bowl after dinner. (Peter Burke/Fox News Digital)

Just recently, he fed his Irish setter-poodle mix a piece of bacon, wrapped around a piece of chicken and coated with a cream sauce, by hand near her food bowl.

Some dog owners, like Jesse and Molly Keyser in Arlington, Virginia, turn to food delivery services that offer healthy alternatives for their pets. 

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The Keysers subscribe to The Farmer’s Dog.

It sends pre-packaged frozen meals for their dogs Reggie and Arli each month. 

The Farmer's Dog food contains various recipes for beef, pork and turkey.

Molly and Jesse Keyser feed their dogs Reggie and Arli frozen, pre-packaged meals like beef, pork and turkey from The Farmer’s Dog. (Peter Burke/Fox News Digital)

The Farmer’s Dog website claims its meals are made of “human-grade meat and veggies” that are “quickly frozen to lock in all the nutrients.”

“The main thing is understanding whether these are complete and balanced diets,” veterinarian Nelson said. 

Feeding human food could create behavioral issues

Valdivieso said Ruby Lulu usually sits down near the table, “knowing that she’s not supposed to be right up at the table.” But recently, during breakfast with friends, the dog “nosed herself” underneath one of her guest’s arms. 

“We had to actually put her outside because she was being a little too friendly,” Valdivieso said.

Veterinarian Nelson said there is a reason why dogs act a certain way.

A dog's paws are seen in front of a bowl of healthy human food.

Some people food, although not harmful to humans, can be toxic to dogs. Nelson says it’s important to know your dog and what your dog is eating. (iStock)

“It is learned behavior over time,” she said. “So, we’ve all got that person who we can probably think of – the dog owner who feeds his dog off the table, off his plate, and you know that that dog just sits under the table right at your feet and just waits for that food to drop and is indiscriminate when it comes to anybody else, too.”

She added, “If you feed your dog from the table, that’s going to be expected.”

Supplementing with human food isn’t necessary

Despite what some may think, dog food provides a complete and balanced diet for canines, so supplementing with human food isn’t necessary, Nelson said.

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“There’s really no reason for us to be giving human food, if you will, to our pets,” Nelson said.

“If they are eating a commercial diet that is a complete and balanced diet, there’s nothing else that they need from something that we’re eating.”

Nelson said the most common emergency room visits she’s seen involve dogs that are having gastrointestinal issues. “They ate something that they weren’t used to, that disagreed with their stomach, things like that,” Nelson said.

A sick dog is tended to by a veterinarian.

Gastrointestinal issues are a common reason for dogs to be seen by a veterinarian in the emergency room. (iStock)

Nelson said it’s more prevalent during holidays or special occasions.

“Because, you know, they stole a steak off the grill or they ate six corn cobs,” she said.

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Nelson recalled her first emergency surgery 23 years ago on a golden retriever who had swallowed 17 little half-corn cobs whole.

“Some of them might have had a tooth mark in them, but the rest of them, he was just working them down,” Nelson said. “So, you know, it was pretty amazing. But they don’t have a stop button, and they don’t make good decisions.”

‘Always a little nervous’

Kim Shadwick of Washington, D.C., is a pet owner who avoids feeding her dog people food altogether.

Neville, her adopted mutt, who “looks like a scrappy little terrier,” solely eats dry dog food.

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“I haven’t been against it,” Shadwick told Fox News Digital of introducing Neville to people food. “I guess I don’t want to turn it on and turn it off, and I’m always a little nervous about how well he will take to it.”

Kim Shadwick's dog Neville poses.

Kim Shadwick’s dog Neville doesn’t eat people food. Shadwick, of Washington, D.C., said she’s “a little nervous about how well he will take to it.” (Kim Shadwick)

Shadwick is also hesitant to feed Neville human food because she’s not sure how he might react around people when they’re eating. She said she doesn’t want him to become a beggar.

But she also hasn’t ruled out feeding Neville people food later in his life, she said.

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“Maybe as they get older, maybe softer foods are better,” Shadwick said. 

“And then also, to a certain extent, it might allow them to live like kings and queens toward the latter years of their life,” she said. 

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