By Rick Woodford
The nature of dogs and whether they should be fed predominately as carnivores is much debated. There are no easy answers and what works for one dog and pet parent doesn’t necessarily work for every canine-human family. It’s a personal choice that’s up to you to make. But there is no doubt that dogs are opportunistic omnivores, and therein lies the true problem.
Our canine companions enjoy slices of plums, apples, melons, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables every bit as much as a baked treat. I smile every time my dogs anxiously appear when the cutting board comes out, but I have mixed emotions when I catch Raleigh rooting around in the garden’s snap peas, helping herself to mid-day snack. That’s barely an issue when compared to the other trouble curious mouths can cause.
A heavy percentage of dog parents have to contend with the scarfing of cat poop. Why dogs are so persistent with that is a mystery. There’s also the garbage raiders who endanger themselves by devouring chicken bones or plastic wrappers that smell like food. There’s no end to what a dog might try; The Huffington Post once ran a story about a dog who ate $10,000 in diamonds. (Does that make the dog both a man and girl’s best friend?) I also recently heard about two dogs who tore into a bottle of laundry detergent. They were blowing bubbles out their noses and their diarrhea was perfumed, but their human was terrified.
The best deterrent is awareness and vigilance. A secured trash can will provide piece of mind. Just don’t limit yourself to thinking about the outside garbage can and the kitchen trash–the bathroom garbage can also present danger; dental floss can cause obstructions in the digestive tract and toothpaste containers can be easily chewed, allowing access to the toxic Xylitol that sweetens toothpaste. The compost bin lures dogs in with a heady scent; unfortunately dogs aren’t aware that coffee grounds and moldy food debris can mean an overnight stay at the veterinarian.
One of the most common issues reported is pets ingesting human medications. It happened to us when a friend was housesitting. Luckily our friend discovered Raleigh in time and the Dove Lewis Animal Hospital in Portland was able to treat her. Lesson here: Just because the cap says child proof, doesn’t mean the bottle is dog proof. Keep medicines up high or better yet in a cabinet instead of the countertop or bedside table.
Even if you have never been troubled by a dog helping themselves to forbidden items, it’s worth spending 15 minutes surveying your house for potential temptations. It could save you a couple thousand dollars and some very gut-wrenching hours at the veterinarian.
Constructive chewing is another way to distract your dog from finding their own edible amusements; stuffed Kongs and deer antlers are two of our favorite diversions.
You carefully choose the food you feed your dogs, and by exercising a little extra caution now you can also prevent them from making their own poor choices.
Bookmark the link to the ASPCA’s poison control center so you have it on hand should you need it in the future. They also have a list of poisonous plants that’s very helpful.
Rick Woodford, a.k.a. “The Dog Food Dude,” is an expert on pet nutrition and wellness. He is the author of Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs (available for purchase on Amazon), a comprehensive collection of simple and nutritious recipes perfect for the busy pet parent on a budget.