Keep family and animal meal times separate
When you are eating, does your dog or cat transform into the cutest, most adorable creature that also wants a bite? If you want to keep your four-legged friend healthy and happy, don't give in to your pet's please-feed-me eyes, advises Jane Gray, deputy director of veterinary services at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Hong Kong.
'We don't encourage or promote giving human food to your pet, unless under strict veterinary control,' Gray says. 'We recommend a good-quality commercial diet. There are so many out there in the market, there's no need to feed your pet human food.'
Whatever you pet's age may be, says Gray, a specific commercial-food diet can be found to remedy everything from kidney problems and allergies to skin and dental problems.
According to Gray, pet-food companies spend millions of dollars in research every year, to ensure that their product is beneficial for animals.
However, if you still choose to feed your pet some of your own food, then only give it as a treat or reward. 'You could give your cat a small piece of cheese, but not on a regular basis,' explains the veterinarian. 'Or give a piece of chicken as a treat without any bone or fat. But some dogs can't digest [chicken] well: it may upset their stomach.'
As the festive season is upon us, chocolate seems to be everywhere, but make sure it's out of your pet's reach. Gray says: 'Chocolate is OK for humans, but it's not OK for dogs. And your average dog loves chocolate, so you need to be careful, especially if you have some lying around at Christmas or Easter.
'If your dog finds and eats it, then it will get sick, causing a lot of discomfort.' Grapes, raisins and sultanas are another no-no. 'We feed grapes and raisins to kids as a healthy snack, but even small amounts in animals can cause kidney damage. They are not for your animal. A human's [digestive system] is very different.'
While your dog or cat probably won't turn down a pork sausage or two, fatty or deep-fried foods aren't healthy for your pet. Dogs, especially small-breed ones, can develop pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, which can be triggered by rich, fatty foods. Other foods that should not be given to your pet, include turkey skin, bacon and hot dogs.
Liver is another meat pets should not be fed. Gray says: 'Liver can cause an abnormality in muscles and bones.' Liver has high concentrations of vitamin A, adds Gray, which can lead to an overdose in animals.
If you want to slip in some broccoli into your dog's diet, don't add more than 10 per cent to your canine's total daily intake. 'An owner might think broccoli is healthy, but dogs don't tolerate this toxic [isothiocyanate] ingredient. Again, what's good for people isn't good for animals.'
Who can resist corn-on-the-cob? Unfortunately, dogs eat the corn as well as the cob. 'We have had to open up a lot of dogs to remove the cob. It seems like common sense not to eat the cob, but you can't be guaranteed that your dog won't.'
Similar to humans, many adult dogs and cats are lactose intolerant, due to a lack of the enzyme lactase to digest diary products. Gray says if you want to give your animal a small amount of cheese, then wait and see if they get sick before giving them more.
For pets that have a habit of begging at the table, the veterinarian advises owners to stop this behaviour. 'When your pet eats, it should be a separate experience to your meals. And don't start putting your plate on the floor, as that can lead to more begging behaviour,' says Gray. 'I would rather spend the time playing with them, than cooking them dinner. It's so much more convenient to feed them good dog and cat food.'