the dangers of fast food for pets

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Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on May 15 2015



The lady sitting in my exam room smiled proudly as she explained her dog’s diet. “I take her a few times a week to the burger joint to get her favorite sandwich. I usually order an ice cream sundae we split when we’re done with lunch.”

The dog in question was a morbidly obese Dachshund (26 lbs. and change), having difficulty walking and suffering from chronic back pain. While I was stunned by her doggie dietary details, she was far from alone in burger buying for her hound. According to recent research, one out of every six U.S. households visits their favorite fast food joint to buy chow for their pooch. That’s not healthy.

Before I continue, let me say this survey doesn’t completely surprise me. I’ve treated too many obese, diabetic, vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis cases over the last 23 years not to make the connection between fast food consumption and certain pet diseases. What surprised me about this research was the sheer magnitude of the take out dining dilemma. I was also stunned to learn that younger Millennial pet parents were more likely to feed their dog at the drive thru than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. So what are the dangers of doggie drive-by dining?

1) Too Many Calories and Simple Starches. Most fast food sandwiches consist of a little protein with a lot of bread. That's almost the exact opposite of a nutritious meal for a dog or cat. A typical single burger will have 250 to 700 calories. For a 20-lb. dog, that single serving is about an entire day’s worth of food. Add cheese, sauces and all the extras and you’ve got a calorie grenade sure to explode any waistline.

2) Too Much Salt. Most fast foods have too much sodium or salt for many dogs and cats – and humans. If you have an older pet in particular, please be careful with salty foods. High blood pressure, kidney problems and even neurological problems can be caused or worsened by high sodium intake.

3) Onions and Garlic. Onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats. Because these are common condiments in fast food, please be extra careful if your table contains take out.

4) Sugar and Sweets. Many pet owners add a little ice cream or dessert to their fast food fare. In addition to packing on the pounds, excess sugar causes an insulin spike and inflammation that has been linked to many diseases, including development of diabetes and several cancers. Skip the sweets.

5) It’s Expensive. I hear pet owners constantly complain about the cost of pet care. If you want to burst your budget, try feeding your dog restaurant food a few times a week. You’re paying an insanely high price for incredibly low nutrition. Do your pet’s health and your bank account a favor and stick to feeding wholesome food.

I could go on and on about the dangers of fast food feeding for your pet. As far as my portly, painful Dachshund patient, we’re working on it one day and pound at a time. The next time you crave drive thru, remind yourself fast food is nutritionally vacant, potentially harmful and incredibly expensive. Pack a few carrots or low-calorie snacks for your pooch and skip the kiddie meals and fries when you’re out for a drive. That’s really “lovin’ it” in my book.