The vet seems to pry at many appointments, but always when addressing a gastrointestinal problem: “How much people food does he get?” There must be some reason it’s frowned upon to fill the pet bowl with food that’s meant for a plate. Actually, there are several.

People food frequently contains more fat than our pets can safely digest. The offending meal can bring on a case of pancreatitis, which is a painful and sometimes life-threatening condition. High fat levels also predispose to obesity, an extremely common problem among our pets.

There is too much diversity in the average human diet for it to pass through a dog without incident. Many of our GI patients can trace their problems to a recent diet change, and the average person eats something different every single day.

Pets are often indiscriminate about what they ingest. When was the last time you accidentally ate the string off a roast or the bone from inside it? Have you ever eaten corn on the cob so fast that you forgot NOT to eat the cob? Did you ever swallow an entire spoon or knife with your food? Oversights like these are not uncommon in the domestic animal world. They usually find their resolution on a surgery table.

People food is served in oversized portions. We’re scolded routinely about the challenges of portion control for ourselves. It’s more difficult still to set out a proper serving for someone who is one-tenth our size.

It might surprise you to discover that some foods which are perfectly harmless for humans pose a danger to our pets. You undoubtedly know that chocolate is not safe for animals. Did you also know that raisins and grapes can cause kidney damage? Did you know about the disastrous effects of xylitol, a sugar substitute used in various foods and in home baking? What about macadamia nuts or avocado?

Some foods are initially safe but become hazardous when we use bad judgment. Did you know that an all-meat regimen is NOT healthier for your dog? That is actually a terribly unsound diet that leads to growth abnormalities, pain and bone fragility. An all-fish diet is similarly bad for your cat. The enzymes in certain varieties can diminish his vitamin B levels until he becomes lethargic, confused, and difficult to rouse.

Finally, once you have trained your pet to eat “people food” by routinely allowing it, you will likely find that he is no longer interested in the “pet food” you can find conveniently pre-packaged (and balanced for his consumption, I might add) on the retail shelf. He’ll definitely begin to pester you, and he may soon turn to theft. At some point, a hunger strike will cross his mind. If you don’t care for these scenarios, think twice before sharing.

So yes, we’re prying, and we plan to keep on doing it. Most of our pets would be healthier if the people food stayed on the table.

Dr M.S. Regan