A few days ago I saw a very sick Chihuahua named Bruno. His mother brought him to see me one morning after she was awoken at 4 a.m. to vomiting and explosive bloody diarrhea. While taking her pet's history, I asked her if Bruno had eaten anything it shouldn't have in the last few days. She answered "Nothing that I know of." She told me that there are no houseplants or toys missing in the house. In addition, she had not given him any new treats or food. However, she did recall a friendly stranger feeding her dog two to three treats while they were on their walk the prior day. In addition, this gentleman gave her an opened bag of dental treats that she immediately put in her pocket. When she got home, she discovered that the treats had expired six months ago.
After examining Bruno I discovered that he was severely depressed, dehydrated, and in extreme abdominal pain. We immediately ran in-hospital blood work and identified that he had tremendously elevated liver and pancreatic enzymes. In fact, one of his liver enzymes was thirty times higher than normal. We placed him on intravenous fluids, pain medication, multiple antibiotics, anti-vomiting medication, and gastrointestinal protectants. After 72 hours of intensive medical therapy for food poisoning, Bruno is no longer vomiting, diarrhea resolved, and feeling much better.
Would you allow your child to eat candy from a stranger? Well, it's the same concept when you allow your dog to accept a treat from someone you do not know. I believe 99.9 percent of the time a stranger's desires to feed your dog a treat is based on genuine kindness towards your pet. However, you never know how old the treat is, who previously handled it, if it was properly stored, and what the ingredients are. Given the recent numerous recalls of contaminated pet foods and treats, I would strongly recommend that you err on the side of caution and not let your pet eat treats offered by strangers.
I recommend that you play it safe and keep treats in your pocket on walks. Tell any well-intentioned stranger that your dog is on a restricted diet. Then, pull a treat from your pocket and give it to the friendly stranger to feed your dog. It's a win-win situation for all.
On a related topic, please do not let your dog drink out of communal water bowls that you often see in front of coffee stores, restaurants and pet stores. Once again, I'm sure the storeowner's intention is good, but these water bowls can be a cesspool for bacterial and viral infections. Ask yourself again, would you ever let your child drink from a communal cup at the park? I don't think so! Don't be carefree with your pet's health. Be a smart pet owner by being cautious on what food or water your pet consumes.