Feeding Stray Dogs: How to Be a Responsible Feeder

Feeding Stray Dogs

“Sharing is caring”. This old famous saying has been such an integral part of our lives. As children, experiencing the excitement of opening your lunchbox to share with fellow classmates, was a big part of our school days. And as adults, organising a potluck is a great way to socialize. Extending this hand of care to those in need is an act of compassion – one that is an innate human tendency. 

IMPORTANT: Just feeding stray dogs is not right. You must also ensure that the stray dog(s) whom you feed are sterilized/neutered and vaccinated once a year against rabies (Anti-Rabies) and other diseases (DHPPi). This helps in effective population control of stray dogs and prevention of rabies. If every person starting contributing their time or money for these efforts soon we won’t have to see the sufferings of stray dogs on the streets. Their population will decrease dramatically and those on the streets will be in good health.

However, very often we don’t extend this compassion to our furry friends, dogs unless they’re domesticated pets. Strays are left to  scavenge for anything they can get their paws on; it’s a struggle for survival and they often resort to subsisting on scraps, fighting each other for a share. While they may have a strong resistance to diseases, there are still high chances of strays being injured or being emaciated as only the fittest survive and manage to feed themselves. 

When we as dog lovers come together and extend a feeding hand to our furry friends, we can help improve the quality of their lives and eventually alleviate the rising concerns of strays turning aggressive in the search for food. 

This guide will help you understand the best practices to be undertaken when feeding stray dogs. 

Foods You Should and Shouldn’t Feed to Stray Dogs

Stray dogs will eat anything when hungry, but this leaves them at a higher risk of poor hygiene. If you want to give them a healthier meal, here are some foods you can consider feeding to stray dogs. 

Rice, boiled potatoes, vegetable oil/ghee and roti: A staple food for humans is also a great source of nutrition for dogs. A mix of soft-boiled rice mixed with small portions of boiled potatoes and a little bit of vegetable oil or ghee in water is the simplest and most filling meal you can offer stray dogs. For easier digestion, mince the cooked rotis well before serving. 

Throwaway meat parts: Your local butcher will provide meat cuts that typically end up on the frying pan, but cuts not normally consumed by humans like chicken feet, goat lungs and other fish parts, get discarded as waste. Next time, you’re at the butcher, consider buying a kilogram of such cuts (and they can be bought for a cheap rate) to feed the stray dogs in your community. Make sure to cook it properly and to only feed this to older dogs, as the pups will still be teething. The cuts can be mixed in the rice and served as a great source of protein. Plus, the dog gets the bone! 

Haldi (Turmeric): You can give stray dogs a lip-smacking dining experience by adding pinches of haldi to the rice mixes.

Store-bought dog food: You can also consider canned dog food and packaged meals, which is a good source of food for stray dogs. You can serve this soaked in water or mixed with boiled rice. 

Water: The source of life itself for all beings. Make sure to carry plenty of water bottles and bowls with you while on a stray dog feeding drive especially during summers.  Try to keep a water bowl outside your society or house gates so that any wandering stray dog, cat or other stray animal can at least get a sip of clean water every day. Ensure you clean and maintain the water bowl daily to avoid moss or menace of mosquitoes due to stagnant water.

Foods that you should completely avoid feeding stray dogs are. 

Chocolate: Theobromine is a chemical found in chocolate that, while great for humans, is actually very harmful to dogs. Theobromine can dramatically escalate the blood pressure in the dog’s body, which could result in the failure in the functioning of various vital organs and the nervous system. 

Caffeine: Contains similar properties to that of chocolate, so it’s best to keep it out of the reach of dogs.

Dairy products: Most dogs have a digestive system that is not designed to break down the fat associated with dairy products. This renders them lactose intolerant, so avoid feeding milk and cheesy goodies as it could lead to complications such as vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Sweetened treats: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in treats like biscuits, candies and chewing gums. Avoid feeding stray dogs such treats as the xylitol can lead to life-threatening complications such as acute liver disease and blood-clotting disorders. 

Onions and garlic: Fast foods may seem like a good option to serve stray dogs as they are really easy to source. However, avoid doing so as such foods could contain mixes of onion and garlic, which when consumed by dogs, can lead to irritation in their stomach, and in severe cases, even result in damage of red blood cells. 

Alcohol: This goes without saying. Simply DO NOT feed stray dogs even the smallest quantity of alcohol. 

Berries like grapes, cherries and raisins: A natural food that contains the artificial sweetener xylitol. So avoid feeding stray dogs such as berries. If, by accident, the dog has consumed berries, follow these treatment and prevention measures. 

Responsible Feeding Practices

A great way to contribute towards feeding stray dogs in India is to take part in dog feeding drives. However, if you are undertaking a solo project, follow these practices to learn how to feed stray dogs and ensure a safe and responsible feeding procedure. 

Educate yourself about the rights of stray dogs: Please read through hundreds of articles that we have written about the legal rights of stray dogs in India. Also, read about common medical issues that you may encounter with stray dogs and ways to treat them safely and effectively.

Use biodegradable/disposable cutlery: Since you’ll be carrying huge amounts of food, it’s a good idea to have disposable plates to serve the stray dogs. When the feeding is done, make sure to dispose of the cutlery neatly in the nearest trash can.  If you don’t have this, use newspaper pieces and ensure you pick them up in a trash bag once the dogs have eaten and dispersed. 

Pick a feeding spot: The survival instincts in stray dogs help them develop a keen sense of understanding where and when to go in order to gain access to food. By picking a safe spot that is fairly away from the daily commute of your neighbourhood, you can ensure a safer and undisturbed feeding routine

Set a feeding time and be consistent: When you start feeding stray dogs in your community, you take up the huge responsibility of making sure these animals are kept in the best of health conditions. Make sure you do not make the stray dog dependent on you for food. So do not overfeed or feed too many times in a day. Stick to a routine and follow it. Stray dogs have to scavenge for their food and the idea of feeding stray dogs is to make them friendly so they are easy to catch for spay/neuter operations, easy to handle when they are sick or injured and also for the yearly anti-rabies vaccination. Set a feeding time, preferably before 7 o’clock in the morning or after 5 o’clock in the evening and make sure you are where you need to be every day. Breaking the routine could be disastrous, as the stray dogs will keep waiting for you not knowing that you won’t be available. Make sure you pair up with a family member or friend for feeding so that if you can’t feed the dog due to work or illness, someone else will be able to manage your responsibility.

Do not pet stray dogs: While you are feeding stray dogs, remember to not treat them like pet dogs. Firstly you won’t take them all home and they may not all get adopted. So for them their life is going to be on the streets and they need to know that it is good to maintain distance from people as not all people like dogs. If you make a dog overly friendly with yourself, the dog may go and jump on an unsuspecting person looking for affection and may end up scaring that person if that person does not like dogs! Inturn the dog can get kicked, beaten, etc. So to avoid such issues, it is best to not pet stray dogs or make them overly friendly like pet dogs. Maintain a good distance from them. Feed them and walk away. Do not whistle for the dogs to come when you bring food! This is a terrible habit that many stray dog feeders have. The dogs associate the whistle to food time and rush from across the road when they hear it. This leads to accidents and deaths. So please leave food for the dogs silently in a designated area. If they are not there, they will surely come due to the smell of the food. Treat stray dogs in a way which makes them confident and smart to survive on the streets. Do not make them dependent on you in any way. 

Avoid feeding two packs of stray dogs at once: Dogs can be very territorial in nature, and that especially extends to a pack of stray dogs who tend to settle in a locality they find suitable to rest in. If you are out for a feeding drive, make sure you pick a spot that is very specific to one particular pack of stray dogs. Feeding a pack too close to another one might lead to unwanted aggressive confrontations between the two packs. 

Do you feed strays in your community, have any tips for other dog parents? Feel free to share it with us by writing to info@vosd.in.