You might not think fruits and vegetables for dogs are controversial. But they are …
Many vets don’t think dogs need vegetation. Although some might tell you to add canned green beans to your dog’s kibble if he needs to lose weight!
A lot of raw feeders think dogs don’t need vegetables too. They think an all-meat diet is enough to give their dogs all the nutrients they need.
If you think your dog doesn’t need vegetation, I’m hoping to change your mind!
I recruited the help of veterinarian and raw food pioneer Dr Ian Billinghurst …
Dr Billinghurst is the author of the groundbreaking book Give Your Dog A Bone in 1993 and Grow Your Pups With Bones in 1998.
He’s famous for creating the concept of BARF (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw (or Real) Food), and in 2001 he released his third book The BARF Diet.
And he’s going to share his Top 11 Reasons to feed your dog fruits and veggies with you …
#1 Evolution – Dogs Eat Vegetables Naturally
Check out where dogs are on the herbivore-carnivore continuum.
They’re not obligate or pure carnivores like cats are. And they’re definitely not herbivores like cows and horses …
While dogs are carnivores, their diet is much more varied than the cat’s:
In fact, dogs, wolves and other wild canids have eaten vegetables for thousands of years.
- Wild canines eat the gut contents of their prey
- They also scavenge fruit, berries and other vegetable material
#2 Vegetables Help Alkalize The Body
Balancing the alkalinity and acidity of the diet is important to your dog’s health.
Organs like the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, hormones, heart, kidneys function better in a more alkaline environment. And too much acidity can contribute to inflammation which is responsible for a lot of chronic diseases.
Proteins like meat make the body more acidic, which can contribute to inflammation.
But most vegetables and some fruits have an alkalinizing effect on the body:
#3 Wide Range of Nutrients
Vegetables provide proteins, lipids, fats, carbohydrates, phytonutrients and fiber. This makes them a complete food … for herbivores like cows, sheep and rabbits.
But stay away from the grains and legumes (peas and beans). They’re high in starch, which aggravate or cause a number of diseases.
Protein sources like meat and muscle meats provide a full arrray of amino acids.
Fruit and veggies are an excellent source of water.
Dogs that eat kibble in a chronic state of dehydration.
Dehydration contributes to problems such as kidney disease or the formation of bladder stones.
Raw vegetables provide your dog with most vitamins, including:
- B vitamins. But fruits and veggies are low in B12 and B1, so your dog needs foods like liver and eggs.
- Vitamin C and co-factors: dogs make their own vitamin C but they need the co-factors that help the body use it
- Vitamins A, E and K
Dark leafy green vegetables contain important minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Vegetables like alfalfa and seaweed are also a good source of minerals.
Alfalfa roots go 40 feet down into the subsoil and absorb minerals from the earth. Seaweed picks up minerals and micronutrients that are washed into the sea.[Related: 5 Reasons Your Dog Needs Phytoplankton]
Make sure these foods are organic and aren’t grown with synthetic fertilizers.
In the US, most alfalfa is genetically modified (GMO), so it’s important to find a certified organic source.
Phytonutrients are only found in vegetable material. So if your dog only eats meat, he’s missing out big time.
Phytonutrients are one of the most important nutrients you can give your dog.
In the late 1900s, scientists noticed that eating diets rich in fruits and vegetables protected people from cancers, heart disease, diabetes and more.
Today, they know those health benefits come from substances called phytonutrients.
These powerful little nutrients can:
- Kill cancer cells
- Reduce inflammation
- Promote gut health
- Support a healthy liver
The foods richest in phytonutrients are berries, apples (and skin), broccoli and kale.
And dog eating kibble or a meat-only raw diet will miss out on these benefits completely.
Enzymes are special proteins that help digest food and run metabolic processes.
Tropical fruits like pineapple (containing bromelain) and papaya (papain) are especially rich in enzymes.
Some enzymes survive the acid in your dog’s stomach and pass into the intestine. These surviving enzymes are anti-aging, anti-degeneration and pro-health.
Vegetables, fruits and herbs are loaded with antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that are a major cause of aging).
Free radicals build up like rust in the body and damage the cells and organs. Antioxidants help stabilize free radicals and prevent them from growing out of control.
And fruits and vegetables are the only source of antioxidants.
Raw vegetables supply healthy fiber.
Fiber passes through the dog’s intestines mainly undigested. Once it reaches the colon, fiber is fermented by the bacteria living there.
It’s made into healthy substances called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The SCFAs are then used for energy, to build immune cells and protect the mucus lining in the gut.
Fiber carries quite a few health benefits in addition to SCFAs:
- Fiber binds to cancer-causing substances (studies show that increased consumption of fiber is linked to reduced cancer risk)
- It has antioxidant properties
- It feeds friendly bacteria and promotes gut health
- Fiber clears toxins from the body
- It can add a feeling of fullness for perpetually-hungry dogs
#11 Research Proves It!
Still not convinced?
Researchers looked at the relationship between vegetables, vitamins and the risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers:
Their owners completed a questionnaire about their dogs’ diet and supplements. The researchers then evaluated the risk of transitional cell carcinoma in the bladder.
Dogs that ate dark leafy green, yellow and orange vegetables 3 times a week or more had a 90% decrease in cancer risk … and there was a 70% reduction in dogs eating cruciferous vegetables only.
And before you think you can replace fresh fruits and veggies with vitamins … vitamin supplements didn’t have any significant effect on cancer risk in the study.
How To Feed Vegetables To Dogs
Dr Billinghurst recommends feeding vegetables any dog over six weeks old.
Your dog’s diet should be about 10% fruits and vegetables. Vegetation can be added to your dog’s meals daily.
But if your dog is stressed or sick, Dr Billinghurst says vegetation can be as high as 50%.
Vegetables must be fed raw for maximum benefits. But you’ll need to crush or pulverize them in a juicer or blender, or your dog won’t be able to digest them.
Chopping or grating isn’t enough to make them digestible.
Use whatever vegetables are in season, feeding lots of variety.
But avoid onions, legumes, macadamias and avocados, which can be toxic to dogs.
In case you’re wondering about garlic, it’s safe when used in moderation and has many health benefits … here’s more information on garlic.
Don’t overfeed vegetables in the cabbage family because they can depress the thyroid.
It’s also best to avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and legumes like peas.
Potato skins contain a lot of nutrients and you can feed those pulverized. Just make sure the skins aren’t green because that makes them toxic.
Fruit must be fed ripe or it can cause diarrhea.
Be careful about stones in fruit like plums as they can cause blockages.
And finally, don’t overfeed fruit to diabetic dogs or if your dog is very inflamed.
If your dog isn’t on a raw diet, he can still benefit from getting the extra nutrients from fruits and veggies.