Does your dog spring up from a dead sleep when you start chopping carrots?
So many dogs do, but even if your dog hasn’t shown a love for veggies, there are numerous benefits to feeding them.
If you came here for a quick, one-word answer, that answer is:
Yes, Dogs Need Vegetables And Fruits!
Stick around to find out which are the best to feed, how to feed them, and why.
I hope you ask that a lot when you’re reading my posts. Don’t take anything I say at face value. Today, I hope you’re thinking,
“Why, Lindsay? My dog has the sharp teeth of a carnivore. Even their molars are sharp. I’ve never seen a wolf hunt for carrots.”
Many people who feed raw meat based diets do not include any plant matter. This is called a Prey Model Raw diet, including only meat, bones, organs and maybe some fish and eggs.
There’s also the Whole Prey diet, in which people feed their pets totally unprocessed meat, fur, feathers, feet and all.
If you’re a PMR or Whole Prey feeder, please leave a comment and tell us about that – and whether you’re considering adding veggies after you’ve read this post.
Can Dogs Digest Fruits And Veggies?
In the back of your own mouth, you’ll find flat molars that are perfect for chomping veggies. As you chew with your mouth closed, your mouth fills with saliva, which contains digestive enzymes – so the digestive process, for humans, actually starts before you even swallow.
Dogs have molars, but even those teeth are pointed.They always chew with their mouth open. Instead of carefully chewing their food into a predigested mush, they only chew enough times to make their food just small enough to swallow.
These differences are what make us omnivores that can thrive with little or no meat, and what make eating fruits and veggies so unnatural for dogs. If you’ve ever given your dog a carrot, you probably notice big orange chunks, virtually unchanged, in their poop the next morning.
This is why many people choose not to feed produce. Because dogs are terrible at breaking them down and digesting them.
However, we can make fruits and veggies easier for our dogs to break down and derive benefits from. If you blend, steam or ferment those fruits and veggies, they’ll be easier for your dog to digest.
Can Fruits And Veggies Prevent Cancer?
“Okay, so I can blend the carrots and they won’t show up in my dog’s poop. But is my dog actually taking in those vitamins?”
Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach, plus berries like blueberries and strawberries, are jam-packed with vitamins. We know that they are high in antioxidants, which help regulate cell processes and boost the immune system.
We know this because of medical research studies conducted on humans and lab rats, and new research is showing us that dogs experience the same benefits.
In just one example, researchers wanted to find out if veggies could prevent bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers – they’re 20 times more likely to suffer from bladder cancer than other breeds. The research showed that dark leafy greens, added to their commercial kibble diet, reduced their chances of getting cancer by 90% – and orange-yellow veggies, 70%.
WAIT A SECOND. I JUST NOTICED SOMETHING.
This research study is from 2005.
I’ve known about this study for a while, cited it a few times, so why didn’t it click that it’s actually old news??
We’ve known that veggies prevent canine cancer for MORE THAN TEN YEARS.
And we’re just now gaining steam on fresh food for dogs.
Also, note that this study was about fresh veggies added to kibble. This wasn’t even about an entirely fresh diet.
But wait. There’s more.
A study showed that sulforaphane (an antioxidant found in broccoli, kale and cauliflower) can prevent canine osteosarcoma.
There are other promising studies, but I think my point has been made: there is evidence that dogs can take in nutrients from fruits and veggies and benefit from them.
Dogs, Veggies And Digestion
Fruits and veggies are a great source of fiber, which supports healthy digestion and provides prebiotics, or food for the beneficial flora in your dog’s digestive tract.
For wolves and prey model/whole prey dogs, fur and feathers can be a source of fiber, as well as the plant matter found in the stomach of the prey animal. Some reports tell us that wolves actually do not eat the stomach contents of their larger prey, but they do eat small animals (like mice) in their entirety.
I’m not sure if fur and feathers act as prebiotics in the same way that fruits and veggies do.
Also, keep in mind that blending your fruits and veggies breaks down the insoluble fiber, but leaves soluble fiber and antioxidants intact.
Which Fruits And Veggies Are Good For Dogs?
Fruits good for all dogs:
- Berries. Blueberries are a wonderful source of antioxidants. Strawberries, cranberries and other berries are good, too.
- Apples. Remove skin and seeds. Acid content helps clean teeth and freshen breath.
- Papaya contains an enzyme, papain, that aids digestion.
Veggies good for all dogs:
- Leafy greens. Spinach, kale, broccoli, arugula and chard are all bitter-tasting, but packed with antioxidants.
- Carrots. High in vitamin A, good for the eyes.
- Bell peppers.
- Cucumbers. Cucumbers and a few other veggies are technically fruits, but I’ll leave them here because I’m thinking people will be looking for them under “veggies.”
- Oranges, pineapples and mangoes. High in vitamin C and great for your dog’s immune system, but also high in natural sugars.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes. Fine for a raw diet, but a kibble-based diet is already high in carbohydrates. Sweet potato contains manganese, vitamin A and vitamin C.
- Oatmeal, rice and other grains. These aren’t fruits or veggies, but they can be a part of your dog’s fresh diet. High in carbs, don’t feed if your dog eats kibble. I add oatmeal to my dog’s raw food because it contains manganese and iron.
- Grapes and raisins. They can cause acute kidney failure in some dogs, though veterinarians aren’t sure why some dogs react to them, while others eat them regularly without issue. Best not to risk it, and stop feeding them if you have already.
- Fruit pits and stems. Some seeds, pits and stems contain cyanide, which can poison your dog. Pits and seeds can cause obstruction. Contrary to popular belief, avocados are good for dogs – just remove the skin and pit.
How Much Fruits And Veggies Should Dogs Eat?
If your dog’s food is “complete,” it’ll probably say on the label that it is formulated to meet AAFCO standards. All kibbles, most canned foods and many raw foods are complete. Raw foods like Instinct are complete, though a dog food blend sold by your local butcher might not be.
When your dog’s food is complete, adding too many extras can throw off the balance of nutrients in their diet. You can replace about 15%-20% of their diet with fresh meat, eggs, fish, fruit or veggies without worry, with 5%-10% of that being fruits and veggies.
If you’re making your own dog food, anywhere from 5% to 20% of your dog’s diet can be made up of fruits and veggies.
Strive to provide a variety of ingredients, with a concentration on dark leafy greens and berries.