You might not think fruits and vegetables for dogs would be controversial … but it is!
Many conventional veterinarians don’t believe they’re necessary for dogs – though some might tell you to add canned green beans to kibble if your dog needs to lose weight!
Some raw feeders also don’t give dogs vegetables, believing that an all-meat diet is sufficient to provide a full range of nutrients. Others like to give their dogs a colorful array of veggies and fruits. It seems everyone has a different opinion about veggies in a dog’s diet.
(Note: Healthy foods nourish your dog from the inside out and give their immune system what it needs to stay strong.)
#1 Evolution – Dogs Eat Vegetables Naturally
Check out where dogs are on the herbivore-carnivore continuum. They’re not obligate or pure carnivores and they’re definitely not pure herbivores … they’re midway between onmivores and carnivores.
Dogs, wolves and dingoes have eaten vegetables for hundreds of years.
#2 Vegetables Help Alkalize The Body
- Wild canines eat the gut contents of their prey
- They scavenge fruit and other vegetable material
- Dogs scavenge at garbage dumps
- Modern dogs eat household scraps and may even dine at your compost heap!
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. Too much acidity can contribute to inflammation which is responsible for a lot of chronic disease.
Proteins like meat make the body more acidic, while most vegetables and some fruits have an alkalinizing effect on the body.
#3 Range of Nutrients
Vegetables provide proteins, lipids, fats, carbohydrates, phytonutrients and fiber, making them a complete food – at least for herbivores like cows, sheep and rabbits.
But it doesn’t mean your dog can thrive as a vegetarian.
First, it would be difficult to feed enough vegetables to fully nourish him.
Second, you’d need to add some grains and legumes to provide a proper balance of amino acids.
Protein sources like meat and muscle meats provide a full arrray of amino acids.
Fruit and veggies are an excellent source of water. Many dogs today live in a chronic state of dehydration, which contributes to problems such as kidney disease or the formation of bladder stones.
Raw vegetables provide most vitamins, including:
- Most of the B vitamins (but are low in B12, B1 (Thiamine) or Choline, so your dog needs foods like liver and eggs to supply these nutrients)
- Vitamin C and co-factors: dogs make their own vitamin C but need the co-factors that help the body use it
- Vitamin A, E and K
There’s not much vitamin D in vegetables and dogs don’t have enough bare skin to absorb it from the sun like we humans do. So again, dogs need liver to supply vitamin D.
Dark leafy green vegetables contain important minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Vegetables like alfalfa and seaweed are also good sources 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.
Make sure these foods are organic, not produced with synthetic fertilizers. In the US alfalfa is a major genetically modified (GMO) crop so it’s even more important to find a certified organic source.
Grasses and algae (phytoplankton) have a full complement of essential fatty acids and are rich in Omega-3 (even more so if they’re grown in a cold climate).
Omega-3 reduces inflammation and supports the brain and central nervous system, as well as breathing, circulation, digestion, immunity and reproduction.
When dogs are too high in Omega-6, it can impair these functions, so balancing the diet with Omega-3s is important.
While many people feed fish oils, they are very unstable and can turn rancid easily, so feeding plant based Omega-3s like phytoplankton is a good way to give your dog these essential fatty acids. Omega-3 helps slow degeneration and aging.
Phytonutrients are only in vegetable material.
Phytonutrients are protective. They include enzymes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules (read more about these below).
Phytonutrients are antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antihelminthic (anti-worms), anti-aging, anti-degeneration and, most importantly, anti-cancer.
And yet most kibble-fed dogs get none of these nutrients!
Enzymes in food help digestion. Tropical fruits like pineapple (containing bromelain) and papaya (papain) are especially beneficial.
Some enzymes escape the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and are absorbed whole. When this happens they’re also anti-aging, anti-degeneration and pro-health in your dog’s body!
Vegetables, fruits and herbs are chock full of antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that are a major cause of aging) and again, you can only get them from fruits and vegetables.
Anti-inflammatory molecules include herbs like turmeric, all kinds of berries, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 isn’t anti-inflammatory on its own, but it drives the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-6, which is why dogs need both.
Raw vegetables supply healthy fiber.
Vegetable fiber is far better and much healthier than fiber from grains. Vegetables contain soluble fiber, which is digested by microbes in the large bowel. Insoluble fiber bulks out the food and helps it pass through the colon.
Fiber is vital in older dogs in treating and preventing degenerative disease.
#10 Vegetables Help Treat Disease
Most important of all, vegetables help treat all degenerative disease processes. He says vegetables are especially important in treating serious diseases like cancer and kidney disease.
How To Feed Vegetables
We recommend feeding vegetables to your dog, starting with puppies at about six weeks old. Feed vegetables as about 10% of your dog’s diet.
Feed Them Raw and Pulverized
Vegetables should 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. 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 …
If your dog isn’t on a raw diet, he can still benefit from getting the extra nutrients from some fresh whole foods.
It’s not absolutely essential to feed dogs fruit and veggies, but there are many life stages and health states where feeding vegetable material can have major advantages.