As a Dog Nutritional Therapist I am passionate about feeding dogs a diet as close as possible to what mother nature intended .
Latest research points us to feeding a dog what their closest relatives, the wolves eat. And so a diet of fresh, raw muscle meats, organs, raw bone, eyes, hair, feathers, fruits and vegetables (in a pre-digested state) is an excellent all round diet. And then we also factor in our dogs’ traits as scavengers and natural foragers which gives even more backing to giving them veggies and fruits.
Top this off by giving your dog a high grade supplement such as, SuperDog Ultimate. (No matter what diet you feed your dog: commercial, cooked or raw a supplement is essential to make sure they are getting the whole range of vitamins and minerals.) After all, how many of us are ensuring our dogs are eating eyes, feathers and skin? Each holding essential minerals that are not found elsewhere.
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about raw feeding and some even dates back to the 1970’s! So if you are reading that your dog doesn’t need vegetables in their diet, take a closer look and continue your research. Some of the earlier studies were based on analysing the stomach content of wolves in the winter months when it was easier to obtain them. Months in which vegetables and fruits are more scarce and so didn’t show up as a part of the wolf diet. However, summer months show a completely different story and we now know through more research that wolves do eat the contents of their herbivore prey’s stomach as well as scavenging and foraging for vegetables, grass and fruit by themselves. Opportunists and clever clogs as they are!
You only have to look at the dog’s teeth to understand that they are somewhere between an omnivore and a carnivore…
Notice how the cat (a carnivore) have majority pointy teeth. The dog has a variety of canines, molars and incisors and us humans, well we are pretty fangless except for those vampires out there…
Put simply, dogs are carnivores with omnivorous tendencies. This means that they CAN thrive on a wider variety of foods than a cat but they are not as good as us humans at digesting veggies and certainly not starch.
The dog is in the middle, somewhere between carnivore and omnivore and their digestive system confirms this.
The human digestive tract averages 30 feet in length. Meaning that we digest vegetables and starch extremely well and have the long digestive tract to handle a vegetarian and grain based diet if we wish.
The average length of the dog’s digestive tract is 2 feet… And the average cat’s digestive tract is 13 inches.
So dogs do have the digestive tract to handle a proportion of vegetables in their diets. And holistic vets recommend this at roughly 30% of their diet. We don’t want to over tax their digestive system by feeding them more than this. But we do want to be adding vegetables to their diet and I’ll tell you more on the benefits of veg in a moment…
There’s also something we humans have in our mouth that neither dogs or cats have … something called salivary amylase.
Amylase is an enzyme that breaks complex carbohydrates down into simple sugars.
Try this experiment … hold a piece of bread in your mouth for a few minutes and you’ll notice it starts to taste sweet. That’s amylase converting that bread into sugar.
Neither cats or dogs have salivary amylase.
That makes a lot of raw feeders think that dogs can’t digest plant matter. This simply isn’t true.
Because amylase also lives in your dog’s pancreas.
Dogs have four times more pancreatic amylase than cats and the activity of the enzyme rises much more in dogs with the amount of starch content in the diet. This means dogs can digest vegetable matter but just not as good as us humans who start to digest starch right from the moment it enters our mouths.
Don’t Start Feeding Those Carbs Just Yet …
If you’re thinking about feeding your dog kibble or a diet with lots of those carbohydrates in … don’t!
I try to ween most of my dog clients off kibble if at all possible and onto either highest quality wet foods, or even better raw food or home-made lightly cooked diets – tailored to the specific dog’s requirements and most importantly – the state of their digestive system. Some dog’s digestive tract is so inflamed from over-use of kibbles and lower grade commercial wet foods that they cannot initially tolerate a raw natural diet.
Most kibbles and cooked diets are 30 to 60 percent starch or carbohydrate.
While wolves are eating plant matter, it’s not starch. It’s not potatoes, it’s not rice and it’s not corn.
So why are you feeding it to your dog?
Dogs are made to live in a world with very little starch and on the rare occasion they’ve eaten too much, then they have one hormone in there to lower their insulin levels. Just one! So please don’t over burden them. Kibble is cheap to make and cheaper (in some cases) to buy and the industry is a million pound making business. But is it species appropriate for our dogs…. The answer from dog nutritionists like myself = NO!!!
So while dogs clearly have the teeth, digestive tract and physiology to eat plant matter, you need to stick to what they’d eat in the wild if you really want to feed a species appropriate diet.
And that means no more than 30% veggies and fruits (and this shouldn’t include starches your dog wouldn’t find in the wild, such as corn, sweet potatoes or rice). Since when do you see a dog grow a field of corn for themselves… If you feel you want to feed rice, make it brown rice at least.
Dispelling some myths and misinformation:
Vegetables will give my dog diarrhea?
Many people think that giving a dog fruit and/or vegetables will give the dog diarrhea. In actual fact high quality soluble fiber helps prevent diarrohea and constipation.
There are vegetables enough in the commercial food I give to my dog.
If the dog food you use is a complete diet then yes, this is probably true. However, the nutrient value of the vegetables is questionable. Not only will the veg probably be the cheapest the manufacturer can source,unlikely to be organic. There will probably not be much variety, again to keep the cost down. Remember, dog food is made to make the greatest monetary return, yes some manufacturers are more mindful than others about dogs health but the overriding factor is to make the most profits. It has to be to keep dog food companies competitive and in business. There is nothing wrong with business and making money but as a dog nutritional therapist I am recommending to you what is the optimum for your dog, period. No other agenda.
Also, the food in the manufacturing process is cooked and most often at high temperatures which denatures the meat, vegetables and nutrients. And makes the veg in effect “dead” material. For dogs to get the optimal nutritional value RAW, LIVE, ORGANIC food is best with the highest nutritent content to help your dog absorb the optimal amount of benefit.
I already feed my dog vegetables, like whole carrots, isn’t this enough:
Whilst it is great that you are getting fresh raw veg into your dog’s diet. You would be better to blend the vegetables first. This helps to pre-digest the food and your dog will have a better chance of absorbing the nutrients they need as well as making sure you do not over tax their digestive system. See below for a further explanation.
Fruit and veg will make my dog fat.. Not true and actually feeding veggies helps dogs to lose weight!
I mean everything in moderation of course. Fruits are natural sugars and so we don’t want to overload our dogs. They are a natural part of their diet though. Fruit and veggies contain a lot of good soluble and unsoluble fibre, but they are also rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and are naturally low in fat while being filling. So your dog will feel fuller for longer and this helps with cravings and will actually help with weight loss!
Avocados are poisonous for my dog. No they are not! Avocados are an excellent source of essential fatty acids in your dog’s diet and are great for dogs. Please do not get your advice from Wikipedia or other non-dog nutritionist sites.
The benefits of feeding your dog fresh, raw (organic if you can afford it) vegetables:
Fresh fruit and veg have many benefits for your dog:
- Helping to boost the immune system (which reduces risk of allergies and intolerances)
- Helping the body eliminate toxins
- Keeping organs, eyes, teeth etc. healthy
- Helping prevent colon cancer
- Reducing the risk of developing heart and vascular problems, stroke and cancer
- Reducing the risk of inflamed anal glands (which result in ‘scudding’, burst glands and discharge)
- Aiding in good oral health
If your dog is overweight one of the best ways to help them to lose weight is to add veggies to your dog’s diet. Adding turmeric and coconut oil is also beneficial. While delivering great quality nutrients they also help:
- Keep weight under control – thereby reducing risk of:
- Diabetes, and
- Stress and inflammation of joints
- Inflammation is another contributing factor to the onset of cancer
These are just a few of the many benefits that fruits and veggies offer to our dog’s health.
In the wild, dogs eat pre-digested fruits and vegetables when they consume the digestive organs of herbaceous prey, as well they also consume some plants, fruits, vegetables to self-heal and boost their immune systems.
How To Feed Your Dog Fruits and Veggies…
Preparation to Ensure Maximum Absorption of Nutrients from Fresh Fruit and
- Dogs have a shorter intestine than humans, this means that food moves through the dogs tract faster than it moves through a human’s digestive tract; To ensure that your dog’s digestive system has the opportunity to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from vegetables and fruit it is important (especially with vegetables which have a tougher cell wall structure) to help the dog’s GI tract by breaking down the vegetable’s (or fruit’s) cell-walls before you feed it to them
- You can breakdown the cell walls by simply blending the veg and fruit and so performing the first stage of digestion, so your dog’s GI tract has the opportunity to absorb nutrients properly and you greatly reduce the chance of your dog choking on a hard piece of vegetable.
- Fruits can be given whole if you use common sense and choose the fruits, like berries, that dogs would naturally forage for themselves. But please do chop food into smaller pieces to prevent choking hazards. And adding fruit to the blended mix helps to sweeten it up for those dogs that don’t find their veg palatable.
If your dog simply does not like his/her veggies. Just add a few tablespoons (dog size dependent) into their food and mix it all together. You can also add natural yoghurt, manuka honey and peanut butter to entice them to eat their greens.
Do’s and Don’t s:
- Don’t give your dog produce that is going bad – moldy, rotting, slimy, you can make your dog very ill.
- Wash the food item to remove dirt, contaminates, and as much pesticide/herbicide as can be removed if the produce is not organic.
- As mentioned above do blend the veg
- When you introduce new fruits and veggies to your dog’s diet it is best to introduce each new food one at a time. If there is any kind of negative reaction, such as stomach upset or allergies you will be able to pinpoint the culprit.
- Do look after their teeth by brushing or feeding raw bones.
Have a read of Chilled Out Dogs Green “Smoothie” Recipe for Dogs