Given that they trace their ancestry to wolves, it is no surprise that dogs need protein-heavy diets. However, over the centuries of coexisting with humans, they have come to enjoy and need many fruits and vegetables.
Do dogs need fruits and vegetables? An excellent question to be asking. It means that you are concerned about your dog’s diet. Many vets seem to think that dogs do not need fruits or vegetables (though they will concede that canned green beans are a great way to help your dog lose some weight).
Likewise, many raw feeders believe that all a dog needs are an all-meat hardcore protein diet. The controversy around the question of greens in a dog’s diet makes the question of doing dogs need fruits and vegetables? Seem more pertinent than ever.
The answer to your question is yes. Dogs do indeed require more than just protein. But hang on, do not leave yet. You first have to understand why do dogs need fruits and vegetables.
Why you should feed your dog vegetables
Firstly, while dogs do need fruits and vegetables, they are still canines, and their diet should primarily be protein. Specifically, around 40-70 percent, some of this protein can come from plants such as legumes. However, it would be best if you relied on protein sources such as eggs, muscle meats, and organ meats for your dog.
How much should vegetables constitute as part of your dog’s diet? Not more than 10 percent for extra vegetables. That 10 percent can mean a world of difference when it comes to the nutrients your dog is getting, though.
Not only are vegetables an excellent source of hydration, owing to their high water content, they also have nutritional benefits to offer. Rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, vegetables will strengthen your dog’s health and their ability to fight diseases.
Keep in mind, though, that the specifics for how much of your dog’s diet should be vegetables depends significantly on a range of factors. Your dog’s age, breed, activity, health issues, and your veterinarian’s recommendation play critical roles.
A veterinarian may recommend cutting out regular dog treats in favor of healthier alternatives like apples and carrots if weight is an issue.
If you still have not been convinced about the answer to your question of do dogs need fruits and vegetables, consider the importance of decreasing cancer risk.
Indeed, Some studies have found dark leafy greens to reduce the chances of cancer in some breeds of dogs. Considering that certain breeds are more prone to cancer, such as Golden retrievers, adding vegetables into their diet if you are an owner is a must.
As is the case with any healthy diet, you want a variety of foods to provide a balanced range of nutrients. A common mistake to make is to apply human standards to your canine best friend.
Flavor enhancing supplements such as seasoning and spice can be enjoyable for humans but will achieve little but irritate your dog’s stomach.
Similarly, while humans can exist perfectly fine on grain-free and vegan diets, they are strictly unhealthy for dogs. Dogs need plenty of protein and healthy grains, and they will not get them from a vegan or grain-free diet.
Vegetables provide a variety of nutrients.
There is more to be said about the nutritional benefits of vegetables, though. They contain core nutrients such as proteins, fats, lipids, and carbohydrates; there is a reason herbivores such as cows and sheep can live off them entirely. They have a lot to offer.
Your dog gets the amino acids he needs from meat. Vegetables, however, will balance out his diet and supply other essential nutrients such as phytonutrients, the benefits of which will be covered later.
Vegetables are vitamin dense.
Uncooked, raw vegetables have an array of vitamins for your dog. Some include:
- Vitamin K. It is vital for forming bones, repairing them, and improving liver function.
- Vitamin A. Helps prevent skin disorders and improves eye health. It increases the strength of the immune system and helps in growing more robust bones and teeth.
- Vitamin E. It is an antioxidant that is essential for healthy skin—assists in preventing cancer and some other diseases.
- B Vitamins. Improve metabolism and immune system response. Boost your dog’s energy and the functioning of its enzymes and nervous system. You can find most B vitamins in vegetables except B1 and B12, which your dog can get from foods such as eggs and liver.
- Vitamin C and its cofactors; While dogs produce their own vitamin C, they need cofactors to use it effectively. They can get these from vegetables.
Do dogs need fruits and vegetables? If you want them not to be deficient in vitamins, then sure they do.
Vegetables are full of minerals.
Many vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium may not fulfill their intake from just meat or a kibble-based diet. Vegetables can make up for this slack.
Dark leafy green vegetables and seaweed are excellent choices for doing so. Not only are they rich in the above minerals, but they are otherwise healthy for your dog due to their richness in vitamins as well.
Vegetables provide antioxidants
Many herbs and vegetables are rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein. Antioxidants are essential to protecting your dog’s body against free radicals, which are unstable molecules.
Free radicals increase the effects of aging and vulnerability to disease. You can think of their build-up as something akin to rusting, which can damage cells and organs.
Vegetables are the only source of antioxidants. That is important considering that antioxidants are what help in the stabilization of free radicals to prevent them from getting out of control.
Vegetables provide phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are some of the essential nutrients that your dog needs. However, they only come from fruits and vegetables. A dog that only eats meat does not get any phytonutrients.
Vegetables are core for protection against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and others. The protection they offer comes from the help of phytonutrients which have a variety of health benefits. Most notably, they:
- Improve the health of the liver
- Help reduce inflammation
- Kill off cancerous cells
- Promote a healthy gut
Do dogs need fruits and vegetables? If you agree with the side of the camp that says they do not, then know that your dog is missing out on the above benefits.
Vegetables will help alkalize your dog’s gut.
It is essential to balance acidity and alkalinity in your dog’s diet. It can make a significant difference in its health. Some organs perform optimally in a slightly more alkaline environment.
Organs such as the pancreas, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, and heart, to be specific. Meanwhile, higher acidity levels can contribute to increased inflammation. Inflammation is the cause of several chronic diseases, and you need to avoid it in your dog.
Proteins such as meat increase the acidity of the body; you need to balance them out with an adequate supply of vegetables which raise the alkalinity of your dog’s body.
Vegetables have helpful fiber.
Raw, uncooked vegetables have high fiber content. Fiber passes through your dog’s gut almost entirely undigested. It shines when it reaches the colon, though. Here, the local bacteria ferment the fiber, allowing it to transform into a healthier form.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) form, which has many positive benefits. They provide energy, help increase immune cell count, and protect mucus lining the gut.
Fiber has other benefits than those derived from SCFAs, though. Other benefits of fiber for your dog include:
- Fiber has some antioxidative properties
- Fiber helps feed friendly bacteria, improving gut health
- High fiber consumption can decrease the risk of cancer
- The fiber content in the diet helps give constantly hungry dogs the feeling of being full
- Fiber assists in cleaning out toxins from the body
Vegetables help keep your dog hydrated
Many dogs primarily eat kibble in their diet. Dogs that do so are in a constant state of dehydration and need alternative methods to hydrate. Dehydration causes issues such as bladder stones and kidney diseases.
Vegetables come to the rescue as a critical source of water. Some such as Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce have over 85 percent water content.
Vegetables help digestion
Enzymes are unique proteins that assist in the digestion of food and the efficient function of the metabolic system. Vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, and asparagus are an excellent choice for boosting your dog’s digestive system as they are rich in enzymes.
Some enzymes may even survive your dog’s stomach acid and make it into the intestine. Enzymes that stay in the intestines have positive impacts in slowing down aging and degeneration.
Dogs need vegetables, the science says so
In a study, researchers compared the regular intake of vegetables in Scottish Terriers with the risk of bladder cancer. They did so by having the owners of the dogs fill a questionnaire about their dog’s diet and supplements.
The researchers used this information to evaluate the chances of transitional cell carcinoma within the bladder. Dogs who consumed orange, yellow and dark leafy green vegetables three or more times a week had a 90 percent decrease in cancer risk.
Not only are these findings extraordinary, but note that the study also evaluated that vitamin supplements had little effect on the risk of cancer. Accordingly, the nutrients from vegetables are essential.
Dogs naturally eat vegetables.
If you are still struggling with deciding, do dogs need fruits and vegetables? Consider what dogs naturally are.
In regards to the obvious question of whether or not they are carnivores, the answer is no. They are not pure carnivores in the same sense as cats, nor are they herbivores like cows.
Dogs are still carnivores, yet their diet has far more variation than that of, say, a cat. Dogs fall somewhere between pure carnivores and omnivores. Their behavior in the wild backs up that claim.
In the wild, canines eat the contents of the guts of their prey which often contains vegetation. They also directly scavenge for vegetation, including herbs and vegetables.
How you should prepare vegetables for dogs
Before you start feeding your dog vegetables, you should keep in mind that the preparation method plays a key role. For example, your dog may choke on a vegetable if you do not chop it finely enough.
Vegetables make great snacks for your dog. Some simple prep methods are as follows:
Submerge vegetables in boiling water and then quickly move them to cold water. Blanching cleans off the dirt from the vegetables, retains all the flavor and nutritional value, and requires no cooking oil.
You can prepare large batches of vegetables and store them in the freezer to make savings on time and effort. For example, you can puree vegetables and freeze them. When in a hurry, grab a couple of ice cubes of vegetable puree.
Pureeing offers the most benefits and easiest digestibility for your dog. Blend vegetables into a raw puree; some vegetables will require cooking beforehand, like carrots or sweet potatoes. Others such as celery and spinach can be prepared raw.
The main benefit is that it is significantly easier for your dog to digest as pureeing breaks down the cell walls.
Steaming cooks vegetables through, softening them while keeping much of the flavor and nutrients—a relatively straightforward method of cooking vegetables without submerging them in boiling water.
Vegetables good for dogs
Do dogs need fruits and vegetables? Yes, they do. The question that you have now is, which ones? Keep reading, and you will know the healthiest options for your dog.
Spinach is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It is also full of vitamins C, K, E, B6, and B9. Lastly, it contains plenty of carotenoids and folic acid.
Also known as sweet potatoes. Yams are excellent for improving digestive health owing to their high fiber content. They also contain vitamins B6 and C and are rich in manganese and beta-carotene.
Cucumbers have high water content helping with rehydration. They also contain massive amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Celery offers vitamins C and A, which have antioxidant effects and their more well-known benefits.
Kale is an excellent source of vitamins A and K and iron, making it ideal for bone health, immune system function, healthy vision, and metabolism.
Green beans have plenty of essential nutrients such as vitamins B6, K, C, A, iron, and calcium. They also are rich in fiber and have few calories, helping dogs feel full.
Broccoli contains vitamin C and K, as well as potassium. It is ideal for improving the health and bone strength of dogs.
Carrots are full of vitamin A, K, B6 and have plenty of beta-carotene, biotin, and potassium.
Beets are rich in vitamin C, potassium, manganese, fiber, and folate. Nutrients to improve your dog’s digestion and immune system.
Rich in vitamins such as A, B6, and C help your dog’s cardiovascular system and vision.
Fruits and vegetables to avoid
Even though they are suitable for humans, some fruits and vegetables can have ill effects on dogs. Keep your dog away from these:
Persimmons, plums, peaches, cherries, and apricots
Persimmon seeds can irritate your dog, while the pits of plums, apricots, peaches, and cherries contain cyanide, a dangerous poison.
Grapes, currants, and raisins
These fruits can cause severe kidney damage. Keep your dog well clear of them.
Rhubarb can cause issues with the nervous system, kidneys, and digestive tract. It also reduces calcium levels, potentially causing renal failure.
Mushrooms from the store are acceptable. However, wild mushrooms may be toxic, and you should avoid letting your dog eat them.
Aromatics such as chives, onions, and garlic
These are harmful to your dog’s kidneys as they attack their blood cells, leading to low iron levels.
Do dogs need fruits and vegetables? Yes, they do, and there are several reasons why. Now that you have made it this far, not only do you know that, but you also know what to and what not to feed your dog when it comes to greens.
Ensuring that your dog’s diet is well balanced is one of your most important responsibilities as an owner; ensure that your dog sees the vet and has its diet and health reviewed periodically.