Today’s post is about a small, but very important part of a dog’s diet: fruit and vegetables. We’ll start with a general discussion about what vegetables are good for dogs and why, and end with our step-by-step photo guide on how to prepare a veggie mix for your dog.
Dogs are mainly carnivorous but, as discussed in one of my previous posts, a meat-only diet is unbalanced and, in the long run, detrimental to a dog’s health. Some vegetables – like broccoli – contain vital nutrients that cannot be found in meats and animal food products and should be part of a healthy canine diet. The advice seems to be that raw vegetables should represent up to 20% of a dog’s diet, whereas cooked vegetables, due to the fact that they’re easier to digest, can form up to 40% of the daily intake. It’s up to you to choose which way to feed them.
Our selection of vegetables often includes: broccoli, cucumber, carrots, parsnip, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and spinach. These form the base of George’s vegetable diet mainly because he loves them and are rich in nutrients. Broccoli is full of phytonutrients, helps protect against carcinogens, is a good source of B-vitamins and minerals and is also high in fiber. Cucumbers are low-glycemic (non-starchy) and contain trace amounts of important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6, B12, A, E, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, most of which can also be found in cabbage. Carrots are famous for their beta-carotene (vitamin A) content, but should not be fed in excess, as they are also quite sweet. They can be a good alternative to chewy sticks, though, and George loves munching on them – or a broccoli/cabbage stalk – whilst out in the garden.
There are a other ‘good’ vegetables that dogs can safely eat – like celery or green beans – but mine is not too keen on them and prefers to stick to his limited selection. He will, however, top up his diet with the odd pea pod or corn leaf from the garden when he gets the chance.
As far as fruit is concerned, George loves bananas, apples, pears and blackberries, and that’s about it. He tried a few others, such as mango, orange and tomatoes, but did not like them very much. Again, he’s hard to shift from his favourites, so we only add those to his veggie mix. If your dogs eat vegetables, fruits are not even necessary, so it’s fine to leave them out entirely.
There are a number of plants, fruits and vegetables that are toxic for dogs and could have harmful, even lethal effects. Raisins, grapes, onions, flower bulbs, apple seeds and apricot kernels are just a few that I know of. Whenever I contemplate giving George anything that he hasn’t tried before, I first go and research whether it is harmful or not. I think everybody should do the same to ensure that they dogs do not ingest anything that could make them very ill or even kill them. You’ll find a useful list of toxic plants on the Dog’s Trust website, at this link: http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/_resources/resources/factsheets09/factsheetpoisonoussubstances09.pdf .
Apart from general toxicity, potential allergies that individual dogs may have to certain plants should also be taken into consideration.
If you’re willing to give feeding vegetables a go, here is or step-by-step photo guide to how you can make a raw veggie mix.
1) Put together a mixture of vegetables (and fruits) of your choice. If you’ve never fed vegetables before, start with only a few in order to identify what your dog likes or doesn’t like.
2) Dogs can have difficulties in digesting raw vegetables, therefore it is important that you make it easier for them. Chop the fruit and vegetables into chunks large enough to fit in a food processor.
3) Add a sprinkle of olive oil and process until finely chopped. You could process the mixture even further by pulping or liquidising it in a blender (a bit of water may be required). It all depends on how your dog likes it, the rule of thumb being ‘the smaller the better’. Here is how George likes his vegetable mix:
This is it! Simple really, and the better part is that it freezes well, so you could make a large amount in one go and then freeze it in small portions for further use. All is left to do is defrost the mix and add it to the meat, together with the mixer and supplements (if used).