Love them or loathe them, most people have an opinion on feeding your dog vegetables. As it is something we are often asked about, we have brought together the facts about dogs and veg so that you can make up your own mind.
Carnivore or Omnivore?
The physical makeup of a dog suggests that they are carnivores:
Sharp teeth for tearing flesh, rather than flat molars for pulverising plant material;
Short digestional tracts and expandable highly-acidic stomachs designed to hold and process large quantities of meat, rather than long complex guts aimed at slow fermentation of greenery;
Strong neck muscles and a vertical chewing action to catch and eat prey, rather than a rotational jaw for grinding veggies; and
No enzymes required to break down carbohydrates produced until the stomach, whereas omnivores have salivary amylase in order to start digesting starch immediately.
Can dogs eat veg?
As man’s best friend, over the years dogs have adapted to eat scraps off the table rather than hunting their own food, but the fact that dogs can eat vegetables and grains does not make them omnivores. Dogs are still not designed to digest starchy material, as evidenced above, and this can be clearly seen as vegetables come out looking much the same as the way they went in. Being able to survive on something is very different to thriving – dogs can survive on veg in their diets, but thrive on whole prey.
Why add veg
If you are raw feeding, your dog will get everything she needs through following a balanced whole prey diet consisting of meat, offal and bone. However, while you don’t need to add vegetables, it doesn’t mean that you can’t, and the following are just some of the reasons for adding veg:
Weight control – Adding veggies to your dog’s diet will help him feel fuller for longer without piling on the pounds – as the veg is hardly used nutritionally, it acts as a bulking agent to fill up your dog’s bowl and stomach.
Bowel movement – Some dogs really won’t eat offal no matter how it is presented, so veg offers your dog a form of fibre to help go to the toilet if they get constipated.
Dog’s palate – Some dogs simply love their veggies and their owners want to give them food they enjoy, there’s no harm in a piece of broccoli or carrot if that’s your dog’s favourite treat.
Some dogs find vegetables a little hard to stomach at first, so you might try lightly cooking them first, or blitzing in a blender.
What to Add
Leafy green vegetables tend to be easier for your dog to digest and spinach, kale and chard are popular mealtime additions.
Many dogs like sweet potato and, as with humans, this carbohydrate has a lower GI level and so it offers a slower release of energy. Similarly, butternut squash and pumpkin are good options to help your dog feel fuller for longer.
In terms of fruit bananas are a good choice for stuffing kongs, while blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are firm favourites and many dogs will help themselves to berries from an English hedgerow during autumn walks.
What to Avoid
If you choose to feed veg to your dog, please be aware of the following cautions to keep your pet healthy:
- Carrots are sweet, which is why they are a favourite, but also quite calorific, so feed in moderation as a high value treat.
- Garlic is good for your dog in small amounts, but large quantities can be harmful so always store garlic out of reach of scavengers.
- Onions and chives are poisonous to dogs in any form – fresh, powdered or dried – and can cause anemia and stomach upsets.
- While plenty of pet owners feed sweetcorn, never give your dog corn on the cob as the hard core can get stuck in the windpipe or stomach causing a fatal blockage.
- Tomatoes, and any part of the plant, are full of toxins and should be avoided.
Some wild mushrooms can be harmful to your dog, so it’s safest to steer clear of all varieties and remember to watch out for a dog foraging on a woodland bed.
- Avocados contain persin which causes vomitting and diarrhea, so should not be fed to your dog.
- Raw or green potatoes can cause solanine poisoning resulting in severe stomach upsets.
- Rhubarb leaves and stems deplete the calcium levels and can result in renal failure.
- Grapes, raisins and currants are highly toxic to dogs and can lead to irreversible kidney damage – make sure you watch out for any savoury or sweet pies and cakes which contain raisins and currants.
- Any fruit seeds or pips are dangerous for dogs, such as cherry, plum, peach, apricot and nectarine pits, and apple seeds (watch out especially for dogs who snaffle windfall apples).
For more information on adding veg to your dog’s diet, or putting together a raw feeding DIY plan (with or without veg), pop in store and ask any of our trained raw advisors.
Written by: Lucy Ellis