Part 3 of 3
As discussed earlier cats do not need any plant material in their diets so this article will focus solely on fruits and vegetables that are either life enhancing or detrimental for our canine companions. This is not a definitive list, simply some of the more common ones our pets crave or ones that are nutritional powerhouses and make beneficial inclusions in our dog’s diets.
Beneficial Fruits and Vegetables for Dogs
APPLES: Many dogs love a chunk of apple tossed to them; others find the fruit too acidic for their taste. High in vitamins A and C and the immune boosting antioxidant quercetin (allergy fighting flavonoid found mostly in apple skin), apples also contain pectin which is a beneficial prebiotic for gut health.
BLUEBERRIES: Berries, in general, are palatable to dogs, but blueberries are the nutritional star. Full of vitamins, surprisingly they also contain some valuable minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iron and zinc. They happen to be one of the richest sources of antioxidants with their free-radical scavenging properties. Research has shown that they help reduce the incidence of cancer, and since around half of our dogs will get cancer, blueberries are an important preventative measure we can add to their diets.
BROCCOLI: This is probably the most nutrient dense green vegetable dogs will eat, containing over 33 cancer-preventing compounds. A very low glycemic addition to your dog’s diet, this vegetable should be given in moderation as all cruciferous veggies can reduce thyroid function if given in excess. Cooking may make it more palatable.
CANTALOUPE: Another food high in beta carotene, also rich in B-6, C, folate, niacin and potassium. Very tasty for most dogs and rarely an allergen.
CARROTS: A popular, crunchy, sweet snack for most dogs, carrots provide beta carotene which can be converted into vitamin A and is a powerful antioxidant along with vitamins C, D, E and K. Carrots promote good vision and supports collagen production.
CELERY: A mild flavored vegetable that is low in calories but high in fiber. A good weight loss addition that also helps the immune system and detoxifies. Some dogs prefer it cooked.
GARLIC: Used from the days of the Roman Empire to strengthen their war dogs, this vegetable or herb, used raw and in small amounts is entirely safe for your dog. For many years I have used it daily with my dogs for the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral effects. It is a fierce immune stimulator and has anti-cancer properties. Also reported to ward off fleas which has been true with my dogs.
GREEN BEANS: Another low-calorie vegetable often recommended for weight loss. Containing some omega-3 fatty acids and loaded with vitamins C and K, many dogs like the fresh crunch of raw green beans, others prefer them cooked.
MUSHROOMS: Medicinal mushrooms are an amazing addition to your dog’s diet. Used for thousands of years specific mushroom varieties have well documented health benefits. For example, Lion’s Mane is noted for increasing cognitive strength while Shiitake is noted for heightening immune function. When adding mushrooms, do not use wild mushrooms; use only medicinal mushrooms and usually cook them.
ROMAIN LETTUCE: My dogs love the firm lettuce ribs and beg for them as I create a salad. Very low in calories (lettuce is mostly water) this variety of lettuce is safe for dogs to eat. Endive, dandelions and chicory should be avoided, but Romain, containing vitamins A, C and K, is high in antioxidants and healthy for your dog to eat.
SWEET POTATOES: A valuable adjunct to your dog’s diet on occasion, this highly sweet and starchy vegetable should be added in moderation. Like all brightly colored edible plant material, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins, notably E, A, B-6 and C in this tuber. Most dogs love their sweet taste, but like kids with candy, please monitor carefully as sweet potato’s high sugar content can be hard on a dog’s digestive system. Usually preferred cooked or dehydrated.
WATERMELON: A great source of lycopene, studies have shown this melon has anti-cancer properties, particularly from lung, bone and prostate cancers. Diabetes and heart disease reduction are also linked to high lycopene intake. Chock full of vitamins A, B-6 and C, this palatable fruit aids hydration and appeals to most dogs.
Other fruits and vegetables that may interest your dog are asparagus, bananas, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and pears, to name a few. And when cooking plant materials, a light steaming will protect more of the vitamins and minerals than other methods.
Fruits and Vegetables to Avoid
ALLIUMS: Onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots can all cause anemia in dogs.
LEGUMES: Legumes contain lectins which can block valuable nutrients from being absorbed. They are considered by many experts to be anti-nutrients. Examples of legumes are peas, lentils, beans such as kidney, white, black, navy, pinto, etc., peanuts and soybeans to name a few of the most well-known legumes.
THE NIGHTSHADE FAMLY: Members of the nightshade family are also not appropriate foods for canines. These would include but are not limited to potatoes (uncooked), tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. These vegetables contain a substance called solanine which tends to increase inflammation and can be toxic to some dogs. It is especially harsh on arthritic conditions.
DRIED FRUITS: Dried fruits are far too sweet for dogs except in very small amounts. Drying intensifies the sugar content by removing the water, making the treats quite tasty but disproportionately high in carbohydrates which are hard on the canine digestive system. A treat to use sparingly!
Scientifically Tested As Beneficial
In a 2005 Purdue University study, researchers wanted to discover what effects if any adding vegetables to canine diets had on the incidence of bladder cancer in dogs. The test animals were Scottish Terriers. One group ate only kibble while the other group ate kibble plus different vegetables 3 times a week. At the end of the study the results were stunning. The dogs eating green leafy vegetables along with their kibble reduced the risk of developing bladder cancer by 90%. Wisely adding beneficial fruits and vegetables into the canine diet can have dramatic health enhancing results.
Dogs are individuals with different dietary needs and preferences. Some do better with more plant materials in their bowls and some do not. Always remembering that your dog is a carnivore, you may want to thoughtfully experiment with supplementing their meat/organ/bone diet with some valuable vegetables and fruits for the nutritional rewards they offer.
Check out the first segment on Fruits and Veggies for your pets and as well as the second segment on Benefits of Vegetables and Fruits in Your Dog’s Diet.
By Carol Kendig