While dogs technically don’t need carbohydrates in their diets to survive, there’s been a lot of research showing just how beneficial adding fruit and veggies, which are carbs, to our dog’s diet can be. Clinical Naturopath and herbalist, Narelle Cooke, explains how to improve a dog’s diet with fruit and vegetables.
How fruit & vegetables improve a dog’s diet
Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, that are found exclusively in plants, have been shown to prevent chronic diseases, not only for humans, but for our dogs as well, helping to reduce obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases and even certain types of cancer.
Phytonutrients are an invaluable source of antioxidants which help reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, vascular dysfunction and metabolic dysregulation. They have also been shown to enhance immunity, repair DNA damaged by toxins and even slow the signs of ageing. All of this improves not only our dog’s physical wellbeing, but also mood and cognitive function as well.
How do they improve cognitive function?
The brain is extremely vulnerable to oxidative damage, and studies have found that feeding senior dogs in particular, a diet rich in antioxidants from a mixture of fruits and vegetables, decreases rates of cognitive decline as they age, as well as improving age-related behavioural changes.
Much like ourselves as we age, a dog’s memory and learning ability declines and we might see increased anxiety, disorientation, changes in how they interact socially and other behavioural changes, like dementia in humans, so it is important to try to add some valuable supplements and foods that will support brain function.
That’s why adding some fruit and vegies rich in polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamins and trace minerals like broccoli, spinach, carrots and berries can improve a dog’s diet.
Studies supporting the addition of vegetables to dry food
One studied looked at the role of vegetable consumption on bladder cancer risk in Scottish Terriers. It was found that for dogs being fed a standard kibble diet, those that consumed some specific cruciferous, green-leafy and yellow-orange vegetables at least three times per week, in addition to their standard kibble, experienced a reduction in cancer risk of between 69-88% compared to dogs consuming kibble alone.
Keeping it to the right amounts
We need to remember that dogs have species-specific requirements, which means we want to see around 70% lean muscle meat from various sources, 10% organs including at least 5% liver, 10% bone with cartilage, and no more than around 10% plant matter and other healthy ingredients in their diet.
We also want to make sure they are the right types of plant matter too. Unfortunatley, we see a lot of dog foods including high Glycemic Index plant matter such as potatoes, peas, corn and grains, all high in the type of carbs that turn into starch, which we really want to avoid in our dogs because they can contribute to overweight and obesity, skin issues, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Some of the best choices for our dogs include blueberries, lightly steamed or pulped spinach, broccoli, citrus fruits as well as various herbs such as parsley and alfalfa.
Improve a dog’s diet with raw food
While there are benefits to just adding steamed vegetables and fruits to any diet, if you do want to move away from high carb, highly processed dog foods then check out Big Dog Pet Foods. They’ve done all the hard work for you to produce a complete and balanced raw food diet that has the right ingredients at the right amounts with no preservatives.
And you can just defrost and serve as you need them, so check their raw food diet range HERE.