Looking into those puppy dog eyes, you want to give him everything. As responsible pet parents, we want to give our dog food that is healthy and good for him. In a recent trend in meals for dogs, vegetables are on the menu, and dogs are benefiting from these healthy food choices.
Just as vegetables are healthy for humans, they are also good for dogs. Most veggies contain a variety of readily available vitamins and minerals with proven health benefits, but some are more suitable for your dog. Vegetables that address strong hair, teeth and bones such as celery, broccoli, spinach and greens are especially good for dogs. Vegetables rich in antioxidants that fight against free radicals and those high in protein such as tomatoes, kale and eggplant are good choices. Avoid giving your dog waxed, dyed or genetically altered foods. To avoid these processes, some dog owners prefer organically grown foods. As established by the US Department of Agriculture, labels concerning the health benefits, nutrient content and the production method must be on all vegetable packaging. Vegetables should be peeled, because dogs lack the digestive ability to break down the cellulose in plant skins. Choose red, orange and yellow vegetables for your dog, as these are nutrient-dense grown food fare.
Prior to giving your dog vegetables, check with your veterinarian. Carrots are high on the list of good vegetables for your dog. Carrots nourish the optic nerve and strengthen vision. Beta carotene, a proven antioxidant, is found in carrots. Carrots are a vitamin rich food containing vitamins A, C, D, E and K. The combination of these vitamins fortifies your dog's bones, muscles, joints, cartilage, collagen and blood cells. Carrots are rich with minerals and nutrients such as niacin, calcium, riboflavin, potassium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. Carrot derived nutritional enrichments provide support for your dog's immune system, are an aide in digestion and increase colon health. Vegetables must not be the main food source for your dog and are only beneficial as an addition to a veterinarian approved meat diet.
While veggies are good for your dog, they don't help if he won't eat them. Through trial and error, and a veterinarian's assistance, pet parents are finding some fresh (never canned) vegetables that are favorable to dogs. Vegetables prepared for dogs should not contain seasonings or other additives and are best served raw, steamed or boiled. The squash family of vegetables offer many choices such as zucchini, butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti and yellow squash. Squash is a strong source of fiber and is rich with vitamins A and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes provide vitamins A, C, B6 and B5, are a good source of manganese, potassium and fiber. Peas are an excellent source of vitamins K, C, B1, A, B6, B3 and B2 and nutrients such as folate, manganese, fiber, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, protein, copper, zinc and potassium. Edamame provide fiber, protein, iron, vitamins K and B12, omega-3 fats, copper, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Popular dog treats are making it easy for pet parents to get veggies into the belly of their dog. Commercial pet companies manufacture canine treats using a variety of vegetables. Commercial vegetable treats are often offered in dried form, with sweet potatoes being a common ingredient. Dried vegetables do lose some of their original nutrients, but retain enough nourishment to make them a healthy snack. The Association of American Feed Control Officials is the watchdog group imposing stringent rules for commercial food labeling practices, and everything that is in the food must be on the label. Beware of treats, chews, biscuits and other commercial dog treats that have "garden veggie flavors" as an ingredient, because these treats contain very little available vegetable allowance. "Green" dog chews often are nutrient rich with minerals, and other valuable dietary ingredients, but no vegetables.
- ASPCA: Fruits and Veggies for Pets
- Animal Planet: 10 Fruits and Vegetables That Aide in Dogs' Nutrition
- Colorado State University: Drying Vegetables
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Fruit and Veggie
- American Association of Feed Control Officials: A Guide to Submitting New Ingredient Definitions to AAFCO
- USDA: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images