Dogs raised in the wild have a vastly diverse menu, which includes the bulk of plant matter. One look at the dog's anatomy, physiology, dentition and digestive system demonstrates how dogs are equipped to eat vegetables, and especially nutrient-rich root vegetables, as part of their daily diet.
In order for vegetables to grow, it is the job of the root system to accumulate nutrients, store them, and when needed, fortify the plant. This collection of nutrition is what makes consuming root vegetables anatomically advantageous for your dog. Also stored in plant roots is a simple monosaccharide called glucose that is mixed with mineral-rich water. This natural sugar and mineral water supply is instinctually attractive to dogs. Root vegetables are separated into six subgroups including bulbs, taproots, rhizomes, tubers, tuberous roots and corms. Examples of root vegetables include carrots, beets, taro, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, cassavas, yucca, turnips, ginseng, ginger and water chestnuts.
The decision to fortify your dog's diet with root vegetables involves a change in the menu. Never change your dog's diet without consultation with his veterinarian. To add root vegetables, start with one root type at a time and in small amounts. Gradual is the name of the game, and after introducing a vegetable your dog finds distasteful, don't offer it again and try another. Your dog will indicate his favorites, and you can offer an occasional change for a dietary variation. It's a good idea to stick with root vegetables easily acquired at your local grocery store.
Dogs are finicky eaters and no two dogs eat exactly alike. Canines gravitate toward carbohydrate-rich roots such as sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, white meat potatoes, beetroots, parsnips and yams. Sweet potatoes, the paws down favorite, are rich in carbs but also a great source of vitamins A, C, B6 and B5. Potassium, fiber and manganese are also found in sweet potatoes. Carrots are a frequent favorite and these root veggies deliver vitamins A, C and K, along with potassium and fiber.
Wild carnivores, such as wolves, are not anatomically equipped to break down raw vegetables with their teeth to maximize the food value. Canine evolution has left the domestic dog with a full compliment of molars capable of pulverizing plant material. So now it comes down to preference. Some dogs find root vegetables more palatable when cooked, and others prefer raw. Most important to you as a pet parent is maintaining the integrity of the root vegetable's nutritional value. Entering the debate of whether cooked or raw vegetables are best brings about two principles: cooking may destroy some vegetation nutrients, but heating vegetables to an elevated degree kills pathogenic microorganisms and deadly gastrointestinal bacteria. Kathryn E. Michel, associate professor of nutrition for the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania claims the risks of eating uncooked vegetables, of any type, outweigh the benefits.
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