Do Dogs Need Fruits and Vegetables?
Have you ever wondered about the value (or harm) we humans cause by feeding our animals like ourselves? For example, have your dogs been happily munching raw carrots as treats for years, like ours? Could that actually be a good thing, or is it not a good idea? There are arguments, data, and science supporting both sides of this issue.
First, let me note that no one at Lotus Blossom Clinic is a trained veterinarian, and you are encouraged always to talk with your vet regarding your dog’s food. It will be up to you to discern if they are knowledgeable enough in the food sciences to be able to answer your concerns adequately.
What you may not know is that Dr. David Martin does see dogs from time to time at Lotus Blossom Clinic…usually for pain, although he can help with stress/anxiety issues (just as he does with people), and more. He performs acupuncture on pets under the licensure of a local vet in Fort Myers, Dr. Iris Ramirez.
So, let’s dive in by starting with one article I read which made a valiant attempt to include some research . This author is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast, and her research came up with the answer that “Nope, it’s not a good idea to feed dogs anything other than their “’natural prey’”.
Dogs are descendants of wolves and have the following characteristics which do not appear to lend themselves to a plant-based diet:
- Carnivores have certain teeth structures specific to carnivores and lacking the flat surfaces of creatures designed to eat plant-based diets.
- In their original prey-based diet, wolves consumed organs, skin, eyes, etc, which provided additional nutrients. We know now, for example, human eyes store lutein and zeaxanthin, the lungs store Vitamin C, and the Heart stores CoQ10, so nutrients like those are stored in prey animal organs too. However, research shows that wolves typically leave the stomachs and contents of their prey for other scavengers to finish off. This adds to the theory that dogs, as descendants of wolves, do not need veggies and fruits.
- The primary bacteria in dogs’ intestines is Helicobacter. Humans’ primary bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.
- Dogs lack salivary amylase, an enzyme which, in herbivores and omnivores, begins the breakdown of carbohydrates when they first enter the mouth. Over the centuries of domestication and hanging around humans who provided them with fruits and veggies, domestic dogs have indeed adapted. Their pancreas can now secrete this enzyme. The “problem” with this is that with their short digestive track, there isn’t adequate time to absorb nutrition from raw fruits and veggies. (That’s why feeding my dogs goji berries probably isn’t helping their eyesight like it helps humans. I have seen them come out whole in their morning bowel movement.)
Ah-Hah #1: Perhaps we can solve some of these problems!
Cook or blend the foods before you give them to your dog which decreases the digestive activity requirements and may allow the animals to absorb more of the nutrients before they are expelled.
- BLENDING: Breaking down the cellular walls of the plants in a blender allows their nutrients to absorb much more quickly. Perhaps that will not cause too much strain on the dog’s digestive system, although, in fact, they will have to produce more amylase enzyme than would be needed for their original prey-based mostly-protein-and-fat-diet.
- COOKING: Some vegetables’ phytochemicals (the plant nutrients our bodies use) are enhanced when they are cooked. This is true, for example, with carotenoids such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potato and kale….as well as for asparagus (cook it lightly!), tomatoes and the colorful bell peppers.
Ah-Hah #2: Dogs ARE well designed to digest protein and fats.
This leads me to a new line of thinking. Perhaps providing good fats for a dog can be helpful. We explored the new science of Good and Bad Fats for humans earlier this year. I can foresee a day in the not-too-distant future when the restaurant and food-processing industries wake up and stop using those highly-processed, de-natured, cell-damaging vegetable oils in cooking & baking. When that happens, our general society could see a measurable reduction in many diseases. The damage from cooked, rancid fats is a serious factor in heart disease for humans, and the canine cardiovascular system is similar enough to ours that we use many of the same drugs for heart disease The damaging effects on our cells are also involved with cancer, diabetes…and even Alzheimers .
As for us, we will continue feeding our dogs coconut oil daily, and avocados are a frequent dietary addition as well.
AH-HAH #3: Dogs are adaptive.
What research has been done to truly look at the value of feeding them some plants with high antioxidants, saturated fats, and other nutritional values? This isn’t something that will provide big profits for anyone, so the research is limited. However, I have seen science articles that have done just that. And the results were clear that providing our dogs with anti-cancerous plant chemicals in their diet can reduce their risk of cancer by 70-90%. That’s significant enough to pay attention!
AH-HAH #4: THOUGHTS & SCIENCE ABOUT ORGANIC & KIBBLE
BAD NEWS ABOUT KIBBLE AND NON-ORGANIC MEAT:
Before we finish any discussion on food as medicine for our pets, we must quickly cover this topic. In our own research and experience, animal protein concentrates the compounds and chemicals of foods, poisons and medicines they ate/chemicals injected. It’s not an option at our house…we buy organic. Dry dog food (“kibble”) is a convenience for us humans, and it’s just never the best for the dog. At its worst, loaded with grains and preservatives, it’s harmful. We believe it caused the cancer one of our dogs suffered. She died before we began our own serious food-as-medicine awakening. In the best of circumstances, grain-free and better preservatives such as tocopherols (Vitamin E), the dog food manufacturer still uses oils which de-nature in heat processes (translation: they use veggie oil) and cause free-radical damage to our dogs’ cells.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT VEGETABLES:
Take Heart, on Ye Who Feed Your Dogs Good Table Scraps! We have a no-nonsense, science-based study on the subject from Purdue University.
Scottish Terriers are 18 times more likely to have bladder cancer than most other breeds and mixes. In the results of the study, it was discovered that dogs fed kibble PLUS green leafy veggies (kale and broccoli 3 times per week) had 90% less bladder cancer incidence than dogs fed kibble only. The dogs fed orange and yellow veggies 3 times per week along with their kibble had 70% less cancers than those dining on kibble only.
And this was no small venture. It was a four-year study funded by the Scottish Terrier Club of America’s Health Trust Fund and the AKC Canine Health Foundation. The study began in 2001 and was performed by a Purdue University research team under “Grant #2105”: Characterization of Host and Environmental Risk Factors for Urinary Bladder Cancer in a High Risk Breed (The Scottish Terrier).
So, now it’s your turn to consider the health of your pet and what you believe is the best for them. As for us, we’ll keep feeding our four-legged family members clean human food along with raw meat and some of the best of the kibble we can find. Besides, you should see how delightedly they gobble down cooked carrots and Brussels sprouts…like they know it’s good for them!
Written by Deb Martin for Lotus Blossom Clinic, Fort Myers acupuncture clinic serving Fort Myers, Cape Coral, lehigh acres, Bonita Springs, We offer Acupuncture, Food healing, Massage, Facials, Chinese Medicine.