Should Dogs Eat Vegetables?

19th January 2024 5 min read

There is a significant amount of conflicting information regarding the necessity of including vegetables in a dog's diet. Read on to find out the role of vegetables in your dogs diet.

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There is a significant amount of conflicting information regarding the necessity of including vegetables in a dog's diet. It is widely accepted that vegetables play a significant role in our dietary intake, and it is recommended to consume at least five 80g portions as part of a well-rounded and nutritious diet. But do vegetables provide the domestic dog with the same health benefits?

The Domestic Dog vs The Wolf

Dogs have evolved from their wolf ancestors over millions of years, and this is where we draw the concept of the prey model. Although dogs today look vastly different, their digestive system is still surprisingly similar to the wolf.

Studies show that the wolf's diet consisted of a range of different prey and proteins. Furthermore, wolves were known to consume nearly all parts of their prey, including the bone, skin, and organs. As pet owners, these are the main elements we should be incorporating into our dog's diet. By including meat, bones, and offal in their meals, we supply the essential nutrients necessary for our dogs to thrive.

Nonetheless, if we delve deeper into the wolves' prey, we find their digestive tract contains fruit and vegetables, which the wolves would have consumed from the stomach of their prey. Not only this but they were known to scavenge vegetation including fruit, vegetables and herbs.

To fully follow the prey model would mean that vegetables should be incorporated as part of our dog's diet.

Less is More

So, we know that dogs can have vegetables but how many is too many or doesn't it matter?

All you need to do to see the evidence that our canine companions are primarily meat eaters is to have a look inside their mouth. Their elongated, pointed canine teeth are designed for tearing meat apart, while their sharp premolars are ideal for shredding food. The incisors at the front are also perfect for stripping meat. The insides of a dog's stomach are also significantly more acidic, making it well-equipped to digest raw meat and bones. However, it is not suited to digest large quantities of vegetables or plant proteins efficiently, resulting in them being passed as waste.

Despite that, we must consider the various health benefits vegetables offer and the valuable nutrients they contain. Raw vegetables include important minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium and contain an abundance of vitamins such as vitamin E, A, C K and the B vitamins.

Due to our dog's limited ability to digest plant fibre, it is imperative that we correctly present the vegetables to our dogs for them to be able to fully reap the benefits. Vegetables must be crushed or finely minced to ensure proper bioavailability. This allows dogs to absorb the valuable nutrients found within the vegetables, which are not found in meat such as phytonutrients.

It is crucial that your dog's vegetable intake is fed as part of a well-balanced diet. Overfeeding vegetables can lead to an increase in waste passed through them (an unwanted outcome for us all) and create a nutritional imbalance as they miss out on vital nutrients found in meat, which is the primary nutrient source for dogs. Ideally, feeding your dog 5-20% vegetables is recommended. It is important to vary the type of vegetables you feed your dog, as different veggies offer various health benefits.

Veggies That Pack a Punch

Choosing the correct veggies to feed your dog is very important. Some vegetables are toxic to dogs, while others just don’t pack the nutrients punch necessary. The following are our recommendations for the top vegetables to include in their diet along with their beneficial properties:

  • Kale - Great for the cardiovascular system, bone, eye and skin health. Contains: vitamin A, C, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, protein, quercetin.
  • Broccoli - Supports liver function detoxification and the immune system. Contains: vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium, zinc and beta-carotene.
  • Carrot - Great for supporting healthy vision and skin, supporting reproductive health and the immune system. Contains: vitamins A, E, K B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, beta-carotene, and lutein.
  • Butternut Squash - Supports vision, skin health and cardiovascular health. Contains: vitamins C, E K, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, alpha and beta carotene, lutein.
  • Pumpkin - Great for supporting the immune system, skin and digestive health. Contains: vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, potassium.

Veggies to Avoid

Whilst the majority of vegetables are safe for your dog to consume, there are some to avoid. Onions can be toxic to dogs, we also recommend avoiding starchy vegetables such as legumes and peas, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Dogs do not produce a lot of the enzyme amylase (which breaks down starches) so this can cause issues for the digestive system, including the pancreas.

In conclusion, yes, our dogs can survive and thrive without the addition of veggies to their diet. However, it cannot be denied that vegetables are rich in essential minerals and vitamins that can greatly benefit our dog's overall health and well-being.

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