The inclusion of fruit and vegetables in a dog’s diet is a point of contention amongst raw feeders. Purists and raw prey model feeders advocate strongly against the inclusion of any fruit and vegetables, following the ancestral carnivore diet of meat, offal and bone.
During times of food shortage though, even the wolf was known to scavenge plant matter for survival including leafy vegetables, grasses, herbs, and fruit such as apples, pears and berries. Those following the BARF feeding philosophy include these items – providing up to 10% of the total diet.
Today’s agricultural practices and soil nutrient deficiencies also alter the nutritional profile of the meat you feed. If you decide to feed vegetables there are a few points to be aware of to maximise their benefit to your dog.
Vegetables provide a range of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that are not found in meat products. However, not all vegetables are suitable for your dog’s diet. Domestic dogs, like humans, have varying degrees of tolerance for different foods and their ability to digest starch and fibre will also differ.
Choosing vegetables with a low glycaemic index such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, parsley, kale), cucumber and celery, is a good start. Red and orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potato) can also add a different range of nutrients however avoid large volumes due to the high starch values. Other starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn are not ideal due to high amounts of carbohydrates (sugar).
Vegetables that are fed should be pureed raw to help breakdown the cell walls and make nutrients readily available. If you can see ‘chunks’ of vegetables in your dog’s meal, they are likely to pass without being digested. You should feel comfortable to include up to 10% of your dog’s diet as vegetables.
Whilst a great addition to a human’s diet, broccoli contains isothiocyanates which can cause mild to severe gastric irritation to dogs and should be avoided in large quantities. Mushrooms, avocadoes, grapes and onions must be avoided due to their toxic nature.
Fruits are quite high in sugar, if you decide to feed these items ensure you remove the seeds and pith. Bananas, orange, watermelon, strawberries and blueberries can be fed however they have a high sugar content, minimal health benefits, and are best fed as treats only.
Remember though, at the end of the day your dog is still a carnivore and the majority of its diet should be meat, raw meaty bones, liver and offal.