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Feeding Your Dog Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
The benefits of feeding your dog fresh fruits and vegetables are numerous, as they are for humans. We all know that protein needs to be the #1 food source for our little carnivores, but fruits and vegetables offer the following:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Fiber (especially important for those pets on a grain-free diet)
- Phytonutrients (not found in meat) such as: carotenoids, lycopene, flavenoids, indoles, sulforaphane, anthocyanins, sterols, elagiac acid, and lignans.
- And are a good alternative to a nutrient-poor snack.
WARNING: Be careful to never feed your dog the following items, which are toxic to them: salt, uncooked eggs, meat, or fish, grapes (raisins, wine), avocados, alcohol of any kind, onions, garlic, caffeine, macadamia nuts, chocolate, and any artificial sweeteners, especially xylitol. Also, make sure they don't chew on any fruit pits, like from peaches and plums. In addition, avoid baking powder or soda and several different spices.
Not all dogs like the same kinds of fruits or vegetables, so, avoiding the items listed above in the warning, just experiment. If you happen to be eating a fruit or vegetable, offer a piece to your pet and see if they like it. I've had a variety of reactions from my Lucy, (the sniff always comes first) including completely turning up her nose at the item and walking away, to chewing it a couple times then leaving it on the floor, to chewing with abandon and asking for more.
To Cook or Not to Cook
I normally stick to fresh (for myself and for Lucy) unless it's an item that should be steamed for safety reasons. But, a lot of people go to the trouble to steam, cook, grind, and freeze leftovers. I believe that all these methods remove a significant portion of the nutrients, that's why I opt for raw.
An additional benefit to my dog is that she's usually a gulper - in other words she doesn't chew her kibble. But, when I hand her a short carrot as a treat, she has some work to do, and this has actually cut down on the rate of tartar build up on her teeth.
Organic vs Non-Organic
Because dogs are smaller than humans (usually), fresh foods with pesticides build up at higher levels in their systems and can stay there for years (as in humans), so organic is always a good option (also for our environment). I buy organic as much as I can afford, especially on the fresh stuff that gets the biggest doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A general rule of thumb I use is that if I can peel it (example: bananas), I'll buy it at Walmart. If I usually just rinse it (berries, apples, tomatoes), I buy it at the local organic shop. But, this does not always hold true (potatoes) - do your research.
Not Too Much - Just a Snack
Consider the weight of your dog and remember their primary source off nutrition needs to be from protein. So, for instance, I feed Lucy (17lbs), (based on what I'm eating at the time) a bite or two of cantaloupe if I'm having it in the morning, an organic strawberry with my lunch, and a small organic carrot (you know, the small ones from the bag) or two as a late snack. Other than that, she gets her regular high-protein, grain-free dog food.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Lucy is a very healthy, happy, energetic dog who always gets great check-up results and sports a beautiful, silky coat. But, do be sure to talk to your vet for the most expert advice on your dog's nutrition.
As for Lucy, I want her to live a long, active, healthy life, and it looks like she's on her way!