We typically think of dogs as being hungry for meat in general, and red meat in particular—or that might just be all those cartoons of dogs with oversized beef bones, or steaks larger than their own heads. But they need their fruits and vegetables too!
Why? Dogs, like humans, are omnivores. That means that they can get energy and nutrients from both plant- and animal-based food.
Meat is essential to dogs because it’s a source of essential amino acids and other nutrients. But the same is true for fruits and vegetables.
Thus, dogs have to eat the right food in the right amounts.
In terms of canine diets, the historically correct formula is known as the “one-third rule,” in which daily nutritional needs are met by feeding dogs carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables in roughly equal proportions.
Here’s a list of food items you can safely feed your dog to vary his or her diet.
APPLES: The saying about apples and doctors is true for dogs, too. These fruits provide Vitamins A and C, which aid in growth, and fiber to keep their digestive systems in good working order. Dogs will especially appreciate them if they’ve been sliced and kept in the freezer beforehand. But don’t let them eat the seeds or core of the fruit; those parts are poisonous!
BANANAS: This fruit is a great source of fiber and of B-complex vitamins, which can help them extract energy from the proteins in their diet more efficiently. There are many ways for dogs to enjoy them! Whether served peeled straight from the bunch, or frozen and then blitzed into a cold and creamy mush, this fruit will make your dog happy. Just don’t go overboard, as too much fiber in the canine diet can lead to constipation.
BLUEBERRIES: Some people teach their dogs to play catch by throwing not toys but blueberries! Not only will the dogs pick up a new skill, they’ll also enjoy the nutritional advantages of this particular fruit, such as antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Taken together, these vitamins contribute to bone, blood, and muscle development. Blueberries in moderation are great for your dog’s health; too many, however, and your dog might wind up getting an upset stomach.
MANGOES: This tropical treat is rich in vitamins and minerals, including both vitamin A and carotenes to promote good eyesight. Remove the skin and make sure to get rid of the fibers and the central seed before serving. Now, remember that a little goes a long way: an excess of sugar, even if it’s the type of sugar found in mangoes, can be harmful to a dog in much the same way it is to a human.
PEARS: As with apples, the fiber in pears will help keep your dog’s digestive system in good working order. It’s also packed with calcium, making it great for maintaining your dog’s teeth and bones. As with apples, make sure to remove the seeds and core of the fruit before serving.
PINEAPPLE: Keep in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving for a cool and refreshing treat – and at the same time, your dog will appreciate the fiber. Remember to peel the fruit and get rid of the eyes before offering your dog some, as he or she will have a very hard time digesting those parts.
STRAWBERRIES: These fruits are full of Vitamin C, which can help strengthen your dog’s bones. Make sure to take out the green tops, since dogs can’t digest those parts. Serve in moderation, especially if you’re keeping an eye on your dog’s sugar intake.
WATERMELON: The brightly colored pulp of the watermelon makes for a dog-approved treat in any weather, though they’re best as a refreshing cooler during the warm months. As with apples, take care to remove the seeds and the rind to avoid choking or gastrointestinal blockage.
CARROTS: Your dog will certainly appreciate the vitamin A contained in this vegetable, as it promotes good eye health—and also because he or she may not always be able to produce this vitamin within the body. Giving them carrots, whether raw or cooked, can help to make up that shortfall. However, since carrots also contain sugar, be careful not to go overboard.
CUCUMBERS: If you happen to have a dog who’s starting to gain a little too much weight, but still want to give him or her treats, give cucumber a try. It can boost your dog’s energy levels, and won’t bog him or her down with fat or extra sugar.
POTATOES AND SWEET POTATOES: These tubers are a great source of iron, preventing dogs from developing anemia. Make sure to cook and serve them as plainly as possible, however. Boil them or bake them, and don’t put any salt or seasonings on them.
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2017 issue.