Some may believe that dogs need to eat only meat and animal proteins. But is it that simple? Do dogs also need vegetables in their diet?
My dogs eat veggies and seem to like them. But that doesn’t mean dogs need those veggies. They may not be wholesome as far as canine nutrition is concerned. So I decided to look into what gray wolves eat in the wild to get a general idea about vegetables in a dog’s diet.
Wolves are carnivores that hunt and scavenge. After a little research, I learned that their diet consists of:
But the surprising thing is some wolves naturally eat plants. Here is what their plant diet includes:
That said, some wolves also eat plants in their diet regularly, and that initiated the debate of whether dogs should eat veggies or not. Canine nutrition experts and researchers believe in two theories: BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) philosophy and Prey Model philosophy. These two philosophies have very different opinions on canine nutrition.
For example, prey model theory says, “fruits and vegetables are hard on a dog’s pancreas,” whereas BARF says, “fruits and vegetables do not harm the pancreas.” The debate continues much further. For simplicity, I have boiled down the whole debate to a conclusion and will explain what you can do about it.
We are focusing on these two questions: 1. Do dogs really need vegetables for their survival? And 2. Should you include vegetables in your dog’s diet?
The short answer is ‘No’ to the first question and, for the second question, it depends on some factors. We are going to discuss both questions.
Dogs get mainly carbs from vegetables. The fact that dogs do not need vegetables for survival has been confirmed by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
The NRC in 2006 concluded their research as dogs don’t have any nutritional requirement for carbohydrates.
(Reference: National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats”, 2006 Edition, National Academies Press, Washington, DC)
And AAFCO confirmed the same when they released their updated version of canine nutritional needs chart in 2014.
Dogs are carnivores, so if we consider this fact, dogs do not need carbohydrates, therefore they don’t need to eat vegetables to survive.
Some vets believe that carbohydrates help to balance a dog’s diet. These sources of carbohydrates offer plenty of other benefits, which ultimately points towards the importance of vegetables in your dog’s diet.
Vegetables are not as calorie-rich as raw meat and other edible parts of animals. Adding veggies to your dog’s regular meal will help your dog feel satisfied with fewer calories. But here’s a caveat: your dog might refuse to eat a vegetable-rich diet due to the sudden change in her meal from fatty and high-calorie food to fibrous veggies. To tackle this problem, you can start adding veggies in smaller amounts initially. Moreover, you can also make a puree of veggies and blend it with her meal.
It’s not recommended to add vegetables to your dog’s kibble because dry dog food already has grains, potatoes, and other veggies as fillers.
An easy way to decide whether you should add vegetables or fruits to your dog’s food is to read its label to find out how many vegetables it contains. Many popular dog food brands like American Natural, Blue Buffalo, and Hill’s Science Diet add veggies in the calculated amount.
You might have heard that pumpkin can make bowel movements better if your dog is suffering from constipation. That’s true. As I’ve already said, vegetables contain more fiber, so they act as natural laxatives for dogs.
However, pumpkin also can help in relieving mild diarrhea. Pumpkin will absorb water from the digestive tract, curbing the symptoms of diarrhea while at the same time adding fiber for better digestion and bowel movements.
Many vets and pet enthusiasts offer carrots, green peas, bananas and other fresh fruits and veggies as treats. Plant-based treats work well because the treats are somewhat tasty, contain fiber, and are low in calories.
But make sure you don’t offer too many treats, veggies or otherwise. As a general rule, treats should not make up more than 10 percent of a dog’s diet.
There is a big debate on whether or not dogs should eat vegetables. Studying gray wolves (dogs’ wild ancestors) couldn’t produce a definitive answer. That said, it’s okay to give your dog certain veggies in moderation. Vegetables add texture, taste, and are useful for a dog’s health and well-being as we have discussed.
You can add some veggies and fruits if you prefer homemade dog food over commercial dog food products. More importantly, dog parents should know what vegetables and other plant-based food are edible and safe. Raw potatoes, raw tomatoes, garlic, and onions should be avoided at any cost.
In a nutshell, dog’s do not need vegetables for their survival. But you can try feeding them vegetables in moderate amounts to achieve the maximum benefit from them.
About the author: Clara is a co-founder and the marketing head at Petlovesbest. She happens to be an active animal activist in her town who has done a few notable works for the welfare of animals, especially pets.