Vegetables in dog food deliver a whole range of nutrients. Dogs need vegetables for fiber (both soluble and insoluble fibers), antioxidants and vitamins.
In the wild, when a wolve or a dog kills his prey, the whole animal is consumed. That includes all the organs plus the contents of the stomach. Dogs aren't particularly equiped to digest vegetables, but the stomach contents of herbivores (plant-eating animals) is predigested. We - humans - often cook our vegetables to aid digestion.
Animals that digest plant material well have long digestive tracts and the appropriate enzymes to break down plant cellulose. When you feed vegetables to your dog, like as part of a BARF menu, make sure you cook the vegetables or run them through a blender. This way your dog will be able to get more of the nutrients out of them.
Vegetables and fruits are also added to commercial dog foods, though in dry kibbles you cannot recognize them.
My dog has a vegetable aversion. He'll eat his veggies as long as he can't recognize them (just like me when I was little). We are so much alike! A particular brand of raw meat dog food - that I tried feeding him a couple of times - has whole peas in it. He does eat all of it except for the peas. These remain in his dog food bowl!
This particular dog food brand, "Rodi", is made in Holland. On a Dutch dog food forum I read that Kensho isn't the only dog that wouldn't eat their peas.
Safe and healthy vegetables for dogs:
Broccoli: Delivers fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene, folic acid, calcium and chromium.
Spinach: Delivers fiber, vitamins A, vitamin B6 and vitamin K, famous for its iron (not as much as Popeye would have you believe), antioxidants, carotenes, calcium, potassium. As spinach contains oxalic acid, you shouldn't feed spinach very often. Oxalic acid interferes with calcium absorption.
Carrots: Famous for its pro-vitamin A and it provides a nice chew (providing your dog likes the taste of carrots).
Potatoes and sweet potatoes: Suitable for dogs that are allergic to grains. Potatoes contain highly digestible proteins. Also, potatoes have high concentrations of essential amino acids such as lysine and methionine.
Some veggies and herbs can be fed raw: lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, parsly, celery, zucchini(courgette) and beets.
Some fruits and vegetables are poisonous for dogs. Depending on the type and dose some can make your dog ill or even kill him. Memorize this list of food ingredients to stay away from (not you, but your dog).
Make sure you wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove any trace of pesticides! Alternatively, grow your own or buy organic veggies.
Unlike vegetables, dogs don't need to eat fruit (though some dogs like it as a low-fat treat). Fruits consist of mainly water and sugar but it contains some usefull nutrients as well, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Your dog can obtain all of these nutrients from other sources though.
Dogs don't need to be be fed sugar as they create their own. Some dog food manufacturers add sugar to their recipe to increase the pallatability. To prevent tooth caries, it's better to choose dog food and dog treats without added sugar. Some dogs have a sweet tooth and may like an apple, banana or strawberry as a treat.
Whole dry cranberries have been included in dog food for some time, but rarely as extract. Using an cranberry extract you'll get the active components in a much more concentrated form, which is more efficient than the whole berry.
Cranberries help prevent colonization of the bladder and urethra by acidifying your dog's urine (Escherichia coli - the "bad guy" bacteria - doesn't like an acidic environment, so infections are prevented.
Herbs are special plants that can provide medicinal qualities.
Thyme extract oils have anti-microbial activity. These natural essential oils are obtained by steam destillation of thyme leaves (Thymus vulgaris). Just like FOS these oils acidify the intestines( lower intestional pH) and maintain firm stools.
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