We’ve all heard the mantra ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Often, it’s dismissed as an old wives’ tale, a proverb without much meaning or substance to it.
But what if there’s truth to it? What if an apple – in fact any kind of fruit or vegetable – could in fact keep the doctor, or vet, away by improving your dogs’ health.
Small – but mighty
Including fruit and vegetables in your dog’s diet is important because, although they may be small, they’re mighty in terms of what they contain.
Fruit and veg are packed full of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals – all of which help your dog’s body carry out essential bodily functions and help keep them happy and healthy.
Vitamins are compounds your dog needs to keep them healthy and to help their body carry out every-day functions. But despite being essential, your dog’s body can’t make most the vitamins they require – instead, they need to be supplied and ingested through their diet.
Vitamins are micronutrients, meaning your dog only needs them in small amounts.
There are approximately 13 vitamins, including vitamin A, B12, D and E. Each vitamin has their own specific function and promotes and improves a specific aspect of your dog’s health. But overall, broadly speaking, vitamins help:
- Turn food into energy
- Strengthen the immune system
- Skin, bone and muscle production
Like vitamins, minerals help your dog to grow and stay healthy, and are involved in many key bodily functions like nerve signalling, hormone production and bone growth. And again, like vitamins, minerals are only required in small amounts.
Micronutrients including copper, zinc and iron – are only needed in very small amounts. On the other hand, macrominerals – which include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus – are needed in relatively larger amounts.
While fiber aren’t considered an essential nutrient, including it in your dog’s diet really does have some health benefits.
Fiber can help with diarrhoea, constipation, appetite, weight management and in some instances can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
You can learn more about fiber and the different types in this blog post.
Although they’re somewhat unknown compared to other chemicals, phytochemicals are still something to consider including in your dog’s diet – and all edible parts of fruit and vegetables are a good, easy way to do this.
Literally translated as plant (phyto) chemicals, this group of compounds are what help give fruit and veg their vibrant colours, unique smells and distinctive tastes. Isoflavonoids, sulforaphane, and ß-carotene are all types of phytochemicals.
Considered to be ‘bioactive’, they’re believed to provide benefit to your dog’s overall health beyond just general nutrition. For example, phytochemicals are thought to help slow the growth of cancer cells, ‘boost’ the immune system, and prevent DNA damage. They’re also considered to be antioxidants and have been linked to obesity prevention.
These are just some examples of the compounds that fruits and vegetables contain that can really benefit and boost your dog’s health. So which fruits and vegetables gives your dog the biggest nutritional punch?
Choose a ‘rainbow’ of colours
Because every fruit and vegetable has their own unique composition and combination of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals etc., the idea is to feed a variety of colours such as:
- Green of broccoli, kale, cucumber and spinach
- Red of beetroot, raspberries, bell pepper and apple
- Orange of carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe
- Yellow of mangos, squash, pineapple and banana
- Blue-purple of blueberries, blackberries and red cabbage.
See what your dog enjoys and add a small amount of these types of fruits and vegetables to their diet. Don’t overfeed and always introduce one fruit or vegetable at a time to test for tolerance.
Never feed leeks, onions, grapes or garlic as these are toxic to dogs.
Tips for inclusion
If your dog isn’t a fruit & vegetables lover try these easy tips to get started:
- Purée fruit and veg. Remove any excess water and add a broth, then pour over your dog’s food.
- Cooking fruit and veg and then mashing it up can make them easier for your dog to eat.
- Sometimes, simply chopping fruit and veg up into small pieces and adding them in the rest of your dog’s food can be a good idea.
- Grate the fruit and veg into their dinner – it makes it easier to eat and to hide too if you have a picky eater.
- Some dogs don’t like cooked vegetables, so feeding giving them raw instead. A lot of dogs really like raw carrot.
- Adding fruit and vegetables to your homemade treats can make them more appealing and appetising for your dog to eat.
- Try offering your dog a mix of fruit and vegetables – from courgettes to cauliflower; blueberries to apple. And don’t give up. Just because they don’t like one particular fruit or vegetable, it doesn’t mean they won’t like any. Perseverance is key.
Fibre: the importance of an often overlooked nutrient
What are antioxidants, and are they good for dogs too?
Should you boost your dogs immune system?
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