As our thoughts turn toward the upcoming holidays and meal planning and preparations you are likely doing for your family and friends, it is the perfect time to think about how you can start feeding your dog better. Just by adding some of the same fresh, nutritious foods you are preparing for your holiday meal to your dog’s dish, you can greatly increase his chances for a longer, healthier life.
Dog owners are finally becoming educated and increasingly more aware that the dried, processed bags of kibble they’ve been feeding their dog are not good enough for optimum health. Just as the convenient, processed human food is completely lacking in nutritional value, so is most dry, “dead” dog food.
The pet food industry is full of false claims and hype and most of these “premium foods” are full of cheap grains and fillers laden with pesticides, less than quality meat meals, preservatives, food coloring, flavoring, synthetic additives and more. With the cancer rates of canines now being 1 in 2 dogs over 10 years old, and allergies, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and other diseases being the leading causes of death in our modern dogs, more and more veterinarians are realizing and admitting the inferior ingredients of processed kibble is to blame.
How Could We Ever Think Kibble Was Better Than Real Food?
How did we get here? How did we ever come to believe that dry commercial dog food could ever be better for our dogs than fresh raw food? Research shows that around 1964, not long after the creation of processed pet foods, the manufacturers couldn’t sell it! They couldn’t convince people that feeding their factory-made concoctions was better than table scraps. So they got together and drummed up a huge smear campaign and flooded all available media with the “dangers of feeding food scraps.” And it worked!
Fifty years later, most people still believe this. After all, a dog fed processed kibble their entire life will initially seem healthy. Allergies and health conditions start to appear and are blamed on genetics. Veterinarians prescribe pharmaceuticals and “prescription diets” and thus starts a vicious cycle of covering up the real problem and the further degeneration of organ health and premature death.
What Can You Do?
So, what one thing can you do today to help change this and get your dog on a healthier, species-appropriate diet? Where do you start? Let’s take small steps and just begin by adding some fresh, clean, real food to your dog’s bowl a couple of days a week. A study conducted in 2005 by Perdue University on Scottish Terriers showed that just adding fresh vegetables to dry commercial kibble either slowed down or prevented the development of transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer). The dogs that ate green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, reduced the risk of developing bladder cancer by 90%! And the dogs that consumed any yellow-orange vegetables, like carrots, reduced the risk by 70%. (http://ilarjournal.oxfordjournals.org/content/55/1/100.full) (Raghavan, Knapp, Bonney, 2005)
What Fruits & Vegetables Can I Give My Dog?
Any fruits and vegetables should be certified organic when possible. Vegetables are best given lightly steamed or grated or pulsed in the food processor a bit to help with digestion.
In particular, Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red apples contain powerful antioxidants. Apples contain high levels of vitamin C and the skin contains high levels of vitamin A and pectin, a fiber that can improve digestion by strengthening intestinal muscles. Pectin also works to get rid of toxins in the intestinal tract and creates short-chain fatty acids that keep away dangerous bacteria.
One of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you and your dog can eat, broccoli contains vitamins A,C,D, beta carotene, folic acid, fiber, chromium and calcium. When cooked, a cancer-fighting enzyme, indole, is released. Broccoli also contains phytochemicals that stop carcinogens from forming and build enzymes to break them down. Sulforphane is also featured and helps boost the immune system.
Cantaloupe contains a lot of beta carotene and the high amount of Vitamin A has been shown to reduce the rate of cataract growth. It’s another source to promote and maintain good vision. Beta carotene is also helps reduce the risk of cancer and prevents oxygen damage to cells. Cantaloupe also contains vitamins B-6 and C, fiber, folate, niacin and potassium.
Carrots are known to promote good vision in both humans and dogs and are a good source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that help prevent cancer. Carrots also contain Vitamins A, C, D, D, E, K, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, magnesium and iron, further supporting the immune system. Carrots are best given grated, but pieces of carrot as a treat are excellent for teeth and gum health.
Celery is an excellent source to improve heart health and reduce cancer risks. Celery contains vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, and iron. Celery also contains the phytochemical dl-3-n-butylphthalide, a powerful tumor-fighting agent and has been found to reduce the rate of tumors in lab animals. It has shown great promise in animal studies as an anticancer phytonutrient and detoxification aid, but its use as a pain reliever in arthritis is gaining a lot of attention. Celery has the added benefit of freshening doggie breath. Note: Celery can act as a mild diuretic in some dogs, making them urinate more often.
When it comes to preventing and treating struvite crystals and bladder stones in our companion animals, cranberries are a great food and supplement to have on hand. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association has suggested that people add one to two ounces of cranberry juice to their animals’ food every day.
The anthocyanins in cranberries have very strong antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatories, which can help ease allergic reactions. The proanthocyanidins help strengthen blood vessels. Ellagic acid in cranberries has been found to cause cancer cell death in laboratory tests. Cranberries also contain dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin K, and are rich in vitamin C and tannins, which help keep bacteria like E. coli, the most common cause of UTIs, from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. Cranberries are gaining even more recognition as a way to help prevent bad breath, plaque, and gum disease.
Green beans contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, niacin, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and thiamine, omega-3 fatty acids, silicon, magnesium, phosphorous, and high concentrations of beta carotene. These legumes promote bone health, cardiovascular health, and fight against oxygen damage!
Oranges are known for the vitamin C and they also contain folate, thiamine, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They also contain flavonoids, an important component to strengthen a dog’s immune system and connective tissues. Oranges also protect against cancer and can help fight off viral infections. Oranges may also help prevent cardiovascular disease, promote respiratory health, prevent stomach cancer and rheumatoid arthritis in dogs, as they do in humans. Note: Citrus can cause diarrhea in some dogs, so try just a little at first. Also, be sure to remove the rind and seeds.
Pears are an excellent fruit for dogs in so many ways! Pears contain pectin that helps strengthen intestinal health, potassium for heart and muscle strength, fiber for excellent colon health, and are rich in vitamin C for combating free radical damage and promoting the immune system, combating infections, killing bacteria and viruses!
Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A and antioxidants. Pureed pumpkin is excellent for dogs with stomach and/or intestinal/digestion problems. Pumpkin’s high fiber can help dogs that suffer either diarrhea or constipation! A few teaspoons daily can greatly aid intestinal health.
Sweet potatoes are great for digestive heath, are high in fiber, contain vitamins B6, C, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also contain calcium, iron, and zinc but are low in sodium. Sweet potatoes should be cooked—steaming or boiling retains more of the vitamins and nutrients.
Forbidden Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t ever give your dog: grapes, raisins, or onions!
Skip the Toppings
It should be mentioned that you should skip the spices, butter, etc. Take a portion out for your dog before adding such things to your family’s portions or rinse pooches portion off before giving to them.
Also refrain from giving any corn-based dishes (corn is a grain and has no business in a dog’s diet), desserts, dressings, casseroles, etc. Just give him the whole vegetables before any spices, sugars, etc., are added. It’s okay to give some of the cooked turkey, if there aren’t glazes, sugars, etc. added and be very careful NOT to give any of the cooked turkey bones and skip the stuffing, too. Raw meats and uncooked bones would be a very welcome addition. More on that in another article.
Start in Moderation
Remember if your best friend has never seen whole, fresh foods, his reaction might not be so enthusiastic. Just offer small amounts every other day or two and they’ll start trying it and likely, loving these new additions. I very often add coconut oil—excellent for dogs—to the vegetables and they go crazy for it.
Most important is that you introduce them a little at a time. Their digestive system might not be used to real food and if you just start in moderation, there should be no upset.
Keep it Simple
Don’t make a huge ordeal out of it or you are likely to stop too soon. Just start adding a little to pooches’ meals a few days a week by giving him what you are already preparing for your family and why not start today?
Want to know more ways to get your dog on the path to a healthier, longer life?
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Llewellin Setter Academy
Do you want to know even more about canine health and nutrition? How about a Complete Course to Canine Nutrition? The Complete Guide to Feeding Raw? First Aid? How to save thousands at the vet’s office? Training and Hunting? The Llewellin Setter Academy is an education, members-only resource that will change you and your dog’s life. See more information here.
Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving and share the goodness with your Llewellin Setter!
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