Should Carnivores Get Vegetables?
Written by Sarah Griffiths, DCH and Inna Shekhtman
December 18, 2017
We aim to feed our pets a healthy diet comprised of whole foods that are species appropriate. This means we try to mimic what their wild counterparts are designed to eat. In many modern raw diets, 15-25% of the total diet is vegetables. In the wild, dogs and cats might not consume the same amounts or types of vegetables as our domestic pets. So why do we do it? There are some important reasons to include them!
Wild Vs. Modern
In the Wild: Wild canines and felines have very different lifestyles from our domestic friends. They live in remote areas with minimal exposure to toxins and modern-day pollutants and chemicals. They consume foods that are regional and seasonal, including fresh, whole prey with all the organs, and vegetation such grasses*, fresh wild-fed tripe, fermenting fallen fruits (seasonal), and occasional roots. They would also be eating the fur and feathers of their prey which act as roughage inside the digestive tract. This diet supports a healthy microbiome and digestive function. Additionally, wild felines and canines travel great distances and hunt for their prey, which gives them excellent physical endurance in comparison to most modern dogs and cats. This changes their cellular functions by significantly increasing metabolic rate and aerobic respiration, resulting in increased immune function and overall health. Our pet’s wild counterparts need this advantage to survive in the wild.
Modern Day: Our modern pets have a significantly different lifestyle to their wild counter parts. They rely on us for their health and well-being. They are exposed to more toxins from their man-made environment, often live more sedentary lifestyles and may go through periods of mental or emotional stress if their guardians are experiencing times of upset. They can also have genetic predispositions to disease depending on their breeding. These factors give them a slight disadvantage in the health department… That is, unless we know how to support them. This is where vegetables come in! They provide two very important functions for our domestic carnivores:
Phytonutrients are nutrients come specifically from plants. They are not recognized as essential by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), however, they play a vital role in cellular health. Phytonutrients have health-promoting properties. They are potent antioxidants and have other important health-promoting qualities. Adding these nutrients can help your pets cope with some of the environmental stresses they face today and consequently have a major impact on the prevention of health issues such as inflammatory disease, cancer and more (references below).
We have only broken the surface in understanding the health value of these important compounds. Some examples of phytonutrients are: carotenoids (1) (yellow and orange veggies), lycopene and anthocyanins (2) (found in red veggies), phenolic flavonoids (3) (purple veggies), lutein and zeaxanthin (4) (green veggies). These nutrients give vegetables their bright colors and have been found to have cell-protecting properties both for the plants and to those that consume them.
- (1) https://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/how-carotenoids-help-protect-against-cancer
- (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2582525/
- (3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796249
- (4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640510
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
Fibre is the indigestible substance found in a number of foods including vegetables and fruits. Fibre is extremely important for our pets’ health for several reasons!
It’s essential for a supporting a healthy microbiome within the gastrointestinal system. The digestive system of both humans and animals contains a population of health-determining bacteria, often referred to as microbiome or probiotics. Fibre, while indigestible by mammals, is the perfect food source for the beneficial bacterium in the gut. In contrast, sugar feeds the pathogenic bacteria. Feeding the right bacteria with a healthy fibre source, such as vegetables, will ensure a proper balance is maintained and can prevent diseases.
Check out this link for more info: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009898115000170
The Do’s and Dont’s of Feeding Veggies
There are a lot of veggies that are excellent your pet and a few that you should avoid. All foods, including veggies, should be fed in balance and moderation. See our list below:
–Green Leafy Veggies (the wider variety, the better): spinach, lettuce, collards, mustard greens, and chard.
–Cruciferous (in moderation): Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choi, etc.
–Roots (might not be suitable for pets with yeast issues): Yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, carrots, turnips and more.
–Squash: Butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.
–Herbs: parsley, ginger root, garlic, others may apply too! (Check with your holistic vet).
–Fruits (might not be suitable for pets with yeast issues): Apple, pear, and berries are the most species-specific and are lower in sugar than other more tropical fruits such as bananas, mango, melon which are best fed as treats due to their higher sugar content.
-Peppers (Bell and Spicy)
-Grapes and Raisins
Adored Beast Phytoplankton (https://adoredbeast.com/products/phyto-synergy)
Olie’s Solid Ground (http://www.olienaturals.ca/pet_products_solidground)
Olie’s Flax Unleashed (http://www.olienaturals.ca/pet_products_flaxunleashed)