Every day there is more information made available to educate owners on various diets available. However, determining fact from fiction can be a challenge. Commonly discussed and debated topics include grain-free foods and the age-old practice of giving your pets “table food”. Should we feed human food to our pets? The short answer is it depends. Some of these foods can be very beneficial and some could have unintended consequences.
Do you have a dog that begs for and loves eating fruit and vegetables? What about a pet that loves to eat grass and dirt while you’re outside? This is actually completely normal! And is a phenomenon known as “self-selection.” This is a part of their natural behavior that has remained intact through domestication. Unless these items are treated with fertilizers and pesticides, we ought not to discourage this kind of behavior in most cases. For more on what grass-eating behaviors could mean check out our article here.
We all know about the important vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables. However, phytonutrients (phytochemicals) are also found in fruit, vegetables, and even grass. Phytonutrients possess strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are important because these substances can help protect cells from various insults. Research shows that they can protect against heart disease, cancer and can block tumor activity.
Way back when humans decided to domesticate dogs and take away this “self-selection” behavior. Several decades ago, we turned from feeding table scraps and letting our dogs hunt and forage to feeding a prepackaged kibble or can. This has left a void in the level of phytonutrients our pets consume. When your dog or cat is eating grass—ever notice him/her pick and choose which blades to eat? How about when you give a blueberry vs. a green bean and they take the green bean over the blueberry? This is self-selective behavior, which basically translates to our pets being able to determine which nutrients they lack. By giving them options like fruit and vegetables we encourage the intake of antioxidants and other nutrients that can benefit the health of our pets.
We should never discourage our pets from wanting our fruits and vegetables… various grasses (as long as they are chemical-free!). This is where we, as pet owners, need to pay attention the most. The contrary would be allowing our pets to eat human snacks that are processed. Obviously, things like chocolate are a no-go due to toxicity. Foods like crackers, chips, and other unnatural foods don’t provide much for nutrition and may add in excess calories contributing to the prevalence of obesity.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 60% of American dogs are overweight. This is a significant issue that can increase the risks of other conditions such as joint disease, heart disease, and even cancer. This considered it is more of a reason to supplement traditional pet foods with fruit and vegetables.
*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.