Feeding Your Dog Fruit & Vegetables
11th November 2021
You may be wondering which fruit & vegetables are the most beneficial and safe for your dog? Read on to hear what our vet Dr. Vicky Simon has to say...
In the raw feeding community, there is an endless debate about whether dogs need fruits and vegetables in their diet or not. I am a huge fan of feeding fruits and vegetables, but I am also quite selective about which ones I choose. I don’t necessarily believe that they are an essential part of the diet in large quantities, but I do believe that they optimise health and help your dogs to thrive at their peak, rather than survive at their average. I consider them as a health supporting supplement to a great diet. I also think adding fresh fruits and vegetables to dogs fed any diet will help to enhance health, especially if it is a heavily processed food or kibble, where adding fresh meat or fish is also worthwhile.
Why is fruit & veg so great?
Vegetables and fruits contain a large array of different phytonutrients, from vitamins and minerals to carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols. Phytonutrients are not essential nutrients, however they have important properties such as antioxidant activity, antimicrobial effects, modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of the immune system, and anticancer properties. Studies have shown that regularly feeding fruits and vegetables can significantly decrease the risk of certain types of cancer. This, along with the great antioxidant actions of many vegetables and fruits is why I am such a fan of them. What could be an easier way of optimising your dogs’ health than giving them some fruits and vegetables?!
The reason it is always recommended to eat a selection of vegetables and fruits is because each one has a different selection of these amazing phytonutrients. At talks on raw feeding for dogs I have given I always encourage people to ‘Feed the Rainbow’ when choosing their fruits and veggies, as the different colours seen in them indicate different phytonutrients. If you feed the whole rainbow of colours, then you should get a full array of phytonutrients, with their accompanying varied effects.
What vegetables and fruits are best to feed?
There are a few fruits and vegetables that you should never feed, and these include: Grapes, raisins, onions, leeks, & chives. Garlic falls onto the borderline, as small amounts of garlic are fine, and can even be beneficial in supporting immune system health. However, large amounts of garlic can act like onions, causing damage to red blood cells, which can result in anaemia. Like so much in life, a small amount is good, but too much is bad.
My favourite vegetables to feed are all the dark leafy greens and brassicas, so think kale, broccoli, spring greens, cabbage and fresh herbs. My favourite fruits to feed are definitely berries, especially blueberries and blackberries, for their strong antioxidant properties. Some apple or pear is great, especially with the skin on, as this can help support a healthy microbiome. Other fruits can also be fed, but always be careful not to give too much fruit as it is high in sugars.
I always like to include a bit of something in the red/yellow/orange spectrum too, such as carrot, pepper, sweet potato or squash. Again, with any root vegetables, you want to be cautious of not giving too much as these, as their sugar content is higher than the green vegetables.
My favourite vegetables to feed are all the dark leafy greens and brassicas, so think kale, broccoli, spring greens, cabbage and fresh herbs. My favourite fruits to feed are definitely berries, especially blueberries and blackberries, for their strong antioxidant properties.
- Dr. Vicky Simon
What about herbs?
The line between supplementing your pets diet with herbs for health, and giving them herbs as medicine, is a funny one, and really it all comes down to dose and frequency.
If you give the same herb every day then you are using it in a more medicinal way, and caution should be observed unless you know what you’re doing. Herbs can be very potent in their actions and can interact with medications, so unless you have been advised by a professional it is best to just use herbs as a supplement. This means giving a little bit of this or that, not necessarily every day, or including some herbs in your fruit & veg blend when you make up a batch. Like fruits and vegetables, different herbs contain different phytonutrients, and can have different medicinal actions. This is why including a bit of this and a bit of that is the best way to get a wide range of beneficial effects.
Common herbs you might have around the house that you could give in small amounts include: turmeric, psyllium husk, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, dill, mint, chamomile, fennel, & ginger (care, as this is potent!). In your garden you might find: dandelion (leaf or root), cleavers (leaves & stem), burdock (root), nettle (leaves, blanch or steam to remove sting), & hawthorn (leaves and flowers).
How much of the diet should be fruit and vegetables?
Personally, I don’t feel there is a set amount, but generally I advise that no more than 25% fruit and vegetables. Some dogs do better with more and some with less. If your pet has a certain medical condition, then their symptoms might be noticeably better when fed a greater or lesser proportion. Some pets will have better or worse stools if you feed them more or less vegetables, whether too firm or too soft, so you can experiment a bit with quantities, and types of vegetables and fruits, whilst monitoring their stools to find the optimum amount. Also, certain types of diet, such as low purine diets for dogs on certain medications, or those prone to certain urinary stones, need to exclude some major foods – in this case organs which are high in purines, but also in essential nutrients. These dogs will often be fed more fruits and veggies to ensure their diet is still balanced and includes all the essentials, despite not including any organs.
How often should you feed vegetables and fruit?
In my home the dogs get fed blended raw vegetables, which I make up in batches and then freeze in chunks and defrost as needed to preserve freshness. They get some of this maybe 4/7 days, mixed in with their meat. We also often give them leftover bits of cooked or raw vegetables that we’re having, maybe 1-2/7 days. They have a raw meaty bone once a week, so no veg that day. Sometimes we’re a bit busy and have run out of the blended veg mix so they might go a week with no veg - no big deal! What I’m trying to show you is that you can improvise and be quite relaxed about this bit of your dogs’ diets. I generally advise that at least 3 times a week is ideal. However, if your dog is not a fan of fruit and veg, then I would actually suggest you feed a very small bit every day. That way you can more easily sneak it in amongst all the rest of the meat.
What if my dogs food already has fruit & vegetables in it?
This is great as it means your dog is getting some phytonutrients in every day. However, usually the fruit and veg mix is the same each time, even if the meat flavour is different. If this is the case, then you can still add some diversity to the mix, by adding in a selection of other, different fruits & vegetables to get that wide range of phytonutrients, rather than the same ones all the time.
What if my dog won’t eat it?
If your dog is really not a fan of eating any of the lovely vegetables and fruits you offer, then you need to get sneaky if you want them to get these phytonutrients. You have to start being sly, and thinking like a poisoner instead of carer! Blended tends to work best with these dogs so they can’t eat around chunks of veg. Experiment with lightly steamed vs. raw, and when blending you can always try adding a bit of meat, fish, or stock/broth (no salt) to the veg mix to further disguise the taste. Start with tiny amounts and build up to the full amount you would ideally like to feed. As mentioned earlier, feeding a small amount every day may work out better, or offer a few times a week with a meal that is a bit more smelly, such as fish or tripe, so the taste is less obvious. Also experiment with different veg & fruit to see if there are certain ones they seem to hate, but others they will eat happily (or at least more happily!). Another thing worth trying is to get a dried or powdered supplement, made from various fruits, vegetables or herbs. Sometimes this will go down better than the foods in their fresh form, even if some nutritional value is lost in the drying process. As with any health optimising food or supplement, some is better than none – if you can only get a tiny bit in, then this is better than none at all!
Our complete meals contain added fruit & vegetables including apple, parsley, carrot, broccoli and kelp.
Written by Dr. Vicky Simon
Vicky graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London, in 2012. She then spent seven years in two small animal integrated veterinary practices. Vicky practiced conventional medicine, surgery and diagnostics alongside herbal medicine, homeopathy, natural feeding and acupuncture. Vicky completed a two year veterinary herbal course in 2015 and qualified as a veterinary homeopath in 2019. Vicky is an advocate of raw feeding and a member of the Raw Feeding Society. Vicky established her own clinic, Holistic Vet Vicky in 2020. She is able to take referrals for holistic veterinary medicine and also offer general holistic health advice. In her spare time Vicky enjoys spending time with her pets and the great outdoors; using nature as a basis for cooking and health.