When most of us think of food for our pets, what generally pops up on our minds are images of kibbles, meaty canned foods or even bones. However, it is interesting to note that fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can prolong a pet’s life.
These antioxidants help to protect a pet’s body from oxidant stress, diseases and cancers; while they also help the pet’s body to develop the capacity to fight against diseases by boosting immunity.
In addition, vegetables are packed with soluble as well as insoluble dietary fibre known as non-starch polysaccharides. These substances help to absorb excess water in the colon, retain good amount of moisture in faecal matter, helping its smooth passage out of the body. These activities offer protection from chronic constipation, haemorrhoids, colon cancer, rectal fissures, and other related conditions.
When feeding your pet with fruit, it is advisable that you make use of a food processor or blender to crush the fruit into a pulp. The reason for this is because many nutrients are found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, and dogs don’t have the enzymes required to digest the skin of most fruits and vegetables. So, blending will help to crush the skin and release these nutrients.
Carrots are known for promoting good vision; and in both humans and dogs, they nourish the optic nerve and promote good visual health. In addition to their visual benefits, carrots are also a rich source of a provitamin known as beta carotene, powerful antioxidants that can help to prevent cancer.
Carrots also contain vitamin C, a nutrient that helps produce collagen in bones, muscle, cartilage and blood vessels so that iron can be absorbed by the body. In addition to vitamins A and C, carrots are sources of vitamins D, E, K, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, magnesium and iron. These important vitamins and nutrients support the immune system and aid digestion.
Green beans are a great source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, copper, fibre, folic acid, iron, niacin, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and thiamin. Green beans also contain high concentrations of beta carotene. These legumes promote bone health because they contain silicon, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, all essential nutrients in maintaining strong bones. Vitamin K helps to maintain bone health because it triggers osteocalcin, a non-collagen protein in bones.
Spinach is a nutrient-dense green vegetable that contains more iron than many other greens. This leafy green vegetable is also a good source of fibre, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and K. Spinach is particularly good for dogs that need to ward off inflammatory and cardiovascular problems, as well as cancer.
The flavonoids and carotenoids contained in spinach work as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. Studies on animals have shown that spinach extract can reduce rates of skin cancer.
Apples contain a multitude of important vitamins and nutrients. In particular, red apples contain powerful antioxidants, and they are an excellent source of vitamin C for dogs. In fact, one apple contains about 1,500mg of vitamin C. The skin of an apple contains high levels of vitamin A and pectin, a fibre that can improve digestion by strengthening intestinal muscles.
Oranges are rich sources of folate, thiamin, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They also contain flavonoids, an important component to strengthen a pet’s immune system and connective tissues. Oranges also protect against cancer and can keep off viral infections.
In addition to the health benefits of vitamin C and other nutrients found in oranges, this fruit has many other health benefits. Studies conducted on humans show that eating oranges can help prevent cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, lower the risk of stomach cancer, promote respiratory health and prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Pumpkins are a healthy food to feed your dog. If your dog is prone to tummy trouble and experiences diarrhoea or constipation, a diet that includes pureed pumpkin might improve his intestinal health. Pumpkin softens stool, which aids dogs who suffer from digestion problems. The fibre contained in pumpkin also absorbs water, which helps to alleviate diarrhoea.
Pumpkin is such a rich source of fibre that you only need to add a few teaspoons to your dog’s daily diet to improve his intestinal health. Pumpkin is also loaded with vitamin A and anti-oxidants; it provides anti-inflammatory benefits, helps to regulate blood sugar levels and promotes cardiovascular health.
In conclusion, we need to realise that there are a number of fruits, seeds and vegetables that can be toxic, even life threatening, when ingested by pets. For example, grapes and raisins can cause irreversible damage to a pet’s kidneys, possibly resulting in death. Avocados (entire plant: leaves, fruit, seeds and bark) contain persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs, and also trigger difficulty breathing, fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen and heart, or pancreatitis.
Onion, garlic and cloves can destroy red blood cells known as Heinz body anaemia, a form of hemolytic anaemia; while tomato plants (the vines, stems and leaves), are very toxic.
If you suspect that your pet may have ingested any of these toxic foods, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Have a splendid weekend.