Vegetables For Dogs: Amounts and Advice
This article is a practical guide for adding vegetables and fruit to your dog's diet. Updated, April, 2020.
No matter what type of diet your dog eats, there are impressive health benefits from feeding fresh vegetables and fruit:
Vegetables and fruit are food for the beneficial bacteria that live in your dog's gut; they promote gut microbial diversity which helps strengthen the immune system.
Vegetables and fruit add fibre to the diet which helps regulate the bowels.
Vegetables and fruit are important whole food sources of vitamins and minerals, as well as inflammation-reducing, disease-combating antioxidants and phytonutrients.
The scientific studies on the cancer fighting properties of berries, cruciferous vegetables, and leafy green vegetables, etc. are compelling.
My common sense approach to feeding vegetables and fruit to the average, healthy dog:
add vegetables, but not too much.
feed leafy green vegetables more often than starchy vegetables.
feed a variety of vegetables. Here are some suggestions.
feed fruit, berries in particular, but not more than vegetables.
vegetables and firm fruit need to be pureed, finely grated, lightly steamed (depending on the type), or pulverized to make them digestible for our dogs.
fruit and leafy green vegetables tend to loosen the stool.
some breeds of dog benefit from the addition or elimination of certain vegetables to achieve their best health.
What is the right amount of vegetables and fruit to add to a dog's diet?
We can look to Mother Nature as our guide here. The canine ancestral diet contained about 4 - 7% of calories from plant matter. Keeping in mind that mass agriculture has decreased the nutrient levels in our food, I think that approximately 10 % is a logical amount of vegetables and fruit to feed our dogs. Depending on your dog, you may even want, or need, to add more.
Ideally, we would calculate the caloric content of our dog's food, our dog's daily caloric needs and then customize the diet to the individual dog - and this method is absolutely appropriate for some dogs. However, while this may be the ideal, I know that this is something the average pet owner isn't able to do - further, I wonder how necessary. After all, most people don't calculate their own diets to that degree.
My method of adding 10% veggies and fruit to a healthy dog's diet:
Kibble fed dogs: calculate the amount of food, in cups, that your dog eats each day and then add the 10%, in volume, of veggies and fruit on top. So, if your dog eats 1 cup of kibble each day, 1.5 - 2 tablespoons of pureed veggies would be about 10%. * There are 16 tablespoons in 1 cup.
Raw fed dogs: for raw feeders who calculate the amount of food by weight, add 10% of the food total, in ounces, of veggies and fruit to your dog's food. So, if your dog eats 16 ounces of raw food each day, then 1.6 - 2 ounces of pureed veggies would be about 10%. Feel free to increase the amount of vegetables to suit your dog.
Remember that for healthy dogs we don't need to be exact, and that these are general guidelines.
The goal is to make it easy for you to add fresh food to your dog's diet. Let's not make feeding our dogs so complicated that we lose the confidence or desire to improve their diets.