Dry kibble is the most affordable way to feed your pet – but it’s not the healthiest. Just like people, animals thrive on fresh food diets. However, it’s not always practical to prepare your own pet food at home. You can boost your pet’s kibble and add enticing variety to their diet with healthy add-ins.
Are Fruits And Veggies Good For Dogs And Cats?
Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat both meat and produce. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they actually do not need produce to thrive. In fact, the carbohydrates in cat and dog kibbles are difficult for your pet to digest. Your pet’s base diet should be a high quality, high protein kibble – the very best you can afford.
Wild predators may not eat fruits and greens often, but they do consume predigested plants when they eat the stomach and guts of their prey. That’s why it’s okay to add produce as a small portion of your pet’s meals; no more than 10% for cats, and 20% for dogs. Overweight pets can have extra produce to help them feel full on a restricted calorie diet.
The Best Types Of Produce To Feed Your Pets
Since your meat-loving cats and dogs do not need much produce, the produce you do choose to feed them should be dense in nutrients.
Nutrient-dense produce includes:
Kale* contains vitamins K, A, C and B6, and smaller amounts of many other key vitamins. It also supports eye health and nurtures the growth of healthy gut bacteria to support your pet’s immune system and digestion.
Blueberries contain antioxidants and prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of cancer.
Carrots are rich in vitamin A to support healthy, hydrated skin and eye health.
Spinach* is rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, calcium, protein, fiber and many other key nutrients and vitamins.
Apples contain fiber to support digestion and help insatiable pets feel full. They contain antioxidants and prevent cancer.
Green beans are rich in fiber, helping overweight pets feel full. They’re rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, as well as folic acid, calcium and iron.
Mango is high in vitamin C, boosting immunity. It also contains B vitamins to support active pets, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants.
*Leafy greens are the best vegetables to feed – they should make up at least 50% of your pet’s produce intake.
You could also purchase a dehydrated vegetable mix to add to homemade meals or kibble.
Produce To NEVER Feed Pets
Tomatoes, mushrooms, citrus, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and avocado can all be toxic to pets in unpredictable amounts. For example, some dogs enjoy an occasional grape for the duration of their lives, while others get kidney failure after just one snack. If you’re ever unsure about an ingredient, do your research before giving it to your pet.
Smoothies Are Better Than Whole Produce
Remember how we mentioned, earlier, that predators eat predigested plants in their prey’s stomachs?
Herbivores, or, plant-eaters, like rabbits, cows and deer have flat teeth specially designed to grind plant matter. Some herbivores, like cows, have multiple stomachs and may regurgitate their food and eat it a second or third time before it is broken down enough to go through their digestive system.
Cats and dogs have sharp teeth meant for cutting and tearing muscle meat and organs. They typically swallow large bites of food whole.
When you share slices of carrots and apple with your dog, you may notice large chunks of fruit and vegetables when you pick up their poop later. Food that passes through an animal without changing has not been processed. The vitamins and nutrients may not benefit your pet at all.
That’s why it makes sense to process fruits and vegetables before adding them to your pet’s kibble.
Cooking fruit and vegetables breaks down the fiber and makes them easier to digest, but the heat may destroy the vitamins and nutrients.
The best way to process produce is to create a puree in a blender or food processor. You can create a big batch and freeze the smoothie in an ice cube tray, then put a cube or two in your pet’s food, or melt it down before pouring it over their kibble.
If you enrich your pet’s diet with produce, you should add protein-rich add-ins to make sure they’re getting all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. These additions can make your pet gain weight, so you will need to cut back on your pet’s kibble ration if they are at risk for becoming obese.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that help soothe and prevent dry skin and skin allergies. This healthy source of animal fat also supports brain health, making your pet easier to train. Many kibbles are supplemented with fatty acids, though the oils quickly break down after the food is produced, meaning your pet may still not get enough. Fish oil should be stored in your fridge, and while it may be a little expensive, it will last a long time. You only need to add a tiny amount to your pet’s food each day.
Tinned sardines also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and have the same benefits as fish oil. Sardines have bones, but they’re soft enough for your pet to eat and supply calcium. They should not be given daily, and you should only purchase the ones packed in water.
Cooked or raw meats add protein and variety to your pet’s meals. You can set aside unseasoned, lean portions from your family meals to give to your pets. Some partial-raw feeders suggest that mixing raw meat and kibble can cause stomach upset as your pet’s digestive system processes each at different speeds. So, you may want to feed meats in a separate meal or as a snack, just to be safe. Raw bones are soft enough for dogs to eat, cooked bones are splintery and dangerous.
Plain yogurt contains probiotics that can prevent or soothe digestive issues. However, many pets are lactose intolerant, so only serve it in small amounts, no more than a teaspoon per serving for a small cat. Greek yogurt is fine, too, and even higher in protein.
Eggs should be cooked before you give them to a cat or dog. Pets can eat the shells, but you may want to bake them and grind them in a coffee grinder first.