Thursday, May 28, 2009

veggies aren't necessary in diets for dogs and cats, are they?

A colleague lamented to me that she had recommended a homemade diet containing vegetables, and the pet owner's regular veterinarian said that vegetables didn't contribute anything and weren't necessary. The owner apparently found that the undigested chunks of carrots in her dog's stool supported the regular veterinarian's opinion.

Here was my answer:

It is true that vegetables contain much cellulose and that if the cell
walls are not broken down by prolonged mastication, steaming/cooking,
or pulping them, they will pass out unidgested. Dogs are gulpers, and
descend from animals that got any benefits from vegetable matter
secondarily from their prey, who predigested it for them. So veggies
cannot just be given as chunks, unless you are trying to give the dog
something to chew on just for fun.

The benefits of veggies to dogs are mostly unknown, though one study
in Scottish terriers showed that dogs eating vegetables in their diets
had lower cancer incidence. In the absence of studies, we kind of
assume that the benefits are similar to the benefits for humans,
including not just some of the essential vitamins and minerals, but
also functional ingredients that may prevent cancer, like flavonoids.
In addition, vegetables are great for diluting the calories in a diet,
and with so many overweight dogs, they can be an essential part of
weight management.

I recommend that pet owners feeding complete and balanced of ANY type - dry, canned or homemade, include veggies as part of that dog's regular fare. If you start from the time they're puppies, they won't object to the taste, which helps later in life if veggies are used therapeutically in the diet.

If your vet tells you not to feed veggies or fruits, smile sweetly and reply that you appreciate the reminder and that you would never feed onions or grapes to your dog!


  1. Thanks for this post. I feed a homecooked diet for my dog and have never thought of not including some veggies and fruits. I always puree them or at least cook them prior to feeding though and my dog actually loves it...she will even eat romaine lettuce leaves straight up AND gets excited over it :)

  2. PS - Maybe you posted about this already and I forgot, but do you have guidelines you follow for feeding a homecooked diet? i.e. how much meat to vegetables etc

  3. Guidelines for homecooked diets vary according to the pet's medical history, body condition score, tastes, owners ability to provide it, etc. The cardinal rules are try to provide variety, use a calcium source, and use a human multivitamin-mineral. That's at MINIMUM- there could still be deficiencies of all sorts. There is a free complete and balanced recipe on my website, but keep in mind that as soon as you change the ingredients to vary it as I recommend, it could become deficient again!

  4. I hear more about not feeding vegetables from those who advocate a 'carnivore diet', not vets. I have clients who come in and say that they feed just meat - because 'dogs eat meat, and don't need vegetables'. They get this off the internet, and usually prefer to believe that than what their vet or an animal nutritionist tells them! Thanks for a good post.

  5. Sorry I haven't checked back on this recently, but I do have a bone to pick with the people who claim that all dogs are carnivores and that veggies aren't necessary. First - it shows a lack of understanding about genetics and evolution. Second, I've seen too many of these people who are so married to the philosophy that they can't see the dog in front of them - the one with terrible skin, ears and GI problems who are not doing well on these diets. It's not just sad - it's stupid and cruel.