Should dogs eat vegetables?

Preparing natural natural, organic food for pets at home

Dogs may be classified as carnivores, but a fully balanced diet – including some fresh vegetables – will help keep them healthy - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chris Brierley of Cotswold RAW explains why it’s important for dogs to eat a balanced diet, with an element of vegetables and herbs

Dogs are classified as carnivores, but this does not necessarily translate into behaviour, anatomy or feeding preferences. Panda bears are also members of the carnivora family and they eat bamboo shoots! 

Dogs are omnivores, or rather – if there is such a classification – ‘opportunivores’. Strict or true carnivores have a high nutritional requirement for taurine (an amino acid), arachidonic acid (a fatty acid) and certain vitamins (niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin A) which are readily available in animal protein and fat sources. Omnivores, such as dogs and humans, don’t have high requirements for taurine and can manufacture their own arachidonic acid and vitamin A. Of course, dogs are meat eaters, but they also eat vegetables.  

Dogs can derive energy from protein, fat or simple carbohydrates. However, as well as energy they need specific additional nutrients in their diet. Dogs are not good at digesting complex carbohydrates, such as grains and starch. 

Prepared dog food which has 20% vegetables plus a smattering of herbs, mixed with organic meat such as chicken, lamb, beef or turkey is a complete meal that is perfect for active dogs. Adding a small amount of vegetables – which are a natural source of antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, fibre and trace minerals – is appropriate, and there is little doubt that canine obesity is the result of dogs being fed too much carbohydrate. Dogs will metabolise fats in preference to carbs for their energy needs, leaving the surplus glucose from the carbs to be stored as fat.  

There are fruits and vegetables that dogs absolutely shouldn’t have, however. Avoid grapes, including sultanas and raisins; onions and garlic; and avocados – they’re all toxic to dogs!  

A protein-rich all-meat complementary feed using fresh ingredients – such as raw meat, bone and offal in the correct ratio – can also be a good option for those dogs with intolerances, and for owners looking to use their own supplementation. It’s particularly suitable for working dogs and is designed to be fed as part of a complete balanced diet. With any pre-existing conditions, using a single protein can help show you where gains are being made.  

Cotswold RAW is an independent, family-run company producing high-quality Biological Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) for dogs. All their ingredients are British and sourced locally wherever possible, in the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham.