Updated: Jun 19, 2019
In a recent article appearing in Dogs Naturally, the reasons vegetables are essential for your dog's health according to the expert, Dr. Billinghurst, whose formulas are used when we create our recipes, was discussed. If you are feeding Napa Fresh, you have no worries, because the vegetables are included in all 7 varieties according to his recommendations. It is interesting to note the reason vegetables are so important, so below is the article, minus all the advertising, written by another dog owner after Dr. Billinghurst's presentation sponsored by Dogs Naturally in 2015. Please see our notations also as you read the article.
Dr Billinghurst wrote the groundbreaking book Give Your Dog A Bone in 1993 and Grow Your Pups With Bones in 1998. He’s famous for creating the concept of BARF (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw (or Real) Food), and in 2001 he released his third book The BARF Diet.
We couldn’t think of a better canine nutrition expert to clarify this question. At the 2015 Raw Roundup Conference, Dr. Billinghurst gave a talk on the role of vegetables and fruit in the healthy canine diet.
Dr Billinghurst highly recommends giving vegetables and fruits to your dog. In the course of his talk, he discussed 10 great reasons to feed your dog veggies and fruit.
#1 Evolution – Dogs Eat Vegetables Naturally
Check out where dogs are on the herbivore-carnivore continuum. They’re not obligate or pure carnivores and they’re definitely not pure herbivores … they’re midway between onmivores and carnivores.Dogs, wolves and dingoes have eaten vegetables for hundreds of years.Wild canines eat the gut contents of their prey. They scavenge fruit and other vegetable material. Dogs scavenge at garbage dumps. Modern dogs eat household scraps and may even dine at your compost heap!
#2 Vegetables Help Alkalize The Body
Balancing the alkalinity and acidity of the diet is important to your dog’s health.Organs like the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, hormones, heart, kidneys function better in a more alkaline environment. Too much acidity can contribute to inflammation which is responsible for a lot of chronic disease.Proteins like meat make the body more acidic, while most vegetables and some fruits have an alkalizing effect on the body.
#3 Range of Nutrients
Vegetables provide proteins, lipids, fats, carbohydrates, phytonutrients and fiber, making them a complete food – at least for herbivores like cows, sheep and rabbits. .
But it doesn’t mean your dog can thrive as a vegetarian.
Dr. Billinghurst doesn’t recommend a vegetarian diet for your dog. First, it would be difficult to feed enough vegetables to fully nourish him. Second, you’d need to add some grains and legumes to provide a proper balance of amino acids. But grains and legumes are high in carbohydrates, which can aggravate a number of disease conditions. Protein sources like meat and muscle meats provide a full array of amino acids.
Fruit and veggies are an excellent source of water. Many dogs today live in a chronic state of dehydration, which contributes to problems such as kidney disease or the formation of bladder stones.
Raw vegetables provide most vitamins, including:
Most of the B vitamins (but are low in B12, B1 (Thiamine) or Choline, so your dog needs foods like liver and eggs to supply these nutrients)
Vitamin C and co-factors: dogs make their own vitamin C but need the co-factors that help the body use it
Vitamin A, E and K
There’s not much vitamin D in vegetables and dogs don’t have enough bare skin to absorb it from the sun like we humans do. So again, dogs need liver to supply vitamin D. (our note: or cod liver oil which contains vit A & D, also according to Dr. Billinghurst's books we feed and recommend cod liver oil to insure adequate amounts of Vit A & D)
Grasses and algae (phytoplankton) have a full complement of essential fatty acids and are rich in Omega-3 (even more so if they’re grown in a cold climate).
Omega-3 reduces inflammation and supports the brain and central nervous system, as well as breathing, circulation, digestion, immunity and reproduction.
When dogs are too high in Omega-6, it can impair these functions, so balancing the diet with Omega-3s is important. While many people feed fish oils, they are very unstable and can turn rancid easily, so feeding plant based Omega-3s like phytoplankton is a good way to give your dog these essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 helps slow degeneration and aging.
(IMPORTANT: Our notation - Dr. Billinghurst does not discuss the use of phytoplankton in any of his books, in fact he recommends cod liver oil as the single most important supplement to give your dog. Yes it needs to be refrigerated, as all oils should, to keep it fresh. Dr. Billinghurst's formulas require ground flaxseed, found in all of our recipes, as the source for Omega 3s)
Phytonutrients are only in vegetable material.
Phytonutrients are protective. They include enzymes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules (read more about these below).
Phytonutrients are antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antihelminthic (anti-worms), anti-aging, anti-degeneration and, most importantly, anti-cancer.
And yet most kibble-fed dogs get none of these nutrients!
Enzymes in food help digestion. Tropical fruits like pineapple (containing bromelain) and papaya (papain) are especially beneficial.
Some enzymes escape the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and are absorbed whole. When this happens they’re also anti-aging, anti-degeneration and pro-health in your dog’s body!
Vegetables, fruits and herbs are chock full of antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that are a major cause of aging) and again, you can only get them from fruits and vegetables.
Anti-inflammatory molecules include herbs like turmeric, all kinds of berries, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 isn’t anti-inflammatory on its own, but it drives the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-6, which is why dogs need both.
Raw vegetables supply healthy fiber.
Vegetable fiber is far better and much healthier than fiber from grains. Vegetables contain soluble fiber, which is digested by microbes in the large bowel. Insoluble fiber bulks out the food and helps it pass through the colon.
Fiber is vital in older dogs in treating and preventing degenerative disease.
#10 Vegetables Help Treat Disease
Most important of all, Dr Billinghurst has found that vegetables help treat all degenerative disease processes. He says vegetables are especially important in treating serious diseases like cancer and kidney disease.
How To Feed Vegetables
Dr Billinghurst recommends feeding vegetables to your dog, starting with puppies at about six weeks old.
Feed vegetables as about 10% of your dog’s diet. For therapeutic reasons in treating illness, Dr Billinghurst might prescribe vegetable content in the diet can be as high as 50%.
Feed Them Raw And Pulverized
Dr Billinghurst says vegetables must be fed raw for maximum benefits, but you’ll need to crush or pulverize them in a juicer or blender, or your dog won’t be able to digest them. Chopping or grating isn’t enough to make them digestible. (our notation: Dr. Billinghurst recommends grinding vegetables in his books)
Use whatever vegetables are in season, feeding lots of variety. Avoid onions, legumes, macadamias and avocados, which can be toxic to dogs. In case you’re wondering about garlic, it’s safe when used in moderation and has many health benefits.
Don’t overfeed vegetables in the cabbage family because they can depress the thyroid. (our notation: we also avoid vegetables that cause gas, like broccoli and cauliflower, and beans of any type as mentioned above) It’s also best to avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and legumes like peas. Potato skins contain a lot of nutrients and you can feed those pulverized. Just make sure the skins aren’t green because that makes them toxic.
Fruit must be fed ripe or it can cause diarrhea. Be careful about stones in fruit like plums as they can cause blockages. Don’t overfeed fruit to diabetic dogs or if your dog is very inflamed.
Dr Billinghurst recommends incorporating veggies and fruit into your dog’s raw diet by mixing them with ground raw meaty bones.
If your dog isn’t on a raw diet, he can still benefit from getting the extra nutrients from some fresh whole foods.
In summary, Dr Billinghurst says that it’s not absolutely essential to feed dogs fruit and veggies, but there are many life stages and health states where feeding vegetable material can have major advantages.