The Importance of Nutrition for our 4-legged family members.
Two of my life’s greatest joys include good food and my sweet pup, Odie (as pictured above). Over the past several months, I have been on a quest to combine my love for all things food with my (slight) obsession for dogs. My belief about food can be summed up in the following statement: Eat a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, some starches, and little added sugars. I have come to realize that if I choose to live by this mantra, then I should also base my dog’s diet around very similar guidelines. After all, dogs are members of the family too! And just like us, they benefit greatly from a wholesome, balanced diet.
When I started taking a closer look at what we were choosing to feed Odie, I realized that he was eating lots of nutritious foods in his dried kibble; however, I could not quite understand how dried up brown pebbles were providing all of the necessary nutrients for my four-legged best friend to truly live his fullest life. So, I started to wonder if there really are any benefits to feeding dogs a fresh diet. After a bit of reading, the research became overwhelming. The answer is YES!
Longevity is a huge reason why many of us choose to eat balance diets, and the same goes for our dogs! One in four of all dogs develop some form of cancerous growth in their lifetime, and this number doubles for dogs over the age of ten. Thankfully, there are so many cancer-fighting agents in fruits and vegetables that can help to lower your pup’s risk. Phytochemicals are compounds found in different fresh plant foods, and in order to include several types of phytochemicals in our dogs’ diets, we need to feed them a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids and carotenoids are two different types of phytochemicals, both of which work to prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Purdue University published a study on fresh produce and cancer prevention in dogs, and their findings blew my mind. They found that by adding in fresh fruits and veggies to your dog’s dried kibble, the growth of cancer cells can be prevented by 70-90%!
Bioavailability is another huge reason why incorporating fresh, wholesome foods into your dog’s daily meals is so important. What does bioavailability mean? When we are referring to nutrition, it is the ability of the body to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream so that the body can get the most benefit from those nutrients. Fresh foods are far more bioavailable, meaning that your dog can get more of the nutrients they need to live a longer, more playful lifestyle. Although many of those same nutrients are found in dried foods, your dog is not receiving the full benefits because it is harder for their bodies to absorb the vitamins and minerals.
There are lots of great, fresh dog food companies on the market. Maybe you are not ready to make the complete switch from dry to fresh dog food… and that is totally okay! Try slowly incorporating fruits and vegetables at meal time for your pup. If you decide to begin doing so, be sure to find a reliable source regarding what fruits and vegetables should be enjoyed by dogs and which ones should be avoided. Some of Odie’s top produce picks include pureed sweet potatoes and butternut squash, cucumbers, mangos, blueberries, mini bell peppers, and his all-time favorite treat… watermelon!