While not all families are lucky enough to live near a local farmer’s market, I feel very fortunate that we have one of DC’s longest running markets just 2 blocks from our store and our home. We get to enjoy the benefit of fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, meats, cheeses and eggs year round! On top of that, my partner is an avid urban farmer so we are reaping the benefits of her passion and hard work throughout the year as well.
So what does this have to do with animal nutrition? A lot it turns out. Did you know that just adding 20% of fresh food to your dog’s diet can add years of good health to their life? According to Dr. Karen Becker, feeding fresh veggies is essential to maintaining good gut health because of these attributes:
- Small amounts of fresh, low glycemic vegetables are crucial to the health of cats and dogs
- Vegetables are a rich source of critical phytochemicals not found in meat, and may have such positive effects on our pets’ health due to a process called xenohormesis
- Veggies also provide minerals and vitamins E, K, C, beta-carotene and the B vitamins; bright-colored and leafy green veggies tend to be the most nutritious
- Fermented vegetables are optimally digestible for dogs and cats, and are nutritional powerhouses, even in very small quantities
- Adding veggies to pet diets promotes gut health and leaving them out results in a less robust microbiome; veterinary researchers are beginning to study the critical role of a healthy microbiome in maintaining pets’ immunologic and physiologic well-being
According to a recent study at The University of Helsinki, feeding a non-processed diet, even as an addition to ultra-processed diet (think kibble), and giving the dog human meal leftovers and table scraps were found to be protective against gastrointestinal issues later in life. Especially raw bones and cartilage, berries and leftovers were found to be beneficial. The scientists involved in this study of over 16,000 dogs concluded that providing a variety of fresh, “real” foods for the dog especially during puppyhood, but also at young age, was identified as a significant potential protective factor of Canine Enteropathy incidence later in life.
“Vegetables are crucially important to the health of dogs and cats, with one stipulation: they should represent only a small percentage of your pet’s nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet.” according to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM. For more on what veggies to feed, go to this article.