Most pet owners know that dogs love to eat carrots and blueberries and cats adore an occasional melon ball. Fruits and vegetables can be tasty treats for pets and they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Because they are so expensive, however, most commercial pet food producers neglect these essential ingredients in their recipes. More and more pet owners are looking to provide their pets with diets that are sourced from natural ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, especially as they begin to realize that grains are not a healthy additive in pet foods.
Dogs are Omnivores
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not strict carnivores. While they are meat-eaters, in the wild, dogs will eat plants in order to get essential nutrition when meat is scarce. This means that dogs do not require a meat-only diet. There is a popular movement that promotes feeding dogs a raw-meat-and-bones diet (often called the bones and raw food diet or BARF). However, in order to maintain proper nutrition dogs do require plant like fruits and vegetables in their diets.
Cats Are Carnivores (With a Twist)
Cats, on the other hand, are carnivores. However, domesticated cats have been eating plants for many years, including the grains used in bargain cat foods as filler. So what does this mean? Cats must get their protein from animal meat, as their stomachs cannot properly process plant protein. However, there should be a variety of fruits and vegetables included in a cat’s diet to provide carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Why Fruits and Vegetables?
In the past, commercial food manufacturers have included plants in their recipes, but those plants are often corn, wheat, or soy; ingredients that contain little nutritional value and can be difficult for the stomach to process. High grain content can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and the inability to properly absorb nutrients in many animals, especially those with sensitive GI tracts. Pet owners should instead choose a food that includes a variety of real fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. The more colors present, the wider the variety of nutrients available to pets.
Essential nutrients that pets require that are readily available and easily digested from fruits and vegetables include:
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- B Vitamins
- D Vitamins
- Beta Carotene
When choosing a pet food, scan the nutritional facts and ingredients label. You should be able to identify most, if not all ingredients by name. Carrots are carrots. Chemicals are chemicals. If you require an advanced scientific degree to understand the majority of the ingredients in your pet’s food, that food should be avoided.
Do Not Offer Your Pet Vitamin Supplements
Some pet owners may see this list and think, “I’ll just provide my dog with vitamin supplements to ensure they get these nutrients.” However, owners should never supplement their pets. Animals require a specific balance of nutrients, and vitamin supplements can actually upset that balance. This is especially true among minerals. Too much of one mineral can interfere with an animal’s ability to absorb others. Therefore, in order to ensure proper nutrient balance and absorption, look for a nutritionally balanced, natural pet food that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables.