By Rhonda Jewel, CSAN
I have been contemplating, researching and carefully studying my own pack while making notes about the common thread going around from veterinarians these days about feeding our carnivore companions veggies.
The controversial question being asked lately is: Shoud our dogs actually be eating veggies as part of their raw diet?
This is not an easy question or a simple post to put together because it is such a controversial subject amongst the raw feeding community. However, I did it and this is my take on the subject. The short answer is ‘No’. Following is the longer answer and the reasons why not.
I am just going to say right off the bat- I am from the camp of prey model feeders that goes without the additional bit of vegetable matter or dairy. I do not promote veggies or dairy in the carnivore diet. Although I do have a supplement that was some grasses, greens, roots, soil probiotics etc that I feel is a good addition for some extra superfoods, occasionally is ok, not a daily food item.
There is so much press with the ‘dog bloggers’ promoting adding vegetables in the raw carnivore diets these days. It is actually starting to annoy me a bit as people really believe every word they say, hook line and sinker.
I truly have been trying hard to make sense of it, knowing what I now know and understand after years of raising pets and studying about carnivore anatomy and all.
Plus not to mention over 30 years as a Holistic health Practitioner- I now understand and know that it is all about the ‘gut health’. The gut is the most important part of our pets immune system.
I just don’t see how adding veggie matter is helping the gut health. As the carnivore has a pH of about 1-3- it is a quick in and out system, unlike the herbivore that is hours in the digestion process.
Of course these ‘pet community influencers’ do make a lot of money off their blog posts and YouTube videos that tell you to add veggies….mostly because humans love their veggies.
This message appeals to pet parents soft spot.
It is about the love!
Pet parents think if they add veggies to their dogs food they are doing a great service to their small fur child by adding more love. You know how parents are always telling their human kids…eat your vegetables, they are so good for you!
Thinking it is a wonderful, healthy addition. Makes us humans feel good. Plus people with bigger dogs can justify feeding raw if 25% is veggie matter.
Some online sources suggest a general guideline that if veggie is included in your pet’s diet, it makes up around 25% (like Dr. Peter Dobias, Dr. Becker & Rodney Habib) Most people think feeding raw pasture raised meat is too pricey for the majority so adding organic veggies is the second best thing…everyone seems to think that is what is true anyway.
I just want to add that feeding pastured, hunted or Non-GMO or organic raised meat is possible to do very affordably. I have been doing prey model feeding for around $1-$3 a lb. You just have to be creative on finding the right sources. It can be done for less then feeding a high quality kibble.
Regarding feeding our pets vegetables…Why, I ask again is this concept so controversial? To me it is pretty obvious. Your dog is going to prefer the side with the raw meat every time. Meat is what is a natural species specific diet. Vegetables are not and never were. If your dog likes veggies it is because you eat them and feed them to your pets and they are trying to follow your lead. They see you as pack leader and are usually good at following your wishes. After all you are the pet parent and they want to please you.
Their is a group of pet bloggers and feeding experts that are now on the band wagon of recommending feeding veggies with fresh meat instead of a kibble based diet…Ok- maybe it is better than kibble. It is like they just discovered that vegetables are good for them to eat! ( could be part of it I imagine) They are saying it is because of the micronutrients and fiber is the reason why feeding veg to carnivore pets is ok.
Hmmmm.. Let’s explore that idea.
I have been raw feeding dogs since 1997. At the time I started with feeding grated veg or steamed cooked veggies in with the raw ground meat I was feeding back then. I would see that vege matter come back out the rear end in the same state it went in. I thought….hmmm? Undigested carrots….and broccoli?
I have learned a whole heck of a lot since those days of ignorance and bliss. I honestly cannot comprehend why some people keep promoting that it is good to feed veggies to our carnivore pets when not only is it not needed, nutritionally by them, they actually get very little to none of the so called micronutrients from veg matter either. So what is the actual point? Just look at a carnivores teeth and tell me that is for munching on vegetables.
Vegetables are just not bioavailable to dogs and especially not to cats.
The actual “digested” small amount of plant matter eaten in nature by wild dogs, wolves and wild cats has been pre-digested by the enzymes of that small prey animal it is eating NOT by some steaming or blending, fermenting etc. That you must do to include feeding veggies into the raw diet of the carnivore.
This is the basic understanding of what I have learned through this work and study:
#1) Raw meats from pastured raised animals supply all the nutrients a carnivore needs when fed a species appropriate diet.
When feeding vegetable matter to dogs it makes them need to produce more enzymes to help deal with the carbohydrate load, which the carnivore body is not, designed to deal with. The enzyme most needed is called amylase.
The pancreas creates the amylase. As in us humans it is more bioavailable and that needed enzyme is first produced in the mouth, in people. Not so in carnivores- it doesn’t not exist in the mouth to help with the digestion process. When a dog is fed grains or veggies it causes the pancreas to work harder to create the extra enzymes needed to break down the veggie matter.
#2) When feeding veggies more amylase is needed, so in the long run the pancreas has to work harder and harder to deal with the extra load.
Eventually this causes damage to the pancreas, which can trigger full blown diabetes or something else to affect the health of the organs, and again compromise the gut health. This is when the trouble begins.
It doesn’t happen right away. Small things start to happen first. The starch in the veggies turns to sugar in the system ( especially vegetables like sweet potato and carrots )
Inflammation sets in as the dog ages. Little health issues crop up out of nowhere. Yet, you think you are doing great- raw feeding, giving such healthy addition of fruits and vegetables with their meat. Some people even add yogurt and milk kefir thinking this is so healthy. But the milk sugar turns to sugars in the system just the same. ( better to give soil probiotics)
Then when one organ starts breaking down, other internal organs will start being compromised. Pancreatitis then kidney disease – now the liver is failing to do its job properly and then the whole system is in break down.
I’m not saying this is all due to feeding veggies. However, this is the end result of adding food that is not species appropriate in the carnivore diet.
I do absolutely know that both fruits and veggies have nutrients and many health benefits for those with a digestive system that can break down the cellulose matter as in herbivores and of course us human omnivores are meant to digest and utilize vegetable matter. I was a vegetarian for a good part of my life. I still eat at least 50% of my diet as greens and vegetables. I wish my dogs were meant to vegetarian but they are not.
Just because something has health benefits doesn’t mean everyone can use those nutrients or break them down into something needed by their particular type of body.
#3) Our dogs do not utilize the majority of the nutrients in plant matter which is mostly carbohydrates. It is that simple.
Carbohydrates are considered one of three energy sources available aside protein and fats. This type of energy comes from from other foods besides the foods most utilized by carnivores which are proteins, amino acids, fats or fatty acids.
There is no dietary necessity for carbohydrates in the carnivore diet. Although dogs will survive on carbs, they will not thrive on it. As far as cats go – carbs definitely not part of the feline diet. Our ‘High Vibe’ lifestyle is about thriving not just surviving. This is why I cannot be an advocate of veg in the carnivore diet.
This is proof enough that carnivores are not designed to eat starch and carbohydrates.
Even us humans cannot break down a lot of the cellulose properly in many cases.
The herbivore family are the only ones that have a system that can actually break that veg matter down properly. That is because they are constantly re-chewing their ‘cud’ and many have extra stomachs to deal with it.
#4) The anti-nutrients issue:
The next aspect of this whole argument against veggie matter for carnivores is what is called anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are in many vegetables and grains. Anti-nutrients are natural ingredients that are a part of many vegetarian foods. These are particularly found in grains, beans, legumes and nuts and also in plant roots, vegetables, leaves and some fruits. They can actually interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
They can block digestive enzymes, which are key for proper absorption.
- Oxalate Acid. Oxalate acid is in many dark leafy greens. It is in spinach, chard and kale as well as many berries such as blueberries. Oxalate acid can prevent absorption of important nutrients and further exacerbate kidney stone and UTI issues
- Phytic Acid. Phytic acid like oxalate acid, it renders the vitamins and minerals un-absorbable. Minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium are not able to be utilized and are actually blocked. The main sources include whole grains such as rice, legumes, seeds wheat and oats. ( which are in most kibble dog foods- even grain free have legumes typically) The only way to reduce the phytic acid is to cook the it, but then it is no longer raw or the nutrients are not bioavailable
- Solanine. Solanine a anti-nutrient that has carbohydrates are typically in the Nightshade family. Most likely found in potatoes, peppers and eggplant, can cause inflammation in our pets including further contributing to issues with allergies as well as joint pain.
- Goitrogens. Goitrogens are another type of carbohydrate that can inhibit thyroid function. Goitrogens often are in the Brassica Family which include cruciferous carbohydrates like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. They can also be found in some fruits and grains such as soy and millet. Even though a fully healthy human can enjoy eating goitrogen containing carbohydrates in large amounts with no effect on the thyroid, it is a good idea for carnivore pets to avoid them as thyroid conditions seem to have become an huge health concern among our dogs and cats.
Finally, high quality carbohydrates do provide important vitamins and minerals as well as other healthful benefits without side effects…for humans.
Vegetables and fruits may be a wonderful addition to the diet for us people and rabbits to live on and enjoy….for carnivore pets…not so much.