Nutrition is linked to good health, gut function, and happiness in life, and this is true for pets and people. The body cannot always make all the vitamins or minerals that your dog requires for a healthy life, so relies on diet for an ongoing source. This is why a good quality diet is key.
Meal toppers or the addition of ‘superfoods’ have become popular in recent months. Scroll through any Instagram feed and you’ll find a photo of the perfect deluxe doggy meal with superfood additions to both biscuit-based and raw food diets.
So what are superfoods, and how do we know which ones are safe or nontoxic to dogs. A superfood is defined as a food source that has a high nutrient density for the volume of food that is consumed. This is important for dogs, who have lower calorie requirements than people. Every addition we make to their diet can have a big impact on their waistline and health.
Blueberries are a tasty addition that is safe for your dog’s diet. They are a rich source of antioxidants for such a tiny food source. Antioxidants are important to the body as they slow down damage to the cells in your dog’s body. Blueberries have also been shown to help with memory, which is helpful for our senior dogs with cognitive decline as there are not many successful conventional medications to help with cognitive decline.
Blueberries are high in fiber and Vitamin C yet low in calories so make the perfect addition to your dog’s meal or even a replacement as a dog treat for training activities.
Both Fresh and frozen berries are suitable to be fed to dogs.
Pumpkin is a vegetable with a huge fiber quota. It’s an excellent choice of superfood to feed any dog who suffers from anal gland issues, constipation, or inconsistent stool quality. The addition of daily doses of pumpkin can promote good bowel health and allow the gut to repopulate with healthy bacteria.
Pumpkin is rich in a compound called beta-carotene and this helps boost immune function and optic health.
It’s best to feed cooked pumpkin, and one to two tablespoons is more than enough of this superfood. You can use raw whole pumpkin or canned pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie filling (another canned variety of pumpkin used for deserts). Pumpkin pie filling often contains artificial sweeteners such as xylitol and spices that can be toxic to dogs. You can also feed the seeds to your dogs, but make sure to give only a few at a time as they can be quite high in fat.
Pumpkin can be used in home-cooked recipes for dog treats, so have a look online and get baking to craft your own superfood dog treats at home!
The microbiome of the gut is becoming a huge area of research for scientists, particularly when researching cancers. Its thought that the microbiome of any animal’s gut plays a huge part in disease prevention, allergic reactions, and overall health. By promoting ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, we increase the effectiveness of the microbiome. This can be done by feeding pre and probiotics. Fortunately Yogurt, particularly Greek or plain yogurt is a natural source of these probiotics.
Not every dog will be able to eat yogurt, some may have diarrhea if they are sensitive or allergic to lactose. However if your dog can eat yogurt without a tummy upset, it’s a worthy addition to your dog’s diet. You only need a small amount each day and your dog will love this as a treat, especially if mixed with some antioxidant-rich berries such as blueberries or strawberries.
Only feed plain, natural, or Greek yogurt without flavorings and read the ingredients to make sure a compound called Xylitol is not present. Always keep yogurt in the fridge, and never feed expired yogurt to your dog as this can cause tummy troubles.
Ginger is a powerful root vegetable that can be fed raw, cooked, ground, or sliced. Avoid feeding crystalized ginger as this has too much sugar content for your dog’s health.
Ginger has many good properties, and it’s used as a natural anti-nausea medication, anti-inflammatory and may even be beneficial in the fight against cancer on account of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Only a small amount of ginger needs to be added to your dog’s diet, and this should be a daily supplement.
Particularly popular with the raw feeding dog community, bone broth can be bought from the pet store, or made at home. It’s easy to make, simply collect leftover bones or carcasses and boil. This releases all the nutrition left in the bones such as the collagen which forms a jelly-like consistency to the broth. The boiling also releases glucosamine and chondroitin which are needed for good cartilage health. Supplementation of chondroitin and glucosamine is beneficial for senior dogs with osteoarthritis.
Whilst also packing a punch with minerals and vitamins such as calcium and phosphorus, the bone broth is high in protein and amino acids, which your dog needs for daily functions such as growth, repair, and exercise.
Too much bone broth at any one time can cause diarrhea as it’s quite a rich supplement, so always start with small amounts and work your way up. Never feed piping hot broth to your dog as this can cause gastric ulceration or inflammation.
As you can see there is a world of superfoods and supplements out there. It’s important to be aware that even though some superfoods are safe for humans, they can be dangerous to dogs, such as macadamia nuts or onions. Always ask your veterinarian if you are unsure before feeding your dog anything other than their regular dog biscuits.
When using superfoods as toppings or dog treats, always factor these into their total calorie requirements. Too much food or food that is too calorie-dense can lead to obesity and other health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and diabetes.