Learn why vegetables are an important addition to dog and cat diets.
Commercial kibble diets have long been a cause of chronic health issues in dogs and cats. In contrast to their carnivorous wolf ancestors, domestic dogs are slightly omnivorous, but only having evolved additional carbohydrate-digesting enzymes based on their human-fed diet. Felines remain obligate carnivores.
Both dogs and cats need a meat-based diet for proper health--but that doesn't mean they should avoid vegetables (or fruits!) altogether. In fact, wild dogs and cats naturally self-medicate with plants, chewing on grass, for example, to fight nausea--or sometimes because they just like the taste!
Adding vegetables to a meat-based diet can create well-balanced nutrition for your pet. Filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants, and other phytonutrients, these plants both prevent and combat disease.
What's in a label?
Branded pet food often has misleading labels, including the list of ingredients itself. Cheap and mainstream grocery store bags are actually not as meat-based as they claim. They include the scraps of the meat--like fat--instead of the vital organ meats, and their percent content can be mostly water-based, not the crude weight of a particular ingredient.
Commercial diets are also largely corn, grain, and potato-based, which may be filling for a dog but this interferes with an animal's ability to efficiently process vitamins and minerals. Cats often develop kidney disease from being on nutritionally-deficient commercial dry food.
Veggies: What are they good for?
Here is a list of some commonly recommended mostly raw vegetable (and, technically, fruit) offerings and their benefits:
More reasons to feed veggies
The majority of vegetables, fruits, and herbs are alkaline-forming whereas meat is acid-forming in the body. Acidity overload can result in inflammation as well as decreased organ function. Creating a more alkaline environment through non-meat nutritional supplementation can improve your pet's overall well-being.
Many pets are in a constant state of dehydration which can result in kidney and urinary problems. Vegetables and fruit are filled with water.
WEIGHT LOSS & TRAINING
In addition to being great snacks for hydration purposes, veggies are ideal rewards when training pets. Overfeeding and obesity are not quite so easy with these as snacks!
How much is too much?
It is important to remember that with dogs and cats, while vegetables are excellent additives, they cannot and should not be the sole or even primary component of the animal's diet. In other words, canines and felines cannot be vegan or vegetarian simply due to their evolutionary and biological structure.
All animals differ in their nutritional needs. Humans have different requirements from goats and guinea pigs as do dogs and cats.
Additionally, remember that while most veggies are good and safe for pets, some should be avoided. Onions and raw potatoes (as well as avocados and grapes) are toxic. Garlic has many benefits but can only be given in limited amounts.