The idea of converting from those crunchy little kibbles to fresh food diets can be very daunting to even the most savvy pet parents out there! I get it. I was there once – and I was totally FREAKED OUT that I was going to do something to hurt my dogs. So I tried to look back to see what would have made things easier for me back when I was new to non-kibble diets. And I think it would be have been nice to maybe start with baby steps. Dip my toe in the water to see that the water wasn’t really so cold after all and eventually jump right in.
Although I feed commercial raw diets 90% of the time, In the summer I make the BrindleBerry Bunch a lot of fresh veggie mixes to add to their food with veggies from my very own garden! It’s VERY affordable, and convenient (the food is already literally in your own backyard) so there really isn’t any reason not to give it a go. If you don’t feed raw, this is another excellent way to get important vitamins and minerals (in their natural form) into your doggie’s body!
Why Fresh Foods?
I think we are starting to see some of the negative health outcomes of entirely processed diets in both pets and people. We are seeing them happen faster in our companion animals for a few reasons I believe. 1. They live shorter lives, and we are witnessing the affects of poor diet on their genetics faster than we can with people. And 2. Because despite the huge increase in processed foods we are eating as humans, our dogs still each MUCH, more, and sometimes it’s ALL they eat.
When kibble diets (dry food diets) are made, they are cooked at such high temperatures that the natural vitamin and mineral content is destroyed. Meaning, that synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back into the foods to replace them. Synthetic vitamins are not nearly as easy to absorb as they are in their natural form. So to put it in short and simple terms – our dogs are missing out on a whole heck-of-a-lot of vital nutrition. This vital nutrition is essential for fighting immune related diseases and diseases like Cancer.
Watch the TEDx Talk below with Rodney Habib – it explains exactly why I am so passionate about adding “people food” A.K.A. “FOOD” to a kibble diet.
Choosing your Veggies
MOST veggies that are ok for you, are ok for MOST dogs. I could go into great detail about which dogs are better candidates for certain veggies, but I am going to try and keep this easy for you. So here is a quick list for you:
AVOID – Nightshade veggies like tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes and eggplant. These veggies have been known to increase inflammation in the body and since most of our dogs have some sort of inflammation in the form of sore joints, allergies, etc, it’s best to choose other options.
USE IN MODERATION – Green leafy veggies like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens can be problematic if they are fed too often, especially for dogs known to have issues with oxalate kidney stones. So DO use these veggies if your dog does not have a history with kidney stones – in moderation – AND while varying with other options. If your dog has a history of oxalate stones, I personally would not use them at all.
Pictured below you will see in this particular batch I included a lot of these veggies. This is only because they happen to all be in season right now. I freeze these veggie mixes in batches with other varities, so they don’t get more than a few days of each mix at a time.
USE PREDOMINATELY – Mix fewer starchy veggies (carrots, beets, sweet potato) with kale, lettuce (not iceberg), broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, green beans, and zucchini. (There are other veggies that are ok, I just want to give you a simple starting point for the purpose of this blog post.)
You can add some fruit in moderation if you like, and by moderation I would suggest around 5% of your mix, and I would include items like blueberries, cranberries, Saskatoon berries, strawberries (if you have them, I wouldn’t seek them out) or honey berries (as I have pictured below as I grow them) and pumpkin.
Prepping your Veggies
First things first, you are going to want to gather some ingredients to add to your veggie puree. You’ll also want to grab your food processor or blender and a large mixing bowl and mixing spoon. I have always pureed my dog’s veggies because I was taught that dogs cannot break down the cellulose in vegetables, and pureeing them breaks that layer down and makes them much easier to absorb. The pureed veggies mimic the stomach contents of a prey animal that their ancestors may have killed and eaten in the wild. Also, it makes it easy to add and mix into the food when your dog is not a veggie fan, and it makes freezing in cubes easier too! (see below).
Thoroughly wash and peel veggies that are store-bought and not organic, rinse organic store-bought produce (peels can stay on), and be sure to rinse off your homegrown produce to remove bugs and dirt (although these things honestly would probably not hurt your dog in small amounts as long as you aren’t adding pesticides and herbicides).
Remember variety is key! The veggies in this mix that I made are high in calcium and too much calcium is not a great thing either. You need to mix up your veggie batches to ensure a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The fruit and veggies pictured below were in my fridge and getting slightly wilted and bruised. I didn’t include them all in the mix, but did add a few strawberries and carrots.
If you have large dogs, or multiple dogs, you can freeze your mixes in larger containers and thaw as needed. Be sure to attach a label listing the ingredients with a freezer-safe label so you know what’s inside and you can rotate your mixes.
If you have smaller or fewer dogs, freezing your mix into ice cube trays or silicon molds can make it easy to add on to your pup’s meal. If your dog doesn’t like the mix however, they won’t like eat these as readily as they would if you could stir it into their food and “hide” it.
How much should you feed?
Veggies are high in fiber, and if your dog isn’t used to them they can cause diarrhea. So start by adding small amounts first, and monitor their stool. I am not sure there is a magic amount, but if I had a smaller dog (under 30lbs) I might add 2 heaping teaspoons per meal, and my guys (55-65lbs) have 2 heaping tablespoons per meal in their raw meals. A giant breed can likely tolerate more – maybe 3 heaping tablespoons per meal. Just start small, and work your way up to bowel tolerance.
Diarrhea is most often caused by overfeeding, so you can reduce your dog’s food portion a little when you are adding extras like veggies to avoid that. To make it easy, just eyeball about the same volume OUT as the volume that you add IN. (does that even make sense?)
Feel free to add your mix to whatever you are feeding! Experiment to see what your dog likes, and what you have around the home or in your garden. Adding fresh veggies to your dog’s diet is step one to enhancing your dog’s health! I’ll talk more about other options in upcoming blogs!
Did you try adding veggies to your dog’s food? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!