I could have used shameless clickbait and name this blog post as ”dogs are not carnivores”, but that would be false assumption and pretty cheap. Dogs are clearly carnivore, if juDged by their anatomical features. However, if the classification is based on what food source the animal can use, then dogs are actually omnivore.
In this post I am not going to talk about dogs being carnivore (anatomy) or omnivore (their ability to use plant sources) more than what has been stated. There are way better and more educated people out there to talk about that. However, it is important to understand that dogs are able to use plant sources, no matter what many BARF and prey model and raw feeders might tell you. There are multiple sources out there proving dogs can use carbohydrates and they can use plants, and that they can even use vitamins and minerals found in plants.
The most common explanation people have against using plants is that dogs don't have amylase in their saliva like herbivores do. They don't, that ius correct, but research has shown dogs do produce amylase in their body and they even have genes to support the digestion of plant based material (https://primalpooch.com/the-great-debate-do-dogs-need-fruits-and-vegetables/ has a great post about this matter with many different sources. Check it out!). This means, to some extent some individuals can use plants and will benefit from them
This leads us to the question I want to talk about today; why do I feel feeding vegetables along with meat supports your dog's health, and why I feel like adding vegetables to your dog's meat based diet is a good thing.
Fill in the gaps
These gaps are created mostly because raw feeders, such as me, rarely provide the dog with 95% of their prey animals, and we usually provide human bred meat from just a few sources. This means, dogs are not eating like wolves would in the wild. One also needs to remember dogs are not wolves, and that dogs have better adapted to use plant sources and for example carbohydrates. Therefore, we CAN use plant sources to fill in the gaps left with too simple meat based diet, specially when the meat is not from organic sources and thus richer in, well, everyhting than your basic factory meat.
Many raw feeders feed minerals and vitamins from jars. Some self proclaimed feeding experts state raw feeding and feeding organs and meat is never enough to provide the dog enough nutrients such as vitamins and for example zinc, so they turn to man-made supplements to provide their dog with that. They base their opinions on the same research material as I do, but we look the matter from different perspective. They think what I can't get from commercial meats I get from jars. I think what I can't get from commercial meats I must try to get naturally, because animals in the wild do not die from defficiency. They thrive, in best cases. There MUST be a way for me to mimic that. True, wild animals do lack some vitamins and minerals depending on what situation they have with their prey animals, how often they eat and where they live, but if they can get everything they need from their diet, then it is simply false to say one can't give the dog what it needs only by feeding it natural ingredients.
Research proves that while it is not possible to give the dog all it needs from veggies and plants, you can fill in the small gaps left with plants when you provide your dog with good, preferably organic meats. You might have to give your dog some supplements, like the added zinc, if you do not feed your dog whole prey animals from various sources, but you can get most out of meat and you can benefit from veggies if you just pay some attention.
Busting the myth; plants have vitamin and other stuff
The most common thing I hear against using plants in diet is that there is hardly anything else than water in plants.
My little sister went vegan a few years back. Like, not just partially but full damn organic vegan. She uses no supplements, either. She tries to get everything she needs from natural sources. Almost two years ago she also had a child, and she decided with her partner that the child would go full organic vegan too. I, as a meat eater, was very sure the child would have horrible problems in future because we people are meant to be omnivore by nature.
Turned out I was wrong. The child thrives, and should it be right what many raw feeders say, that there is simply not enough vitamins and minerals in plants, it should not thrive. It should be dead. It is wrong, just simply and plainly wrong, to say you can't get vitamins from plants. You CAN. You must, however, remember that dogs are not as good in using those vitamins as we are and that you can't provide dogs mainly plant based food and expect them to be healthy. Dogs do best when their diet is based on meat. Plants are there only to fill in certain gaps left when we feed our animals with two or three main protein sources and organs, leaving out other parts of the prey animals.
Steve Brown, dog nutrition experts too, is know to have said
“Vegetables provide essential nutrients, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Without plant matter providing those nutrients, an all-meat diet would need supplements. ”
I have not studied more about Mr. Brown's ideology, but it seems to go together with what others have said.
Also, In 2005, Purdue University conducted a study using fresh vegetables in canine diets. Their plan was to see if vegetables affected incidences of bladder cancer in dogs. The results show that vegetable consumption has been reported to reduce the risk of TCC in Scottish terriers who have a strong breed-associated risk for the disease (Raghavan et al. 2005). The numbers were as high as reducing the risk by 90% if the vegetables used were green leafy vegetables high in fiber and low in carbs.
Where is this based on?
Vegetables and cancer
To make this simple enough for my own brains; studies have shown that vegetables can be used to boost the process called autophagy, which means the process the body goes through to clean itself of debris, toxins and damaged cells and mitochondria. This leads to better over all health and longer lifespan of cells (meaning, longer life in general).
Cancer happens when the cancerous cells appear and start to grow. Protein and carbohydrates, specially getting more protein that is needed, has been reported to increase the growth of cells, even the growth of cancer. Behind this is the process called mTOR. The process has also been reported to inhibit autophagy, meaning the unnecessary growth of cells is messing up the system which takes care of cleaning up our system and making sure we have better cellular lifespan.
Implimenting fiber-rich and low carb vegetables in the diet can both boost the autophagy and benefit the microbiome inside the digestive system (this means, the better the microbiome, the healthier the dog), AND help slow down the unnecessary growth, meaning the mTOR, that would happen if the dog would get enormous amounts of protein. Since meat protein is where the dogs get their vitamins and minerals in raw feeding, producing some of the vitamins and minerals in the form of plants will slow down the process of growth without slowing down autophagy. The cleaning process continues, microbiome is kept healthy, but the unnecessary growth or unnecessary cells that would otherwise mess with the autophagy and cause tumors to spread is slowed down.
Now, this is highly speculative, BUT the study with Scottish terriers did show adding veggies to replace small portion of their diet of kibble (note here, high in carbs. Sugars stimulate mTOR too, like we remember) did lower their risks of getting cancer.
We are onto something here. We can't leave meat out of the diet because dogs need meat, but we can use vegetables to provide nutrients and fill the gaps and boost the microbiome, and it may also benefit us in the form of not having to feed humongous amounts of protein.
Nobody uses this now as any kind of justification on making their dog vegan. That is in any way against any biological facts. I am not saying feed your dog only with veggies. I am saying adding veggies in a little amount might be a good idea because of all the above.
Fascinating. Now what's the meaning of all this?
Well, I assume nothing else than knowing all the above. Knowing stuff in usually beneficial.
TO ME all the above means adding some small portion of leafy greens in my dog's diet, those rich with fiber and low in carb, is probably a good idea. I get vitamins, minerals and support digestive system and I can still offer my dog energy in the form it needs, protein and fat. I can also avoid chemicals and artificial supplements to certain extent. To me this adds to the purity of the food. The less we consume anything artificial, the better our system works. It's the same with dogs and people alike.
One needs to remember, always, that for a dog most of the vitamins and minerals come from organs such as liver, but individuals are more or less likely to get something out of vegetables too. Fiber and over all good effects of vegetables are something that affect every dog.
So your mom was right. Eat your veggies. Give your dog some, too, if you wish.