Whether you already had plans to garden this year or social distancing has you searching for new hobbies, gardening should be a pot contender(see what I did there?). Adding freshly grown herbs and vegetables to your diet provides an almost unlimited variety of tastes and benefits for you. Imagine eating the same meal every day, with the same seasoning and the same basic ingredients. In addition to providing a very boring experience, it can also lead to some nutritional deficiencies. This is effectively what we are doing to our dogs and pets. Why not give them an opportunity for a varied diet and incorporate some of those same fresh veggies and herbs into their food as well? While going over our garden layout this year, I wanted to consider growing some plants for our dogs because there are many benefits to freshly grown herbs and produce other than just taste alone.
First off, I would like to mention a few common garden varieties that your DOG SHOULD NOT EAT !
Tomato plants – While ripe tomatoes are fine in small quantities, the leaves and stems can be poisonous if eaten.
Grapes and Raisins – The skin and “meat” of the grape are what is poisonous.
Grapeseed oil or extracts are actually safe and very beneficial for dogs.
Onions - These are probably the most well-known and most mistakenly eaten. It's very easy for dogs to dig through the garbage or grab a cheese steak off the counter and get a full dose of not so good. Onions can be up to 15 times more potent than garlic and can cause serious issues like blood oxidation which destroys red blood cells.
Rhubarb leaves – Your dog will most likely not find these appetizing but if they enjoy bitter foods you might have something to worry about. The leaves of Rhubarb can be poisonous to humans as well in large quantities.
Hops – This really applies to home brewing enthusiasts who grow their own for use or decoration. Luckily the hop flower is potently bitter, as those or you who enjoy the occasional IPA know, and not commonly on the dinner menu for canines. With dog friendly breweries becoming more common, some of them might grow hops on the patio. Keep an eye on fido, even if you can't really focus after your fourth imperial stout!
Garlic - Is only toxic in much, much, much higher quantities than a dog would ever ingest. Even though we wouldn't try it, the science says it would take about 25 cloves to produce a toxic result. Small quantities, 1 small clove per 30 pounds of dog weight a day, can possibly benefit digestion, cancer cell prevention and flea prevention. More cautious pet owners could also do off dosing to ease their mind and cycle 1 week on with 1 week off.
Pitted Fruit - The pits contain small amounts of a form of Cyanide and could also be a choking hazard. If you don't harvest the fruit trees in your yard, be mindful that once the fruit starts dropping, it might provide your dogs with a poisonous buffet that was more than they bargained for.
Bulb Flowers- Tulips, Lilies, Daffodils, Hyacinth to name a few. The bulb is the most toxic part of the plant but the stems, flowers and leaves also contain trace amounts of toxicity that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and organ failure. The likelihood of them consuming these bulbs is low, but you know your dogs.
Antioxidants is a word that has been thrown around for decades as the answer to many health shortfalls? What the hell do they do, these antioxidants? A short and somewhat scientific rationale will follow.
Very simply, free radicals are waste substances created in the bodies of living creatures through regular cellular metabolism that can normally be processed, neutralized and excreted without issue. If, however, there is an accumulation of this waste, it can start to cause the degradation of cells that might lead to diseases as the organism (dog) progresses through life. This is where antioxidants can come to the rescue. One of their many functions includes restoring and maintaining the balance of processing cell waste. Antioxidants have the ability on a molecular level to donate an electron to the uneven electron containing free radicals without compromising their own stability.
Incorporating sources of antioxidants such as vitamins, flavonoids and caratenoids (these two phytonutrients are responsible for the color in fruits and veggies and are also potent sources of antixoidants often used in traditional medicines) into a diet can be as simple as going out to your garden, picking a few items and putting them in the dogs dish. A wide variety is the best way to go here. Measuring the effects of these additions will be close to impossible so hedge your bets and mix it up.
A rule of thumb for dosages of fresh herbs would be 3/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds the dogs weight 2x per day. If you like to dry your herbs and store them, that increases their potency by three times (3x). Dried herbs can be administered at a lower dose of 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of the dogs weight.
Rosemary (dogs with epilepsy can be triggered by roesmary)
Fruit such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries also work well and make great snacks. Check out our Blueberry Oat Doggy Donuts
Digestive health is something that most humans overlook for both themselves and especially their animals. The stomach and intestinal tract are loaded with beneficial bacteria that help breakdown and absorb the nutrients from food. A lot of conditions like “food sensitivities” that cause vomiting or diarrhea could be from an imbalance in the gut. The gut is also largely responsible for keeping the immune system in top shape. Adding a small amount of the following herbs may help decrease the frequency at which those symptoms occur and increase your pets ability to fight off foreign invaders. A generic dosage of 3/4 of a teaspoon of fresh herbs per 10 pounds of the dogs weight should work well.
There are many different schools of thought on the best diets for dogs. This is not that forum. Although disagreements in diets abound, everyone would agree that dogs can be categorized as scavengers and or omnivores by nature. Dogs have been our counterparts for the better part of the last 10,000 years. They have historically eaten what was available or provided to them because of their relationship to us. That might have been left over meat, bones, vegetables, grains and of course any prey they might have managed to kill. While fiber wasn't a “life sustaining” nutrient for dogs, they still needed to maintain a small percentage in their diet. Most of the following options can be given to the dog once or twice a day at a generic portion of 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of the dogs weight. Other benefits to these options include essential vitamins and minerals for everyday nutritional support.
Apples - NO seeds or cores
Green beans – Mostly steamed but a few raw are okay
Pumpkin - Our Pumpkin Ginger Dog Donuts are always a great digestively neutral treat
Sweet potatoes – peeled, cooked and mashed for best results.
Moderation is the key when you introduce new foods or supplements into your dog’s diet. If you find that you would like to start adding these herbs or fruit to provide them with some healthy variety, then consider adding a sprinkle to a meal a few times a week. You can also brew a very mild tea(1 Tablespoon of fresh herb to 1 Cup boiling water) and once it cools to room temperature let your dog lap it up or mix it with their food. As always, talk with your vet/nutritionist about more serious additions or changes to their diet. Remember, the best cure is prevention, and steering your dog in the direction of a healthy, diverse diet should be extremely beneficial for them and yourself.