How to tell if your dog is cut out for carrots
Carrots! The healthy vegetable archetype. How could anyone think they aren't ideal for dogs? I thought the same until dogs, who are my patients, taught me a little more about this delicious, beautifully-colored vegetable.
I seldom plan to write an article on a certain topic ahead of time. Instead, I wait for the right message to come to me. I can already hear some of you asking, "What is the carrot story?"
The story comes from Lake O'Hara, one of the stunningly beautiful parts of the Canadian Rockies. If you wish to visit this environmentally sensitive area, you have to call three months ahead and be lucky enough to get a camping permit. It's definitely worth it!
The other opportunity to try your luck comes when you arrive at Lake O'Hara. The local mountain hut by the lake sells an infamous carrot cake that everyone talks about. We were out of luck because the carrot cake sold out every single day before we returned from our morning hike. So here I am, back in Vancouver, thinking about Lake O'Hara carrot cakes and channeling my unfulfilled cravings into an article about dogs and carrots and the most common question: Are carrots good for dogs?
Nature's take on carrots and dogs
Every time I'm faced with a dietary question, the first thing I do is look at what nature does. Looking at the evolution of dogs, the period of connecting and living with humans is relatively short.
Coyotes have been around for 10 to 24 million years and wolves about 10 million. Domesticated dogs started to appear about 30,000 years ago and only have a .2 percent DNA difference from wolves.
Canine internal organs are identical to wolves and no histologist (histo-pathologist) could tell them apart. So, considering carrots aren't a regular part of a wolves' diet, they are unlikely to be a species-appropriate food for dogs.
I can already hear some people objecting: 'that is all nice, but my dog loves carrots!'
What I've seen in my practice
Of course, one could object that carrots still may be good for dogs. I've been using some food dogs have not evolved on for medicinal purposes, such as algae, spirulina and turmeric. But the reason I don't recommend carrots is most dogs don't digest them.
Carrots are relatively high in simple and complex carbohydrates (around 14 percent) and low in fat (1 percent) and protein (1.5 percent).
Dogs are masters at digesting meat protein and bones, but their digestive tracts are too short and ill-equipped to digest carbohydrates well. If you feed carrots to most dogs, you will see undigested pieces in their feces.
In my opinion, feeding large amounts of carrots leads to digestive strain, and some more sensitive dogs respond with intestinal inflammation and recurrent diarrhea.
Does your dog digest carrots?
If your dog couldn't care less about carrots, the problem is solved. It's much better to skip carrots and add leafy greens instead. Greens and grass are a healthy part of the canine diet.
But what if your dog loves carrots? It's hard to deprive our beloved canines of what they love, especially when it comes to food!
If this is the case, I propose you give your dog a few carrots and closely monitor his or her feces for the next 24 to 48 hours. If you see undigested pieces of carrots in their stool, it may be wise not to give your dog too many carrots.
Would juicing carrots and feeding the carrot pulp help?
The answer is yes – and no. Juicing would eliminate undigested carrot chunks, but the high sugar content in carrots is not ideal for dogs. Greens are a much better choice.
How about vitamins and minerals?
Besides carrots being a treat, most people consider them an important source of minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin A.
I agree that natural food-based vitamins are important and dogs are depleted of essential nutrients and vitamins. However, one does not want to solve a problem by causing another.
I've seen many dogs with minerals and vitamin deficiencies, mainly from eating highly-processed foods.
However, even dogs fed raw or cooked diets are often deficient, mainly because of intensive agriculture that depletes the soil of minerals and vitamins.
It took me years to formulate a whole food based vitamin formula for dogs with easy-to-digest natural minerals and probiotic cultures that corrects these deficiencies.
If your dog loves carrots and digests them well, it is likely okay to feed carrots as an occasional treat. Otherwise, you are better off skipping them altogether and learning which vegetables are suitable for dogs.
There are some opinions that say dogs should be fed meat only, but I disagree. In my opinion, the addition of vegetables to your dog's diet is healthier. Vegetables help eliminate toxins from the body and my experience is the average dog that gets veggies in his or her food does better.
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