By Dr. Avi Blake | October 1, 2014
Whether your pet is in tip-top shape, carrying an extra pound or two, or outright overweight, you may consider switching from high-fat, high-calorie pet treats to something more healthy — and inexpensive. If your pet is already eating a quality commercial diet designed for her breed, age and stage of life, the addition of fruits and vegetables is not necessary to balance her nutrition. However, as treats or snacks, fruits and veggies offer tasty, low-calorie options. The key is moderation. Many excellent treats can be found in the produce aisle, but any fruit or veggie may be harmful if eaten by a pet in large quantities.
Before changing or adding anything to your pet’s diet, consult with your veterinarian. This is important not only to ensure that what you plan on feeding is safe for your pet and that the changes are noted in your pet’s medical record, but also because some foods may interfere with a medical condition or prescribed diet or medication. Always inform your veterinarian of all foods, supplements or other over-the-counter products you give your pet.
Some Basics to Keep in Mind
Dogs are naturally omnivores, tolerating a variety of foods. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, having evolved on a diet excluding fruits or vegetables. Cats also lack the ability to perceive sweetness, which potentially reduces the appeal of some fruits and vegetables. However, there may be flavors or textures associated with these types of foods that certain cats find attractive.
Do not offer too many fruits or vegetables to your pet. Such treats should make up less than 10 percent of your pet’s diet. Ease the transition from your usual treats by starting with small amounts and consider steaming or boiling raw vegetables — especially for cats (see below). Even the best fruit or veggie options, if eaten by your pet in huge amounts, can result in gastrointestinal disturbances. Also, be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables, and remove rinds or pits before feeding.
“Best in Show” Fruits/Veggies for Dogs
- Green beans
- Cooked sweet potato
- Apples (without seeds)
- Bananas (offering frozen bananas keeps the squishy mess to a minimum)
Worst Fruits/Veggies for Dogs
- Onions, garlic, leeks or chives (members of the Allium family) — these contain organosulfoxides, which are toxic to pets; cooking does not reduce their toxicity potential
- Grapes or raisins — can cause illness and kidney damage
- Raw potatoes
- Wild mushrooms
- Apple cores with seeds (also avoid seeds from other fruits, such as watermelon)
- Stone fruits — for their potential to cause choking
- Rhubarb leaves (the stems are safe)
“Best in Show” Fruits/Veggies for Cats
Offer only in small amounts:
- Baked carrots
- Steamed asparagus
- Steamed broccoli
- Steamed green beans
- Cooked winter squash
Worst Fruits/Veggies for Cats
- Onion, garlic and chives
- Grapes or raisins
- Uncooked veggies — for cats, some uncooked veggies are highly unpalatable, can pose a choking hazard or are difficult to digest