While it had long been believed that dogs are pure carnivores (meat eaters), in the past decades, many detailed and convincing arguments have been laid out that dogs are rather omnivorous (plant and meat eaters), just like humans. This is however a topic for another time. The bottom line is that dogs can benefit tremendously from adding plants and herbs into their diet. The truth of the matter is that vegetables contain important nutrients that are absent in meat, and so adding plants and herbs into dogs' diets can be highly beneficial for them. Today we want to dive into a few powerful plant compounds that can make dogs healthier, happier, and thrive into old age.
The benefits of supplementing your dog’s diet with some of these powerful plant compounds are derived from:
- Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements that protect them from wear and tear and help fight aging.
- Fiber to help regulate digestion and glycemic variability (which can combat diabetes).
- Phytonutrients that stave off bacteria, viruses, and cancer.
- A plethora of vitamins and minerals.
This is list is by no mean exhaustive and we strongly urge you to dive deeper into the wonderful world of plants and what they can offer both ourselves and our furry friends. Here we go:
This plant whose root has long been used as a spice and a medicine across cultures has a rich tradition and a multitude of uses due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The benefits translate well from humans to dogs, including:
- Fighting inflammation – ginger has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-toxic properties. Dogs are exposed to several elements that can weaken their immune system and expose them to being affected to viruses and bacteria in their environment. Ginger can help strengthen their immune system, de-toxify them by promoting blood circulation, and help lower blood pressure which is particularly important for older dogs.
- Ease nausea and upset stomachs – Ever reach for a ginger ale when feeling motion sick or slightly queasy? This folk remedy undoubtedly has its roots in the benefits brought on by ginger. Ginger promotes healthy bowel movements and a healthy gut biome. Older dogs in particular experience the occasional stomach problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and constipation. Adding small amounts of ginger into their diets can help alleviate many of these ailments.
- Blocking growth of cancer tumors – studies have shown that ginger, due to its anti-inflammatory effects, helps circulation and also boosts immunity, both of which can help prevent the development of cancers in canines.
- Decrease age-related joint pain – As a natural anti-inflammatory, ginger can help combat inflammation and lessen the pain in joints and bones. And because it’s derived naturally, the absence of chemicals makes it much easier on their stomachs compared to pharmaceutically derived pain killers.
This spice is derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree species. It’s anti-inflammatory, can help maintain weight, lower blood pressure, and boost cognition. Specifically:
- Anti-inflammatory – Cinnamon is great for older pups with joint pain and swelling. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties it can ease pain associated with arthritis including swelling and muscle soreness.
- Maintains healthy weight – Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar which is great for overweight and dogs with diabetes. By slowing the absorption of glucose (sugar) it regulates blood sugar which is why it can be beneficial to provide a bit of cinnamon along with carbohydrate rich meals.
- Promotes heart health – Research has found that this spice can lower blood pressure and heart rate to promote a healthy heart. In a blind test, dogs given cinnamon displayed significant benefits to those who did not.
- Boosts cognition – the antioxidant rich compounds in cinnamon can protect dogs (and humans) against neurological disorders and boost memory even in small amounts.
A powerful antioxidant with great anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains curcumin, the active ingredient from which it derives its orange pigment. Studies have shown curcumin to have a whole host of benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory – turmeric is used in many dog foods, treats and supplements to combat and prevent degenerative conditions like arthritis, cancer, allergies, and blood clotting. Studies have shown that curcumin works just as well and even outperforms anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Anti-cancer – the curcuminoids found in turmeric can prevent the growth of cancer cells and even kill cancer cells. Given that half of dogs today may develop cancer, partially due to chronic inflammation, giving your dog small amounts of turmeric can go a long way
- Healing the gut – turmeric has positive effects on gut permeability and healing. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties protect the stomach and the liver, increase bile production, and can heal the gut to reverse gastrointestinal disorders.
- Promotes heart health – adding a bit of turmeric to your dog’s diet can promote heart health and diminish blood clots in the heart due to its anticoagulant properties.
This blue-green alga (actually a bacteria) is the true definition of a superfood. Packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, its use has skyrocketed to treat ailments like inflammation, cancer, malnutrition, poor immune function, and detoxification. The benefits are vast:
- Gastrointestinal health – Spirulina promotes healthy digestion and prevents the growth of bad bacteria like e-coli and candida while promoting healthy gut flora like lactobacillus. A healthy gut biome will help your dog increase the absorption of nutrients in their diet.
- Detoxification – air, water, food and drugs can all contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs. Spirulina is full of phytonutrients, including chlorophyll, phycocyanin, sulfolipids and polysaccharides that all can help eliminate accumulated toxins.
- Boosts immune system – several studies show spirulina’s ability to boost the immune system through its unique blend of phytonutrients. By stimulating the immune system, promote generation of new cells, and reduce inflammation it also helps to cope with allergies, including food and certain flower pollens.
- Reduce cancer rates – in animal studies, spirulina has shown to reduce cancer activity by stimulating natural anti-cancer cells and boost the body’s natural ability to fight cancer. The rich carotenoid antioxidants also prevent some cancers from developing and promotes healthy cells in the body.
This leafy green is antibacterial, antioxidant, aids detoxification, and is high in fiber and protein. It contains a host of beneficial vitamins and minerals, can help fight bad breath and aid digestion. Adding small amounts of parsley can help:
- Urinary tract infections – parsley can work as a great diuretic and can help flush out fluids, waste and move foods through the digestive tract. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits also help promote kidney health.
- Bad breath – because parsley is anti-microbial, adding some to your dog’s diet can help prevent the accumulation of bacteria in the dogs mouth.
- Support the immune system – the high content of Vitamin C in parsley helps boost the immune system along with Vitamin A which also helps the development of your dog’s vision and eye health.
- Add a source of Vitamin K – this vitamin helps maintain circulation to prevent clotting and supports healthy liver function. Additionally, Vitamin K can help destroy inflammatory cells contributing to arthritic.
- Prevent cancer – parsley contains substances such as apigenin and myricetin whose antioxidant effects can help prevent certain types of cancers.
By adding these powerful compounds, fresh or dried, you can provide a boost to your dog’s nutrition. You can sprinkle some in their foods or add them into home baked treats to help prevent age-related diseases such as arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, compromised immune function and cancers. A word of advice though, use these in moderation, as excess can have potential downsides. When in doubt, always consult your dog’s health care professional.
If you do want to take advantage of all the benefits that plants can provide dogs, take a look at our delicious treats which incorporate these phytonutrients into delicious baked biscuits along with anti-inflammatory coconut oil, pumpkin which if full of vitamins mineral and fiber, and more. And if you’re worried about allergies, our treats are grain-free as grains can induce inflammation.
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