Peas, those sweet little green vegetables, are one of nature's delights. Full of vitamins and minerals, fresh and juicy, but are they appealing to your canine companion? There are dogs that may enjoy this green juicy pea. If you view the pea from a canine perspective however, it is different from the meat and bones that formed the staple diet of the dog’s wolf ancestor. The size of the pea and its texture would not necessarily appeal to a dog. Carnivorous animals are not equipped to eat many fruit and vegetable products as their digestive systems are geared to eating meat. The dogs primary sense that leads him to decide on his food is his sense of smell. Peas, as a vegetable, will smell very different from meat or meat flavored kibble.
The Root of the Behavior
There is no doubt that peas are beneficial to any diet and the dog food produced today often includes vegetables, such as peas. However, peas are a legume and some dogs are allergic to legumes. Dogs seem to know instinctively that something will not agree with their system. There are of course many dogs that will eat anything available and are the exception to the rule. Peas that are growing in the garden or on a farm will need to be shelled from the pea pod. You may find that a walk around the garden leads to shelling some peas and handing them to your dog. A quick sniff of the peas held in your hand may not give your dog the flavor and aroma that he is used. He will wonder why you are not handing out his kibble or doggie treats that he loves. Dogs have food associations that lead them to perform and enjoy their domesticated life. Little, green round pseudo-kibbles may not hit the right spot.
The sodium content of canned peas and frozen peas is not good for dogs. You would have to take this fact into account before deciding to mix peas into your dog’s diet. Peas are used in some of the dried food products for dogs, but at this stage have been processed and tested to be nutritiously balanced with the rest of the dog food. Digesting peas is a challenge for dogs as their digestive systems are not geared for absorbing vegetable matter. Vegetable matter and probably peas with their skin would most likely pass through the dog’s system without being broken down. The nutrients of the pea would then be wasted as the vegetable passed through the dog’s stomach and digestive canal to be excreted without any benefit to the dog’s nutrition. Peas that are eaten whole with the pea pod can become lodged in the dog’s throat and cause your dog to choke. Dogs would avoid something that is going to be difficult to eat. Their teeth are set up to tear and eat meat, they are not equipped to eat peas in a pod. Wolfing down the pea pod whole would cause choking and be harmful to your dog.
Encouraging the Behavior
Knowing that your dog is by nature a carnivore and meat eater will put his diet into perspective. There are diets that include all kinds of raw food materials. The BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet, for example, is made up of meat and raw food. There are studies to suggest that dogs need all these components. These types of diets may include peas as a nutritional added ingredient. Mixed into the food, they will add value. When a dog was foraging for food in the past he would naturally be on the scent trail of a small animal. The scent of peas may not readily lure your little hunter to seek out a sweet juicy vegetable.
If your dog eats peas you should watch his reaction before feeding more raw peas. Vomiting and diarrhea will be cause for concern and an indication of an allergic reaction. Peas can cause gas because they are legumes and that would be another reason for avoiding them. It is the excessive lectin from the peas that can be a problem. Lectins are harmless if they can be cooked for fifteen minutes, but in their raw state they are not easily digestible. Dogs that feel uncomfortable because of indigestion are unlikely to want to try peas again!
Other Solutions and Considerations
Eating raw peas out in the garden could be a country treat you enjoy with your dog, but dogs may not be naturally drawn to eating peas. It would be important to introduce peas slowly and shell them first. Cooked peas help to break down the pea itself and make it easier to digest. The urban dog is unlikely to encounter raw peas as he is fed dried kibble, the diet he is used to. Check the contents of the kibble and you may find the nutritious pea has been used in the mix. However, in its raw state it does not smell or taste like dog food. Your dog may give the pea a good sniff and then move on to something more in line with his natural diet.
Round and sweet green peas have been part of our diet for centuries. Peas, dried and ready to make a porridge was the inspiration for a childhood rhyme about Pease porridge. Would your dog like Pease porridge in the pot nine days old? Probably not, and his response as he turned his nose up could be: "Pawsitively awful!"…. hot or cold! Pease porridge in the pot nine days old is a ruff start to any dog’s day!