Typical dog food, especially in kibble form, used to pretty much have two main kinds of ingredients--protein and starch. The protein might come from various kinds of animal byproducts--chicken and beef being the most common--and the starch usually came from wheat, corn, or rice. A lot of dog foods still have this basic formula. However, as our dogs have come to be seen as family members rather than as merely pets, health-conscious pet parents (and the food manufacturers that service them) have begun to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their dog’s diet.
While there are a few fruits and vegetables that can actually harm dogs, such as grapes and onions, there are many that are both healthy and tasty to many dogs. One of the most popular these days is blueberries. Blueberries are healthy for dogs for the same reasons blueberries are healthy for humans. They are high in antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C, and phytochemicals, all of which are beneficial nutrients for dogs.
If you would like to begin incorporating blueberries into your dog’s diet, here are four tips for how you might do that.
#1. Taste Test
Try giving them to your dog to see if she even likes them. Allergies to blueberries are exceedingly rare, so you’re really just finding out if blueberries tickle your dog’s fancy. After all, dogs are, to a certain extent, like people; they have their own tastes and preferences. Watch your dog to how she reacts. It’s obvious she doesn’t like if she sniffs it and then walks off or puts it in her mouth but spits it right back out. If she takes it but doesn’t seem to chew or swallow, watch her to see if she takes it somewhere to spit it out. If she’s like a lot of dogs, she’ll chew it up and beg for more!
#2. Special Treats
Give blueberries as special treats. If your dog likes blueberries, you can use them as reward treats during training or as a great low-calorie substitute for some of the higher calorie processed treats. Since they’re small, you don’t have to chop them up and it’s easy to carry them in a small bag or plastic container on a hike.
#4. In the Mix
Incorporate fresh blueberries into your dog’s meals. You can mix a small handful in with dry and/or wet food to add flavor and nutrients, and as a low-calorie filler. However, you need to be careful not to overdo it. Like most juicy fruits that are high in fiber, too many blueberries can cause your dog to have diarrhea. If you think it’s hard to get the stain out of your carpet when your dog has an accident now, just try it if your dog has dark blue diarrhea!
A great way to get the nutritional value of the blueberries without the mess of dark blue stains on your fingers and floor is to buy some of the higher-end manufactured dog foods that incorporate blueberries as an ingredient. You can find these at some grocery stores, but at pretty much every large pet store, and oftentimes at your vet. These foods usually pair blueberries (sometimes along with strawberries and cranberries) with chicken, quite often in grain-free or low grain foods for dogs with grain allergies or weight problems.
Some folks may be a bit skeptical about including fruits and vegetables into a dog’s diet. After all, dogs are carnivores, right? Well, yes, but even wolves living in the wild often eat blueberries and other small fruits in addition to meat. While some dog food fads may not be a good idea or worth the trouble, when given to dogs that like them and in appropriate amounts, blueberries can be a real health boost for your dog. Blueberries contain nutrients that are known to fight cell damage, to fight cancer, to help preserve brain health, and to contribute to healthy digestion, and to top it off they’re very low in calories. So next time you’re popping blueberries in your mouth, call over your furry friend and pop one in his mouth too. You just mind find his new favorite snack!