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Fruits and veggies for pets
We all know that smaller pets, such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, love fruit and vegetables. But did you know that fruits such as bananas, oranges, and mangoes all make great additions to your dog or cat's diet?
Whether you're looking to slim down your pet's waistline, or are just looking for healthy alternatives to commercial pet treats, we've got a great list for you! Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat can also be given to our pets, however some can be dangerous and should be avoided entirely. Find out which fruits and vegetables are safe to feed your pet:
Adding new foods to pet diets
Introducing new foods into your pet's diet may cause upset stomach issues such as vomiting or diarrhea. Be cautious to introduce only one new fruit or vegetable at a time to help you spot any health changes.
Steer clear of: Cherries are toxic to cats and dogs, and grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit as well as persimmons can cause an upset stomach.
All the following fruits are safe for your dog or cat to eat. In general fruits are higher in sugar than vegetables, and thus should be limited in overweight pets. However, be sure to wash all fruits and remove rinds, inedible skins, seeds, and pits before feeding to pets.
Apples are high in fiber and low in fat, making them an ideal snack for overweight or senior pets who may have a lower metabolism. They're also packed with vitamins A and C which are essential for maintaining healthy bones and tissue. Feed your pet apples in moderation and remove the core and seeds first, as they contain cyanide.
The fleshy fruit of apricots can make a good treat for cats and dogs. They are full of potassium and beta-carotene which can help fight against cancer. Just be sure your pet doesn’t eat the poisonous pit, stem, or leaves.
Bananas are a great source of potassium which can support heart and kidney functions. Bananas are high in carbohydrates and the high sugar content in bananas mean that they should be given to dogs sparingly. When sliced into reasonable sizes this can make a good occasional treat.
Similar to their benefits in humans, blueberries can help prevent cell and tissue damage because of their antioxidant properties. In addition to being a good source of fiber and Vitamin C, blueberries may lessen the chances of your pet developing urinary tract infections and have been shown to improve night vision.
It’s important to remove the skin and seeds and cut the cantaloupe into manageable sized wedges before feeding to cats and dogs. Also, don’t let them lick the outside skin, which may carry harmful bacteria. With a host of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, and C, cantaloupe may help alleviate inflammatory issues in pets.
If you’re looking to help fight urinary tract infections in cats and dogs, cranberries may be an option. Vitamin C, fiber, and manganese make cranberries an attractive snack for cats and dogs, provided they can handle the tartness. Raw, cooked, or dried cranberries are acceptable treats, but avoid cranberry sauce and cranberry juice, which are too high in sugar and will upset your pets’ stomach.
Mangoes are a vitamin-packed treat for cats and dogs. As with all pitted fruits, be sure to remove the hard middle pit which contains poisonous amounts of cyanide. Giving small pieces of mango with the skin removed will allow for easier digestion and as a result lessen the chances that fiber from the fruit will upset your pets’ stomach and digestive tract.
Cats may not be interested in eating oranges, but dogs have been known to enjoy this sweet treat. The nutrients and Vitamin C can help their immune system and flush toxins out of the body. However, the seeds, peel, leaves, or stem of the orange contain oils that are poisonous, so make sure you only feed pets the fleshy part of the fruit.
Pears are full of vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber, and make a great snack for cats and dogs when served in moderation. As with apples and oranges, pear seeds contain traces of cyanide and should be removed before feeding to your pet. Give cats or dogs small slices of pear to help promote anti-cancer properties.
From folate to zinc, pineapple is bursting with vitamins and minerals that can help your cat or dog’s digestion and immune system. Like any other sugary fruit, it is best to feed pineapple to pets in small quantities. The spikey skin and hard core should be removed before giving to a pet to prevent choking hazards.
Raspberries are low in sugar and contain lots of fiber and vitamin C. Their anti-inflammatory properties make them great for older pets. However, they should be given in moderation as they contain very small amounts of naturally occurring sweetener called xylitol. In large amounts, such as is found in xylitol containing gum, this sweetener can be fatal to dogs and cats.
Fresh or frozen strawberries can help pets stay healthy whether they eat them raw or pureed over their normal pet food. The nutrients in strawberries help strengthen the immune system and slow issues related to aging.
Watermelon is almost 92% water, so it is great for keeping your pet hydrated. It also contains Vitamins A, C, and B-6, as well as potassium which helps maintain healthy muscle and nerve function.
Steer clear of: Never feed your pet onions or garlic as they are toxic in all forms: cooked, raw, and even onion powder. These cause damage to the red blood cells, ultimately causing them to burst. Rhubarb and wild mushrooms also contain toxins. We suggest avoiding corn as it is a common allergen among pets.
The following vegetables are suitable for your dog or cat to eat. Consider steaming or boiling cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, as they are much easier to digest when cooked. Cats may need the vegetables to be pureed, or for convenience can be fed a vegetable baby food without onions or garlic.
Asparagus is high in fiber, has a lot of vitamins, and is an excellent source of potassium. Dogs can be at risk of choking on an asparagus stalk, so they should receive bite-sized pieces that have been softened through cooking to allow easier digestion before partaking in the nutritious benefits. If cats express interest in eating asparagus, there’s no harm in also giving them a small piece.
All bell pepper varieties provide beta carotene, fiber, and antioxidants. Make sure to cut peppers up into manageable sized pieces and feed with the stem removed to help boost immune function.
Broccoli is high in fiber and vitamin C, but too much can cause stomach irritation in some dogs. Small pieces of broccoli without the large stems can make a good treat for dogs, and cats tempted to chew on broccoli florets are welcome to indulge in small bits.
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K but many cats and dogs aren’t interested in eating them. However, if they want a small bit of the nutritious green, make sure they are cooked soft and small enough for a pet to swallow without choking.
Eating cabbage can aid in digestion, fight cancer, and improve skin and fur health for cats and dogs. Shredding the cabbage over food is a good way to slowly introduce it into their diets, but give in moderation to avoid harmful effects to your dog’s thyroid gland. It is best to cook the cabbage before feeding to allow for easier digestion.
Carrots are low in calories, high in fiber, and crunching on them is great for your pet's teeth. They also contain beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin and eye health.
Cooked or raw, cauliflower is a treat you can share. The vitamins and antioxidants may help reduce inflammation and help older pets with arthritis. Its fiber can support digestive health, but too much may lead to an upset stomach. Serve plain and in small bites without the stem and leaves.
Celery is low in calories and is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. It also has high water content that has been shown to help freshen your pet's breath.
Aside from vitamins K, C, and magnesium, cucumbers contain very little carbohydrates or fats, making them a treat for overweight pets. Cucumber can also help cats and dogs lower blood pressure, but also importantly it can help freshen their breath.
Green beans are a good source of protein and iron for cats and dogs. Fresh, frozen, or canned, sodium-free green beans can make a healthy snack that helps pets slim down.
Lettuce helps add water and fiber to a pet’s diet which helps keep them hydrated and full. The leaf should be cut into very thin slices to make it easy to eat, and can be placed on top of their usual food.
Peas offer vitamin B, thiamin, and potassium that can boost energy levels and improve bone health in pets. Frozen, thawed, steamed, or mashed, peas can make a nice snack or compliment to a cat or dog’s normal diet.
Pumpkin is a great health food to give your pets. It is full of fiber and may help pets suffering from both constipation and diarrhea. Additionally, pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is a great source of water. Avoid pumpkin pie filling, which contains added sugar and spices.
For pets or for people, spinach is widely regarded as a super food for containing almost every vitamin and mineral. It may help in all area of your pet’s health. Avoid giving in large amounts or if they have kidney disease, as it can be harmful or exasperate problems with their kidneys.
Similar to the benefits of pumpkin, sweet potato offers dogs and cats fiber, water, and nutrients that aid with digestive problems. Sweet potato offers even more nutritional value, containing vitamins, thiamine, niacin, and even copper. Because of these nutrients, sweet potatoes are much more beneficial to pets than regular white potatoes.
Zucchini is a good source of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Shredding it on top of their regular food is a good way to incorporate it into their diet and may help protect them from infections, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
Tips for feeding your pet fruits and vegetables from Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Nold
Trupanion veterinarian, Sarah Nold, DVM, offers expert advice on incorporating fruits and vegetables into your pet’s diet, including which fruits and vegetables have the biggest health benefits and what to do if you believe your cat or dog may have a food allergy.
Why should I include fruits and vegetables in my pet’s diet?
Your pet’s diet should be nutritionally balanced, low in fat and appropriate for your pet’s life stage. Adding fruits and vegetables to your pet’s diet will help ensure that they’re getting plenty of essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to help them stay strong and healthy and boost their immune system. Pet treats can also be high in calories, so fruits and vegetables can provide a healthier alternative.
How many fruits and vegetables should I feed my pet?
I recommend moderation of any fruit or vegetable, even if considered safe. In addition, if their dog/cat is being treated by a veterinarian for an underlying medical condition it would be recommended to consult with the veterinarian before starting any new fruit or vegetable.
Small amounts of vegetables can be incorporated into your pet’s regular food at meal times, or pea-sized pieces of fruits or vegetables can be given to your pet as a healthy, low-calorie snack. However, avoid feeding your pet fruits such as strawberries, bananas, and pineapple too often as they contain high levels of sugar.
Which fruits and vegetables are bad for your pet?
In the same way that chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs, some fruits and vegetables are too. Onions, garlic, wild mushrooms, avocado, and rhubarb are all poisonous to pets, and corn is also a common allergen. You should also avoid feeding grapes and raisins to your pet, as they can cause kidney damage.
Does my pet have an allergy to a certain fruit or vegetable?
You should always gradually introduce any new foods to your pet’s diet to avoid any stomach upsets. Feed your pet small amounts of the fruit or vegetable to begin with, and always introduce one type of fruit or vegetable at a time so if your pet does have an adverse reaction, it will be easier for you to determine the cause. Corn may be an allergen, however it is a lot less common then others (including beef, dairy, wheat, chicken and egg in dogs). Beef, dairy and fish are considered the most common food allergens in cats.
Symptoms of a food allergy include sickness, diarrhea, and skin problems, however your veterinarian will be able to confirm for sure if your pet has an allergyand can advise on the best course of action.