Commercial dog food these days is usually made out of some kind of ground meat, held together with starchy additives or the natural adhesive elements from the meat animals themselves. Using a heavily protein-based diet triggers the dog’s natural predatory response and makes them more eager to finish the meal, ensuring that your dog gets its nutrition while maintaining a healthy appetite.
A helpful side effect of meat-based kibbles is that they introduce a certain uniformity that lets you accurately measure how much food you want to give your dog at each meal and judge different brands by weight or effect instead of something more arbitrary. It’s easy to judge one against the other when you are simply using the same size scoop of each.
The problem is that many commercial kibbles will have everything our four-footed friends need, but not all of it. Many commercial brands do not include such things as vitamin or fiber supplements, leaving your dog well-fed but with an incomplete nutritional profile that will require added doses of basic nutrients.
Numerous pet owners see this as a problem, as supplement medication can be notoriously hard to actually get into the dog. An injection is for trained professionals only, topical ointments are only marginally effective, and dogs spit out or reject pills so deftly that people have made it the subject of comic strips over the ages.
A careful study of wild dogs has given a possible insight into this problem. Unable to obtain pharmaceutical supplements, they instead seek out different kinds of natural produce to flesh out their nutritional needs. Thanks to their more resilient digestion, dogs are able to eat produce that humans would consider spoiled, allowing them to subsist on fallen fruits and vegetables that have pushed too far up from the ground to keep growing.
This has led human pet owners to begin experimenting with adding produce to the meat-heavy diet their dogs usually get; in fact, most kibble manufacturers are looking into the matter as well. Ideas like including ground vegetables in the kibble recipe or using dried bits to mix in with the bowl have taken on a certain degree of popularity in recent years, and are showing no signs of going away soon.
Although it’s certainly easier just to include the vegetables in the manufacturing process for the kibble, it’s not uncommon for pet owners to prefer the more organic option of feeding their dogs the actual produce in its natural state. Processed vegetables can lose significant parts of their nutritional value, and with the abundance of fresh produce easily available to the modern customer, it is not particularly harder to arrange than processed kibble.
One of the challenges facing those looking to feed their dog organically is finding the right produce. Most fruits and vegetables can be too expensive to buy just to feed to the dog, especially the ones that have enough nutritional value to be worth it. Finding something that is cheap enough to use on a regular basis and plentiful enough to be bought in quantity is a longtime dilemma of every grocery shopper, and it is made all the more potent by knowing that it will need to go to the dog instead of to people.
A solid option for those who find themselves in this situation is zucchini; it is relatively low-calorie and includes hefty concentrations of most of the relevant vitamins and minerals, but remains a low-cost vegetable thanks to a widespread aversion among people the world over. Generations of parents saying that ‘it’s good for you’ happen to have a point, and the same things that make it a healthy choice for humans can be just as critical to a dog as well.
Not everything that a human can eat, though, is safe for dogs. The classic example of this is chocolate, which is toxic to dogs in even modest quantities, but there are other things out there as well. Garlic, onion, and nutmeg are all classic examples of relatively healthy and organic food that can still cause serious harm to your pet.
If you’re looking to add organic produce to your dog’s diet, that low price over the zucchinis might look awfully tempting. Is there some reason you shouldn’t grab a bagful for your pooch?
The Good News
Not only are zucchinis themselves safe for dogs, but ancillary parts of the plant are as well. Unlike some plants, where the fruit itself is edible but the leaves, flowers, or stems can be toxic, every part of the zucchini plant is at least technically edible.
Not only will your dog be able to eat zucchinis safely, but there are also numerous reasons why they probably should. Zucchini might not be the most appetizing plant out there, but there is no denying that it is of considerable nutritional value. Most of what your dog needs outside of its protein intake can be found in zucchinis of even moderate size.
To begin with, zucchini is an exceptional source of antioxidants, a chemical that helps minimize the effects of aging in mammals; as dogs tend to live far shorter lives than humans, anything that helps preserve them should be of interest to the discerning pet owner. A good way to maximize your dog’s antioxidant intake is to leave the zucchinis unpeeled; most antioxidants tend to reside in the parts of the vegetable with the most color, and that means serving your dog zucchini with the skin still on.
Vegetable peels are also excellent sources of dietary fiber, another undeniable benefit that is all too often overlooked for dogs. Fiber helps speed up the digestion process by boosting the benign bacteria in the dog’s intestines, making it able to break food down faster and with a greater transfer of energy to the dog.
Another well-known side effect of fiber is in regulating elimination; fiber is known to work against either diarrhea or constipation and to help the body more effectively discharge inert material that the canine digestion can’t fully absorb. This can rid your dog of any inedible materials it may have swallowed, such as plastics, and makes the dog cleaner without resorting to canine laxatives or other medical solutions.
It can actually be hard to beat a zucchini in terms of vitamin and mineral content, one of the reasons that one might at least try feeding it to children before the dog. With five separate and important vitamin compounds in relatively high concentration for a natural product and a similar number of healthy minerals, even a limited helping of zucchini can give your dog a much-needed boost with health benefits in both the short and long term.
Several of these components are known as ‘essentials’ in the nutritional world, not because they are literally essential to the body’s continued functioning, but because the body cannot manufacture them unassisted. A helping of zucchini can give your dog much-needed doses of these vitamins and minerals that it will have a hard time finding elsewhere.
A final and somewhat simpler advantage to feeding your dog zucchinis is that they have an astonishingly low-calorie count with as little as 20 calories in one standard size cup of chopped zucchini. This makes zucchini an attractive option for those who need their dog to lose weight without becoming malnourished; the low-calorie count introduces a caloric deficit that will eat into the dog’s fat stores, while the high nutrient content will keep the dog healthy while it is trimming down.
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Pet owners should keep two important things in mind before giving their pet zucchini, both for their own good and that of their pet’s. While it is a highly recommended additive to the dog’s diet, it does have some downsides.
First and foremost, one should keep in mind that dogs are by nature carnivorous – replacing their main diet with zucchini is a bad idea. You should be making vegetables a maximum of one-tenth of their food intake by volume
Second, keep in mind that the vegetables do not necessarily taste any better to dogs than to people, especially since dogs are not naturally inclined to eat them. It may take some patience and effort to convince your dog that this new item is supposed to be eaten at all.
Yes, your dog can eat zucchini, and will probably benefit from doing so. That said, zucchini needs to be added to a healthy meat diet, not used to replace it.
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