Dog food has become an industry all its own in recent years, with a different kind of kibble available for every possible combination of size, age, weight, breed, and various life cycle events and stages. Some dog food manufacturers have even begun introducing medicinal elements to their kibbles, rendering a healthy diet a substitute for some kinds of canine medication.
Despite the considerable convenience of processed kibbles, there are plenty of pet owners that still prefer their dogs to be kept on a more natural diet of raw meats, getting them for free or at a reduced cost from a butcher’s shop or meat packers. A middle ground exists with those that keep real raw meat as a treat or reward; smaller pieces of various prey animals can be purchased under the name ‘bowl toppers’ for exactly this purpose.
The one thing upon which almost everyone agrees is that dogs are to be fed primarily animal matter, a supposition borne out by their origins as predator animals, but many dog owners find themselves asking – what else can my dog eat? Can I feed it table scraps, candy, and other manmade foods?
Perhaps the most interesting such question is in the food category of produce, meaning whole, natural foods that are actually made part of the wild dog’s diet. Although less central than in humans, wild dogs will nevertheless seek out produce as a source of the many elements of a healthy canine diet not found in meat.
Fruits of various kinds supply the dogs’ needed intake of sugar; dogs can handle fruit that might be too rotten for a human to eat, making them able to subsist on fallen fruit instead of picking ones in the ripe stage. Vegetables supply a dog with dietary fiber and hydration not ordinarily found in meats.
Eggplants are one of the common vegetables more often fed to dogs – they’re cheap, considered a side dish for most humans, and many people find them unappetizing, especially if raw. What will your dog make of eggplant?
Good news first – eggplants are at the very least edible to dogs, if not very high on their list of favorite foods. A dog will not suffer any particular ill effects from an eggplant, although one might need to wait for the dog to understand that the vegetable is edible.
Eggplant tends not to have a notable flavor of its own, particularly when raw, so the dog might take to it more readily if it is prepared in some way – both grilling and baking are easy means of concentrating the eggplant’s flavor and giving it a little extra tang that might make it more attractive to your four-footed friends.
As mentioned, eggplant is also relatively cheap and will set you back only a few cents on the dollar of what the same weight or volume of kibble might have cost. Nutritionally speaking, eggplant is a strong source of fiber to speed up your dog’s digestion and low in calories if you need your pet to start losing weight.
Other advantages of eggplant include significant concentrations of vitamins B6 and K, and the mineral compounds potassium, folate, niacin, and phytonutrients. Meaty diets tend to be relatively low in any of these, and so adding a dose of them by feeding a dog eggplant is a good way to balance out their nutritional needs every once in a while.
Pet owners should remember that however good eggplant is for a dog, the dog’s main diet should remain animal matter; they are naturally built to require more meat than humans, and less of other food groups. Balancing a dog’s diet is both acceptable and encouraged, but feeding them on primarily vegetables can disrupt them entirely and do more harm than good.
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As good as it might be for your dog, eggplant is not a ‘superfood’ of exclusively positive potential. There are still things that pet owners need to know to keep their dog from coming to harm if eggplant is to be a regular part of their diet.
First and foremost, as mentioned, is that even healthy dogs should not be fed eggplant as the main component of their diet; that’s simply not how dogs are made, and even humans wouldn’t like it too much. Stick to nutritious commercial dog food that aligns with your pet’s various characteristics, or follow the recommendations of a trusted veterinarian, to make sure that your dog is getting what they need in each meal.
The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family of plants, which can be irritating to some breeds of dogs; it is particularly noted for exacerbating intestinal issues and may cause your dog not to digest food properly or vomit it back up. Dogs with a known history of such reactions, or even a family history of not tolerating nightshades well, should be kept clear of eggplant if possible.
A good indication of whether this will be a problem is tomatoes, which are likewise from the nightshade family. A dog that has a negative reaction to one is likely to have a negative reaction to the other as well. In the vast majority of cases, neither one is life-threatening, but the discomfort and intestinal difficulties they cause your dog should be reason enough to stick to other, less problematic alternatives.
It is worth noting that these reactions are caused by the presence of solanine, a common toxin in most nightshade plants. If you happen to grow such plants in your home garden or buy fresh from the market, keep in mind that leaves contain higher concentrations of solanine, and should be kept out of reach of inquisitive pets. Although dogs are by and large only interested in eating animal matter, they will occasionally take a bite of grasses or greens out of pure curiosity.
Dogs, like humans, have allergies, and a separate problem may arise if your dog proves allergic to eggplant. Look for a swollen face, an itchy rash, or an upset stomach as telltale signs that your dog might be in the throes of an allergic reaction. Should you identify any such signs, seek veterinary assistance immediately, and refrain from feeding the dog eggplant again until a trusted veterinarian has deemed it safe to do so.
In addition to solanine, eggplants are known to contain oxalates, which moderate the absorption of calcium into the bloodstream. Dogs with arthritis or kidney stones should avoid eggplants for this reason, as it keeps calcium out of the dog’s weakened bones and forces it into the kidneys, where there is too much calcium found.
Should your dog suffer from either of these conditions, there are some other foods rich in oxalates that you might want to avoid as well. Examples include spinach, kale, beetroots, collards, and quinoa. Check with your veterinarian for any other foods you may want to take out of your dog’s bowl to help ease these conditions.
A final precaution to take is to make sure the eggplant is given to the dog in small enough chunks that it won’t cause a choking hazard or a large enough piece that the dog will need to tear it up themselves before swallowing. Dogs will instinctively reduce food to a safe size if it doesn’t look like they will be able to swallow it at one go, so giving them a whole eggplant may be safer than a large chunk.
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Yes, your dog can eat eggplant in small amounts, assuming no side effects or preexisting conditions. Make sure to keep their main meals a healthy, meat-based diet, and watch carefully for any negative results.