Ever since the term “superfood” was first coined in the early 20th century, there’ve been an increasing bounty of superfoods we’ve become aware of for human health, but what about for dogs? Do superfoods benefit them too, and if so, are they the same ones that benefit us?
First, let’s go over what superfoods are and why they’re good options for a healthy human diet.
What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods contain certain key nutrients containing health benefits that far exceed their nutritional benefits.
While this description was penned with human beings in mind, it applies equally to dogs. Like for humans, superfoods for dogs are foods rich in nutrients.
What Are the Benefits of Superfoods?
As they do for humans, superfoods help dogs boost energy levels, combat disease and maintain general, overall good health. Each superfood contains a combination of various macronutrients and micronutrients that each provide their own benefits to dogs.
Macronutrients are the primary nutrients human and canine bodies alike need to grow, develop, stay healthy and thrive. They are:
- Proteins – Proteins are a key energy source for dogs as well as the essential building blocks of life. Dogs therefore require between 18 and 25 percent of their diet to be protein.
- Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates also provide energy for dogs. A dog should have 30-70 percent carbohydrates in their diet, like rice, preferably unprocessed.
- Healthy Fats – These are good for a dog’s heart and could prevent heart disease, which is common in dogs. Unsaturated fats help promote a healthy skin and coat.
- Fiber – These foods help with digestion, enabling dogs to efficiently eliminate waste and toxins from their bodies. Fiber may also help prevent diabetes, another common ailment in dogs.
Micronutrients are the biochemicals found in trace amounts in all foods in varying combinations and proportions. Among the most valuable of micronutrients for canine health are:
- Vitamins – Vitamins are essential for a dog’s nutrition and energy levels and for a dog’s natural and healthy growth.
- Antioxidants – These may help prevent cancer, another common canine ailment, from forming. Some of them are also vitamins, like A, C, E, beta carotene and selenium. (More about antioxidants below.)
- Phytochemicals – There are an array of health benefits these plant chemicals offer to dogs depending on the particular chemical.
Just as they do in humans, antioxidants offer dogs a wide range of benefits, not the least being to promote a healthy immune system and stave off the progression of many debilitating and possibly fatal illnesses.
Fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods are the best sources of antioxidants.
Superfoods for Dogs
Of course, we know your dog isn’t sitting home watching Animal Planet and snarfing down doggie bon-bons all day. But even if you buy premium dog food — or even prepare your dog’s food yourself! — she can still benefit from a few superfoods in her diet.
Why Are Superfoods Important for My Dog?
Superfoods help with overall nutrition. Malnutrition can pose serious health risks to dogs, including:
- Bad breath
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Diseases of the skin
It can also cause growth disorders and congestive heart failure. Malnutrition can result from giving a dog an insufficient amount of food or quality of food, even if the amount is sufficient.
Proper nutrition is vital for a dog’s physical health and mental/emotional well-being. A dog’s nutrition should support their breed and age. Different breeds have different nutritional requirements, and puppies and elderly dogs, in particular, may require a greater proportion of superfoods in their diet than other dogs.
Aren’t the Ingredients My Dog Gets in His Premium Dog Food Enough?
If you feed your dog a premium brand of dog food, read the ingredients carefully, if you haven’t yet; it may contain superfoods already. By the reverse token, just because a dog food is labeled “premium,” it doesn’t mean that dog food is of premium quality. Make sure any so-called premium dog food you feed your dog is not high in sodium, sugar or unhealthy fats.
Keep in mind as well that the heavy processing food ingredients undergo to be made into dog food, particularly kibble, takes out many of the nutritional elements those ingredients provide in their whole form. This is a key reason why it’s so vital to feed your dog at least a portion of these foods in their original, whole food form, even if the dog’s premium dog food already contains those same ingredients.
Another key reason is that it’s also harder for a dog’s digestive system to break down foods in processed forms to absorb the nutrients they contain. When eaten in whole food form, a much larger portion of a superfood’s nutrients are absorbed into the dog’s system.
What Types of Superfoods Can I Feed My Dog Safely?
- Bone Broth
- Chia Seeds
- Coconut Oil
- Fermented Vegetables
- Fish (oily fish, in particular, like salmon)
- Kale (and other dark, leafy greens in general)
- Nori (or dried seaweed; kelp too)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Turmeric (or curcumin)
Which Superfoods Should I Avoid Feeding to My Dog?
The American Kennel Club urges caution when introducing new foods to your dog as some items that humans eat can be poisonous to dogs.
Avoid feeding your dog:
- ❌ Avocados
- ❌ Chocolate
- ❌ Coffee
- ❌ Grapes and raisins
- ❌ Mycotoxins in Mold
- ❌ Non-caloric Sweeteners
- ❌ Onions, garlic and chives
- ❌ Walnuts and macadamia nuts
How Do I Get Started With Superfoods for My Dog?
You can introduce packaged superfoods into your dog’s diet or start cooking them at home. Introduce them just a small bit at a time, and incrementally increase the amount to the level you’ve decided is best for your dog’s breed and age once you see that it’s not causing any negative effects.
You can also notice food allergies by introducing only one new superfood at a time and watching your dog closely for any reaction before introducing another. Watch as well that no new food you add into your dog’s diet, no matter how “super,” makes your dog put on excessive weight.
Most importantly, consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s proper nutrition and best use of superfoods for optimum canine health and wellness.
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