She's a Raaainbow... Balancing Your Pet's Diet with Plants.
What do the Rolling Stones have to do with animal nutrition, you say? Absolutely not one thing. But I hate dry post titles and I want to talk some more about why I recommend feeding a rainbow of plant matter to your pets.
I have already discussed why I think you should feed plants to your carnivore in this post, but there is a little more to it. It is true that dogs and cats in the wild consume very little plant matter and (probably) don’t eat the stomach content of their prey.
But that doesn’t mean that we are perfectly replicating an ancestral diet by following a formula (80/10/10, BARF, PMR …you choose your acronym…) and feeding a range of proteins available to us at the grocery store. It’s a fantastic start and you will be supplying many of the key nutrients your dog or cat requires.
But canines and felines in the wild don’t just eat human grade meat that has been washed, trimmed and packaged for their convenience. They eat fur, hooves, eyes, sinew, rectums, blood guts and gore. It may not be a particularly appetising reality, and it certainly isn’t akin to the instagram ready meals we’re so used to seeing on raw feeding accounts, but it IS reality. And everything animals in the wild do is for a reason. These wooly and wild ingredients in an animal’s diet all serve a nutritional purpose, whether it is via the actual supply of nutrients or to assist with the digestive process in some other way.
And if we want to truly replicate a fresh, balanced ancestral diet, we must also replicate these functions, which I believe is near impossible to do in a domestic environment without the addition of plant matter that may not have historically been consumed.
Some of the common nutritional deficiencies I see in homemade diets - and even in commercial recipes - are manganese, magnesium, vitamin E, iodine and zinc. The following foods are excellent additions to a homemade diet to ensure you are hitting these important nutrient goals:
Sunflower seeds are an excellent, concentrated source of vitamin E. Make sure you grind them or feed sunflower seed paste to get the full benefits.
Oats are brimming with manganese and can also soothe the tummy if you’re experiencing digestive upset. Soak blitzed or quick oats overnight in water or bone broth to soften.
Sea vegetables are one of the best sources of trace minerals on the planet, including iodine. Use very sparingly as they are p-o-t-e-n-t.
Hemp seeds contain a good dose of magnesium and are easily digested by our four legged friends.
Nut butters are an excellent source of zinc and in small doses are a valuable addition to a fresh diet. But never feed macadamias and always monitor how your dog fares with new foods like nut butter.
Some of these missing components also perform other functions in the digestive process, like adding roughage (aka fibre) to aide in the passage of food and waste through the digestive system. There are two different types of fibre and they behave very differently in the body. Insoluble fibre is undigestible plant matter that bulks up the stool to assist it passing through the system more quickly and, while this is generally good, the modern pet diet contains far too much insoluble fibre, which is why your kibble-fed pet does enormous, rancid poos. Soluble fibre is plant matter that dissolves in water and is fermented in the colon, slowing the digestive process and helping you to feel full for longer. Within soluble fibres are prebiotic fibres, which are essential additions to the diet as they feed the important good bacteria in your gut microbiome and support the heath of the gut, which in turn is essential for overall good health.
Most plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibre in varying quantities and offer digestive benefits when fed in moderation and as part of a balanced, fresh diet. Oats are again a good choice as they contains around 50/50 soluble and insoluble fibre, while also offering prebiotic benefits. Bananas, asparagus and apples are other excellent, easily accessible choices.
If you’d like to learn more about introducing fresh foods (including suitable plant matter) to your pet’s diet, download my FREE 7 Days to Fresh Food toolkit, or check out the nutrition plans and programs available in my SHOP.