Although they have been around for millennia, the concept of superfoods has only entered the mainstream discussion within the last two decades. People refer to these food sources as “super” because they are nutritiously dense. Superfoods for dogs can add a lot of extra nutrition to their diet.
I've scoured scientific journals to find studies and hard evidence on which human foods have proven to be healthy and nutritious for your pet, and found nine superfoods for dogs that not only are safe to eat, but are highly recommended in your canine's diet. You can find all links to medical journals under each superfood mentioned below.
These highly nutritious foods are packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. Some of them are of the exotic variety such as acai and goji berries, while others like kale can be grown in your own backyard.
Believe it or not, canines have their own subset of superfoods that are even more beneficial to them than they are for humans. The best part is that you can find superfoods for dogs in the aisles of your own grocery store, or your vegetable garden.
ALSO READ: 4 Good Reasons to Feed Human Food to Dogs
9 Superfoods for Dogs They Should Eat
according to science
Leafy green and slightly bitter, kale is a superfood for dogs as much as it is to humans. Abundant in vitamins A, C, and E, it is an excellent source of antioxidants and aids the liver in the detoxification of the body. Kale is low in calories as well, which means that you don’t have to worry about bloating or weight gain when fed to your dog whether it be raw, lightly cooked or dried.
Like turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and other members of the brassica family, kale is high in beta carotene. For those interested in breeding canines, there is evidence to suggest that including beta carotenoids in a dogs diet may improve its reproductive functions.
Who knew that a vegetable that for so long people have looked at as a bitter, mundane food with an almost leathery leaf can improve the lives of humans and dogs so much? Not only that, but it looks like it can be a boon to producing future generations as well.
The virtues of eating carrots has been known to humans ever since it was forced into the collective consciousness that consuming carrots was good for eyesight. While there is much debate as to the veracity of this claim, one thing is for sure; it is undoubtedly a superfood for dogs.
Low in saturated fats and cholesterol, carrots are excellent sources of niacin, thiamin, B-vitamins, folate and manganese. High in fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C and K. These orange hued roots are packed with nutrients and minerals! The only word of caution surrounding carrots is to make sure to not overfeed your dog with them, as they are also high in sugars that can lead to excessive weight gain and/or metabolic disorders.
It has been observed that including carrots in a dogs diet may have a significant impact on their digestive system. It seems that carrots stimulate additional activity from gut flora, which resulted in a decrease in the acidity of feces while increasing the amount of volatile fatty acids excreted. This means that carrots promote a healthier colon and gut environment and an improvement in the overall digestive process.
No longer reserved for Charlie Brown and Halloween, pumpkins have recently seen a resurgence in popularity after being named a superfood for dogs and humans. Due to its status in pop culture, the pumpkin has long gone unnoticed in terms of the health benefits it brings to the table.
Considered a superfood not just because it is low in saturated fats and contains almost zero cholesterol or sodium, pumpkins are also loaded with vitamins A, C and E (also known as Alpha Tocopherols which are excellent for the coats of most dogs).
No wonder pumpkins are so large, they’re full of vitamins, minerals and essential trace elements! Pumpkin seeds are also extremely beneficial to dogs.
Adding pumpkin to your dogs diet has been shown to improve overall satiety. Furthermore, it has been shown to be effective in the safe decrease of body fat and weight. This is likely due to pumpkins high fiber and carnitine content, which has a direct effect of lipid metabolism in the body.
4 Sweet Potatoes
Much like kale, sweet potatoes hide a rich deposit of beta carotenes within the orange flesh. However, it is because of the ridiculous quantities of vitamin A stored within that it is deemed a superfood for dogs. It is estimated that within an average 3.5-ounce sweet potato, lies enough vitamin A to fulfill anywhere between 35% – 90% of a persons suggested daily intake.
To further bolster its superfood status, sweet potato also contains a significant amount of anthocyanin and antioxidants. In combination, these two factors aid in decreasing oxidative damage caused by aging and in the decrease in the likelihood of disease development; such as cancer. Unsurprisingly, sweet potatoes are also high in dietary fiber, which aids greatly in the metabolic and digestive processes.
This should come as no surprise. For decades now fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids contained within them, have been highly touted not only as superfoods for dogs, but also as essential foods for a healthy canine life. Yes, some caution needs to be taken when it comes to fish as contaminants (like dioxin) and heavy metals (like mercury) do tend to get locked into its adipose tissue.
The payoff comes in the form of reduced risk in coronary diseases, reduction in mild hypertension and preventing, to an extent, cardiac arrhythmias. In canines, the inclusion of fish and fish oil in the diets of dogs suffering from osteoarthritis has shown an increase not only in their mobility, but also in their overall ability to bear their own weight.
Another study, which introduced fish oils to the diets of dogs suffering from lymphoma, showed an increase in the amount of time in which a dog was shown to be disease free. The research also shows the dog's overall length of survival compared to those subjects which were not fed fish oils.
At first glance, it is almost laughable to think that a dog can benefit from anything belonging to the sea, other than fish of course. But think of it instead as the oceanic version of kale. It is difficult to find a more nutrient-dense leafy green anywhere else on the face of the planet, both on land and below the waves.
It is rich in vitamins A and B-12, as well as iodine (which is surprisingly difficult to come by in most foods). However, it is the fiber contained within seaweed that really sets it apart. Unlike the majority of other superfoods mentioned on this list, seaweed contains what is known as soluble fiber.
This particular brand of fiber actually slows down the digestive process and inhibits the uptake of sugars and cholesterol. In a study performed on dogs with bone fractures, seaweed or rather its refined and milled version, seaweed flour, was supplemented into the diets of a number of the dogs. After 30 days it was observed that the dogs consuming the seaweed flour displayed elevated bone healing than the control group.
7 Chia Seeds
Containing three times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, chia seeds have been a staple in the diet of ancient Mesoamericans from times long ago where it was considered magical due to the benefits it brought to those who consumed it. As little as two tablespoons of chia seeds provides a 3 to 1 ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s.
In dogs, this has been shown to improve overall cell health, immunity, skin and coat, joint health and mobility, brain development and cognition, sight development and maintenance, and physical growth.
8 Yogurt and Probiotics
While it may be uncommon, maybe even counter-intuitive, to give your dog yogurt. But it makes more sense when you consider things from a gut microbiome perspective. A very recent study that we've discussed before showed how most pet owners ignore their dogs' gut microbiome, and how many benefits they can reap simply by paying a little more attention to it.
Think on the majority of food that the modern house dog eats. More often than not it comes from a bag, which came from a store, which came from some sort of processing line. While the ingredients may be of high quality sources, they are not what you would call “fully natural”, for in nature food sources are exposed to all sorts of microbiological lifeforms, bacteria, which serve to further enrich the food. By reintroducing these bacteria into the guts of dogs, their overall health should increase.
Indeed, a study in which dogs suffering from diarrhea were given fermented milk (yogurt), which contained Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilics. As a result, diarrhea events were reduced by 75% almost immediately. This demonstrates the positive effects that probiotics for dogs can have on your canine's gut health.
We've previously written and analyzed all the scientific data regarding blueberries for dogs, and found a ton of studies that show how beneficial this berry is for canines.
Known across the board as a powerful antioxidant, this small yet powerful superfood has been shown to reduce the oxidative damage inflicted by strenuous exercise in dogs.
The study was performed on sled dogs who are not unfamiliar with hours of running while towing a load and showed, through blood markers, a significant decrease of free radicals floating around in their system when fed a controlled diet of blueberries.
While the above nine superfoods for dogs have ranked the highest in terms of nutrition, there are a lot of other human foods that dogs can eat which have also been studied and proven to be beneficial to dogs.
Here are just a few more:
Not all human food is bad for dogs, and picking items that have been proven in studies to benefit dogs may be a smart idea. Feed them raw or cooked to your dog, give them as a snack or add them into your pet's favorite homemade dog food dish.