We all want our dogs to be as healthy as possible. We know that good food is essential for good health.
Commercial foods are designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs, providing the correct ratios of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that they need to stay fit and healthy.
Most dogs do well on commercial diets and they certainly form a good foundation for a healthy life. But can we do more to promote health and vitality in our dogs?
Most people have heard of superfoods and know that they can contribute to human health, but what about superfoods for dogs?! How might dogs benefit from the addition of these snippets of goodness?
In this article, we will delve into the world of superfoods! What they are, why they may be good for your canine companion, and how to safely include them in your dog’s diet.
Table of Contents
What is a superfood?
Many superfoods are considered to have disease-fighting properties.
The term ‘superfood’ was originally used as a marketing tactic to encourage people to buy specific foods. Nowadays we tend to use the term ‘superfood’ more broadly to remind us what foods we should be including more of in our diet.
Superfoods include types of fruit, vegetables, fish and other seafood, grains, legumes, beans, fungi, nuts, seeds, and some fermented foods.
Superfoods tend to have notable levels of compounds that we know are beneficial– for example, antioxidants in blueberries or omega-3 fatty acids in salmon.
Why should you add superfoods to your dog’s diet?
You may be wondering whether you need to add superfoods to your dog’s diet if you already feed them good quality dog food, and no, you don’t need to.
Commercial dog food is formulated to provide everything your dog needs to be healthy. A truly healthy diet not only contains the right proportions of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but it also provides a wide range of micronutrients, amino acids, and chemical compounds.
The availability of these to the body will determine its ability to maintain health and fight off disease- this is true for dogs as well as humans.
So adding some superfoods to your dog’s usual food is a good way to ensure he is getting the maximum benefit from his diet and protecting his future health.
However, it is vital that this is done in a way that does not unbalance his diet or negatively affect his health so it is important to do your research, follow the 10% rule, and speak to your vet or a canine nutritionist if you need advice.
Which superfoods can I add to my dog’s diet?
Adding superfoods to your dog’s regular diet will give a real nutritional boost and help keep him in tip-top condition.
However, before feeding any superfood it is important to check that it is safe to feed to dogs. You should also find out how to prepare it and in what quantity it should be fed.
The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you – so here is our top 20 superfoods for dogs!
Carrots are high in vitamin A which is essential for good eyesight and a healthy immune system. They also contain a wealth of other vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants such as beta-carotene that protect against age-related diseases.
Carrots are also high in fiber which is essential for good gut health. When fed raw, carrots are great for keeping your dog’s teeth clean.
Dogs cannot digest cellulose so some of the nutrients in carrots will be unavailable unless the carrots are lightly cooked. Cut into bite size pieces and then steamed or boiled is best.
Feed a small amount as a topper to your dog’s main meal or let your dog munch on a whole raw carrot for the dental health benefits.
Turkey meat is best served broiled or steamed and unseasoned. The skin is fatty so you might want to remove it if your dog has a sensitive digestive system or is on a low-fat diet.
Never feed cooked turkey bones to your dog as these can pose a choking hazard or cause internal injury.
This depends on the size of your dog. If you are feeding turkey as a treat then a couple of cooked, finger-sized pieces would be fine for a medium sized dog.
If you are feeding turkey as the main source of protein in your dog’s meal, aim for one third to one half of the meal to be made up of turkey.
However, we suggest you seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist or vet for exact quantities for your dog if you feed home-cooked food on a regular basis.
Kelp is a type of seaweed that grows in coastal areas and is well known for being highly nutritious.
Kelp is rich in a wide variety of minerals including iron, magnesium, iodine, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, as well as ‘ultra-trace’ minerals such as iridium and rubidium.
Kelp contains vitamins K, C, A, B5 and B9 and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Kelp supplementation can promote good general health and guard against vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Kelp may also help promote good dental health in dogs.
The safest way to feed kelp to your dog is to buy it in a powdered form designed specifically for dogs and follow the manufacturer’s advice.
Feeding too much kelp can cause health problems due to the high levels of iodine, so less is definitely better.
Kelp is so nutritionally dense that you really don’t need much to reap the health benefits!
Follow the manufacturer’s advice. Feeding raw kelp from the beach is not recommended due to the possibility of contamination.
Honey contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that are great for the immune system.
Honey also has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and it may help alleviate allergies in some dogs.
Highly processed honey from the supermarket will not provide the same nutritional benefits as it has been heated, filtered, and sometimes diluted, so always choose raw, locally produced honey for your dog.
Raw honey does not require any preparation, it can be drizzled on your dog’s meal or let him lick the spoon.
Honey is very high in sugar so it should only be fed in very small amounts. A large dog should have no more than one teaspoon a day and small dogs only half a teaspoon a day.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that is essential for a healthy immune system.
Broccoli also contains plenty of fiber and a wealth of other health-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Being a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli contains sulforaphane, which can help to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.
Broccoli is best served lightly cooked- either steamed or boiled. It can be fed raw but may not be so appetizing to your dog!
Broccoli should only be fed in small amounts- less than 10% of the diet- as it can cause bloating and digestive issues if fed in excess.
Ginger root is known to aid digestion and ease nausea. It may be beneficial for dogs who experience travel sickness. Ginger may also have anti-cancer properties but this needs more investigation in dogs.
Remove the skin and grate a little onto your dog’s food. Alternatively, you can feed ginger in a dried, powder form.
Only small amounts. No more than half a teaspoon for larger dogs and much less for small dogs. Monitor your dog for adverse reactions as some dogs may be allergic to ginger.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a true superfood! It contains a number of different antioxidants to boost the immune system, as well as oleic acid which has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. High levels of polyphenols in olive oil may help to ward off chronic diseases.
Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has only been mechanically processed. Olive oil that has been extracted using chemicals may have lost much of its health-giving properties. Drizzle a little on your dog’s usual food.
No more than a teaspoon a day for larger dogs, less for smaller dogs.
Curly parsley is full of vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall health. Parsley may also give your dog fresh breath!
Only feed curly parsley as other varieties of parsley are toxic to dogs. Parsley may be fed raw, steamed, boiled or dried.
Small amounts only. Sprinkled on your dog’s food or baked into homemade dog treats.
High levels of antioxidants to boost the immune system. Compounds found within turmeric- notably curcumin- have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Turmeric may be beneficial for dogs with arthritis and other joint problems.
Fresh turmeric can be grated onto your dog’s usual food. It can also be fed in dried form.
No more than one teaspoon per day for large dogs, less for small dogs. Turmeric may interfere with blood clotting and should be stopped before any surgical procedures.
10. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a good source of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and calcium. They help to maintain a healthy immune system, skin, coat, eyes and brain. They are high in fiber so are great for your dog’s digestive health.
Sprinkle on your dog’s main meal or soak in water to make a chia seed pudding.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, so feeding large amounts may cause digestive issues. Feed no more than a quarter of a teaspoon for each 10 pounds of body weight. Monitor your dog after feeding to ensure there are no signs of allergy.
Watermelon is a great superfood for your dog. It is packed with vitamins and minerals and is low in calories. It’s also useful to feed on a hot day to cool your pup and ensure he stays hydrated.
Always remove the rind and seeds as these are not digestible and may cause a blockage. You can feed fresh or frozen on a hot day, cut into cubes or chunks.
Feed occasionally as a treat, in moderation. Only feed a small amount of watermelon to begin with as feeding too much can cause diarrhea.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, containing vitamins E, C and K as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. It is full of antioxidants that help fight cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as keeping the immune system healthy.
Kale does contain calcium oxalate so should not be fed to dogs that are prone to developing kidney or bladder stones. It also contains isothiocyanates, which may help to prevent cancer but can cause digestive issues if consumed in large amounts.
Lightly steam or boil before mixing with your dog’s usual food.
Feed a small amount, no more than 1-2 times per week.
A well-known superfood, salmon is a great source of protein and is high in omega-3 fatty acids– which decrease inflammation and help maintain healthy skin, eyes and brain.
Salmon is also high in vitamins A and D as well as all the B vitamins. It is also a good source of magnesium and zinc, which promote a healthy nervous system.
Salmon can be steamed, poached or broiled and should be fed unseasoned.
100g per 10 pounds of body weight, 1-2 times per week.
Pears are a healthy snack for dogs when fed in moderation. They contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and are high in fiber.
They are also high in natural sugars so shouldn’t be fed in large quantities.
Some dogs may develop digestive issues if they eat too much pear so only feed a small amount, to begin with, and monitor your dog.
Remove the seeds, the core and the stalk as these pose a choking hazard. The seeds also contain small amounts of cyanide so are best avoided. Slice up to feed as a treat or as a meal topper.
Small amounts only- 1-2 slices of pear for a medium-sized dog and less for smaller dogs.
Cabbage contains vitamins B6- essential for a healthy immune system. It is also high in vitamin K, which is needed for a normal blood clotting response.
As a cruciferous vegetable, cabbage contains compounds that can help to prevent cancer and reduce inflammation.
Red cabbage is particularly nutritious, containing higher levels of flavonoids than green cabbage.
Flavonoids are potent antioxidants with a wide range of health benefits from cancer prevention to slowing the aging process.
Red cabbage also contains higher levels of vitamin C than green cabbage.
Cabbage can be fed raw as a treat or lightly cooked as a meal topper. Slice and then steam or boil for a few minutes but don’t overcook as this will reduce the health benefits.
Only in moderation, no more than 1-2 times a week.
Cucumbers are a healthy, low calorie snack for your dog. Rich in vitamin C, K, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants, cucumbers can help to maintain good all-round health.
A high water content means they are great for maintaining hydration on a hot day.
Chop or slice into bite-sized pieces. Leave the skin on as this is where much of the health benefit lies
In moderation as an occasional treat. Too much cucumber can cause digestive upset.
17. Green Beans
Green beans are a real superfood for dogs. They are high in fiber and can help to maintain a healthy gut.
The bulkier poops that result from the higher fiber can help with the emptying of anal glands.
Green beans also contain vitamins A and C for a healthy immune system, skin, and eyes. They are rich in minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Use fresh or frozen green beans, lightly steamed or boiled. You may need to slice or chop them up for your dog. Add to your dog’s main meal or feed as a treat.
A small amount, 1-2 times per week.
Quinoa is high in fiber for good digestive health. It is also packed with nutrients– notably B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, calcium and zinc.
High levels of antioxidants in quinoa can help to prevent chronic disease. Quinoa does contain small amounts of a chemical called saponin, which some dogs can be more sensitive to.
Only feed a small amount to begin with and monitor your dog for signs of digestive discomfort.
Wash and rinse to remove as much saponin as possible, then boil in water and mix into your dog’s main meal.
A tablespoon of cooked quinoa for a medium-sized dog, less for smaller dogs.
Sardines are highly nutritious and are a great addition to a dog’s diet. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and help to maintain a healthy brain, skin and coat.
They also contain vitamins D and B12, a wide range of amino acids, and essential minerals.
Fresh sardines will need the bones removed, then broil or poach the fish.
Canned sardines can be fed straight from the can as the bones are generally softer. Just make sure they are unseasoned and you drain the sunflower or olive oil that they are packed in.
Canned sardines in spring water are best. Sardines canned in tomato sauce aren’t suitable for dogs.
Medium size dogs can have up to 4 sardines, small dogs only one or two sardines, a couple of times a week.
Spinach contains vitamins C, A, K, B2 and B6. It is an excellent source of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese and copper, as well as being rich in antioxidants.
Spinach is nutrient-dense and you don’t need to feed much for your dog to reap the health benefits. However, spinach contains oxalic acid, which can cause kidney problems if fed in large amounts or over a long period of time.
Fresh or frozen spinach should be lightly steamed before mixing into your dog’s usual food.
Spinach really packs a nutritional punch, so you don’t need to feed much. A tablespoon of cooked spinach, fed occasionally, should be fine for a medium-sized dog. Smaller dogs may only need a teaspoon.
It is safe to feed to most dogs in small amounts and only occasionally, but should be avoided if your dog has kidney problems.
Superfoods for dogs - final thoughts
Adding superfoods to your dog’s usual food can be a great way to add in some health-boosting nutrients and add interest to your dog’s mealtimes.
Just remember to check with your vet before adding new foods to your dog’s diet, this is especially important if they have any ongoing medical conditions.
Treats and meal-toppers should never make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, this ensures he gets most of his nutrition from his dog food and that his diet is still balanced.