farm dog

Canine Comfort, by Sara Frank

One of my favorite animals to visit on a farm is the dog. Dogs possess that unique, unconditional love and happiness that can’t be found in any other creature. On the farm, dogs can be very valuable assets – from being comforting companions on early morning walks or late-night harvests. On our own farm, we are the proud owners of three farm dogs – two tiny toy poodles and an English lab. They are excellent companions and amazing security systems.

Like any good farmer tending to their animals, our canine friends also require a well-balanced diet with proper nutrition. For our pups, one thing they particularly enjoy is apples! Apples are dog friendly and provide them with fiber. Apples are also a natural cleanser for your dog’s teeth – and it freshens their breath too!

According to Dr. W. Jean Dodds, a canine nutritionist, there are a lot of foods safe for dogs that we are not aware of. Apples, beets, cabbage, kale, pears, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are just a sampling of the many vegetables your pooch can consume. Many fruits and vegetables should be steamed for ease of digestion. Some things like apples, pears, carrots and green beans can be chopped or sliced and eaten raw.

If your dog has any health problems, be sure to check with your vet before changing or supplementing his or her diet. For instance, dogs with thyroid issues should not consume steamed brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli or turnips to name a few. Some veggies like pumpkins or butternut squash can help your dog’s upset tummy and ease bouts of diarrhea.

Besides being nutritious, fruits and vegetables are a great reward in treat puzzle games or as a training incentive. We often use apple slices or chunks as training rewards for our Labrador and Poodles. They don’t mind, and it keeps them healthy and their teeth clean.

Afraid your pooch won’t be into it? Don’t worry, most dogs will come around, though some older ones would rather starve than try a new kind of diet (unless it’s my lab, who tried to eat our house when we put her on a diet!) Constant presence and persistence will eventually win them over. In the meantime, just keep feeding them their favorites while introducing something new.

So how much vegetable matter is safe for doggie consumption? According to CJ Puotinen, author of Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats, 20 to 30 percent of your dog’s daily food intake is a safe amount. It is important not to go overboard – a dog’s stomach is small and too much vegetables can make their system over-alkaline.

Whether you’re serving treats, dog food, or vegetables, always be wise in your servings, remember less is more, and steaming is important for healthy digestion. I highly recommend checking out the book I mentioned and be sure to always communicate with your vet.

If you’re like us, you may have a few beggars around your table at dinner time – now you have a few more options!

sara-frankSara Frank currently serves on the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and helps run Cold Springs Orchards with her family.