Dogs are technically classified as carnivores; but in practice they are what is called facultative omnivores, meaning that they can and do derive nutrition from non-animal sources, such as fruits, herbs, and grasses. All of our dogs’ wild cousins eat plants, but among the many canine species, foxes are the biggest fans of green foods and love to eat fruits and veggies whenever available.
Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Canines certainly can thrive on an entirely animal-based diet, so what do plants provide that tempts dogs to eat them? It turns out that plants and grasses are a great source of many important nutrients.
- Fiber. An indigestible carbohydrate made only by plants, fiber helps regulate the digestive system and its functions, and it nourishes the friendly bacteria and lining cells in the colon to promote healthy elimination of wastes. Dogs have no minimum dietary requirement for fiber, but they can still benefit greatly from it. Wheatgrass is a superior source of natural fiber.
- Vitamins. Wheatgrass contains important B vitamins (vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B7, and related compounds inositol and choline, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
- Minerals.Plants such as wheatgrass contain many vital trace minerals, including copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and sulfur. A minimum requirement for sulfur has not been established, but it is essential for connective tissue formation, which in turn affects joint function. Since sulfur reserves in the body become depleted with age, it is important to supplement sulfur as our dogs get older.
- Amino acids.These are the building blocks of proteins; there are 22 “standard” amino acids. Wheatgrass contains 17 amino acids, including 7 of the 10 that are essential for dogs.
- Enzymes. Wheatgrass contains a full array of the digestive enzymes that help your dog get the most nutritional value from food, as well as many other functional enzymes.
- Antioxidants. While everyone has heard of antioxidants, most people don’t really understand what they do and why they are so important (read on!).
Dog Grass: How Wheatgrass Helps Your Dog
Dogs can and do produce their own natural antioxidants; but they don’t produce enough to combat the extraordinary stresses of modern life. This is a large part of why we’re seeing such an increase in degenerative diseases and cancer. It’s very important to supplement your dog’s diet with natural antioxidants. And it’s even better if they come from whole foods like wheatgrass, instead of being synthesized in a laboratory.
Vitamins C and E are the most well-known antioxidants, but there are untold hundreds of others. Wheatgrass contains not only vitamins C and E, but also carotenes, glutathione, chlorophyll, lecithin, lutein, several antioxidant amino acids, and other flavonoids and tocopherols.
So, that’s why green nutrition is so important for our canine pals. If your dog is a fan of fresh grass, make sure you have wholesome wheatgrass growing at home, or use green snacks for that daily dose of vital green nutrition!