You may have heard the old saying "a dog's best friend". Well, what about his worst enemy? Many people mistakenly believe that dogs are incapable of digesting anything but meat. In fact, some even say that dogs shouldn't be fed any kind of fruit at all. But don't worry! Fruits aren't necessarily bad for dogs.
They do contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help keep them healthy and happy. And while most experts agree that it's better to feed raw food than cooked food to your pet, there are plenty of delicious recipes that call for fresh fruits like apples, bananas, mangos and peaches as well as vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and lettuce.
So next time you see a cute puppy with its nose buried in a bowl of grapes, don't give him too much grief (or envy). Although most dogs won't care for these tart little treats, many varieties actually taste pretty good when prepared properly. Plus, grapes provide important nutritional benefits for both human and canine diets.
The reason why so many people consider grapes toxic to dogs has more to do with how we process them than with their actual composition. The first step in digestion requires breaking down large pieces into smaller ones. This means that before our bodies can absorb the nutrients found in grape skins and pulp, we need to remove the tough outer layer.
It also helps us break down the sugars contained within the juicy seeds. Once this happens, the resulting chunks of grape juice are then further broken down by enzymes into simple sugar molecules.
But once the seed starts disintegrating, its ability to harm our pets begins. While it's true that some processed foods can cause gastrointestinal distress in dogs, it's unlikely that eating lots of grapes would make your pooch sick. However, if you've ever seen a pup chewing on a bone, you know that it's highly dangerous to let your dog chew on things he could swallow.
A bone isn't really designed to hold a lot of weight, which makes it hard for him to balance while he chews. If your dog chomps on something sharp, it will likely swallow part of it.
This doesn't mean that dogs are meant to consume only raw or whole foods. On occasion, they should be given products that have been thoroughly processed. For example, if your dog goes missing during the day, he may have eaten an unidentifiable snack from someone's trash. He may also have gotten into the garbage bin at work. So instead of scolding yourself for feeding your dog junk food, try giving him one of these tasty snacks every now and then.
Grape Nutrition for Dogs
Like humans, dogs require several different types of nutrients to stay healthy. Just as there are essential amino acids like methionine and leucine, there are also essential fatty acids and vitamin B12. Some important minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Like people, dogs also need water, protein and carbohydrates to survive.
A few years ago, researchers discovered that dogs' digestive systems were capable of processing fresh grapes. In fact, when presented with the option, many choose to nibble on the sweet-tart treats rather than their usual dry kibble. Unfortunately, no matter how fine the taste, grapes still present problems for some animals. Read on to find out why.
There are dozens of vitamins and minerals that affect various aspects of health, including cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention, eye health, nerve function, immune system development, blood clotting, calcium absorption and cell growth. But perhaps the most important nutrient is Vitamin C, which helps prevent infections and aids wound healing.
Vitamin E protects against damage caused by free radicals and prevents cataracts. Other important antioxidants include beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lastly, selenium defends cells from radiation, toxins and viruses.
Why Doesn't My Dog Eat His Grapefruit?
In addition to making your pooch feel full longer, grapes may also play an unexpected role in helping him lose weight. According to one study published in the Journal of Animal Science, overweight dogs who ate grapes had lower levels of cholesterol after six weeks compared to those who didn't receive the treat.
Researchers attribute this effect to phytonutrients called polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that fight off harmful free radicals. These same chemicals also prevent oxidation of fats within the body, thus lowering cholesterol production.
Another theory suggests that since dogs evolved in warmer climates where grapes grew naturally, they developed a natural preference for the fruit over others. Experts have also noted that domesticated dogs tend to prefer grapes over their wild counterparts.
While grapes seem harmless to most dogs, there are certain breeds that are particularly sensitive to their effects. One popular myth says that grapes are poisonous to pups with flat faces. This is not entirely true. While grapes can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, they rarely lead to death.
Still, it's generally recommended that you avoid giving grapes to small or toy poodles, dachshunds, bull terriers, German shepherds, Siberian huskies and other similar breeds because they have weak stomach walls and poor coordination. Also, don't give grapes to puppies less than eight weeks old. Their immature digestive tracts simply aren't ready for such strong flavors.
Once again, grapes are considered safe for most dogs. Even though they're low calorie sources of fiber, it's wise to monitor your pet closely if he eats a lot of them. You should especially pay attention to older dogs who often suffer from kidney issues and can experience dehydration due to frequent urination.
Healthy Grapes for Your Dog
Just as there are hundreds of different varieties of grapes, there are countless ways to prepare them. Aside from raw and juiced versions, they can also be used in salads, pastas, pies and cakes.
When choosing a type of grape, it's important to note that color does not always indicate flavor. Red grapes may be sweeter than yellow ones, yet the latter may pack a bigger punch nutritionally. Darker purple grapes tend to be richer in antioxidants than lighter shades.
Green grapes are usually higher in fiber than white ones. Blue grapes are known for containing high amounts of iron. Black grapes are rich in tannins. Finally, black raisins are said to offer relief from coughs and colds.
One thing to remember is that ripe grapes are packed with sugar, so they're definitely not ideal for dogs with diabetes. If you want a healthier alternative, you can buy frozen grapes. Simply pop them into the freezer until they turn blue, thaw, and serve accordingly.
As mentioned previously, grapes are great for your dog's health in moderation. However, there are some that should be avoided. Before purchasing, check the label carefully to ensure that it contains minimal ingredients. Don't purchase any type that uses artificial colors, fillers, binders or preservatives. Additionally, steer clear of any product labeled organic unless it was made with 100 percent organically grown ingredients.
Although grapes are relatively inexpensive, it can cost quite a bit to own a vineyard. Luckily, there are organizations dedicated to preserving rare grape species. Two notable groups include Vinturi Estates and Wine Country Wildlife Fund. Both strive to preserve the biodiversity of local habitats and educate consumers about sustainable wine production practices.
Some research indicates that grapes can be beneficial for diabetics. Studies show that rats that consumed moderate amounts of resveratrol, a chemical compound found in grapes, experienced improved glucose metabolism. Resveratrol also lowers insulin resistance and improves muscle sensitivity to insulin. Another group of rats that received high doses of resveratrol showed lowered fasting blood sugar levels and increased fat burning capabilities.