Beets for Dog Health

There is a lot of debate about how much dog’s can benefit from vegetables. It is 100% true that their digestive systems were designed for meat. That being said, they also are meant to receive vegetables pre-digested from prey and definitely sometimes used to eat fruit whole. I’ll go more into vegetables in general in another post. For now I want to assume that they can access at least some nutrients from vegetables, especially when prepared properly and talk about why beets can be so beneficial.

Beets and especially beet greens are an incredible resource of nutrition that you can easily add to your dog’s diet (as well as your own!). Although it’s already become a popular dog food additive, this is mostly for filler reasons and profit margins, because the processing involved takes away almost all of the nutritional value. In many cases also, they are using sugar beets which are even cheaper and have absolutely no nutritional value. (Beets or beet pulp is actually a good thing to look out for and avoid in food!)

The two best options for beets are fresh or freeze-dried. Never canned or pickled.

The primary reasons people choose to add beets to their dog’s diet is for liver detox, allergies, inflammation, iron deficiency or weight management, but these are only a few benefits they offer.

The great thing is that because they are so packed with nutrition, a little goes a long way so you don’t need to use a ton of them! (This is good because too much could lead to red tinged diarrhea.)

Red tinged urine on the other hand, should not be an issue because in a balanced diet, this most likely will not occur. The same thing happens to people. Pink urine indicates a lack of hydrochloric acid in the digestion process. This is not dangerous and some digestive enzymes or a good probiotic should prevent it if it becomes an issue. Pink urine and stool can be a scary thing to see and this is the reason many companies that use beets properly (like Darwins) has removed them from their food. It is not dangerous but it is startling.

The general suggested amount is around 1/8 c.

Beets are full of antioxidants, vitamin C (immunity), vitamin B folate (cardiovascular support & normal tissue growth), manganese (helps bones, kidneys, liver and pancreas), fiber (aids digestion), iron (aids formation of healthy blood cells), potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function), and magnesium (bone health and nerve function).

Some dogs with issues such as allergies, inflammation or anemia can benefit from these properties but dogs with diabetes should probably stay away. Although beets are low in calories they are higher in sugar than other types of vegetables and may not be good for this reason. (An important note here however is that unlike other high glycemic index items, beets have a LOW glycemic load, so contrary to intuition they are still moderate in terms of affecting insulin levels making them still a great weight loss tool.) The greens however, would work just fine!

I’ve read a lot of articles and it is still unclear to me exactly how well beets are digested and absorbed in the digestive tract. I looked into the different ways to prepare them, for this reason and still could not find any one method that out-shined the rest. I already know that fermentation is the best way to allow the unique digestive system of dogs to absorb nutrients. I am in the process of learning how to do that, but now I try to do the next best thing which is to purée.

The idea is that the further broken down something is, the easier it’s absorbed. The important thing is to break the cell wall to release nutrients. The finer grind purée the better. Feeding this along with an enzyme supplement or probiotic that contains amylase is my go to solution when I can’t get fermented.

This is because dogs don’t have salivary amylase (what breaks down the cell walls in fruits and veggies so the nutrition can be released). They do have some amylase in their pancreas but not very much overall.

Cooking, freezing and pureeing are all ways of breaking the fruits and vegetables down into a more usable form.

I know this works well for spinach for example. It’s also true of beet greens. For lack of further evidence, I will assume it’s also true of beets. They lack fiber this way, but hopefully add more nutritional value. After fermented (not jarred) Raw or puréed seem best. Cooked is the next best after that and is easier for some dogs to accept. Juiced is usually ok for leafy greens but in this case it is not good because of the release of sugar.

I can definitely see myself using them as healthy treats because the fiber is filling and my dog needs to lose a few, but for meals, I primarily use the beet greens with one raw beet as just one ingredient in a big purée. I also like to change up my purée ingredients a lot to add variety. If you supplement with beets to treat a certain condition, it’s always best to get dosing information directly from a holistic vet.

Beet greens are high in protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, copper, and manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

Beet greens contain more iron than spinach, improve immune function and help protect bone health.”

The compelling reasons listed here are good to consider because while hard evidence regarding digestion is still lacking for this particular vegetable, if they can be fed in a way that they are absorbed, they would be a tremendous resource. This is from dogtube:

“5 Reasons to treat your dog to red beets

1. Beets are believed to lower blood pressure – The natural nitrates in beets covert to nitric oxide which relaxes and dilates blood vessels improving blood flow and blood pressure.

2. Fight Inflammation – Beets contain betaine, which “helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.” (World’s Healthiest Foods)

3. Anti-Cancer Properties – It is believed that the Phytonutrients in beets may help prevent cancer.

4. Detoxification Support – The betalain pigment in beets cause toxins to break down so they can be eliminated from the body and help purify the blood and liver.

5. Beets boost stamina – Thought to be the result of beets reducing the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.”

To me it sounds like this is geared more towards people, but there is no debate that beets are good.

This all brings me to the reason I decided to write this article:

Yesterday I was ecstatic to find out that my local pet store had the highly anticipated Answers Turkey Stock with Fermented Beet Juice! I’ve been waiting for this one! First, because of their fermentation process, that unlocks nutrients and maximizes the benefits of everything they make. Second, because red BEETS are included now!

I will still use the greens and some beet on my own, because this is only beet juice, but with this product I am more confident that my dog is benefiting from the beet. This is exciting because beets have a lot to offer!

* For a good freeze dried treat style option I love Olewo for their dedication to quality! (Sold on Amazon, chewy etc)

Finally, a wonderful article on vegetables for dogs is written by Dr. Dobias

Here he explains more about which vegetables dogs can benefit from the most! (Note *The feeding guide fermentation he mentions here is not the same as the process we make.)

Beets are below their greens, but they’re still on the list!

Here is a good quick list of useful veggies (I leave out peppers)

And here is just a quick way to remember which beets are best for dogs (the only really bad one is the sugar beet – the one that looks like a bull’s eye)

The highly anticipated new Answers product:

Raw Green Tripe

Fortunately I got introduced to green tripe and heard about the benefits BEFORE finding out what it was (I’m pretty sure I thought it was fish) or what it smelled like. Luckily what it really is only actually matters when you need to source it and the smell well that just takes a little getting used to. Green tripe is called green tripe to distinguish it from tripe that has been altered in some way (usually for human consumption) but renders it useless for health benefits, so not all tripe is the same. It comes from the lining of a ruminant or grazing animal such as cow, bison, sheep or deer. It is usually brown mostly maybe with a hint of green. It is enormously nutrient dense and an incredible resource because of the unique composition that allows these nutrients to be fully absorbed. The tripe is the stomach lining only found in these grazing animals that have 4 digestive chambers, because they need it to digest plant material and utilize it themselves. The chambers break down grasses with digestive enzymes, amino acids and gastric juices. The digestive enzymes make the tripe very easy to digest and have the staying power to help increase digestion for weeks or more following consumption. Digestive enzymes also cleanse and purify the blood, remove toxins, parasites and fungus. This includes things like e-coli, salmonella and listeria. One unique enzyme that dogs and cats can’t produce is amylase. This is what allows the grazing animal to absorb nutrients from vegetable matter. By eating the tripe, those nutrients are then transferred to the dog or cat that would otherwise be unable to receive them by eating vegetables on their own. Digestive enzymes also improve hormonal function and the immune system. The combination of digestive enzymes and pre-digested green matter is what makes it such a powerhouse of nutrients. All of this is dependent on the tripe being raw.

The high quality mid-range protein, easy digestion, balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio and slightly high pH make it a especially valuable for animals with kidney disease.

So, basically it helps the animals receive the full nutritional value from their food, eliminates needing a probiotic and strengthens their immune system! THEN there is the omega factor. Natural omega 3’s and 6’s help enhance skin and coat, lubricate the joints and promote healthy brain function.

Green tripe has also been said to help animals with allergies. All in all this is a pretty amazing food source.

The only down side is availability. Because getting it canned or even freeze-dried reduces the quality so much (cooked or canned being the worst) finding it can sometimes be a little tricky. The farm I buy from doesn’t have any right now so I decided to do some further research.

I know the importance of finding this organically or grass-fed so I may have to wait for a local supplier. The sad thing is most farms either throw it out or only sell to big companies in bulk. This is starting to change as more people request it locally but it’s still hit or miss where I am. Some smaller organic pet food companies sell it frozen or mix it in their food, so I’m hopeful some of the companies I trust will start to also. I know the raw food “suppliers” by me don’t use quality meat so it might cost more but it’s worth it. This is not something my dog needs a ton of so that is helpful. In the mean time I got some freeze-dried from a company that seems to use a quality source but this was mainly just to get some (and turkey necks because they’re also hard to find by me) in the house right away. I will update as I find more resources!

Update: I may have located a place that is connected to others around the country and looks to be good quality. Will post the link as soon as I get the details!

Yes! The website Hare Today Gone Tomorrow is awesome and ships nationwide! There are others too so I am extremely excited to replace this freeze https://hare-today.com/. dried!

Calcium and Feeding Bones and Bone Alternatives

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Most people learn early on that it is 100% unsafe to give dogs cooked or smoked bones because of the fact that they are brittle and pose choking and digestive hazards. Due to this a lot of pet parents stay away from bones altogether. As a result the pet food industry is full of all kinds of manufactured bones for dental health, chewing, recreation, vitamin supplements etc. These are just as bad (if not worse) then the kibble products and in some cases aren’t even safer in terms of choking and digestive hazards. If you feed raw you most likely already know a bit about bone safety but if not here are a few reasons so many raw feeders love RAW meaty and recreational bones.

1. They are a wonderful source of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is an important part of your pet’s health! (Without calcium in the diet, the body extracts it from its own bones, which leads to many issues related to mobility.) They also contain a variety of minerals not found in other food.

2. They are the best possible form of teeth cleaning outside of the vet’s office. They promote gum health and reduce bad breath.

3. They provide ruff-age and help to maintain anal glands naturally

4. They can help balance the digestive tract and tone digestive muscles that can help reduce stomach issues later in life.

When fed appropriately (about 2-3 times a week unless ground in food at 10%) the digestive hazards are avoided because raw bones break down naturally in the stomach and don’t stay large enough to pose any threat. It’s important to always supervise your dog with a bone no matter what. Instinctively they should know how to chew and swallow them correctly but anything can happen. Aside from the smaller raw meaty bones like poultry necks, spines, feet etc. the general rule of thumb for recreational bones is that they should be about the size of the dogs head or larger. Never smaller because these types of bones are meant to be chewed on and scrapped of marrow but NOT eaten completely. I am personally not a fan of the recreation bones because they can chip teeth and don’t contain the nutrition components that make their positive attributes outweigh their risks. If my dog loved this activity, I’d make an exception but otherwise I see them as completely unnecessary. Marrow can be obtained without them so she doesn’t need a knuckle bone to pass the time and possibly break her teeth on. Raw meaty bones on the other hand are a different story. They should never be weight bearing bones because they are too hard to chew and unlike recreational bones are meant to be eaten completely. I see the value of these bones but they still make me nervous so I plan on sticking with necks and backs because the are considered to be the safest. Chicken wings can be cut to be made safer, but I still don’t love these because I have other options. Ideally I would give her lamb and goat bones because they are considered to have the perfect balance of hardness to effectively clean the teeth but not break any. However these bones, for me at least, are very hard to find. Although red meat should make up about 50% of her diet, chicken, duck, lamb and duck are closer to a dog’s natural prey so they make the safest bones to eat. Chicken and duck are much more readily available where I live and while they might be considered too soft to clean teeth by some people, I brush her teeth daily and am more interested in their nutrition than their dental care anyway. That being said, if your dog (or you) is really against dealing with raw bones in general there are 100% adequate alternatives available and you do not need to feel forced to do so. It may be controversial in some circles but I truly believe you can go without bones and still have a healthy and balanced raw diet as long as you are educated. Things like bone meal are dangerous alternatives (most are toxic unless from a local farm that makes food Grade) but egg shells are a GREAT alternative source of calcium! You can dry and crush them into a powder very easily and make your own supplement. I love this because there are a lot of concerns about the safety of many calcium sources in supplements on the market and as long as you get good quality eggs this takes away the guess work. A lot of people also just add one whole egg shell and all to get the same result. I don’t do this daily so I keep the shells as back up on a day she doesn’t get a bone. For the other minerals you can simply use a mineral supplement, which actually should be given even if you do feed bones because it’s broad spectrum and you know that your pets needs are being met. Some feeders are against supplements altogether because your dog wouldn’t “get fish oil pills etc out in the wild” however I disagree. We need supplements now because of the world we live in TODAY. We have depleted the soil and changed the environment. For this reason I think it’s appropriate to adjust. My dog’s wolf ancestors didn’t live in the same world and it’s the same reason I take supplements myself. I just want the best shot and as long as I am getting them from trusted sources and know how to use them, I think they’re great! Teeth cleaning can be substituted rather easily as well. Any mouth size appropriate tooth brush will do. You can make your own toothpaste or even just use coconut oil. If your dog won’t let you brush, a bit of ground kelp added to the food should help. For more advanced dental issues and plaque you can either get a cleaning at the vet or look up where to get one that is anesthesia free. This method is increasing in popularity, so they’re relatively easy to find now. Either way there are many alternative methods, all of which would be great to add EVEN with the help of bones.

Bottom line, raw bones are WONDERFUL if your dog likes them but if not you can absolutely still feed raw! Some dogs warm up to them over time so I’d say don’t give up but don’t stress over it too much either! It’s no reason to wait to go raw or worse not at all.

Personally I am doing about one small raw meaty bone per week because my dog doesn’t love them. Chicken feet are the easiest to find organically and they are an excellent joint supplement (glucosamine and chondroitin) so because she eats egg shells and takes supplements I know her dietary needs are being met. Eventually I hope to move to a food that has some ground in so this 1 per week will probably stay at that and if we miss a week it’s no cause for concern.

My super easy calcium supplement is pictured below. My dog is 25 lbs so she needs 550 mg of calcium per day. (50mg per kg) She gets calcium from other sources so I only use 1/4- 1/2 tsp. based on the assessment that:

“One whole medium sized eggshell makes about one teaspoon of powder, which yields about 750 – 800 mgs of elemental calcium plus other microelements, i.e. magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur, silicon, zinc, etc. There are 27 elements in total.”

A vet should be able to assist you if you don’t want to measure it out on your own. Fortunately dog’s having a “fast track” metabolism helps mitigate some concern. A good thing to remember is the simple fact that wild dogs eat what they find. Some days they get a lot of one thing and other days none. It tends to balance out over time but I also do blood tests at her annual check up. Hair tests can be very helpful also. So far we’ve been right on track but never hesitate to ask a medical professional. I know many holistic vets even offer nutritional counseling now so there are resources available if you have any concerns!

*Another great bone replacement for calcium is raw green tripe! It has an ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio and most dogs absolutely love it!