Last year, petMD’s Daily Vet featured my article The Health Benefits Pumpkin Provides for Our Pets. This year, I’ve been inspired to again write about Fall-seasonal produce after taking a trip to the Pacific Palisades farmers market and enjoying the harvest offered by some of my clients.
Having a house-call veterinary practice puts me in many unique circumstances in my clients’ homes. One situation I find myself thoroughly appreciating is when a house call is made right around the time that a fruit-producing plant or tree is ready to drop its yield. I’ll sometimes leave with bags of figs, grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges, and even persimmons, all of which get juiced or chopped up and readily consumed.
My dog Cardiff even enjoys partaking in fruit consuming process. Yet, there are some fruits that he eats more enthusiastically than others; ripe persimmons are highly desired, while citrus merits a turned up nose.
Why are these fruits such good options to incorporate into our pets’ daily meals or snacks?
Firstly, consider the Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007. Then, add the FDA’s ongoing Caution to Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products and what do you get? A variety of unsafe commercially available pet foods and treats that consumers can still purchase and feed to their canine and feline companions.
In the face of the thousands of cases of pet illness stemming from processed treats containing feed-grade ingredients (those that are deemed inappropriate for human consumption that contain higher allowable levels of toxic substances), it is important that we reassess all of the substances that go into our pets’ mouths. We owners need to make a much needed behavioral shift toward feeding our pets meals and treats that are whole-food based and human-grade quality.
One simple place to start is to eliminate all processed pet treats made with feed-grade ingredients and instead offer fresh, flavorful, and nutrient-rich fruits just like those you eat. What are your options when it comes to feeding fruits to your pets? Actually, there are so many that I really can't realistically list them all here.
Let’s start by recognizing that there are certain fruits that should not be fed to cats and dogs. Grapes, raisins, and currants and their juices have an unknown toxic mechanism that adversely affects the kidneys of some dogs and cats (see Pet Poison Helpline’s How to Poison Proof Your Kitchen). Along that line, I suggest avoiding dried fruits unless they are made without added sugar or preservatives (sulfur dioxide, etc.).
With that covered, we now can discuss some delicious and nutritious fruits that our pets can eat. For this column, I am going to focus on the Fall-seasonal fruits popping up all over Los Angeles stores and produce stands, including:
Nutrition-and-you.com reports that persimmon is “low in calories (provides 70 calories/100g) and fats but is rich source of dietary fiber.” Additionally, “fresh persimmons contain anti-oxidant compounds like vitamin-A, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin. Together, these compounds function as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.”
Nutrition-and-you.com indicates the pomegranate is “moderate in calories; 100 g provides 83 calories, slightly more than that in the apples. It contains no cholesterol or saturated fats.” Plus, “certain ellagitannin compounds such as Granatin B and Punicalagin are found abundantly in the pomegranate juice. Studies suggest that punicalagin and tannins are effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors by scavenging harmful free radicals from the human body.”
Although the apple may not be as trendy as the persimmon or pomegranate, its ubiquitous nature makes it easy to find on a year-round basis. Nutrition-and-you.com reveals that “apples are low in calories; 100 g of fresh fruit slices provide only 50 calories. They, however, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Nonetheless, the fruit is rich in dietary fiber, which helps prevent absorption of dietary-LDL or bad cholesterol in the gut. The fiber also saves the colon mucous membrane from exposure to toxic substances by binding to cancer-causing chemicals inside the colon.”
All fruit should be gently washed with a small volume of regular dish soap to remove debris and potentially harmful bacteria before feeding.
Always start by providing a tiny portion (approximately the size of a quarter) as a test to gauge your pet’s interest in the fruit.
For a small dog or cat, a thin slice of persimmon should suffice, while a larger dog could potentially eat upwards of a whole piece of fruit (or potentially more).
Pomegranate seeds should be removed from the fruit’s flesh, then crushed up in your dog’s bowl or mixed with food. Apple can be chopped into small pieces that can be given as a snack or added to moist or dry meals to reduce the portion of pet food consumed in one setting.
Be adventurous in selecting fruit to share with your pet and enjoy the opportunity to bond with your pet in a way that promotes good behavior and provides safe and healthy nutrition.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney