As promised, this entry will evaluate three other commonly used orange veggies that may or may not be a good fit in your individual dog’s diet. We looked at sweet potato versus yams in the last article, and now let’s take a peel at the every popular pumpkin, at carrots and lastly, winter squash (acorn,butternut, Hubbard etc) and see what pros and cons these foods might offer, and whether you want to use them at all, and if so how best to do so.
From last post we learned that orange veggies are useful in many, not all diets. They are high in potassium, offer some fiber, Vitamin C and beta carotene, but have varying amounts of energy density calories per cup – and, some are higher in sugar than others. We talked about how orange veggies may or may not contribute to itchiness (like any food) and that sometimes, less is more, when we are formulating our own recipes as so many are these days. The purpose of these two articles is to look at how these foods are used, how they differ – I am often asked if it’s “ok to replace the sweet potato with carrots or pumpkin” and in this two part series, we’ll also look at why that doesn’t really work.
And again, those who believe that using fresh veggies in a dog’s diet is detrimental, causes yeast etc – I refer you to my earlier articles:Vegetables for dogs – to feed, or not to feed? and Yeasty dog? It may not be the carbs
I recently read an article by a very popular supplement provider who insists that carrots are not good to feed dogs, based on the idea that wolves probably didn’t eat them. I’m not going to address how problematic that is, but just say that all foods may or may not have a place in a given diet, and that’s what this series is all about. When we step past the rhetoric about wolves and look at what might be beneficial in a specific diet, we can evaluate dispassionately and see what the pros and cons are. So, let’s look at the carrot, and contrast it to other orange veggies here – which again, we are adding for calories that are not fat or protein, for fiber, for beta carotene, potassium and small amounts of other nutrients.
One cup of peeled, boiled and mashed carrots has
6 grams fiber
468 mgs of potassium
16562 mcgs of beta carotene (16.51 mgs)
7.2 mgs VitaminC
6 grams sugar
So – here we can see a high amount of beta carotene, and combined with carrot’s lutein content (a flavonoid with well documented protective properties for the eye) we have a vegetable that is low calorie, so not the greatest option for boosting total carb in a recipe, but a great addition for older dogs, to support eye health, especially in diets that don’t use liver, or that can use liver but are low in lutein. Since carrots are so loaded with both beta carotene and lutein, a little goes a long way.
Carrots come in other colours, but the paler ones are lower in beta carotene and the purple ones, rich in anthocyanins, which we’ll talk about in another series (berries). My dogs don’t love berries, so I use purple carrots on a regular basis for the Two Old Boys. 🙂
One of Danny’s lunches, with roast beef, poached salmon, beets, butternut squash and carrots. White stuff in the middle = calcium. 🙂
While there are differences in nutrient content between varieties – you can use the USDA database to look them up and compare -, for the sake of brevity let’s look at one type, the ever popular acorn squash. 200 grams of boiled and mashed, with on salt added, gives us…
526 mgs potassium
980 mcgs beta-carotene
5.2 grams fiber
13 mgs Vitamin C
6.5 grams sugar
Our main difference here, is the lower amount – MUCH lower! of beta carotene.Fiber, sugar, potassium all pretty close. So the downside here is only, lower beta carotene, if indeed that is what you’re seeking from an orange veggie addition. if that’s the case, carrots are likely a better bet.(NOTE: butternut squash has more beta carotene,more vitamin C and lower sugar than acorn – so again, do your homework, using the USDA or a site that utilizes those values, and check up on any orange veggie not listed in this article. There are differences, which may or may not impact your dog over time. BE SURE to compare like with like – baked, for example OR boiled, but don’t compare one with the other, it’s not going to be equivalent.
Just a few of the yummy and healthy varieties of squash, for us and our dogs.
I saved the best for last! And by “best” I mean the orange veggie that has become so popular, gathered SUCH a following over the past decade, with many believing it has almost magical powers to stop diarrhea or else soften and bulk stool in constipated dog. the truth is, pumpkin can be helpful with these issues, but it is not especially unique – as you read through this and the first entry (sweet potato/yams) you can see that all these veggies provide fiber, and some moisture, and can help with bowel issues (provided of course your dog doesn’t have a sensitivity to them). Pumpkin – technically a winter squash – needs a bit of elaboration, because the steamed and mashed veggie shows us a different nutrient profile from the canned version – which is what everybody tends to use. So here are the two types, with the differences highlighted.
Steamed and mashed pumpkin: 200 grams gives us…
458 mgs potassium
2.2 mgs fiber
4176 mgs beta-carotene
9.4 mgs VitaminC
9.4 grams sugar
whereas canned pumpkin – no salt, sugar or spices added, provides
412 mgs potassium
6 grams fiber
13880 mgs beta carotene
8 mgs VitaminC
8 grams sugar
The main difference here is beta carotene content, obviously…still much lower than carrots, but higher in the canned version of pumpkin. that said,, most people are adding a Tbsp or so, not a whole 200 grams, so in that usage, the higher fiber may be the ticket. But note – the fiber content of canned pumpkin is very close to that of both squash and carrots…I’ve seen the same people who decry carrots as terrible “sugary” food never to be fed to dogs, sing the praises of pumpkin in the next breath. What I’m doing here is a little critical thinking – when we look at sweet potatoes, at carrots, winter squash and pumpkin, we see similarities and a few differences. In summary, all these foods can play a part in a healthy diet -used judiciously, with knowledge of what they provide and what you might need to watch (oxalates, potassium, total sugar) they supply lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds which support eye health and help lower inflammation; they can help with loose stool or constipation, they can form a healthy carb portion of the diet when your dog needs more carbs. None are “miracle foods” – none are the terrible foods you see claimed in many pop nutrition sites. Knowledge is power!
USDA database: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/
Develop your own recipes: https://nutritiondata.self.com/
Learn how to balance home cooked diets for your dog:Home Cooking for your Dog – an Online Tutorial
My articles on fiber: Carbs Part Two:Fiber
NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dogs: https://www.nap.edu/read/10668/chapter/1
Lutein / Zeaxanthin and Eye Health: https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein