Mom likely prompted you to eat your vegetables, touting their healthy benefits as she placed the carrots on your plate. Perhaps a few of those carrots clandestinely made their way to the family dog who sat patiently at your side. What you probably did not know as a young tot was that carrots offer the canine family members some healthy advantages as well.
Growth and Development
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin that comes from beta carotene, the yellow pigment found in carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Once beta carotene is ingested and converted to vitamin A, the vitamin A is stored in the liver until the body's need for it releases the vitamin into the bloodstream. Vitamin A plays several roles in a puppy's growth and development. Some benefits of feeding carrots to a puppy to supplement his vitamin A intake include:
- Normal growth rate. Vitamin A deficiency results in an abnormally low growth rate.
- Prevention of skeletal and nervous system malformations, including hydrocephalus
- Promotion of healthy muscle development
- Promotion of optimal visual ability
- Maintenance of ideal skin and coat health
- Normal development of the reproductive system
A puppy's first boost of vitamin A intake comes from his mother's milk. Once weaned, continued supplementation of vitamin A is important during the puppy's first two years of life.
As a puppy's permanent teeth begin to erupt, his tendency will be to chew whatever he can sink his choppers into in an attempt to relieve the discomfort of teething pain. Deter him from chewing on your furniture by offering him other options to gnaw on. A frozen carrot provides cooling relief, and it is hard enough for a chewing session without damaging the puppy's teeth. Be sure to use full-sized carrots for teething chews, and always supervise your puppy's chewing sessions closely to prevent choking.
Your puppy's retinas, which are found at the back of his eyes and made up of light-sensitive cells called rods and cones, are essential for vision in dimly lit situations. When vitamin A is released from the liver into the bloodstream, it travels to your puppy's retinas and enhances the visual messages sent between the optic nerve and the brain. A vitamin A deficiency diminishes the visual capacity of the light receptors of your puppy's retinas, causing visual deficits. Nighttime vision improves when your puppy receives an adequate supply of beta carotene. This visual advantage continues for life, and as your dog ages, continuing to supplement his diet with vitamin A can help to prevent cataracts and other ocular diseases.
Lifelong Healthy Snacking
The healthy benefits that carrots impart are not exclusive to young puppies. In addition to preserving ocular health, carrots provide other benefits for your adult dog when provided throughout his life. Offering a baby carrot in lieu of a commercial dog biscuit is an excellent low calorie snack alternative to help your adult dog maintain a healthier weight. The high fiber content of carrots helps to satiate a dieting dog's appetite. This dietary fiber can be helpful for digestive health, particularly in dogs who suffer from constipation or anal gland impaction. Another health advantage of carrots comes from beta carotene, which acts as an antioxidant to help prevent cancer.
Supplementing with Carrots
Discuss your puppy's dietary needs with your veterinarian, who can recommend a safe and beneficial serving size of carrots. Finely shredded raw carrots or lightly steamed or boiled, diced carrots may be added to your puppy's commercial or home-cooked diet. Diced carrots should be cut small to prevent choking. When you introduce carrots into your puppy or dog's diet, watch for potential signs of intolerance, such as loose stool, vomiting or excess gas.
If you wish to offer variety in your furry friend's menus, consider these alternatives for vitamin A supplementation:
- Canned pumpkin. Be sure to purchase pure pumpkin instead of pumpkin pie filling.
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
When choosing other vegetables and fruits for additional nutrients in your dog's diet, be sure to avoid these toxic options:
- Onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives
- Grapes and raisins
Always consult with your veterinarian before feeding any human foods to your puppy or dog to ensure that it is safe for his consumption.