Now that I live in New York, I try to visit my parents back in Portland, Oregon, at least a few times a year, and every time I do, I notice some behavioral changes in their two dogs, Ava and Jammer.
Ava is a first-generation labradoodle – her hair is coarse, straight and wiry, and she sheds copious amounts, much to my mother’s chagrin.
Jammer, Ava’s daughter, has soft, luxurious, rolling gray waves of fur, and her disposition is bouncy and fun-loving. Ava, in contrast, has a slow, graceful, if snobbish, air, and hardly takes any discernible notice of her playful offspring.
But as I said before, certain behaviors of this adorable pair have changed, most starkly in Ava, whose cool reserve is broken as soon as I open the refrigerator door, and particularly upon opening the bottom vegetable crisper drawers.
As soon as I do, both dogs break out in full gallop from wherever they are lazing about and come to a screeching halt at the fridge, often sliding into and jostling each other to stick their noses into the gapped hinge of the door, certain that I’m about to gift them their favorite treat: carrots.
Jammer rears up on her hind legs, pedaling her fluffy paws at me like a showhorse; 11-year-old Ava produces an uncharacteristic vertical jump as soon as I straighten myself. They put on a show for me; they are so helplessly in love with these sweet orange sticks that it breaks my heart not to satisfy their obsessive craving.
My dad originally discovered the dogs’ love for carrots after dropping a few baby carrots at a dinner party my parents were hosting, only to have them immediately vacuumed up by the dogs. He started using carrots as a healthy alternative to traditional dog treats. But after years of feeding the dogs just straight dry dog food, and not knowing the inner workings of dogs’ digestive systems, I had to wonder if feeding them raw baby carrots was a smart choice. I discovered that, on the whole, it was.
Advantages of Feeding Your Dog Carrots
Can dogs be fed carrots? Absolutely.
- Carrots in their raw form can help dogs maintain strong teeth because of the amount of chewing involved; these veggies also act as a great polishing agent to keep your canine’s bright smile shining.
- Nutritionally speaking, dogs can benefit from carrots just as humans can — the fiber, antioxidants, low number of calories and high concentration of beta-carotene are welcome additions to a balanced diet.
- For older dogs prone to sensitivity and irritation in the mouth area, owners can cook or purée carrots and add them to dog food. But don’t worry; the softened vegetable will maintain most of its nutrients.
The Debate Over Vegetarian Pets
Although carrots and select other fruits and vegetables are considered healthy supplements to our pets’ diets, the debate rages on concerning feeding domesticated animals a purely vegetarian diet. Celebrities like Alicia Silverstone promote the vegetarian diet for her dogs that she herself consumes, yet veterinarian Patty Khuly cautions pet owners on the potential dangers of withholding animal proteins from pets’ diets.
Personally, I continue to feed Ava and Jammer carrots along with their traditional, animal protein-packed dog food. They are wonderfully contented dogs, and I hope my parents and I can provide them every comfort and benefit we can for the rest of their lives. Every pet is different; it’s important to find out what nutritionally works for each dog, regardless of the latest trend in diet.
Other Dietary Supplements for Dogs
Much to my amazement, I’ve found that not all canines love carrots as much as my parent’s dogs do. If your dog turns up its nose at carrots, there are several other vegetal options from which your dog can choose to supplement its diet.
But don’t just feed your dog anything from the scrap table; ASPCA has published a list of people foods that are toxic to dogs and other animals, and it’s a good idea to take a look before feeding your dog foods you eat yourself.