Cat & Dog Nutrition Glossary | Vegetables
Alfalfa (or Lucerne) is a member of the legume family, closely related to peas, beans and clover. In its natural and whole state, it is considered to be one of those miraculous ‘superfoods’ and small doses can really offer our pets some wonderfully rich nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, B Vitamins, iron, magnesium and manganese. It also means business when it comes to protein and Alfalfa can be a great way for pet food brands to top up the protein in your dog or cat’s food. However, our carnivorous pets respond better to meat proteins as opposed to those from vegetables, so you should avoid foods that list Alfalfa as a primary ingredient at the top of their ingredients list. Listed further down the recipe on the other hand, it’s most likely that a small quantity has been added and that it’s a great nutritional addition to the food.
Made from barley plant leaves, barely grass is growing in popularity as a hugely beneficial and quality supplement – for us and our pets alike! Dense in nutrients it can also act as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s free from the potentially irritating protein found in barley grains and so this can be fed to even the most sensitive cats and dogs.
You may recognise chicory from its distinguishable blue flowers, as it grows wild in Europe and parts of North America – the most frequently used part of this plant in pet food is the root. Chicory root has a high simple sugar content and polysaccharide inulin. The latter of which is supposedly beneficial for the gut as it acts as a good bacteria, thus promoting its use a prebiotic and as a source of soluble fibre. It also helps that inulin is sweet, making it a popular choice for pets with a sweet tooth – delicious!
On the ingredients list you may see inulin listed as ‘chicory extract’, ‘chicory root extract’ and sometimes even as ‘chicory syrup’. The oils found in chicory have also been noted for their ability to help rid animals of intestinal worms, so chat with your vet if you think this is a key ingredient that your pet would truly benefit from having in their dinner.
Derivatives of Vegetable Origin
The term ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’ is described as meaning ‘derivatives resulting from the treatment of vegetable products, in particular cereals, vegetables, legumes, and oil seed’, which isn’t exactly specific. This definition encompasses all kinds of ingredients from the premium to the not so great.
As the term is so vague, pet brand foods have the freedom to alter their ingredients between batches depending on the price and availability of particular vegetables at that time. For this reason, we’d always recommend treating foods with caution that list ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’ as an ingredient – particularly if your cat or dog suffers from an allergy or intolerance, as it’s very difficult to know what you’re feeding and to later pinpoint the culprit if your pet responds badly.
As is commonly understood by the pet food industry and pet owners, garlic in large quantities can be very dangerous for dogs and cats, acting as a toxin. However, less known, is that extremely small quantities can have some excellent health benefits, helping to rid your pet of all kinds of nasties.
Garlic can be used as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, eradicating worms. It is also a strong deterrent to ticks and other horrid parasites. Low doses are for this reason recommended for pets with bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections.
Another reason to consider the inclusion of garlic is that it has also been credited with lowering blood sugar in diabetics, aiding joint mobility and also lowering bloody cholesterol. Throw me a clove!
We’d recommend one clove to 10kg of body weight – but this is actually quite a lot so don’t panic unnecessarily about overfeeding.
Whilst oat grass isn’t that well known, it’s still a great source of nutrients for your beloved pet. It is dense in both vitamins and minerals and doesn’t contain those proteins that dogs and cats struggle to digest, so is a popular ingredient in sensitive foods.
This powder is formulated from roasted peas, offering iron, calcium and fibre. Whilst it is a great source of protein, pets struggle to digest plant proteins and so we would never advise opting for a food where pea flour is the key source of protein over a high quality meat.
Carnivorous pets process meat protein far easier than the protein produced by plants. Though small quantities of pea protein can offer nutritional benefits, we don’t believe this should ever take the place of meat as the key protein in your pet’s food.
These tiny green balls of nutrition act as fantastic antioxidants, along with providing vitamins C, K and B1, manganese, fibre and folate.
This is formed during the processing of potato and in small quantities can be a great way to top up the protein in your pet’s meal. Meat loving cats and dogs however, process meat proteins far easier than plant proteins, so the latter should never be listed as the key source of protein in your cat or dog’s dinner.
Potato starch acts as an excellent binding ingredient in grain-free foods, as without this starch the kibble would crumble. However, nutritionally starch significantly lacks value and there are different opinions over pets’ ability to digest starch efficiently.
Potatoes are a fantastic alternative to grains and so are becoming increasingly popular in sensitive or hypoallergenic pet foods. Though opinions differ on dogs and cats’ ability to process starch, many pets benefit from a grain-free diet and this carbohydrate, with its fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium, is often a tasty and healthy alternative. Bear in mind that due to the break down of starch and the simple sugars formed, diabetic pets may need to steer clear of a potato rich diet.
Beet pulp is commonly used as a dietary fibre supplement and, stripped of sugar, offers a healthy source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Some argue that it is an unnatural filler in pet foods, but we’re quite fond of the sugar beet and its digestive enhancing properties – it’s up to each pet owner.
Containing far more fibre than their yellow brothers, the sweet potato is a brilliant source of vitamins A, C, B6 and minerals. Though higher in sugar than common potatoes, studies have proven they could infact help diabetic pets as they have been known to stabalise blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. We’re huge fans of the sweet potato, and all that it has to offer our pups and moggies.
This starch is taken from cassova plant root and is commonly used as a carbohydrate to replace grains in your pet’s food. Sadly, it lacks quality nutrients and so most of the time is considered a filler.
If you’re looking for a wonderful source of vitamins A, C, K, molybdenum, potassium, chromium, manganese and dietary fibre, then look no further than the noble tomato!
The term ‘vegetable fibre’ in its vagueness can of course mean any fibre from any vegetable, though it’s frequently used to refer to the sugar beet pulp. Your pooch and puss need plenty of fibre, for a healthy digestive system and general wellbeing.
Vegetable oil generally refers to rapeseed, palm or corn oil, added to cheaper foods instead of animal fat, olive oil or sunflower oil. If vegetable oil is listed as an ingredient, it may indicate a lower quality of grub.
Vegetable Protein Extracts
This is an incredibly vague term, and does not specify which vegetables have made it into your pet’s food. As most forms of extraction involve chemicals, it’s rare that these would feature in a natural pet food with their nutritional value lagging behind the nutrition found in meat. Pet food brands may use this term to hide the inclusion of soya, maize and wheat, so you should watch out for this if your pet suffers from intolerances.
We all know that vegetables can have huge benefits when included as part of a balanced and tailored diet. We would say, however, to opt for foods that list the exact vegetables included, otherwise the vegetables included may be along the lines of sugar beet, potatoes or soya beans. As it’s also such a broad term, this gives pet food brands license to alter the ingredients between batches.
With its supposed enzyme qualities, curative properties and dense vitamin, mineral and amino acid content ,it is a fantastic course of nutrients for all kinds of pets – even the sensitive ones, as it is gluten free.
Found in the deserts of the U.S.A. and Mexico, yucca is supposedly capable of cleaning the body from toxins and aiding digestion. It can also reduce your pet’s general odor, and the smell they level behind in the litter tray… hurrah!