Learn how “the bunny test” can help you figure out which raw veggies are safe for your dog to eat, and how to best serve them.
Long before they became man’s best friend, dogs’ ancestors were wild hunters. They would hunt for small mammals and rodents of all shapes and sizes. While our household pets no longer depend on hunting for meals, their ancestral diets still offer valuable guidance on what to feed your dog – namely, raw veggies and meat!
Use “the bunny test” to determine which veggies are okay
As a veterinarian, I get questions from my clients all the time about which fresh vegetables and other “human food” they can feed their dogs as an alternative to processed treats. I often suggest they try what I call “The Bunny Test” – as bunnies would be typical prey for wild dogs.
First, think about what a bunny eats. Carrots are likely the first thing that comes to mind, but if a bunny eats too many, it can be unhealthy. It’s more typical for bunnies to eat leafy greens like spinach, cabbage and lettuces, along with the tops of vegetables that grow above ground, like beet tops and dandelions. As the bunny eats, it spends a lot of time chewing. This breaks down the cell walls and frees the nutrients trapped in the cells. By the time the bunny swallows, the food is full of enzymes. When predators like dogs eat the bunny, they access the nutrition of what the bunny ate; the bunny’s enzymes have broken down the vegetables to be digestible for dogs.
Ancestors of domesticated dogs ate rabbits, squirrels, other small mammals and received their vegetable nutrients from them. Today, dogs don’t have to worry about hunting, so it’s up to their humans to feed them the nutrients they need, which includes fresh vegetables. If a bunny can eat a particular vegetable, so can a dog. It just needs to be prepared in a way that makes it easier for a dog to digest – that’s why it’s crucial that vegetables are finely ground.
There are three kinds of food that animals and humans alike can eat: fats, proteins and sugars. Dogs can eat broccoli, snap peas, carrots, apples and in moderation, blueberries. It’s better to have a variety of small amounts, rather than a large amount of one food. However, there are some vegetables, like white potatoes and eggplants, that a dog should never eat raw.
Consider pre-made raw diets
Pre-made raw meals based on AAFCO standards are a safe way for dogs to eat vegetables because they are finely ground, making it easy for your pup to digest. Pre-made raw meals also take the pressure off you as making sure your dog is getting all the necessary nutrients can be complicated and time-consuming.
Bottom line, I tell my clients that a balanced raw diet based on AAFCO standards is the healthiest thing to feed your dog. Most of my clients opt for a pre-made raw diet made with the occasional “treats” that pass the bunny test standards. And after years in veterinary practice, I can attest to the fact that dogs that eat healthy, raw diets generally live healthier, longer lives.