A healthy diet is important for dogs. But some healthy foods are more impactful than others. These “superfoods” for dogs can slow down the effects of aging, ease arthritis and allergies, and even ward off illnesses like heart disease or cancer.
(There is no medically-approved definition of a superfood. Generally speaking, they are any food that has high levels of nutrients known for having specific health benefits.)
Here are seven top superfoods for dogs you should consider adding to your pup’s diet.
First and foremost, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, so can help your dog with arthritis and allergies. In one study, arthritic dogs given an increase in omega-3s (and a decrease in omega-6-to-3 ratio) experienced an enhanced quality of life.
It’s also good for the health of your dog’s skin and fur. In another study, researchers concluded that omega-3 and omega-6 have “significant potential” as a treatment for dogs with eczema.
Anchovies and salmon are also high in B12, which help with the overall function of the cardiovascular system. And because dogs can’t make their own B12, they need to get it from outside sources… like oily fish.
In human studies, antioxidants have proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. They can also help prevent obesity-related illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes.
For instance, an 18-year-long study of women, aged 25-42, found that eating blueberries and strawberries was associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks.
How effective are blueberries at increasing antioxidants in dogs? A 2006 study of sled dogs found that dogs fed blueberries while exercising had “significantly” elevated levels of antioxidants in their blood over those who didn’t receive blueberries.
This is a particularly important finding for owners of active dogs. Exercise is a common source of free radicals.
Another reason blueberries are a superfood for dogs is their high concentrations of fiber and vitamins C and K. Fiber helps regulate your dog’s digestion. Vitamin C gives his immune system a boost. And, Vitamin K is important for bone health.
They’re best known for aiding in digesting and reducing diarrhea. According to the American Kennel Club, pumpkins help canine digestion in several ways.
“The soluble fiber content in pumpkin adds bulk to your dog’s stool by absorbing water, and fiber fermentation produces beneficial fatty acids that supply energy to cells, stimulate intestinal sodium and water absorption, and lower the pH level of the large intestines,” the organization writes.
The fiber in pumpkins also acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of the probiotics your dog needs to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
First, it's a strong anti-inflammatory and can help with many inflammation-related illnesses, like arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and allergies.
Second, like blueberries, turmeric is also an antioxidant. This means it can protect against the age-related cellular damage that leads to a variety of ailments and diseases.
Find out more about why turmeric is good for dogs.
With a high concentration of beta-carotene, vitamins A and E, potassium, and lutein, carrots are the eye health-boosting superfood for dogs. More specifically, research suggests beta-carotene and lutein can prevent the development of cataracts in older dogs. (Learn more about the importance of lutein for dogs.)
Plus, beta-carotene is an antioxidant, so it helps with more than just your pup’s eyesight.
And because they have fiber and potassium, carrots can help dogs with digestion issues. Potassium is also essential to the healthy function of your dog’s heart, kidney, and muscles.
Some vets also recommend using carrot sticks as chew toys to help dogs’ teeth clean.
If you’re planning on feeding raw carrots to your dog, consult with your vet about how much is safe. Too much Vitamin A can be dangerous.
Coconut oil is a healthy “fat.” To get technical for a moment, coconuts contain two types of saturated fats: lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides or MCTs.
Studies on humans have shown that lauric acid helps to kill bacteria and viruses in the body. It also gives coconut oil its antibacterial property when used as a topical cream or shampoo to treat eczema and parasites.
MCTs are more easily absorbed and require less digestive effort than most other fats. It also burns more quickly, which helps with energy and boosts metabolism. As a result of its MCT content, coconut oil, unlike other fats, can help with heart health.
(Unlike in humans, too much MCT in a dog’s diet can lead to higher levels of cholesterol and plaque buildup. Before adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet, speak to your vet about dosage levels.)
Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and digestive enzymes, mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that can help your pooch live a long, healthy life.
Recent research has also revealed certain mushrooms may have cancer-fighting properties that can be used to supplement traditional medicine in dogs with cancer.
Learn more about the benefits of mushrooms for dogs and the three power mushrooms that pack the biggest punch.