If you planted a garden this year, hopefully you have been able to start enjoying the fruits (vegetables and flowers too!) of your labor. If you follow my blog regularly, you may have already guessed that I enjoy gardening. Yes, I do have hobbies other than doting on my pets!
If you're like me,you've probably been known to share your fresh garden bounty with your pets now and then. Especially if, like me, you have a pet highly skilled in the art of begging (those eyes!). Fresh fruits and vegetables can be delicious, low calorie snacks for many types of pets. Home grown garden goodies are extra healthy if they were grown organically. But it's important to remember that not all types of fruits and veggies should be shared with your pet. And while flowers are beautiful, some can be toxic.The ASPCA has a great list of plants that are toxic to dogs, cats, and/or horses. If you have other types of pets, it's usually pretty easy to find basic lists of toxic plants by searching online.
If you don't know for sure whether or not a plant is safe, it's always best to avoid offering it to your pet until you can do some more research. If you don't want to do the research yourself, your pet's veterinarian should be able to help you. Never assume that just because a plant item is safe for humans, or even for other types of pets, that it will be safe for all species. For example, small pets such as rabbits can safely enjoy grapes. However, grapes are toxic to dogs.
Another thing to keep in mind is that just because part of a plant is safe, doesn't mean that another part of the same plant can't cause problems. For example, like people, many dogs enjoy red tomatoes. But did you know that green tomatoes, as well as the leaves and stems of tomato plants, contain a compound called tomatine? Tomatine has anti-fungal properties that can help protect tomato plants. It is, however, toxic, and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, weakness, and ataxia (neurological symptoms) if ingested.
I don't think many pet owners would purposely feed their pets flowers from their garden. It's still important to note that many kinds of common garden flowers, such as Morning Glories, Tulips, and Daffodils, can be toxic to pets. If you'd like to plant any types of flowers that can be toxic to animals, it's probably best to plant them in areas your pet can't access.
One last tip! Most people don't realize that fruits and vegetables can actually contain a high amount of natural sugars. Although humans can usually handle these sugars without any issues, this is not always true for pets. Sugary fruits or vegetables can cause gastrointestinal distress in pets, if fed in excess. Some types of pets, such as dogs, cannot digest raw plant matter well. Your dog can still enjoy an occasional fruit/veggie snack, however if you want him/her to get more nutrition out of plant material you should try cooking or mashing/blending the food first. This breaks down the plant's cell walls, making them easier for carnivores to digest.
If you have a dog and are looking for a more creative way to use some of those fruits/veggies from your garden, check out my book Cooking with Canines! Some of the recipes in the book feature fresh ingredients that can be grown in gardens, such as strawberries, mint, and apples.
I took this video of Kitsune earlier today. Watching him eat cherry tomatoes from our garden is really funny! He likes them, but I think they confuse him. He doesn't ever seem to be able to decide if he should be eating them, or playing with them.