Veterinarians are beginning to preach the gospel of gardening — primarily how organic fruits and vegetables can be used to improve the health of family pets.
Everything from carrots to leafy vegetables and fruit can be added to a cat or dog dish. That saves money on pet food, too.
But experts warn that some things in your yard can also pose problems for dogs and cats.
Beware introducing amaryllis, rhododendron, chrysanthemum, dieffenbachia and lilies to your property. They are among the most toxic flora known for canines and felines.
Dogs and cats are grazers, frequently nibbling on grass to soothe what ails them. The problem with that, however, is many lawns are loaded with herbicides and pesticides.
Organic fertilizers, however, are available. “You can grow good lawns without using chemicals,” said John Harrison, sales and marketing manager for the Espoma Co., which makes organic fertilizers for the retail lawn and garden industry. The company has a “Safe Paws” campaign that emphasizes natural gardening solutions. Organic weed and insect control extends well beyond lawns, he said.
“Look at the totality of the garden or landscape,” Harrison said. “There are a number of situations that can be changed to make yards more hospitable to pets.”
The No. 1 nutritional problem for pets today is they’re eating way too much, which leads to obesity, diabetes and arthritis, said Dr. Johnny Clark, who operates the Blue Mountain Animal Clinic in Luray, Virginia.
“You can’t exercise your way off a bad diet,” Clark said. “Go with smaller portions. And try introducing green beans. They’re rich in fiber and don’t have any unnecessary calories. They make a good filler and that’s just the ticket for animals needing to lose weight.”
Carrots, leafy greens, blueberries and blackberries also are great pet food additions and can be served up raw, steamed or sautéed. Peppermint, catnip and rosemary are standard pet-garden plants, although many mints — including catnip — can be invasive unless contained.