Written by Pedro Mejia, Ph.D.
April 08, 2021
Do you know what’s the average screen time for a dog in the US?
I don’t know either!
But since Americans spend on average 10 hours and 39 minutes of their day on a screen, and our pets share most of our daily environment, I’m pretty sure dogs are also highly exposed to screens.
What does this have to do with carrots?
It turns out carrots are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that accumulate in the retina and absorb up to 90% of blue light that can damage the eye.
This is only one of the reasons (maybe not the most compelling one) why carrots are good for dogs.
Carrots are also the archetypal example of dog treats that are tasty, fun and healthy.
It may be because there’s a good amount of sugar in carrots that dogs are attracted to them. Another attractive feature seems to be their crunchiness.
Whether fed as a convenient and cheap snack or added regularly to your dog’s food, carrots are a healthy addition to your pup’s diet.
Why are carrots healthy for dogs?
They contain large amounts of carotenoids. These are yellow, orange and red pigments synthetized by plants. Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are provitamin A, meaning they are converted by the body into vitamin A.
Contrary to cats, dogs can efficiently convert carotenes into vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential for normal growth, immune function and vision. Carotenes are present only in plants, however, dogs (and humans) can also get vitamin A already formed from animal products such as liver.
Believe it or not, spinach has more beta-carotene than carrots!!
A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that supplementing dogs’ diet with beta-carotene improved their immune responses.
Carotenes are also antioxidants and seem to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, mentioned above, are also carotenoids. While they’re not converted into vitamin A, they have important functions in the body, especially in the eyes. Green leafy veggies and broccoli are also packed with these nutrients.
Carrots are also a good source of fiber, helping with constipation and maintaining your dog’s gut healthy.
Carrots and senior dogs
Carrots seem to be especially healthy for senior dogs. Lutein and zeaxanthin from carrots help slow the development of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts that can result in blindness in elderly dogs.
Scientists found that supplementation of senior dogs’ diet with beta-carotene restored immune functions that were severely impaired due to their old age.
What’s wrong with feeding carrots to your dog?
Just feed them with moderation, no more than 10% of your dog’s calories. Too much fiber can cause GI discomfort.
Also, carrots have more carbs than other veggies so you should keep count of the calories.
Still, raw pieces of carrots are a better alternative than most commercial treats. Carrots contain around 10.5% of carbs and 186 calories per pound.
Compare this to the most popular dog biscuits out there which have on average 58% of carbs and 1,455 calories per pound!!
And this without mentioning all the processed ingredients and chemicals.
How to prepare carrots for your dog
As with all other veggies, nutrients are available for dogs only after destroying the cellulose wall that protects plant cells.
Chopping, puréeing, and cooking carrots are the best options to add them to your dog’s food and increase the absorption of carotenoids. Also, carotenoids are best absorbed with fat in a meal.
If used as treats, cut bite-size pieces to avoid choking hazard and feed them raw or frozen.
My Zone Blue Super Green Toppers are a perfect blend of finely chopped veggies and fats ready to serve.
There you are, a few reasons to add carrots to your dog’s diet and reduce his screen time.