By Tracie Korol
Dogs are remarkably flexible in their tastes. They’ll polish off a bowl of dried dog food, then walk over to see if there’s anything tasty in the trash. If they’re still hungry, they’ll head to the laundry room to see what’s in the cat box. Basically, they’ll eat, or at least sample, whatever they find.
There’s a good reason for their liberal tastes. Unlike cats, that evolved solely as hunters, dogs survived by scavenging. When they couldn’t catch live prey, they’d eat the ancient equivalent of road kill. They didn’t care too much if had been lying in the sun for a week or was moldering under old leaves. It was food, and they weren’t going to pass it up. When meat wasn’t on the menu, they’d rummage around for tender leafy stalks, berries, grasses, fruits, flower blossoms, seeds and even a few roots, They simply weren’t fussy, and dogs today haven’t gotten any fussier. They’re predisposed to eat just about everything.
In addition, there’s some evidence that dogs get cravings for certain foods. It’s possible that dogs occasionally get a hankering for greens, just as people sometimes go to bed dreaming about Mom’s fried chicken. It’s not as strange as it may sound. There is also a theory that dogs may not always be seeking food, but are intuitively seeking medicine. Each spring, Moses, my Bassett hound friend, would pull himself along the ground, upside down underneath the pea-vine supports, and pluck the first tiny pea pods right off the vine. He had equally arcane methods for harvesting the first asparagus shoots, parsley, blueberries, mint, garlic and baby carrots. Moses ate a fairly clean diet but would occasionally need to visit the garden.
For example, in early spring, dogs like Moses, may be attracted to the first shoots of common quack grass (Elytrigia repens). Each blade of this “dog grass” contains silicon for strong joints and connective tissues, essential fatty acids for clear skin and shiny coat, enzymes for digestion, chlorophyll for antioxidant support and soap-like saponin constituents that combine with the stringy fibers to help cleanse the digestive tract and keep parasites at bay. After a season of low grade kibble, a dog may feel his system needs a boost.
Likewise, dogs will occasionally chew on berries, bark, pods, seeds or leaves that contain healing properties. The red or purple fruits of raspberry, rose bushes and hawthorn all contain flavonoid constituents that are good for the cardiovascular system.
The oils contained in the raw seeds of flax, currants, wheat, pumpkins and squash may be relished for an extra measure of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that are needed for skin and coat health. Pumpkin seeds are also a natural and gentle vermifuge — expels intestinal parasites.
Even certain kinds of algae (“pond scum”) contain a cornucopia of nutrients and disease-fighting chemicals that wild dogs may seek in time of need. But how do we provide these things for our “suburban wolves”? When do they need these things and in what amount?
By serving a daily helping of nutritive herbs and “green food” at mealtime your dog will be provided added measure of nutritional or systemic support. Good “greens” are flaxseed, spirulina, garlic, dandelion root, kelp, alfalfa and nettle.
Before you “go for the green” on behalf of your Best Friend and head to the store for supplements, it is important to realize that green food supplements only serve to round out a good diet. They cannot be expected to replace nutritional elements that are missing from poor quality, bargain basement, supermarket kibble.
But, if you’re a do-it-yourself type and are conscientious about what goes into your dog, adding a commercial green supplement or a combo-mix of the beneficial herbs or even providing your Best Friend with his own tray of barley or wheat grass can only increase his energy, shine up his coat, float some anti-cancer antioxidants in his system, reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis and tidy up his digestion.