FoodFact: Are Potatoes Safe to Eat for Dogs and Cats?
It is no wonder that potatoes are the backbone of Indian dishes. Be it the small dice of potato with a plate of Chhole Bhature, or thoroughly cut pieces of potatoes in Sambhar, ‘Aloo’ is the way to eat across the latitudinal extent of our country. Burgers are incomplete without an aloo tikki as their filling, and it is impossible to imagine a Chinese food menu without our very own, Honey Chilli Potatoes. But should you be sharing this staple vegetable with your pet?
Yes, but in moderation and with a lot of conditions applied. Potatoes are a rich source of Vitamin K and carbohydrates. To begin with, potatoes that have greenish-blue skin must be avoided; even the ones with sprouting buds should not be included in your pet’s diet. Potatoes turn greenish blue because of the presence of solanine, which can irritate your dog’s stomach lining and esophagus. Never feed raw potatoes to your dog. Cooked and mashed potato is the safest way to give this root vegetable of the nightshade family to your pet.
While understanding how potatoes affect our dogs, it’s important to understand their bodies. Our pets were never made to digest fruits and vegetables. Dogs have evolved over the years from wolves and hounds, and their bodies have always remained suited for the wild. Their teeth were made for cutting and tearing into flesh, and their digestive systems were built for making the best out of raw meat. Dogs must never be put on vegetarian diets because of two basic reasons. One, they miss out on nutrients which are essential for their bodies. A dearth of proteins, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients makes our pets vulnerable to many diseases. Two, their bodies are not made for digesting plant-based nutrients easily. A dog’s digestive system has evolved in a way that it can break down animal-based nutrients with far more ease than plant-based ones. So in order to gauge whether to give potato to your pet or not, you need to consider the pros and the cons and then make a decision.
Where did Potatoes come from?
Potato is currently the 4th largest food crop in the world, following rice, wheat, and maize. They were cultivated as early as 8000 B.C. by the Peruvians. Not long after, the Spaniards conquered Peru and carried it with them. This helped in the popularization of potatoes across Europe. Potatoes were easier to grow as compared to wheat and oats, which were the staple food crops back then. As people found the nutritious benefits of potato to be far larger than anything available at that time, it was widely cultivated. It was believed that potatoes grown on an acre of land could easily feed 10 people. From Europe, the journey of potato continued along with the countries they colonized. But, in India Potatoes were introduced much before the colonization period. India had potatoes coming in from the trade routes set up with Persia in the Ancient and Medieval period.
I’ve heard Potatoes belong to the ‘nightshade’ family. What does that mean?
Nightshade vegetables are a part of the Solanaceae plant family. This family has a variety of special fruits, vegetables as well as trees. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are an example of this variety. The special thing about nightshade family members is that they produce glycoalkaloids, which act as natural pesticides. These are secreted as a defense mechanism to a prospective hunter. These compounds are meant to poison the attacker. As a result, when these compounds reach the human body, they may aid autoimmune diseases, and prolong the duration of infections that would normally heal up faster. A lot of nightshade family members are not safe for consumption. Thankfully, cooked potatoes are safe.
What do potatoes contain?
Potatoes are a storehouse of good things. They provide us with the required carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals which are essential for our body’s growth and upkeep. Potatoes contain starch, are high in calories, and are a great source of vitamin K. They also contain vitamins B-6, C, niacin, phosphorus and pantothenic acid.
The high calorie content is why they need to be consumed in small portions because it’s difficult to burn all those calories off, especially if you don’t exercise regularly.
How is a potato good for my pet?
The calcium, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium present in potatoes is great for your pet’s bone health. Vitamin C in potatoes can help maintain your pet’s repair and maintenance functions intact. This is because vitamin C is responsible for the production of collagen, which is the fundamental block of all connective tissues in the body.
Potatoes are low on sodium, which is why they help maintain your pet’s blood pressure. They also do not contain cholesterol which is why they are great for your dawgie’s heart. Potatoes contain antioxidants; they are good for senior dawgies, as they help in reduction of inflammation. Presence of choline in potatoes helps dogs with muscle movement, absorption of fat and early brain development. The fiber present in potatoes can help keep constipation woes at bay. Vitamin B6 and niacin help with metabolism and skin troubles.
Potatoes contain alpha-lipoic acid which helps convert glucose into energy, aiding the completion of the digestion process. This aids the overall metabolism process for diabetic and senior dogs. Antioxidants have been known to keep ageing troubles at bay for dogs. Latest researches even go on to show that antioxidants have anti-cancer properties.
Potatoes are good for your pet, but may not be properly digested by him. That’s why they need to be fed in moderation. To avoid obesity and weight gain, they must never be fried before being given to your pet. Raw potatoes could be poisonous. The safest way is to boil and mash them before giving them to your pet. They should only be given as snacks, and not as staple food. Your pet needs animal-based proteins and fats for overall development and good health. A balanced and complete diet gives you a healthy dawgie. A healthy and happy dog, gives you a happy and complete family.
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