Pet Corner: Spicing up Your Pet's Diet

Add Spice to Your Pet’s Life

| May/June 2004

When I think of spices, I recall the wonderful tastes and aromas they add to my daily meals. However, compared to my dog’s nose, mine is a mere vestige. We humans have about 5 to 10 million scent-detecting olfactory cells lying atop our nasal cavity; a dachshund has about 125 million olfactory cells; and a sheepdog has nearly twice that number. The sheepdog has a sense of smell 1 million times more acute than a human’s; the bloodhound, perhaps the king of the smellers, has a sense of smell 3 million times more acute than ours.

One can only imagine the pleasures our pets glean from the scents and tastes that come from their food dish. But adding spices to your pet’s diet provides much more than simple enhancement to flavor and fragrance. Sprinkle a little bit of spice atop your pet’s food often—even daily—and mix in some healing and prevention with the great flavors.

Nosh on Nutrients

You’ll find dozens of nutrient-rich substances neatly packaged in the leaves, flowers and roots of every plant. Plants, including herbs used as spices, are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and carbohydrates. Most plants typically are high in vitamin A, calcium and potassium; some plants are a good source of minerals, such as iron, zinc and magnesium; and others provide small amounts of necessary elements, such as selenium and vitamin C.

The small amount of spice you’ll add to your pet’s diet probably won’t be a huge-volume source for any of these nutrients, but some of them are needed in only minute amounts. And, there’s often more to the nutrients than appears on a dietary chart. For example, vitamins A and C, zinc and selenium are known to have excellent antioxidant activity.

Fend Off Free Radicals

Free radicals are highly unstable oxygen molecules that steal electrons from other molecules they encounter. Free radical reactions are involved in inflammation, degenerative diseases and the aging process in general. Antioxidants work by scavenging free radicals, and are thus important in the prevention and healing of many diseases such as arthritis and cancers.

Many culinary herbs are noted for their antioxidant ability. While some of that ability may be due to their vitamin and mineral content, there is evidently an additive effect due to their potpourri of bioactive chemicals (such as bioflavonoids, carotenoids and berberines), which are found in many plants.

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