This section is from the book "Kennel Secrets: How To Breed, Exhibit And Manage Dogs", by Ashmont. Also available from Amazon: Kennel Secrets: How to Breed, Exhibit and Manage Dogs.
Many who have publicly discussed the subject of feeding have stoutly asserted that vegetable substances are absolutely unfit for dogs; and the reason which the most scientific of them have advanced is, that these animals are incapable of digesting or converting into components of their bodies the saccharine and farinaceous matters yielded by such substances.
While the matters in question are not digested in the stomachs of dogs, but pass down unchanged into the small intestine, experiments have proved that the fluids of the latter transform starch into sugar with the greatest promptitude, and that it is then rapidly absorbed; also, that if a dog is given meat with one of the meals, as oatmeal or Indian meal, abounding in starchy matter, while some of the former remains in his stomach for several hours, the latter immediately begins to pass into the intestine, and the whole of the starch even may have completely disappeared in an hour's time.
It is plainly evident therefore that Nature has made provision for the digestion of starchy foods.
But notwithstanding this, considering vegetable substances as a whole, the fact remains that they do not contain in convenient form all that is necessary for the support of all dogs under all conditions, and were the entire race fed on them alone, while some might possibly keep well and strong, the infinite majority would in time decline in health and vigor, lacking as they do that complex elaborating system which is required for ready conversion of these substances into all the different kinds of materials - the heavy as well as the light timbers - imperatively demanded for structure-building and repairs. But still, as urged in the foregoing chapters, they contribute in various ways not a little to the welfare of dogs, hence the most serviceable of them deserve consideration here.
Commencing with garden produce, there are noted a number of vegetables against which with scarcely an exception dogs have strong antipathies and from which they will generally turn unless the same are served and thoroughly intermingled with appetizing foods. And this natural aversion is quite fairly distributed although it seems specially strong towards the potato - very likely for the reason that it is the most common of its class and most frequently appears before them.
Yet while it is not easily digestible and should be excluded from the diet when old or imperfectly cooked, if comparatively young and well cooked and mashed there is nothing objectionable about this vegetable, - in fact it can wisely be used occasionally as an accessory food. And although it contributes but little in the way of sup. port and vigor there is no denying that it has health-giving properties, the immediate effect of which appears to be on the blood itself, the integrity of which it seems to favor.
Practically the same may be said of the carrot, turnip, parsnip, and beet-root, all of which the dog is capable of digesting, provided always the quantity is small and they are properly cooked and well mashed. But while they supply in limited amount a few of the materials required by the body, for their nutritive and force-producing properties purely they are of small value to the dog, and for him their highest importance lies in their tendency to assist in keeping the constitution of the blood unimpaired.
As for such vegetables as cabbages, the tops of turnips, beets, nettles, spinach, dandelion and other " greens," they contain but little real nutriment, nor is much of them digested or absorbed; still they favor the digestion of "hearty" foods and possess all the properties of value which have been conceded to the tubers.
In a word, while not nutritious themselves they seem to make other foods more nutritious; moreover, being largely composed of woody fibre and chlorophyl, which are but slightly if at all soluble in the digestive fluids, they act mechanically as stimulants to the bowels, and so tend to keep them open and free.
Under certain conditions of life, as when fed generously but deprived of exercise sufficient to eliminate the waste composed of undigested foods and used-up matters the blood becomes overloaded with impurities, in which state it is often, for convenience, termed inflammable by physicians, while laymen are wont to say that it is "heated up," the terms being suggested by the very strong tendency which then exists to inflammations. And these, by the way, are singularly liable to manifest themselves in the skin where dogs are the victims of the accumulated impurities.
It is in such conditions as this that the vegetables in question have a decidedly good effect by improving the action of the bowels - the great waste avenue or sewer -which under their impulse carry from the blood more than usual of its impurities; and at the same time this vital fluid feels directly some of the properties of the vegetables and is doubtless more or less purged by them.
Onions, garlic, cress and other like substances of pungent flavors have been credited with medicinal virtues of marked character, while the first named is believed by some to be a sure preventive as well as destroyer of worms. They are all stimulants and cause an increased secretion of the saliva and gastric juice, and in this way favor digestion, provided they are used in moderation, while like all other stimulants they cause irritation when pushed too far.
As for the supposed anthelmintic virtues of onions, the only testimony offered that they possess any such comes from a few breeders who, accustomed to flavor their soups with them, and their dogs having fortunately escaped worms, have jumped at the conclusion that the credit belongs to this vegetable. It really contains an acrid, volatile oil that is strongly irritating and stimulating, and were worms to encounter it in goodly quantities and in concentrated form it would doubtless prove anything but pleasant to them, and might, like all other irritant oils, have some destructive effect. But much of it is lost in cooking. Moreover the proportion of onions to the other ingredients in soups for dogs is scarcely greater than that in like foods prepared for man, consequently it is not reasonable to suppose that it has the reputed effect.