Microgreens for Pets

by Jason Lee • 12/4/2018

While I was gardening in my backyard, I stumbled upon a rabbit munching on the patch of fresh dandelion greens. As I was admiring this scene, I had a revelation that it’s not just humans that suffer from the pre-packaged dull brown foods from the grocery store. Pets also deserve to be healthy and happy, so I did research on the subject matter.

Microgreens are an excellent addition to a pet’s diet. In order to replicate the natural diets that your pet would’ve eaten in the wild, you have to formulate the species and quantity of Microgreens depending on whether the pets are carnivorous or herbivorous. Carnivorous pets such as cats and dogs can be fed small quantitites of broccoli, kale, and turnip Microgreens (no more than 10% of their diet as a rule of thumb), while herbivorous pets such as rabbits and hamsters can be fed a wider variety of leafy microgreens such as brocolli, turnip, swiss chard and dandelion Microgreens.

Microgreens for Dogs

dogs
Puppies playing in the grass

It’s no secret that dogs are related to wolves, they share 99.9% of their DNA with wolves. In addition to big game, wolves also hunt small game animals, insects and supplement their diets with wild berries when available. Microgreens are a natural addition to your pet dog’s diet is because when wolves eat their prey, they consume all of it, including the vegetable matter in the prey’s stomach.

Microgreens give your pet dog added nutrition and health benefits. In fact, a study with Scottish Terriers found that the consumption of leafy vegetables three times per week significantly reduces the risk of bladder cancer (1). Additionaly, diets rich in vegetable derived antioxidants have been shown to improve cognitive function in aging dogs (2).

The recommended varieties of broccoli, mustard, and turnip greens. These vegetables have high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, plus a variety of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron. To add these microgreens to their diet, you can chop them up or blend them before mixing them in with their regular pet food.

The general guideline for mixing microgreens with their food is that microgreens should represent approximately 10% of their diet. If you are making homemade dog food from scratch, a simple recipe for homemade dog food would be raw mackarel, chicken or turkey (including thier offal), and sprinkle finely chopped up microgreens on top

On the side of caution, amaranth and quinoa should be avoided by pets with have calcium deficiencies because amaranth have a high oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid binds to calcium, preventing its absorbtion. In addition, kale and broccoli should be avoided with pets that have thyroid problems.

Microgreens for Cats

cats
Cat soaking in the sun

Like dogs, cats will digest most of its prey, including the vegetable matter found in the gut. However, cats are not as omnivorous as dogs: cats has a higher proportion of their diets from small game animals and insects. Cats tolerate a lower proportion of vegetables in their diet than dogs

Academic studies with cats are rare. While there aren’t any long term studies with cat diets, the physiology of cats are similar to dogs. Therefore, cats should also receive similar cancer-fighting and cognitive benefits from antioxidants and minerals found in leafy vegetables.

Mixing microgreens with your cat food is more beneficial than regular greens since they have a higher concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. Therefore, you can give more beneficial greens to your cat without upsetting its stomach. The recommended microgreens for cats are turnip greens, broccoli, and kale microgreens to add to your cat food. However, you should avoid giving microgreens for cats with thyroid problems.

You can chop up or blend your microgreens and then mix it with regular pet food. Microgreens should only make up 5% of a cat's diet. If you make your own home made cat food, you can feed them raw whole foods such as chicken or mackarel, and sprinkle chopped up microgreens on top. Grains such as rice should be avoided to add bulk because they are known to be correlated with type-2 feline diabetes (4).

Growing Micro Grasses for Cats and Dogs

In addition to green vegetables, you can grow a micro grasses for both cats and dogs. Both cats and dogs like to munch and consume grass in the wild. Researchers theorize that wolves and cats eat grass in order to relieve themselves from upset stomach. The fibers and proteins in the grasses induce vomiting, which removes indigestible materials and intestinal parasites.

Younger plants have fewer toxins that cause upset stomach than older plants. Therefore, micro grasses are safer to consume than older grasses. Cats and dogs typically self-regulate how much grass they consume. You can use the same methods for growing Microgreens to sprout grass seeds. In order to use the fastest growing and germinating grass varietes, consider using ryegrass or tall fescue varieties. Small containers of grasses also add a decorative element to any house, allowing both pet owners and pets enjoy a variety of houseplants.

Microgreens for Rabbits

rabbit
Rabbit enjoying winter green grass

Rabbits love to eat greens and there’s nothing that they love more than fresh green hay. Hay contains almost all of the nutrients that rabbits need to grow and thrive. Hay should consist 80 to 90% of a rabbit's diet. Like all plants grown outdoors, hay is seasonal. The most nutritious hay are harvested during peak growing season (spring and fall in the northern hemisphere)

However, much like the vegetables in the supermarket, the longer it takes for vegetables to get from farm to table, the less nutritious it gets. If you’re lucky enough to live close to a farmer that happens to grow hay year round, then there’s no real need to grow your own. But chances are, you are living in the middle of a city or suburbs. And for 6 months out of the year, growing any plants outdoors are either too hot or too cold. You’re then left with the choice of either buying hay in your pet food store that may have been sitting for months or food pellets.

Alternatively, you can easily grow your own meadow indoors using the same techniques to grow microgreens. Hay seeds are cheap and plentiful. With a germination time of 7 days, you can quickly grow hay within weeks. To grow your very own meadow: Sow your microgreens tray with approximately 90% timothy hay seeds, and top up the rest with alfalfa and dandelion seeds. Cover the growing container for the three days to allow germination. If you don’t have indoor lighting set up, then simply put it on the south facing window in order for the tray to receive as much sunlight as possible.

Like the grasses that grow on your lawn, you can regrow the hay micro grasses as long as you harvest no more than a third of its height. All grasses grow approximately 1 inch a week. So if you want repeated harvest without re-sowing, try harvesting 3 to 4 weeks from seeding. This method of growing your own rabbit food is relatively low maintenance. If you plan to keep your hay meadow longer than 2 months, remember to fertilize your hay meadow every 5 weeks

In addition to the hay that you feed your rabbits, it's recommended that you feed leafy greens on a daily basis. You can share microgreens such as swiss chard, broccoli or turnip greens that you grow for yourself.

Microgreens for Hamsters

Like many rodents, hamsters eat a lot of grains and seeds. There’s nothing like watching a hamster gnawing at a sunflower seed. The way they nibble and turn the seeds around their tiny hands are therapeutic.

The best part about having a pet hamster is that you can grow vegetables for yourself and your pet at the same time. In general, green and leafy vegetables should be ok to share with your hamster. In general, they can eat broccoli, turnip, swiss chard and bok choy microgreens.

Resources

1) Raghavan M. Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers

2) Head E. Effects of age, dietary, and behavioral enrichment on brain mitochondria in a canine model of human aging

3) Lapoint, Stacy L. Why Raw Diets for Cats and Dogs Make Sense

4) Frank G . Use of a high-protein diet in the management of feline diabetes mellitus.

About the Author

Jason Lee

I am the author of this website and owner of growyourmicrogreens.com. I am an hobbyist gardener and a passionate scientist. I was trained as a scientist in the Molecular Genetics program in University of Toronto, where I received my Masters of Science and published a journal article.

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