More than ever before, dogs are veritable members of the household. These days, they live inside, have their own rich lives, and get the best of treatment. Part of making sure dogs have everything they need to thrive is ensuring they’re fed a nutrient-rich, delicious diet, and nothing supplements a dog’s diet quite like vegetables.
Vegetables make spoiling dogs easier — and healthier — than ever. Low in calories, nutritious, and inexpensive, swapping traditional treats or supplementing a diet with veggies is a great way to indulge a doggy’s tastebuds.
But as any child would know, not all vegetables are created equal. Before stir frying up the whole farm for your dog, it’s important to research which veggies are canine-friendly, or how to cook them so they are.
Wait, but aren’t dogs carnivores? 🥩
Dogs are widely-agreed to be omnivores like us, therefore requiring a balanced diet like us. That said, there is some debate as to whether they are true omnivores or actually carnivores, based on a number of physiological factors that could push the conclusion either way.
They certainly have a carnivorous bias, with most dogs huge fans of various kinds of meat, but many dogs also actively enjoy eating vegetables and fruits as much as their meat-based snacks. And as anyone with a fox red Labrador retriever can attest to, dogs will often eat first and think later, making their diets even more diverse than intended.
From a nutrition perspective, we know dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats, who require a particular amino acid found only in flesh to survive. Dogs are more tolerant of a varied diet, putting them somewhere in the category of meat-loving omnivores that can absolutely enjoy a wide range of plant-based foods.
👉 Learn more about the nutritional requirements of dogs.
These are the best veggies for dogs
With so many vegetables available, it’s important to know which can and can’t be fed to dogs. While experimenting with different options, be sure to track how your dog reacts to each one: while a veggie may be considered healthy for dogs, it’s always possible that your pooch won’t handle it well.
Here are 10 vegetables that are generally considered beneficial to a canine diet:
1. Green beans
Green beans are a versatile snack for dogs with tons of health benefits. They can be given raw, steamed, chopped, or whole, as long as they aren’t mixed with salt, garlic, or anything else meant to make them more flavorful. Green beans are full of healthy fiber, minerals, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K.
2. Sweet potatoes 🍠
Sweet potatoes are a delicious vegetable full of fiber, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, magnesium, and the antioxidant beta-carotene. If you’ve got a dog with a sweet tooth, this is the veggie for them.
However, dogs should only be fed skinned, cooked sweet potatoes, otherwise, they are too hard to chew and digest. This vegetable is best saved for a special treat in small quantities, rather than a regular part of a dog’s meal given the high sugar content.
3. Brussels sprouts
Delicious and nutritious, Brussels sprouts make a great veggie treat for dogs. They contain important vitamins A, B1, B6, K, and G, as well as manganese, folate, and potassium. Vitamin K in particular is good for their blood and heart.
The best cooking method is steaming. But be sure to limit the amount your dog gets: Brussels sprouts are known to cause issues in the digestive tract, resulting in gassiness.
Zucchini is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich option ideal for dogs with weight issues. Packed with vitamin C and B6, manganese, potassium, folate, and a slightly sweet taste that dogs love, zucchini makes for an excellent dog treat. The fact that they can be given raw or cooked makes it even easier to indulge your pup.
5. Broccoli 🥦
This superfood is packed full of important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins C and K, and potassium, which are great for bone and heart health. However, broccoli florets contain isothiocyanates, which can lead to digestive tract issues, upset stomach, and gassiness if too large a quantity is given. Puppies should not eat broccoli at all while their gut is still developing. Broccoli can be eaten raw, but dogs may prefer the softer, steamed version.
6. Carrots 🥕
A common vegetable full of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), biotin, vitamin K, potassium, and vitamin B6, carrots make a great supplement to a canine diet. They can be pureed, steamed, or blanched. Eaten raw, carrots make an excellent dental chew, strengthening, and cleaning your dog’s teeth.
Beets come packed full of vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese, and potassium, which are essential nutrients aiding in your dog’s digestion, immune system and for maintaining a healthy skin and coat. Because they can be very hard raw, it’s best to cook them to avoid a choking hazard. And remember, if you’ve fed beets to your dog, their stool might seem red later on.
Celery is not only safe for dogs to eat, it has vitamins A, B, and C in it ready to support your dog’s heart health and potentially keep cancer away. Eaten raw, celery is an excellent crunchy snack that has the added benefit of freshening your dog’s breath. If that wasn’t enough, celery can also be used to help calm nervous dogs.
There’s a good reason why peas are served up to humans and dogs alike: they are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and K, plus thiamin, phosphorus, manganese, fiber, and folate.
Pea is actually a common ingredient in dog foods because they are a natural source of protein, too. Dogs can eat the breadth of pea types (snap, sugar, garden), and they can be eaten frozen, cooked, or raw.
Cauliflower is a great source of fiber, vitamins K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and folate for humans and dogs alike. Although they can be eaten raw, the florets can sometimes create a choking hazard, so it’s better to soften cauliflower through cooking. Like other vegetables, too much cauliflower can lead to gassiness, so be sure to limit how much you feed.
Veggies are the balanced snack dogs crave
There is no use denying the joy of sharing food from our plates with our dogs, but it can be easy to feed them the wrong thing. Slipping them sugary, salty snacks makes them extremely happy up until the point that they’re experiencing avoidable health problems.
Veggies are here to bridge that gap, making excellent snacks and treats for dogs without the same risk of illness down the line. Although humans might not personally feel that veggies are an acceptable alternative to bacon and cupcakes, more often than not, dogs are just happy to be getting something from our plates. Veggies can be the perfect supplement to a dog’s diet lacking in a particular area without accompanying caloric increase. They can also improve their digestive system, boost their immune system, and offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
Of course, too much of a good thing applies to vegetables too. Be sure not to let veggies make up more than 25% of your dog’s diet, and do your research to be sure that the vegetables you’ve selected to feed Fido are non-toxic and offering some nutritious value.
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Prepping and storing your dog’s veggies
Some veggies are only beneficial to dogs when prepared in certain ways. For example, asparagus poses no health threat to dogs, but shouldn’t be fed to them because they’re unpleasant to eat raw, and lack enough nutrition to be worthwhile to a dog once they’ve been cooked.
There are a number of approaches for veggie preparation, each with its own pros and cons. Here’s a quick outline of available options:
Blanching is a quick but technical process in which veggies are submerged in boiling water for a short period of time and then moved to very cold water. This cleans the vegetables without cooking out their nutrition and flavor. Because only water is needed to prepare, it also avoids the use of oil.
The main benefit of going the puree route is the ease of digestion, since the cell walls of the plant are broken down during the process. However, some veggies — like root vegetables — will need to be cooked through blanching or steaming prior to blending. Others, like celery and spinach, do not.
Steaming is another oil-free way to cook vegetables for your dog. The heat of the water softens and cooks tougher vegetables without stripping away their nutritional value.
Freezing takes away the immediacy of prepping vegetables for your dog, allowing you to take advantage of their benefits at any time. One excellent trick is to fill an ice cube tray with pureed vegetables. It’s the perfect doggy snack for a hot day!
👉 Visual learners should check out how the Barking Good Chef preps veggies for his dog.
For all the benefits of vegetables, when it comes to canine health, some can be downright dangerous. Here is a non-exhaustive list of vegetables you should avoid letting your dog have, even accidentally.
- Wild mushrooms 🍄
- Tomatoes 🍅
- Avocados 🥑
While we’re on the topic of produce that dogs can’t eat, here are some fruits to avoid as well.
- Raisins and grapes 🍇
- Apple cores
- Macadamia nuts
👉If you’re finding conflicting information about whether a certain vegetable (or any other human foods) is suitable for your pooch, it’s always wise to consult your veterinarian first.
🚨 Did your dog consume something toxic? Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435