As humans, we know the value of consuming vegetables. They are packed with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, fiber and overall goodness that our bodies need. Did you know there are also many vegetables dogs can eat, which have also been proven in studies to improve dog's overall health?
Just walk down the produce aisle of your local grocery store and you will see all manners of vegetables, often hailing from all corners of the world. The beautiful thing is that most vegetables are as good for your dog as they are for you, but some veggies are much better for dogs than others.
But aren’t dogs carnivores?
While dog's aren't carnivores by definition, the majority of a dog's diet should still come from meat of animals. However, they also need nutrients that are not easily found in the flesh and organs of animals. While it is true that dogs can survive on largely meat-based diet, dogs do supplement that diet with plant-based foods like vegetables and fruits.
We've previously written about dogs going vegan, which in theory may work, but isn't a good option. One of the better studies on dog's vegetarian diet vs meat-based diet have observed the pros and cons of each (1). The conclusion researchers came to is that the mixture of both worlds, meat and plant foods, may be the best for dogs' health.
For dogs, this is not just an opportunistic form of feeding, but is one born out of necessity and through domestication over the last 10,000 years. By feeding your dogs certain vegetables in moderation, you are positively affecting their health.
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Low in saturated fats and cholesterol, carrots are excellent sources of thiamine, niacin, vitamins A, B6, C and K, folate, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. While it is easily one of the oldest consumed vegetables in the human diet, the carrot is nonetheless packed with nutrients that the body craves.
As long as you moderate the amount you feed them, your dog can enjoy this super root as well. Moderation is required as carrots contain a significant amount of sugar, and if you want avoid excess weight gain and metabolic complications it is best to adhere to a proper feeding schedule.
While they do contain quite a bit of sugar for their size, carrots are still considered a low calorie treat. Your dog doesn’t have to chomp down an entire carrot to gain the nutritional benefits. Carrot sticks provide a convenient and portion controlled way to give your pet a healthy and delicious treat.
The vitamin A contained within carrots is one of the healthiest attributes of the entire vegetable for dogs to consume (2). It has been shown that, pound-for-pound, carrots can provide dogs with more vitamin A (3) than a combination of meat and boiled rice.
Carrots provide so much nutrition that dogs could survive for prolonged periods if they were solely given carrots. While this is not a recommended practice, it does illustrate the nutritional value provided by these vegetables dogs can eat.
It has also been observed that the consumption of carrots plays a role in improving the detoxification of the body (4). This is attributed to the ease at which carrots are digested.
The verdant florets of broccoli are unmistakable. For humans, broccoli often serves as a most welcomed side dish, or smothered with cheese and served as a main course. For dogs, it is best served as a natural treat and in small portions only.
This absolute need for moderation is due to isothiocyanates, a compound found within the flesh and florets of broccoli that has been known to cause gastric irritations when consumed in high amounts. An additional word of caution must be given to the stems of broccoli, which can be a choking hazard especially when it hasn’t been chewed properly.
Nonetheless, broccoli is still an excellent source of various nutrients for your dog which include vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, along with protein, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, dietary fiber, folate, manganese and potassium.
While broccoli brings a lot to the table in terms of nutrition, it is vitamin E that shines the most. Also known as alpha tocopherol, is often associated with keeping a healthy coat on dogs; however, it is due to its effects on the central nervous system that makes it such a valuable attribute of broccoli.
Alpha tocopherol has been shown in studies (5) to have a positive effect on the peripheral nerves as well as non-nervous tissue in dogs. This makes broccoli one of the few vegetables dogs can eat to directly influence a canine's nervous system. So, it seems that the effects of vitamin E go beyond skin deep, but the amazing qualities of alpha tocopherol do not stop there.
More evidence shows that dogs given concentrations of vitamin E (6) exert a higher degree of endurance. This makes broccoli, and the vitamin E it contains, a convenient and cost effective means of providing working dogs and sled dogs, in particular, a means to boost their endurance and output, and we discussed this in our science-based canine athlete nutrition article in more depth.
Limited evidence has also been displayed in using alpha tocopherol to cure the muscular dystrophy of malnourished pups. Although, it should be mentioned that this has only shown to be effective before symptoms become severe. Studies with rats (7) and dogs (8) have found that broccoli can positively influence the microbiota of animals, similar to that when using probiotics for dogs.
Furthermore, the dark green color of broccoli is due to the high amounts of chlorophyll trapped within its cells, which has been shown to display (9) protective properties against exposure to cancer-causing factors. This true for both humans and dogs.
This effectively turns broccoli into a cancer fighting food, as chlorophyll and its derivatives are considered antioxidants, antimutagenics, mutagen trappers, modulators of xenobiotic metabolism and inducers of apoptosis.
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No longer reserved as an accompaniment to salad, the benefits of consuming cucumbers for dogs are now being touted. Like most fruits and vegetables dogs can eat, cucumbers are best consumed by your pet in moderation.
Cucumbers are an amazing source of vitamins A, C and K. It is very low in carbohydrates and fats, while simultaneously providing great amounts of pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. Vitamin K has been shown to be a key factor in the maintenance of cellular cohesion and may be used as an antidote to warfarin.
Remember to remove the seeds of the cucumber before giving it to your dog as they may cause intestinal and gastric issues in dogs, like diverticulitis.
What is better to accompany carrot sticks than celery sticks? Celery, though high in sodium, is an excellent treat for your dog. A good source of riboflavin, vitamins A, B6, C and K, celery also contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, potassium and magnesium.
Besides housing a plethora of nutrients, minerals and vitamins, celery has the unique, and most appreciated property of freshening your dog's breath.
Celery has also been recognized as a food essential to the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system in dogs. It is considered an antihypertensive (10) and can decrease blood pressure without negatively affecting kidney function.
Finally, celery has a reputation as an effective treatment for rheuma and other related diseases. This is likely due to several unidentified polar substances within celery stalk that displays anti-inflammatory properties.
To most of us, potatoes may seem like a boring ol’ spud, but this root vegetable is high in vitamin C, B6, potassium and manganese. If you plan on giving your dog these vegetables dogs can eat, which you should, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Always serve your pooch cooked potatoes, as raw spuds are tough on the stomach.
Potatoes are so calorie- and nutritionally-dense that when mixed with a blend of amino acids, they have been shown to be a viable meal replacement (11) for conventional commercial dry dog food diets.
The potential for the use of potatoes in dog food is high, as its nutritional value holds even after irradiation. With this in mind, both commercial and at home preparations of dog food can include irradiated (microwaved) potatoes with little consequence.
Avoid giving your dogs mashed potatoes as the butter, milk, seasonings and garlic can are not easily digested and can give them an upset stomach. Finally, you know that bloated feeling you get when you eat potatoes? Dogs get that too, so make sure to give them potatoes sparingly, unless you want Fido to gain excess weight and have gastric pains.
6. Sweet Potatoes
The sugary and more orange cousin of the lowly spud, sweet potatoes have been praised by people as a delicious and nutritious alternative to potatoes. Jam packed with beta-carotene and containing enough vitamin A to meet 35% of a persons daily requirement (12), sweet potatoes are a nutritiously dense food that is treasured the world over.
The beta-carotene combined with the anthocyanin packs a one-two punch of health benefits that has helped make the sweet potato a staple food throughout many countries in the world. Naturally, these benefits pass on to dogs as well.
A couple of words of caution before you start heaping spoonfulls of sweet potatoes into your dog's bowl, though. Remember that this is a sweet food, meaning it is high in sugar. Unless you want an overweight or diabetic dog, it is essential to exercise moderation.
Much like potatoes, you must cook these vegetables dogs can eat before serving them to your pet, because raw sweet potatoes have the potential to greatly upset the stomach and intestines of your dog.