Why is having a colorful diet so important?
Plants contain phytochemicals, or phytonutrients. Besides giving fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, these phytochemicals have major health benefits, including disease-preventative and anti-inflammatory properties.
Just like in humans, phytonutrients are not “essential” for dogs’ lives. However, vegetables are great sources of minerals and fibers, and these plant-based nutrients are powerful forces for long-term health.
Knowing which vegetables dogs can eat, and which may be toxic, will ensure your dog’s diet is safely supplemented.
So, what exactly are phytochemicals/ phytonutrients and where can I find them?
There are over 25,000 phytonutrients found in plant foods! Here are a few of the most significant, along with the corresponding vegetables dogs can eat:
The benefits: Carotenoids are known to support immune system function, protect skin and eye health, and reduce risk of cancer.
Beta-carotene is a provitamin because when it is consumed it is converted into vitamin A, which is essential for dogs’ skin and coat, growth, sight, and reproductive health.
Where to find them: Look for red, orange, or dark green colors—pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale.
The benefits: Flavonoids are antioxidants that fight off free radicals, protecting your dog against toxins and stressors. Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Where to find them: There are many different types of flavonoids so dogs will generally benefit from eating a variety of vegetables. Flavones are a type of flavonoid and can be found in celery, parsley, beets, artichokes, carrots, and rutabagas.
The benefits: These natural chemicals break down into anti-cancer compounds that will destroy harmful cells and help prevent the formation of blood vessels that feed tumor growth.
Glucosinolates are antimicrobial agents, meaning incorporating vegetables will help protect dogs against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Where to find them: Look for dark green, leafy vegetables— brussels sprouts, broccoli (safe in small quantities), cabbage, kale, rutabagas, mustard greens.
What kinds of vegetables to look for?
Choose Colorful Produce: Look for richly colored vegetables- dark green, red, blue, purple, orange, yellow- because the more vibrant vegetables have the most phytonutrients.
The nutrients are concentrated in the colored parts of the vegetable, so a vegetable that is colored throughout (like a carrot!) is a perfect option.
Choose Organic, Unprocessed Vegetables: When shopping or cooking for your dogs, you should aim for organic, whole foods, just as you would buy for yourself.
Buying certified organic vegetables is key because organic produce not only lacks harmful pesticides, but may also contain higher levels of some nutrients, including flavonoids.
Similarly, feeding your dogs whole foods provides them with a greater amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants than highly processed foods.
What are other vegetables dogs can eat?
In addition to the vegetables mentioned above, here are some more options that are safe for dogs:
- Cucumbers are a healthy, low-calorie treat option! Cucumbers have a high water content (will help your dog rehydrate and cool down!) and also contain nutrients, such as vitamins A, B1, B6, C, and D.
- Zucchini are rich in vitamins B and C, potassium, beta carotene, calcium, folate and dietary fiber. Zucchini can be eaten safely in slices or small pieces, either raw or cooked. If feeding your dog cooked zucchini, steam it without any seasoning.
- Peas are rich in vitamins A and K, as well as several B vitamins. In addition to being packed with minerals, peas also contain lutein. Lutein is a carotenoid that neutralizes free radicals, reduces inflammation, improves brain health, and more!
Our Top 4 Favorites
Out of the vegetables dogs can eat, our top 4 favorites include:
- Carrots are low-calorie and high in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin A. Plus, carrots are like a natural toothbrush- chewing on them will clean your dog’s teeth!
- Cut carrots or carrot sticks into bite-sized chunks to prevent choking, then feed them to your dogs as a healthy treat.
- Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, which benefits dogs’ skin, coat, eyes, nerves and muscles! The high fiber content of sweet potatoes will also help your dog’s digestive health.
- Just be sure to remove the skin and cook the sweet potato so that it will not upset your dog’s stomach.
- Green beans are another high in fiber, low in calories snack for your dog. Green beans contain vitamins B6, A, C, and K, among other vitamins and minerals.
- Note that canned green beans may have a high sodium content, therefore, it is best to feed your dog simple steamed green beans.
- Beets have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties! They also help to protect cells in the brain and liver by eliminating unwanted toxins.
- Raw or cooked beets are safe for dog consumption, as long as they are washed and cut into bite-sized pieces. Steer clear of pickled or canned beets to avoid sodium toxicity.
Are all vegetables good for dogs?
No, there are absolutely vegetables you should avoid! When considering vegetables dogs can eat, it is just as important, if not more, to recognize the vegetables that could be toxic.
Potentially dangerous vegetables include:
- Avocados are not safe for dog consumption because they contain persin, a toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The skin and pit are also a hazard and may cause vomiting and choking.
- Some parts of tomatoes are dangerous for dog consumption due to the toxic substances: lycopene, solanine, and tomatine.
- It is best to avoid feeding dogs tomatoes in general, but especially unripe and green tomatoes since they contain solanine.
- If solanine is consumed in large amounts, it can lead to heart problems, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea).
- Mushroom poisoning can occur if a dog eats toxic mushrooms found in wooded areas. Be sure to watch your dog on walks or in the backyard!
- Broccoli should only be fed to dogs in small quantities because it contains isothiocyanates, which can cause gastric irritation in dogs.
- Onions and garlic belong to the Allium family (which also includes leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots) and they are poisonous to dogs. Members of the Allium family contain a compound that damages hemoglobin.
- This damage will result in anemia and eventually may lead to internal organ damage, organ failure, or even death. If you share cooked food with your pet, it is crucial that the food is unseasoned for this reason.
- Asparagus is not necessarily toxic to dogs, however, there are a few potential dangers. Asparagus stalks are tough and could pose a choking hazard. The tough stalks will also be hard for your dog to digest, meaning consumption could cause vomiting, gas, or diarrhea.
- The nutrient content of asparagus is fairly low once it is cooked so it is better to stick with the safer, more nutrient-dense options listed above.
Important to keep in mind:
- Wash vegetables thoroughly.
- Make sure that the vegetables are not a choking hazard! Cut the vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces and remove any seeds or pit. Always watch your dog when you’re feeding them since choking is very common!
- Although many raw vegetables are safe for dogs, consider cooking the vegetable to make it softer and easier to consume. For example, a baked sweet potato is better for your pet than a raw sweet potato. This is because a cooked sweet potato is easier to chew and digest.
- If you have a vegetable garden, make sure you fence it off to protect your dog. This is especially important if you plant tomatoes, broccoli, or any other veggies that could potentially be harmful to your pets.
- If you are growing asparagus in your garden, beware that asparagus ferns (the inedible leaves of the asparagus plant) are toxic to dogs.
- If cooking the vegetables, do not season with salt, spices, onion or garlic (these can destroy dogs’ red blood cells). Refer to the section above detailing the danger of feeding dogs onion and garlic.
- Introduce new veggies gradually to make sure they agree with your dog. Observe your dog to see how their body responds to the new food item before introducing more.
What are the best ways to share vegetables with your dog?
Feed dogs vegetables in the morning on an empty stomach and in moderation! This will help their bodies process and digest the vegetables easier.
Ideas and recipes:
Check out Yitto Paws founder Bruce’s recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Dog Treats!