Vegetables dogs can and can’t eat

Prepared pet foods from reputable pet food manufacturers in Australia come with a commitment to deliver nutritional adequacy, consistency, quality and safety. They are optimised for most dogs’ needs but adding vegetables can provide great health benefits too.

Colourful vegies have a high concentration of phytonutrients, rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, and can help the eye and brain function of your dog. And if you have a dog that’s carrying a few extra pounds, replacing some of their dog food with low-calorie vegies will help keep them full while decreasing the overall calories consumed.

Dogs, like people, are omnivores so they can eat a wide variety of foods, not just meat. But don’t start a new diet for your dog without talking to your veterinarian first, a sudden change can upset their digestion.

While dogs can benefit from many vegies, some can be problematic in large doses and others should be avoided altogether.

So, what vegies can dogs eat? And how much is too much of a good thing? Here’s a rundown of what’s good for your dog and what to avoid.

Safe vegies for dogs

Asparagus
Asparagus is not unsafe for dogs. It’s not toxic and contains antioxidants and vitamins but the spears are too tough to chew when raw so must be prepared. Make sure you chop spears into small pieces and cook them first. Steaming and roasting are two ways to prepare asparagus for your pet without losing a lot of the nutrients. It is low in calories (20 calories per 1/2 cup cooked) but high in fibre, so can be a good option if your dog needs to lose weight.

Broccoli
Broccoli is safe for dogs in very small quantities. Chewing broccoli stalks can act as a natural toothbrush for dogs but the florets contain isothiocyanates, which can cause mild-to-potentially-severe gastric irritation in some dogs. Also, broccoli stalks have been known to cause an obstruction in the oesophagus. So, while it contains lots of fibre and vitamin C, it may be best to choose a vegetable that’s less risky.

Carrots
Chewing on raw, crunchy carrots is great for dogs – it can ease anxiety and clean their teeth. Carrots are an excellent low-calorie snack that is high in fibre and beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A.

Celery
Yes, celery is safe for dogs. In addition to vitamins A, B, and C, this crunchy green snack contains the nutrients needed to promote a healthy heart and reduce inflammation. As if that wasn’t enough, celery is also known to freshen doggy breath. It’s best to steam the celery first to avoid choking if you have a small breed of dog.

Corn
A small amount of corn removed from the cob is okay for dogs. It’s often used in dog food as it is relatively inexpensive and has nutritional benefits. It is a good source of protein, carbohydrates, linoleic acid, and antioxidants.

Just make sure you remove it from the cob first as dogs cannot safely eat corn cobs. It’s also quite high in calories (177 calories per cup) so may not be the best option for an overweight dog.

Green beans
Chopped, steamed, raw, or canned – all types of green beans are safe for dogs to eat, as long as they are plain. They are full of important vitamins and minerals, high in fibre and low in calories. Choose low-salt or no-salt products if you’re choosing the canned option.

Like all legumes, green beans contain a protein called lectin which can cause gastrointestinal upset, nausea and vomiting when eaten in large quantities. Cooking destroys these proteins so opt for cooked over raw if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Pumpkin
The high fibre content in pumpkin can help regulate bowels if your dog is suffering from constipation or diarrhoea. It’s also versatile; you can mix it into your dog’s meals, use it as a topper, add it to baked treats or stuff it into a Kong-type food toy. Steam and mash fresh pumpkin or use canned for an easier option. Just read the label carefully to ensure it is 100 per cent pumpkin with nothing added that could be harmful to your pup.

Sweet potato
Boiled, roasted, mashed or pureed, these root vegetables are loaded with nutrients, such as carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin A, in addition to antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are high in pyridoxine, potassium, fibre and magnesium.

Vegies dogs should avoid

Avocados
Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause serious health problems – even death – in many animals. According to veterinarians, dogs are more resistant to persin than other animals, but that doesn’t mean avocados are safe for your dog to consume.

Persin is present in the avocado fruit, pits, leaves, and the actual plant, so all of these parts are potentially poisonous to your dog.  In large amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and myocardial damage.

Avocados are also high in fat, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis in dogs if they eat too much, and because it’s calorie dense, it can also lead to weight gain. Another concern is the stone in the centre of the fruit, which may cause choking.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, so technically not a vegetable, but I wanted to include it on the list. While only 50–100 of the thousands of mushroom species worldwide are known to be toxic, the ones that are poisonous can really hurt your dog or even lead to death. Washed white mushrooms from the supermarket should be OK, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and there are vegies that are more beneficial.

Onions
Dogs should never eat onions, leeks or chives.

In the case of certain toxic foods for dogs, like grapes, experts don’t know precisely why these foods are harmful. With onions, though, the answer is clear.

Onions contain a chemical that’s toxic for dogs called N-propyl disulphide. This chemical is a sulphur compound that can destroy the dog’s red blood cells (a condition known as haemolytic anaemia).

Spinach
Spinach is best avoided as it contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which, in sufficient quantities, can cause kidney failure in dogs. Many sources agree that a large quantity would have to be ingested to cause damage but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Unripe tomatoes
Again, not technically a vegetable but good to be aware of. While ripe tomatoes are probably okay for your dog, unripe tomatoes and tomato plants can be harmful. They contain the compound tomatine, which can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys and digestive tract, so if you are growing your own, make sure they are well fenced off from your furry friend.

There is no single ‘right’ way to feed pets, as long as their nutritional needs are being met and toxic foods are avoided. But a balanced diet is an important part of helping your dog stay healthy and happy.

With that being said, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet before feeding any new food to your dog, especially if they have underlying conditions such as liver or kidney disease or are struggling to lose weight.

What do you feed your dog? Are there any other vegetables we should add to the list?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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