Did you know you can supplement your dog’s diet with nutrient-rich vegetables from your grocery store? It’s true! The produce section is filled with dozens of vegetables your dog can eat. You just need to know which ones are safe for dogs, which ones are not, and how to prepare them. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby helps you discover 14 vegetables most dogs can eat and how to prepare them. Plus, she shares some vegetables you should never feed your dog.
Just like humans, each dog has different nutritional needs. But every dog can benefit from vegetables! Veggies can range from a tasty snack to a full-sized meal, and are excellent for your puppy, agility dog, or grey-muzzled companion.
What are some of the benefits of giving dogs vegetables?
You may have read that there is a specific percentage of your dog’s daily caloric intake that can come from vegetables. I’ve heard a variety of numbers too. However, at this time, I cannot share a “magic number” or percent of calories that should come from vegetables as I do not have enough scientific evidence to back it up. I do recommend you talk with your veterinarian about what is best for your dog.
Regardless of how many vegetables dogs can eat, there is no doubt that they will be delicious and nutritious! Here are just a few of the general benefits:
- Weight management—Dogs who are overweight benefit from veggie treats because they’re low in calories and help them feel full faster. When your dog feels satisfied, he or she is less likely to overeat or act like he or she is starving.
- Digestive health—The fiber found in vegetables promotes healthy digestive tract and anal gland function, and prevents constipation.
- Immune health—Vegetables have important nutrients that can help boost the immune system and fight off illness.
- Diabetes management—Vegetables can help regulate and lower blood sugar levels in dogs with diabetes.
- Anti-oxidants—Vegetables are natural anti-oxidants that help reduce the risk of some diseases like heart failure and cancer.
- Training rewards—Veggies can make excellent motivational rewards to give during training.
How do I prepare vegetables for dogs?
Steamed. Boiled. Raw. When it comes to preparing vegetables for dogs, there are many options. Preparation methods vary based on the type of vegetable, the way it is being fed, and your dog’s preference.
If your dog turns up his or her nose at vegetables, I recommend switching up how they are prepared. Personally, my dog and I won’t eat raw broccoli. But, we both love steamed broccoli. The same may be true for your dog, too!
The following are some general ideas on how to prepare vegetables as a snack for your dog. However, some veggies do have “best practices” for preparation. (You’ll find those listed later on in this article.)
Raw (or Chopped)
Time for a moment of honesty from me. Sometimes I am too tired to cook my own dinner, let alone cook food for my dog. After a long day of work and getting home late, the last thing I want to do is stand over the hot stove. On these nights, I like to feed my dog raw, chopped vegetables.
Also, raw vegetables make perfect treats. They are easy to grab, and you can take them with you anywhere.
When feeding raw veggies, properly cleaning them is extremely important. Cooked vegetables are exposed to higher temperatures that kill bacteria and microbes. Obviously, raw vegetables are not.
The only way to remove bacteria is by properly washing the vegetables with soap and water before giving them to your dog. Proper scrubbing and washing will also remove dirt and pesticides.
After cleaning and rinsing thoroughly, carefully chop the vegetables into smaller, bite-sized pieces. This will help reduce your dog’s risk of choking.
Steaming is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables for my dog. I love this option because it is fast, easy, and preserves much of the nutrients.
Here are a few tips for steaming:
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly before steaming.
- Chop the vegetables into uniform, bite-sized pieces for consistency in cooking time.
- Once steamed, be sure to cool the veggies so your dog does not burn his or her mouth.
Steamed vegetables are cooked just long enough to heat them up. While being slightly softer than raw, the vegetables still have a crisp texture.
If your dog is missing teeth or has a sensitive mouth, boiled vegetables might be a good option. Boiled vegetables are softer than raw or steamed vegetables—making them easier to chew. Because boiling involves a higher temperature and submerging the vegetables in water, they will be somewhat less nutrient dense. All of the same tips on steaming vegetables (listed above) apply to boiling vegetables.
Are there other ways to prepare vegetables for dogs?
Maybe your dog isn’t a fan of vegetables, and you need to get creative with your cooking. Here are some of my favorite tricks for preparing vegetables for my senior dog:
- Pureed—Use a blender to mash-up thoroughly washed vegetables. Some dogs prefer the applesauce-like texture of pureed vegetables.
- Frozen—Frozen vegetables are a great summer treat! Most fresh vegetables should be washed thoroughly and then cooked prior to freezing. Depending on the type, vegetables can take more than three hours to freeze. Once frozen, these vegetables may last 6 to 12 months in the freezer.
14 vegetables safe for dogs to eat
Now that we have discussed preparation methods, next let’s talk veggies. There are many vegetables dogs can eat. The following are my top 14 favorites to share with my clients.
Technically, pumpkin is a fruit because it’s the flowering part of the pumpkin vine. In the culinary arena, however, pumpkin is a vegetable. And in the veterinary field, pumpkin is a favorite!
Your senior dog can benefit from pumpkin, because it’s high in fiber and can help with stool problems. If your dog has diarrhea, the fiber will help thicken his or her stool by absorbing water. Conversely, if your canine companion is constipated, the mild laxative effects of fiber will make it easier for the dog’s stool to pass.
Pumpkin also contains pepita oil, which is a type of omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid. This particular fatty acid is shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, especially for your dog’s skin.
Cooked or canned pumpkin is the best (and easiest) way to serve pumpkin to your dog. When shopping for pumpkin, be sure to read the label. Plain canned pumpkin is the best and safest option to give your dog. It will have less sugars and additives than other options you may find at the grocery store. Do not pick up pumpkin pie filling. (It’s loaded with sugar and even spices.)
Also, steer clear of pumpkin seeds since they are a choking hazard.
Introduce pumpkin to your dog’s diet by offering one to two tablespoons of it mixed with his or her other food. Don’t be alarmed if your dog’s stool color turns a bit orange.
Broccoli is another one of my favorite vegetables that dogs can eat. It is an excellent source of fiber and can also provide vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system.
It’s best served cooked with no seasonings. However, small pieces of raw broccoli stalks also get a thumbs up. Dogs love a good crunchy treat, and this makes a great low-cal snack.
Be sure to serve bite-sized pieces so they do not become a choking hazard, especially if your dog is a small breed dog.
Dogs should eat broccoli in limited quantities because it can cause irritation to the lining of the esophagus and stomach if eaten in excess. Additionally, broccoli can give your dog stinky gas.
3. Kale and spinach
Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are an excellent choice of vegetables for your dog. They are high in:
- Calcium—Important for healthy bones
- Vitamin K—Crucial for the blood’s ability to clot
- Vitamin A—Supports your dog’s vision
- Iron—Integral component of hemoglobin, which helps red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues in the body
- Folate—Necessary to facilitate absorption of nutrients from food into the small intestines
Kale and spinach can be served steamed or raw, but don’t add any seasonings. One or two raw leaves are perfect for a snack, or you can shred the leaves and add them to your dog’s bowl at mealtime. Years ago, I had a client who did this. She called it her dog’s “salad.”
Too much kale can contribute to urinary problems and bladder stones due to its high-calcium content. Again, use common sense and give in moderation. If your dog is prone to bladder stones or if you have any questions about kale for your dog, please speak with your veterinarian.
4. Green beans
As mentioned in our post on how to host a happy and nutritious Thanksgiving for dogs, green beans are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. Green beans provide minerals like iron and calcium. Due to their low-calorie, high-fiber content, they are beneficial for dogs with diabetes. In addition, green beans are a go-to for dieting dogs because they help them feel full, are low in calories, and are fiber rich.
Interestingly, green beans are considered true beans instead of legumes. Thus, diets that contain green beans are grain-containing diets.
Green beans can be served boiled, steamed, or chopped. Avoid adding seasonings, and also steer clear of canned green beans that contain large amounts of salt. Start by giving your dog two to three green beans a day, making sure the amount of treats never tops ten percent of his or her diet.
5. Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts are another high-fiber vegetable. They contain vitamins C and K, and trace minerals like magnesium, which is important for cellular metabolism and muscle function.
When preparing Brussel sprouts for your dog, avoid using any oils or seasonings. When feeding, start with one or two Brussels sprouts at a time. If your dog eats too many Brussel sprouts, he or she can become gassy and bloated. This can lead to abdominal discomfort and, in severe cases, become an emergency.
Serve Brussel sprouts steamed or boiled for your dog. Cut each one into smaller pieces since whole, round Brussels sprouts pose a choking hazard for small and medium-sized dogs.
I love giving carrots to dogs. Carrots are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, and an excellent source of beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene gives carrots their signature orange color. This compound is used in the production of vitamin A, an essential vitamin that helps your dog’s immune system and vision. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness.
Many owners serve carrots steamed or boiled. A one-ounce serving of carrots contains ten calories. This is a very filling, low calorie meal that is ideal for dogs that need to lose weight. Personally, I love feeding my dogs raw carrots. They’re great crunchy treats that dogs love.
To prevent choking, always supervise your dog and serve appropriately sized carrot pieces.
While carrots are low in calories, they are high in sugar. So you’ll want to avoid giving carrots to your dog if he or she is diabetic.
Zucchini contains calcium, iron, magnesium, and fiber which helps promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
Serve zucchini raw or steamed. Steaming makes them softer and easier to chew just as we talked about earlier.
Start with three to four slices at a time and avoid zucchini that has seasonings or salad dressings. Many of these flavorings contain garlic and onions which are toxic for dogs (more on that below). Some dressings also contain an ingredient called xylitol (or birch sugar) that is extremely toxic to dogs. Xylitol toxicity can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, and, unfortunately, even death.
8. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another high-fiber food that make for a very tasty treat. Found in many commercial dog foods, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A, B6, and C.
There are many ways to serve sweet potatoes. If fed raw, they should be chopped into small cubes. Steaming or roasting the sweet potato makes them much softer, tastier, and less of a choking hazard. Introduce sweet potatoes by giving your dog three or four slices at a time.
Like carrots, sweet potatoes are high in sugar content, so overweight and diabetic dogs should avoid them in their diets.
Snow peas and sugar peas are great for your dog! They’re a good source of vitamins A and B and minerals like potassium and magnesium. Zinc is another mineral in peas that plays a role in a healthy immune system and thyroid gland function.
To feed your dog peas, steam or boil them. A one-ounce serving of peas contains just twenty calories making it a perfect low-calorie snack.
Avoid canned peas due to their high salt content and pea pods since they present a choking hazard. Peas also contain purines, a type of protein, so dogs with urinary incontinence and kidney issues should avoid them.
Corn is another vegetable that is very common in dog food. While many people believe it is just a filler, corn does have some nutritional benefits, including:
- Easily digestible carbohydrates that serve as a great energy source for dogs
- Linoleic acid: This nutrient is not produced by dogs. Supplementing through corn is a great way to help your dog maintain healthy skin, coat, and immune system
- Rich in fiber that supports digestive health and motility
While corn is safe, corn on the cob is not. Corn on the cob should never be fed to dogs because the cob is not easily digestible. Therefore, if your dog does not throw up the swallowed cob, it rolls around in the stomach for an unknown amount of time. Eventually, it could cause damage to the stomach wall.
If you want to give your dog corn, steamed kernels are best. Always check the corn first to make sure it does not have extra seasoning or high salt content.
Like many of the other vegetables discussed, celery is low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. This makes it another great treat for dogs on a diet.
Celery should be thoroughly washed and fed raw. However, it is not as flavorful as some of the other vegetables. So, don’t be surprised if your dog isn’t interested in eating it.
12. Cooked white potatoes
If you are like me, one of my favorite meals is a baked potato. They are easy to cook with minimal preparation. Every time I bake a potato, my dogs are begging at my feet.
Thankfully, cooked white potatoes are another vegetable safe for dogs. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium—which are important for your dog’s immune system and nervous system.
Raw potatoes are toxic for dogs. They are part of the nightshade family and contain a substance called solanine. Cooking removes the solanine from the potato. Otherwise, the solanine causes stomach upset, vomiting, and possible bloating.
Cauliflower is a super vegetable because it contains a wide variety of healthy nutrients, including:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium
While cauliflower is a great addition to your dog’s diet, it is important not feed too much of it. Because cauliflower is so fibrous, dog’s can easily choke on it or develop an upset stomach.
When feeding cauliflower to your dog, feed small amounts of florets that are cut into bite-sized pieces. The cauliflower can be cooked or raw, but be sure to not feed too much of the cauliflower stem.
Beets are 88% water and 12% other nutrients. They are one of the most anti-oxidant rich vegetables. Beets also contain folate, fiber, vitamin C, and essential minerals. Therefore, beets are very beneficial for your dog’s skin and coat health.
Don’t panic if you see small amounts of red or pink coloring in your dog’s urine after he or she eats beets. They contain a pigment that can affect the color of urine. If you notice this in your dog, monitor your his or her urine for the next 48 hours. The urine should return to a normal color after you stop feeding beets. If the urine does not normalize or becomes bright red, it might not be due to the beets. At this point, please consult your veterinarian for advice and an exam.
What vegetables should I avoid giving my dog?
Now that we have discussed vegetables that are safe and tasty for your dog, let’s briefly talk about some vegetables that should never be fed to your dog.
1. Onions, garlic, chives, and shallots
Vegetables in the Allium family are toxic for dogs as they can damage red blood cells. Vegetables in this family include:
If your dog consumes one of these foods, please consult your veterinarian immediately. Your dog will likely need treatment, otherwise they could become anemic.
While some mushrooms might be safer than others, it is generally a good idea to avoid giving any mushrooms to your dog. Many mushrooms can cause your dog to experience a painful, upset stomach. Other mushrooms are even more toxic to your dog. For example, some mushrooms that might be found in your yard or along a hiking trail, can cause liver failure, kidney disease, lethargy, seizures, and even death. Because of this, I recommend avoiding mushrooms altogether.
3. Unripe tomatoes
Just like potatoes, tomatoes are part of the nightshade family. The nightshade toxins are most prominent in unripe tomatoes and tomato plants. Therefore it is important that your dog never consume tomato plant leaves/stem or green, unripe tomatoes.
If your dog does manage to get ahold of a tomato plant, I recommend consulting your veterinarian immediately. Clinical signs that you might see in your dog include:
- Gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea)
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- Decreased energy
- Increased heart rate
4. Any vegetables that pose a choking hazard
Throughout this article I mentioned the importance of cutting vegetables into bite-sized pieces and properly cooking them to avoid a choking hazard. This is very important because choking can become a serious emergency. Fibrous vegetables that are hard to chew like cauliflower and celery call for extra caution. Also, monitor your dog closely.
With your list of vegetables dogs can eat, you can chews wisely
Even if your senior dog enjoys a high-quality commercial diet, vegetables have numerous health advantages that make them a beneficial (and tasty) supplemental treat.
Try out a variety of vegetables to learn which ones your dog loves the most. And remember, always offer them in very limited amounts at first. If you’re not sure whether a vegetable is safe given your dog’s background and health history, always ask your veterinarian for advice and guidance.
Then update your grocery list with your dog’s favorite healthy veggies and enjoy them together! Bon appetit!
Does your senior dog love his veggies? Which ones?
Share in the comments below — and let us know your quick preparation tips. We’d love to hear!