Labrador with a carrot in its mouth

What Vegetables Can Dogs Eat?
The Canine Veggie Safety Guide

Giving your dog a healthy, balanced diet is probably one of your top priorities. After all, the way they eat can have a huge impact on their long-term health!

So, if people need to eat more veggies to stay healthy, should your pup do the same? 

If you’re wondering what vegetables can dogs eat, and how often should they eat veggies, no worries, our experts in canine nutrition are here to help!


Should Dogs Eat Veggies?

Despite the common myth, dogs aren’t full carnivores. Unlike cats, dogs are omnivorous just like humans! This means that while they need protein from meat, they should also have some portion of vegetables in their diet.

In fact, veggies will provide your pup with the micronutrients they need to stay healthy and strong throughout their life.


Benefits of Vegetables for Dogs

Adding some veggies to your dog’s diet has many benefits in the long term. Here are some of them:

Veggies feed their gut microbiome

This is because they are rich in soluble fibre. This specific fibre type is especially healthy for your dog’s gut microbiome. And here is where the magic happens! In your dog’s intestines (and especially the colon) lives a huge community of microbes, bacteria and yeasts. These are ‘good bacteria’ since they help break down food to absorb more nutrients, improve digestion and might even lower your dog’s chances of chronic diseases.

These bacteria need soluble fibre to live, so providing that through your dog’s diet is essential.

Vegetables are rich in soluble fibre

Beyond feeding their gut microbiome, soluble fibre has plenty of health benefits for your pup (and you). First, research has shown that this specific type of fibre stabilises blood sugar levels, protecting your dog from diabetes. It also “traps” bad cholesterol from food, which prevents it from being absorbed. Since bad cholesterol is the main culprit of clogged arteries and chronic heart disease, soluble fibre protects your pup’s heart!

Finally, soluble fibre increases feelings of satiety. This means your dog will feel full for longer, and won’t start whining for food half an hour after their meal! Your pup will feel energised the entire day, and not have peaks in energy levels right after eating.

The insoluble fibre in veggies keeps them regular

Because this fibre type absorbs water while going through digestion, it helps speed up the process! This is great for you since it makes your pup regular and they’ll want to go potty at the same time every day. On the other hand, regularly going potty will help prevent clogged anal glands. Does your pup scoot their butt on the ground? Then they’re probably having some trouble.

Anal glands, also called anal sacs, become easily clogged if your dog doesn’t go potty regularly. If it happens often, it becomes uncomfortable. If it goes untreated and it doesn’t unclog on its own, anal sacs can rupture and cause a painful abscess! According to recent research, adding enough insoluble fibre to your dog’s diet will help prevent these issues [1].

PRO TIP: If you think your dog has a clogged anal sac (or is scooting way too much) take them to the vet. A professional will be able to assess them and even empty them if necessary.

Fibre helps your dog stay at a healthy weight

Obesity is an ever-growing issue among dogs. The latest research indicates around 41% of all dogs in Australia are overweight!

Of course, obesity and being overweight is mainly caused by a lackluster diet. If you want to reduce your dog’s portions, adding high-fibre veggies is a great way to go at it! Fibre lets your pup feel full, without adding calories.

PRO TIP: Upping the fibre content in your dog’s diet shouldn’t be done suddenly. If you switch it up too fast, you might cause gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Add a bit of fibre every day and increase that amount slowly.


What Are The Best Vegetables For Dogs?

Considering all their benefits, one would think veggies are always a great addition to a dog’s diet, right? Not so fast. As you probably already know, dogs absorb nutrients different than humans. This means not all veggies in the grocery store will be healthy for your pup.

If you’re wondering what veggies can dogs eat, it’s important to know which vegetable ‘family’ you’re considering:

Cruciferous veggies

This group includes cabbage of all colours, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and collard greens. All veggies in this family are very high in nitrogen and sulphur, which in moderate quantities can be very healthy for your dog.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Cauliflower?

Cruciferous veggies have compounds that help fight off fungal infections, parasites and disease. They also pack lots of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as calcium and potassium.

PRO TIP: Because of their high sulphur content, these veggies can cause some bloating and smelly gas. To avoid these unwanted side effects, just offer a small piece at a time until their digestive system gets used to it.

Cucurbits

Have you ever eaten watermelon? Then you’re also a fan of cucurbits! This group includes all melons (melons and watermelons), cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Zucchini?

According to veterinarian nutritionists [2], zucchini and pumpkins are one of the best options to fight canine obesity. A cup of raw zucchini packs a mere 20 calories, so it’s a great way to add bulk! Pumpkins, on the other hand, have a ton of medicinal properties.

The latest studies show that the antioxidants and high fibre content in pumpkin could have a positive impact on long term health. This includes lowering your dog’s cancer and diabetes risk, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory.

PRO TIP: Use cooked pumpkin to feed your dog if they are showing signs of GI distress like diarrhoea or vomiting. Due to its sweetness, most dogs enjoy the taste, and pumpkin helps rebalance digestive enzymes and good gut bacteria.

We recommend cooking cucurbits before offering them to your dog. Their fibre content will remain intact and they’ll be easier to digest this way.

Solanaceae or nightshades

While this group sounds exotic, it’s one of the most common veggie groups in the world! Also called nightshade, this group includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants.

Nightshades are rich in antioxidants such as beta carotene, which in humans help fight ageing. Dogs, however, should stay away from plants in this family.

Nightshade plants are also rich in solanine, a compound that’s especially strong in the green parts of the plant and unripe fruit. If your dog eats too much solanine (or a couple of leaves), it could have toxic effects and cause poisoning.

Ripe fruits don’t have enough solanine to cause digestive issues, but keep your dog away from whole plants.

PRO TIP: Most solanine poisoning cases are caused by eating leaves or stems of nightshade plants. Keep your garden fenced if your dog likes to munch on your plants!

We recommend keeping plants in the nightshade family to a minimum, and of course, avoid offering any spicy peppers or jalapeños.

Grasses and cereals

These are the veggies most commonly found in dog’s diets. Since many commercial dog foods are high in grains like corn, rice and wheat, it’s become the base of many dog diets.

Most commercial dry dog food has between 30% and 60% of cereals. While grains have been a controversial ingredient in dog’s diets, it doesn’t mean they can’t digest them: the less digestible the starch, the harder it is for dogs to absorb the nutrients of the grain.

According to scientific research, rice is slightly more digestible than corn or sorghum. Cassava flour, without being a cereal, also had highly digestible starches. On the flip side, pea and lentils had the lowest digestibility factor.

Of course, whole cereals are always a better choice than their processed versions. As such, while wheat can be added to a dog’s diet, pasta and bread should be kept to a minimum.

Legumes

These are your beans: chickpeas, lentils, peas and soy. While they’ve been used for decades, nowadays legumes are very popular in commercially available dog foods. Lentils and peas especially are used often because of their high protein content and low price. In general, dogs can eat legumes in moderate quantities without issues and they can b ¡e a great way to add fibre to their diet.

On the flip side, all legumes need to be properly cooked to improve digestibility and lower the chances of bloating and gas.

Asters or Composite

This is one of the largest families of plants, and have many flowering species. Since many of them are also veggies (think lettuce) we’ve included them on this list.

The Aster family includes pretty flowers like daisies, dahlias or sunflowers, but also artichoke, thistles, endives and lettuce. Since lettuce is the main veggie we eat from this family, we’ll focus on it.

Dogs can eat lettuce and it can be a great fibre source in their diet! Many pups love the crunchiness, especially if you offer the stem of young lettuce hearts. Try to skip bolted lettuce (when it’s already gone to flower) since the stems and leaves are more bitter. Offer lettuce raw or cooked, and chopped in smaller pieces to make chewing easier.

PRO TIP: Make sure to thoroughly wash lettuce and endives before offering them to dogs. It’s common for them to have parasites that might cause intestinal distress!

Lilies or Liliaceae

This group includes plants in the allium family. This means chives, garlic, onion and scallions, among others. While these veggies have many beneficial compounds for humans, they can also be very toxic to dogs!

Related: Can Dogs Eat Garlic?

Plants in the Lily family have thiosulfate, a compound that can cause mild poisoning in dogs. In larger doses (or if your dog ate them in concentrated form) thiosulfate can be life-threatening. While some dogs are more sensitive to it than others, we recommend avoiding feeding your dog any of these ingredients or dishes with them.

Lamiaceae

This is also one of the largest families among plants. When it comes to cooking, here we can find tons of herbs including mint, rosemary and oregano.

Lamiaceae are very diverse and their biologically active compounds are as well. This means some plants might be very healthy for your pup, while others could cause gastrointestinal distress in large quantities. Since herbs have very high amounts of bioactive compounds, you can use plants in this family to flavour dishes but also as dietary supplements.

Some plants, for example, are very high in anti-inflammatory compounds, others are powerful antioxidants, hepatoprotective or even analgesic.

As these plants can also interfere with traditional medications your dog could be taking, we recommend asking your vet before including them in large quantities in your dog’s diet. As a flavour, however, you could add herbs to your dog’s diet to improve palatability and help them enjoy their food better.


What Are The Best Tasting Vegetables For Dogs?

So, you want to add veggies to your dog’s diet, but they refuse to eat them? No worries, you’re not the only one. Fussy eaters (canine and human) only need to find the right match. If you’re dealing with the pickiest pup on the block, here are a few options they might like:

  • Pumpkin. It’s soft and sweet, so most dogs love it.
  • Sweet potato. These are also soft and sweet, so they’re a favourite. Try dehydrating thin slices of it to make vegan “pig ears”
  • Carrots. If your dog prefers crunchy food, this might be it.
  • Cauliflower. Some dogs love it, others hate it. You’ll just have to try it out! Cook it until soft and offer a little piece at first.
  • Rice. It’s technically a vegetable, and dogs love it. Use broth to flavour it though.
  • Green beans. Steam them lightly and then chop them up.
  • Spinach. Puree them raw or chop them up after they’ve been cooked.
  • Cut up fruit. These aren’t veggies, but they are plants so we included them. Note that grapes and currants are toxic to dogs, but they’ll enjoy bananas, apples and apricots in small pieces. Never feed whole fruit to a dog, since the pits, seeds and skin can be dangerous!

How To Add Vegetables To Your Dog’s Diet

A balanced commercial dog food, whether you choose raw, moist or dry, will probably already have some veggies in it. As we said, veggies are the main source of dietary fibre for dogs, so most commercial dog food will include some. 

Of course, you might want to supplement your dog’s daily intake, or just add veggies as a treat. In this case, try out these recommendations:

  • Puree. One of the easiest ways to add veggies to their food. Just cook and puree the veggie in question and mix it in their food bowl. Most of the time they won’t even realise and they’ll slowly get used to the taste.
  • As a topper. If your dog loves the crunch or already likes a veggie, using it as a topper might be a good option. Keep in mind if they don’t like it at all, they might skip the whole meal!
  • In chunks, cooked or raw. Depending on the veggie, chopping it in large or small chunks could be the way to go. This is great if you’re adding leafy greens like spinach, where cooking and then chopping is recommended.
  • Grated. Carrots and other tough veggies are great grated and mixed into the food. Try mixing them with a bit of broth to make them extra tasty!

Final Thoughts

Adding veggies to your dog’s diet is a great way to keep them healthy. Since they are packed full of fibre and micronutrients, they can round up a balanced diet!

Of course, not all veggies are safe for dogs, so to be sure, ask your vet before trying out anything new. Remember to avoid garlic, onions and other alliums, and you’ll be great. We hope your pup enjoys tons of crunchy veggies with you!

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References
  1. Beynen, A.C., 2019. Diet and anal-sac impaction in dogs. Dier-en-Arts, 12, pp.312-3. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anton-Beynen/publication/337811246_Diet_and_anal-sac_impaction_in_dogs/links/5deb3317299bf10bc34659b9/Diet-and-anal-sac-impaction-in-dogs.pdf  
  2. Sarkar S et al. Effect of ripe fruit extract of Cucurbita pepo Linn. In aspirin induced gastric and duodenal ulcer in rats. Ind J Exp Biol. 46:639-645 (2008). 
  3. Mitsuhashi Y, et al. Lipid metabolic alterations and satiety with a pumpkin-based supplement in obese dogs. Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine. 2013;3:11.
  4. Bauer, J.E., 2012. Digestion in Dogs and Dietary Transitions Among Pet Foods. Vetscience. https://img.chewy.com/is/content/catalog/93405_TransitionInstructions._V1503609930_.pdf
  5. Carciofi AC, et al. Effects of six carbohydrate sources on dog diet digestibility and post‐prandial glucose and insulin response. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. 2008 Jun;92(3):326-36. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1439-0396.2007.00794.x  
  6. Abdelrahman N, et al. Hypoglycemic efficacy of Rosmarinus officinalis and/or Ocimum basilicum leaves powder as a promising clinico-nutritional management tool for diabetes mellitus in Rottweiler dogs. Veterinary world. 2020 Jan;13(1):73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7020113/
  7. Kiemer, L. A. (2020). Vegan diet and its effects on the dog´ s health. Master’s thesis of Integrated Studies of Veterinary Medicine. Department of Animal Husbandry in the Veterinary Academy of the Lithuanian University of Health. https://dogsgo-plantbased.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/MastersThesisEffectsVeganDiet.pdf
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Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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