Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, need protein-heavy diets. Over centuries of domestication and life with humans, canines have grown to love certain vegetables, too. This doesn’t mean plopping a salad down in front of Luna and calling it a day! (And psst: Dogs should not be vegan.) Some vegetables are difficult for a dog’s digestive system to process. Others contain acids and chemical compounds that react negatively with a dog’s system, potentially leading to organ and nervous system damage. As long as you stick to our list of vegetables dogs can eat (and avoid the vegetables known to be toxic to canines), your dog will be a happy pet with a well-rounded diet.
Note: Talk to your vet before changing your dog’s diet or adding any of the vegetables below. You’ll also want to find out the best way to prepare these veggies for your dog’s specific needs and to avoid choking hazards.
Why feed vegetables to your dog?
According to Bridget Meadows, Head of Food at Ollie, a company that makes human-grade meals for dogs, it’s safe to feed canines vegetables as long as you ensure their diet is between 40- and 70-percent protein. Protein could be plant-based (like legumes), but more often than not, muscle meats, organ meats and eggs are ideal forms of protein.
Brett Podolsky, co-founder of The Farmer's Dog, a service that delivers balanced, fresh pet food made with real ingredients and simple recipes, says extra vegetables shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of a dog’s diet. But that 10 percent can add significant nutrients proteins can’t offer.
“Vegetables [are] a great source of hydration because of their high water content,” says Podolsky. “They can also provide your dog with an assortment of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients, which are natural compounds found in plants that have disease-fighting potential.”
Of course, how much of your dog’s diet comes from vegetables will vary based on your pup’s activity level, age, breed, health issues and veterinarian recommendation. For instance, a vet may recommend switching out standard dog treats for carrots and apples if your dog needs to maintain a healthier weight. Both Ollie and The Farmer’s Dog incorporate vegetables directly into their recipes, making your job much easier.
Podolsky also notes studies have found green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of cancers in some dogs. So, if you own a breed predisposed to cancer, like a Golden retriever, adding these veggies to your dog’s diet in the form of snacks during long walks or mixed in with their favorite kibble is a good idea.
As with any healthy diet, your dog should be consuming a variety of foods to maintain well-balanced nutrition. And do not apply human guidelines to your canine pals! While humans indulge in spices and seasonings, these things can irritate your dog’s stomach. And while you can live on a vegan and grain-free diet, dogs need ample proteins and healthy grains. In fact, grain-free diets are not good for dogs.
19 Vegetables dogs can eat
Dogs can definitely eat cabbage, though it might cause a gassy reaction. It contains vitamins B1, B6, C and K, not to mention tons of phytonutrients. These are antioxidants that improve the overall health of dogs—and humans—who consume them. Red cabbage is also a safe choice for down owners looking to boost their pet’s fiber, manganese, copper and potassium levels.
The ASPCA says carrots are an ideal snack for dogs because they can be eaten raw, are low in calories and don’t create much gas (which dog owners know can be a problem, especially with some veggies). Carrots provide vitamins B, C, D, E and K, not to mention lots of fiber.
Cauliflower is safe in small quantities. Like other cruciferous vegetables on our list, it can lead to uncomfortable gas. Best served lightly steamed, cauliflower provides vitamins B, C, and K, and omega-3 fatty acids—all great for the immune system.
It feels like celery works overtime to bring good things to our dogs. Full of vitamins A, B and C, it goes above and beyond to freshen your dog’s breath. Vitamin A helps boost your dog’s vision. (Pro tip: Crunchy veggies help remove tartar from a dog’s teeth!)
Ideal for dogs who need to maintain a healthier weight, cucumbers boost energy yet have a low caloric count. Dogs will get an infusion of vitamins B1, C and K when they eat cucumbers, not to mention potassium, copper, magnesium, and biotin, according to the American Kennel Club.
Many root vegetables are great for healthy coats and digestion in canines. Beets add vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese and potassium to a meal. They can also help your dog better absorb other nutrients.
Like cauliflower, broccoli can cause gas. This can be a smelly experience for you and an incredibly uncomfortable experience for your dog. That being said, broccoli delivers vitamins A, C, E and K, not to mention tons of fiber and almost no fat. Be sure to chop well—the stalks can get lodged in your dog’s throat if they’re too big.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts boost immunity (vitamin C) and bone health (vitamin K). Plus, they provide antioxidants that fight against inflammation. Slowly introduce Brussels sprouts into your dog’s diet to see how they adjust since these can cause gas, too.
9. Butternut Squash
If your dog needs foods rich in vitamins A, B6 and C to improve her immune or cardiovascular systems, go for some butternut squash. It’s low in calories, high in nutrients (an ideal combo) and typically gentle on the tummy.
10. Green Beans
Another crunchy veggie (when served raw)! Green beans are also safe to serve steamed or canned, as long as they are plain and unsalted. Join your dog in a green bean snack, because you could both benefit from vitamins A, C and K, folic acid and fiber.
Kale is a superfood for a reason. It’s known for its ability to boost bone health, vision and immunity. How? Vitamins A and K, the latter of which is a significant source of calcium. Kale also contains iron, the element responsible for healthy red blood cells and blood oxygen levels. Both butternut squash and kale are included in Ollie’s lamb recipe.
Parsnips aren’t typically the first vegetable we think of when we consider feeding our dog new treats. But, these veggies are full of folic acid (good for the nervous system), potassium and vitamins B6 and C. If your dog has kidney issues, consider adding parsnips into her diet after consulting with your vet.
A few peas here and there will add a small dose of fiber and protein to your dog’s diet. These are essential if your dog cannot or will not eat meat products. Ollie includes peas (and sweet potatoes) in their beef recipe.
It’s surprising that bell peppers haven’t yet replaced the orange as the poster child for vitamin C. These veggies contain three times as much vitamin C as oranges and make great low-calorie snacks for dogs. Canine Journal suggests steaming peppers to soften their exterior skin—and triple checking to make sure you’re not feeding spicy pepper varieties to your pup!
Dogs can definitely eat potatoes, as long as they are cooked all the way through and served without toppings. (French fries don’t count here, people.) Raw potatoes contain large quantities of solanine which can be toxic, so it’s recommended to steam and puree or bake a potato before serving it to a canine.
Canned pumpkin is often better to serve your dog than raw pumpkin, as it’s easier to digest. Be sure to buy the regular canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin has been known to help dogs dealing with constipation, and its beta-carotene can boost vision health. Pumpkin seeds are OK to feed to dogs, as long as they are not coated in oils, butter or salt.
17. Sweet Potatoes/Yams
Another all-star when it comes to improving digestion! Sweet potatoes have tons of fiber, not to mention vitamins B6 (for brain health) and C. Like carrots, sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which improves vision and skin.
Rich in iron and magnesium, spinach can be a terrific addition to a canine diet. Vitamins A, C and E also make this leafy green veggie a winner (plus, it can fight against cancer, cardiovascular disease and inflammation).
Zucchini fortifies your dog’s bones, heart and kidneys with calcium, vitamin A and potassium. As with peppers, try steaming to soften the skin (zucchini is known for retaining its nutrient density even after cooking, unlike some vegetables).
8 Vegetables Dogs Should Avoid
The AKC says asparagus isn’t toxic to dogs, but it doesn’t offer enough nutrition value to make serving it to them worth it. They could also choke if it’s not chopped or cooked properly.
2. Corn on the cob
While many dry dog food brands use corn in their recipes, corn itself doesn’t offer tons of nutritional value to dogs. It’s not toxic, it’s just not remarkable. Corn on the cob, however, is dangerous. It’s a big time choking hazard for canines and shouldn’t be given to them under any circumstances.
Garlic is part of the allium plant family and contains thiosulfate, an inorganic compound that reacts negatively with dog systems. Eating garlic could lead to anemia, which causes lethargy, weakness and jaundice.
Another allium family member. These plants can cause immediate vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and an upset stomach. If a lot is ingested, a canine’s red blood cells may rupture.
While mushrooms we buy at the grocery store are safe for consumption, they aren’t typically appealing to dogs nor do they surpass other veggies in terms of nutritional value. Wild mushrooms should definitely be avoided, as many are poisonous and could cause internal damage and even death.
As part of the allium plant family, onions (and chives!) are poisonous to dogs and should never be given to them. If you’re unsure if your dog has ingested leeks, onions, chives or garlic, look for dark yellow urine, a dramatic decline in energy levels, unusual bowel movements and vomiting. Call your vet immediately!
Rhubarb contains oxalates, an organic compound that could lead to kidney stones or nervous system issues in canines. If eaten in large quantities, rhubarb can also decrease the amount of calcium present in your dog’s bones, which is no good.
A ripe tomato? Nothing to worry about—just watch your dog for signs of distress. An unripe tomato or the leaves and stem of the tomato plant? Toxic. These parts of the tomato contain solanine which can cause lethargy, confusion and vomiting.
How to Prepare Vegetables for Dogs
Again, you can’t just plop down a salad in front of Luna and call it a day! “Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than their human counterparts, so they have less time to break down raw foods,” says Ollie’s Meadows. “Gently cooking the vegetables will make it easier for them to digest and absorb all the nutrients.”
Keep in mind, your dog may still reject a vegetable even if it’s cooked, pureed, chopped or mixed into their regular kibble. This is OK. Vegetables are meant to supplement a dog’s diet. If your dog turns their nose up at one veggie, try another! If it seems like your dog has lost interest in any food, or won’t eat a prescribed diet, consult your vet. There could be other issues going on.
Some breeds are more susceptible to upset stomachs and gastrointestinal issues than others. If you have a Great Dane, an Akita or a Doberman, you may run into more issues with digesting new foods. Plus, larger breeds are more likely to develop bloat, a condition that could be worsened by introducing cruciferous vegetables into their diets.
Follow these preparation guidelines when feeding your dog vegetables:
Introduce it slowly
“When adding new foods to your dog's diet, it is recommended to do so slowly,” adds Meadows. “A small amount... might be a good place to start, while keeping an eye out for any adverse reactions like gas or diarrhea. Over time, you can increase the amount, and variety, until you find the optimum level for your dog's particular tastes and digestion.”
Cut, chop or mince
Be sure to serve bite-sized, easy-to-chew vegetable pieces to your dog. Otherwise, you could be inadvertently serving your dog a choking hazard.
Do not slather vegetables in spices, oils, sauces or anything else you think will make it “taste better” to your dog. Humans might need seasoning to down a head of broccoli, but dogs do not. Even sauteeing veggies in butter or adding salt can ruin the nutritional value of a vegetable and even cause harm to your pup.
Steaming vegetables, without submerging them completely in water, softens them and makes them easier for your dog to chew, swallow and digest. It also preserves most of the nutrients, as long as you don’t overcook. Steaming also makes it easier to mix vegetables into familiar foods.
Not only does blanching clean vegetables, but it also enhances flavor and makes it easier for dogs to chew the food. Submerge vegetables in boiling water and then move them to ice water to stop them from cooking too much. Voila!
A pureed vegetable is super easy on a dog’s digestive tract. Especially if softened with steaming before pureeing, tough veggies like pumpkin, carrot and cauliflower will be more palatable to your pup. This is also an excellent way to combine several veggies into one meal—especially if you want to trick your dog into eating bell peppers (for the vitamin C) but they prefer pumpkin. Combine the two in one smooth dish.
When in doubt, go through a premium, human-grade dog food service like Ollie or The Farmer’s Dog. These companies use science and veterinary expertise to determine the best diet for your dog. They take into account your pet’s breed, activity level, age and more to ensure she’s getting the best diet possible. Plus, they take the guesswork out of preparing the correct ratio of protein to plant.