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Should Dogs Have Vegetables Added To Their Diet?

Dogs should have fresh food as part of a healthy diet includes feeding vegetables. However, there are some vegetables dogs can eat and others to avoid. I’ve been feeding my dog veggies for close to 10 years without ever cutting a cucumber or slicing a carrot.

Yes, dogs can and should have vegetables added to their diet, but it isn’t as hard or time-consuming as you might think. My dog is a former “anti-vegite” whose been consuming at least nine different vegetables every day for at least 10 years.

Some dogs go bonkers at the sound of a green bean snapping while others turn their nose up at anything from the produce section of the supermarket. This article will help you learn the best vegetables to feed dogs, how to easily prepare them, and which ones your pooch should avoid.

Note: This post contains some Amazon affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Can my dog eat vegetables
Dex likes to play with his food!

Should Dogs Have Vegetables Added To Their Diet?

Dogs, like all mammals, require a certain amount of nutrients they may not be getting from other sources. Kibble-fed dogs, for example, might be lacking in the proper nutrients needed for long-term good health.

In her book, Dr. Khalsa’s Natural Dog, she says vegetables and greens can help a dog maintain a good pH balance that is often thrown off by too much protein.

One of the reasons I feed my dog ground-up vegetables is the ease of digestibility while being extremely convenient for me.

Dr. Jean Dodds is one of our favorite go-to experts when it comes to dog health. She says dogs are obligate omnivores.

“Though they may be carnivores by choice, dogs in the wild must sometimes eat whatever edible material is around: fruits, berries, grasses,” Dodds reported.

Drs. Khalsa and Dodds stress the benefits of adding vegetables to a dog’s diet. I listen to the trusted experts but I believe the proof is in the dog’s overall health.

My Dog Hates Vegetables, Now What?

I was in the same boat with my dog, so I feel your pain. One hasn’t lived until one has peas spit at them by a dog. That was then.

That said, I noticed an incredible difference that whole food eating made in my dog’s life. I firmly believe it also helped him fight off an immune system disease called IMT that could have taken his life.

When my Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, turned a year old I decided to try him on whole, fresh food. Since I fed my first Cocker Spaniel Dr. Harvey’s fresh vegetables for dogs, I decided to try it with Dexter. It’s no secret that I asked Dr. Harvey’s if I could be a brand ambassador for them and they said yes. It made sense. My dogs eat and thrive on their foods, so onward and upward.

My dog has a pretty healthy appetite (translate: Cockers are never filled up). As such, I wanted him to feel satisfied and filled up without worrying about weight gain. Vegetables were not my dog’s thing. I hear stories from people who give their dogs carrots or green beans and I am so jealous. Dexter turns his nose up unless it’s Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl mix. Veg-to-Bowl is so very easy to make and it’s available in regular formula and fine-ground version (the latter of which we use).

The difference between the regular and the fine ground versions of Veg-to-Bowl is in the consistency. One has actual vegetables that are small pieces and the other is finely ground. Here’s a photo illustrating the difference:

Dr Harveys vegetables for dogs
Full size on left, fine ground on right

Whether your dog loves vegetables or doesn’t, this is the kind of food you feel good feeding. If you wanted to, you could eat it as well. It’s made with real vegetables. Simply add warm water, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then add in a protein and oil. That’s it. All the vitamins and nutrients are in the Veg-to-Bowl.

We make food batches to last three days and then nuke the mixture in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds each meal. Since the veggies are freeze-dried, adding the warm water and waiting 10 minutes makes the base for an incredible meal for dogs. Even the herbs are organic!

If your dog is on the heavy side, Veg-to-Bowl in conjunction with cutting back on treats and exercise can help. More about that soon.

Paradigm is another food from Dr. Harvey’s that we’ve used and recommend. This is Dr. Harvey’s low-carb diet. It’s also a low-glycemic diet that may help dogs prevent, manage, and overcome issues like diabetes, cancer, immune system issues, and even obesity (in conjunction with exercise). Again, you add warm water, the protein, and an oil (fish oil, coconut oil, etc) and you are good to go.

If you are into raw feeding or if you prefer to cook meat (as we do), adding in a protein makes serving your dog vegetables a snap.

Should dogs eat vegetables?

Which Vegetables Are Safe for Dogs?

If your dog is taking any supplements or specific medications, always check with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist before adding any new foods to the diet.

Be sure you wash and clean all vegetables, remove leafy ends and plant parts because these tend to be the toxic portions. People do not eat the skin on vegetables and neither should your dog, so peel any skin off prior to feeding.

Because dogs have shorter digestive tracts than people, they are unable to digest raw vegetables whole or in larger chunks. Be sure they are appropriately sized before feeding. This is another reason I like, recommend, and use Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl.

Remember, everything in moderation. If you feed celery, be careful. Celery is stringy and dogs may choke.

For example, did you know some leafy greens should be avoided in dogs with a thyroid issue? More about that shortly.

Here are some vegetables that are considered to be safe for most dogs:

AlfalfaGreen Beans
AsparagusGreen Sweet Bell Peppers
Baby SpinachIceberg Lettuce
BroccoliKale
Brussel SproutsParsley
Butternut SquashPeas
CabbagePotatoes
CarrotsPumpkin (not pie filling)
CauliflowerSpinach
CeleryTurnips
CollardsYams
CucumbersZucchini
Source: Amazing Treat Diet For Dogs by Katie NewmanSource: Natural Dog by Dr. Deva Khalsa

Dr. Dodds has a whole list of fall veggies and fruits for pets here.

Which Vegetables Are Dangerous for Dogs?

Here are some of the major vegetables considered to be dangerous to dogs and why:

Avocado – Contains persin and large amounts are toxic. Avocado plants contain seeds, leaves, and bark and they are toxic as well.

Mushrooms – Some are toxic and can cause shock or death- stay on the safe side and don’t feed them unless instructed by your vet or veterinary nutritionist

Garlic – Fed in excess it can damage a dog’s red blood cells. Some folks use it on their dogs topically or for its sulfur-containing products to prevent fleas. We don’t use garlic.

Onions – Onions, scallions, shallots, chives, and leeks are to be avoided. Red blood cells may rupture from onion consumption and cause gastric upset or worse. If you feed baby food to your dog on occasion, check to see if it contains garlic or onion powder or too much salt.

Tomatoes – When I interviewed Steve Brooks about his book, Dog Bites, he shared, “Tomatoes contain tomantine and atropine, which can cause digestive issues in dogs. The stems and leaves are the biggest concern.”

He cooks for his dogs and prepares many different recipes so he admits a small amount of tomato sauce with no stems, leaves, or seeds is okay. Overall, though, he says dogs do not do well with tomatoes. A few bites can be fine as long as the dangerous parts are avoided.

Raw potatoes and potato skins – They contain solanine, which is toxic to some dogs. Cooking or steaming a potato as in baking or boiling reduces solanine levels.

Cruciferous vegetables for some dogs.

Fresh meal with vegetables for dog
Canine Health with Chicken on top

What About Cruciferous Vegetables for Dogs?

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cabbage, and bok choy.

Dr. Jean Dodds is a foremost authority in veterinary medicine and has spent over 50 years as a clinical research veterinarian. In her book, Canine Nutrigenomics, she touts the potent cancer-protective and cancer-fighting abilities of cruciferous vegetables. (E. Magee, webMD).

Dodds advises lightly steaming a dog’s cruciferous vegetables which will enhance their digestibility without overcooking them.

DANGER ALERT: If you have a dog that is hypothyroid, DO NOT feed cruciferous vegetables as the condition can be worsened by them. The substance in cruciferous vegetables that interferes with a hypothyroid dog is called a goitrogen.

Fun fact: Goitrogens comes from the word goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Per Dr. Dodds, if your dog suffers from a thyroid problem, DO NOT feed:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Casaba
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Turnips
Fine ground vegetables in dog food

Can A Diabetic Dog Eat Vegetables?

Dogs with diabetes can have vegetables but would be best served by those with a low-glycemic index. Since foods like carrots and sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of natural sugars, these should be avoided or fed in moderation to diabetic dogs.

Diabetic dogs tend to do well on higher fiber, lower fat and calorie veggies like broccoli, celery, kale, or asparagus. You can skip worrying about this altogether and consider the Paradigm superfood pre-mix from Dr. Harvey’s. It can be used with a low carb or ketogenic diet and the ingredients combined make a superfood for dogs.

Paradigm vegetables for dogs

Paradigm is the mix Dr. Harvey’s recommends to help prevent and manage issues like diabetes, cancer, seizure disorders, immune system problems, and even obesity (in conjunction with exercise).  

Ingredients in Paradigm include Broccoli, Green Beans, Bone Broth, Red and Green Bell Pepper, Cabbage, Pumpkin, Kelp, Alfalfa, Celery, Turmeric, Spirulina, Ginger, Red Clover, Milk Thistle, Slippery Elm, Dandelion, Cinnamon, and Tri Calcium Phosphate.

Why Paradigm is helpful for diabetic dogs is the formulation of low-glycemic vegetables and no starches or grains. As the dog eats, the complex carbs get digested slower and glucose level increases are spaced out of time instead of one big surge like with many commercial dog foods.

dog consuming fish oil

Can Vegetables Help My Dog Lose Weight?

We are fans of keeping dogs fit and in good shape no matter their age. Feed a couple of pieces of vegetables such as baby carrots, frozen sliced carrots, broccoli, green beans, celery or asparagus. Most dogs love crunchy treats so make it a healthy – and low-calorie – choice.

I alternate between the Dr. Harvey’s formula I use on Dex between Veg-to-Bowl fine ground, Paradigm, and Canine Health.

How Often Can I Feed My Dog Vegetables?

When dog mom Katie Newman wrote The Amazing Treat Diet for Dogs, she did so to help her overweight Labrador take off pounds. She substituted typical dog treats for healthier veggies.

For example, if an average-sized Cocker Spaniel regularly at 25 to 30 treats a day (small ones), you may give a medium-sized carrot, but into pieces for 8 treats.

Even healthy foods are unhealthy when given in excess, so calorie count and know how many calories your dog needs each day vs. how many to feed for effective weight loss.

More about calorie counting and canine weight loss here.

Why Are There Vegetables In My Dog’s Poop?

I’ve had this question over the years and I’ve seen it first-hand. I often joke that I always know when my dog poops because sometimes tiny flecks of veggies are in the stool.

Because my dog is eating a healthier diet that is whole, fresh food, his stool looks different than a dog fed kibble or canned food. A higher moisture and fiber content means a bit more volume sometimes, too. The nutrients are still being absorbed.

Veg to bowl after adding water to vegetables

Can My Dog Be a Vegetarian or Vegan?

This is a hot button topic, but in short, but my experience is that dogs should not be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet. Dogs at their core are classified as omnivores, so they eat foods of both animal and plant origin.

That said, there are veterinary nutrition experts who praise the vegetarian diet in dogs for which nothing else worked. Dr. Dodds reports highly intolerant dogs may benefit from a vegetarian-based diet.

A veterinary nutritional expert should be involved if this is something a dog requires due to major intolerances.

While the canine digestive system can obtain his or her nutrition from plant matter, dogs have a much easier time processing animal matter. We could write an entire novel on this topic, but wanted to touch briefly on it in the context of this dog-friendly vegetable article.

Recommended Products and Books

We talked about a lot of things in this article about feeding a dog vegetables. Here’s a complete list of links where you can purchase the products and learn more:

Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl Fine Ground Mix.

Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl Regular Size Mix

Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm

Dr. Khalsa’s Natural Dog Book

Dr. Dodds’ Canine Nutrigenomics Book

Katie Newman’s The Amazing Treat Diet for Dogs Book

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Note: The above post contains some Amazon affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.

Comments

  1. De Hufford says

    Feeding is complicated. But getting back to “natural” as much as possible is a good thing. The right vegetables are good for dogs in the right amounts. Great post!

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