Pet-Friendly Gardening: Safe Veggies for Dogs

Cute dog on the floor with a basket of tomatoes and celery and other vegetables in front.

Many, but not all, of the vegetables grown for your family can be eaten by dogs and cats too.

There are a few vegetables that are not recommended and some that are toxic. If you have dogs or cats, it is important to know safe veggies for dogs and which to avoid.

Veggies for dogs can be a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, although they have no real need for them as part of their diet. They can serve as low-calorie snacks, ideal for weight management. Some can even help in dental health by aiding in cleaning the teeth as they chew.

However, dogs and cats digest foods differently than humans. Dogs are facultative carnivores, meaning they can eat plant and non-animal matter in addition to animal matter. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need to eat meat to survive.

Vegetables aren’t necessary for cats, and they don’t metabolize or digest them well. So, if your cat turns its nose up at your salad it’s okay.

When feeding your pets, portion size matters. Their main source of nutrition needs to come from their regular diet. And, according to the ASPCA, “Snacks should equate to no more than five percent of their daily caloric intake, so keep portion sizes small.”

Small bites of any food will help reduce the possibility of choking in pets as in humans. So be sure to cut pet snacks into appropriately sized bites.

Safe Veggies for Dogs

  • Broccoli – occasional small amounts because they can cause gastric irritation in some dogs and tough broccoli stalks have been known to cause obstruction in the esophagus in dogs; a small cooked cube may help with constipation in cats
  • Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage– loaded with nutrients and antioxidants and just as in humans, can cause flatulence (gas)
  • Carrots – a great low-calorie choice, high in fiber and beta-carotene, crunching helps clean teeth
  • Cauliflower – low in calories and packed with nutrients and antioxidants
  • Celery – contains vitamins A, B, and C, and the nutrients to promote a healthy heart; known to freshen dog breath
  • Cucumbers – a low-calorie, crunchy snack that has a high moisture content; peel skin before feeding to pets
  • Green beans – a great option either chopped, steamed, raw, canned, or frozen as long as they’re plain; full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and low-calorie
  • Peas – green peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and garden or English peas, contain several vitamins, and minerals and are rich in protein and high in fiber; avoid canned peas due to added sodium
  • Pumpkin – cooked (canned) pumpkin has digestive benefits; make sure it’s pure pumpkin and not the spiced pie filling
  • Spinach – it’s okay to give but contains oxalates, which in large quantities block the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to kidney issues
  • Zucchini – a good treat in moderation; it’s low in calories, high in fiber, and contains several vitamins

Avoid These Veggies for Dogs

  • Asparagus – not necessarily unsafe but has no benefit. Too tough to eat raw and loses much of its nutritional value when cooked
  • Avocados – contain persin, which often causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs
  • Chives – poisonous to most pets, can cause dog’s red blood cells to rupture and also can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea
  • Garlic – poisonous to most pets, can cause a dog’s red blood cells to rupture and also can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea
  • Grapes and Raisins – extremely toxic to dogs and can lead to acute sudden kidney failure
  • Leeks – poisonous to most pets, can cause dog’s red blood cells to rupture and also can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea
  • Mushrooms – wild mushrooms can be toxic and could lead to death; washed mushrooms purchased from the grocery for human consumption are generally fine for dogs
  • Onions – poisonous to most pets, can cause dog’s red blood cells to rupture and also can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea
  • Potatoes – raw cause significant gastrointestinal upset; cooked are safe to eat in moderation
  • Unripe tomatoes and tomato leaves – toxic to dogs and cats, and may cause vomiting, weakness, and heart issues; ripe tomatoes are a suitable treat on occasion and in moderation

Introducing Veggies to Your Dog

In full disclosure, I do not typically feed veggies to my dogs or any “people” food. I’ve always been of the mindset that a strict diet of high-quality dog food is best and causes the least stomach upset for my fur babies.

That said, I do maintain a vegetable garden that my dogs have access to. And, there seems to always be the occasional dropped piece(s) of food in the kitchen during meal prep or at the table when my kids were little. Dogs are fast and I don’t often win the contest for picking up what dropped before they do.

So, I think it’s the responsible thing as a pet owner to know what vegetables are harmful vs. okay for them to eat.

My experience is that dogs develop a tendency to beg for food if they are fed handouts in the kitchen or scraps from the table. If I do offer veggies to my dog, I only offer a small piece, away from the table, at a time I’m not prepping or eating a meal. And I only offer one type so there’s less chance for them to develop an upset tummy.

Understanding which vegetables are safe and which are not is crucial for every dog owner. They should always be treated as supplements and not meal replacements. And as always, you should consult with a veterinarian for personalized dietary advice for your furry friend.

Kim Nelson is a certified Master Gardener and loves gardening with her Dachshund.

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