Can I Give My Dog Broccoli?
There are a handful of foods that we grow to love only after we surpass the age when our parents have to force it down our throats. Broccoli is the quintessential “kids hate it; adults love it” food. It’s green, it looks like a tree, it’s high in fiber and low in sugar, and it’s all too easy for tiny hands to slip it underneath the table while the parents are not looking. We all fed our dogs plenty of broccoli underneath the table growing up, but now that we’re older, we’re more cautious about what goes into the mouths of our furry friends.
Grown-ups love broccoli, and grown-ups love their dogs… but do these two things go together? Were we putting our dogs’ health at risk when we snuck them vegetables under the dinner table those many years ago? Can dogs have broccoli?
No need to feel guilty: it turns out dogs can safely eat broccoli in moderation. Not only that, but we may have actually been doing our family dogs a favor when we passed off our florets on them—broccoli has some of the same health benefits for them that it does for us. When giving your dog this vegetable, the two rules are to 1) make sure it’s cut into bite-sized pieces and 2) make sure broccoli does not make up more than ten percent of their total intake.
Anyone who has researched canine nutrition has learned that dogs do not need nearly as many fruits and vegetables to be healthy as we do; dogs are true omnivores. This does not, however, mean that dogs do not stand to benefit from eating vegetables regularly. Broccoli, like most cruciferous vegetables, is high in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as dietary fiber. At the same time, it is low in calories and fat, which makes it easy to share with your dog without having to worry about weight gain.
Antioxidants are just as beneficial for our dogs as they are for us. In the modern era, many of us have to increase our antioxidant intake to counter the excessive production of highly charged particles called free radicals. Free radicals, which cause cell damage that can lead to cancer, arthritis, cognitive problems, and other issues associated with aging, are produced in excess as a result of exposure to chronic stress, illness, unhealthy food, and other environmental toxins. These days, many of our dogs are faced with these things almost as frequently as we are! Increasing your dog’s antioxidant intake helps them keep those free radicals in check, slowing the aging process and reducing their risk of illness and age-related health problems.
Broccoli is a great vegetable for obese dogs who need to lose weight fast. Because it is high in dietary fiber, yet low in fat and calories, this cruciferous vegetable fills up your dog’s stomach far more quickly than other, lower-fiber foods. Fiber also slows digestion, which keeps your dog satiated for a longer period of time. This means that your dog can take in fewer calories without suffering from a gnawing, empty stomach all the time!
Broccoli’s value as a weight loss food should not be overlooked at a time when a whopping 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight. Dogs who are carrying extra weight are more likely than their healthy weight counterparts to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, several cancers, kidney problems, arthritis, and an overall lower life expectancy. This means that monitoring your dog’s weight is a key part of being a good pet parent!
Things to Keep in Mind
But dietary fiber is more than a weight loss aid. It helps regulate digestion, preventing both constipation and diarrhea. This is because soluble fiber absorbs water (which keeps stool moist and soft), while insoluble adds bulk (turning watery stool into bigger, fuller bowel movements). All of this promotes regular, healthy bowel movements, which decrease your dog’s chances of developing colon cancer and other digestive issues.
Broccoli is not completely without its risks, however. The most obvious risk associated with broccoli is choking—stalks and stems can easily cause esophageal obstruction, especially in little dogs like Chihuahuas. To minimize the choking hazard, cut broccoli into very small pieces before you share it with your pet, and make sure they are within earshot while they are eating it.
If consumed in excess, broccoli can cause gastrointestinal problems. This is because broccoli contains isothiocyanites, which are known to irritate the canine digestive system. Monitor your dog carefully, and if their symptoms do not improve within a few hours, take them to the vet.
Despite the choking hazard and the isothiocyanites, broccoli is generally considered safe to feed your dog in moderation. It is high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, yet low in calories and fat. This food is also safe to give your dog both cooked and raw, so feel free to try both to see which your dog prefers.