Can I Give My Dog Paprika?
When we were little, we relied on salt and sugar to flavor our food. Our less-than-sophisticated palates told us that ketchup and corn-based artificial maple syrup were the two best flavorings available, and we were quick to pick out any green flecks of plant matter we found in our favorite pasta dish. By the time we graduated from steady diets of chicken dinosaurs and French toast sticks, however, we fell in love with the culinary magic of spices. One of the most delicious, versatile, and colorful spices in our cabinets is paprika. Whether we’re adding it into soups, stews, and rice dishes or sprinkling it on top of a finished meal to add a pop of color, we find ourselves gobbling up paprika quite often.
When we share our homes with animal companions, this presents a bit of a dilemma: will adding paprika to our dinner make it off-limits for our pets? Can dogs have paprika?
The answer: technically, yes, dogs can eat paprika. Though some online sources focus on the damage that it can do to your dog’s eyes or lungs (if inhaled), this is an issue for pretty much any food and has nothing to do with paprika specifically. Any food your dog gets in their eyes is likely to cause problems! There is nothing in paprika that can result in toxicity if it is fed to canines, so there is no need to rush your pet to the vet if they’ve lapped up a little goulash.
However, pet parents should be aware that paprika and other spices can upset our dogs’ fragile stomachs. If your pet has gastrointestinal problems or has a history of getting sick after eating strong foods, you may want to skip the paprika. Like many strong spices, paprika can do more harm than good. There is no reason to give it to your dog regularly.
Paprika, like most spices, has been praised for its micronutrient content. It is made by grinding up colorful capsicum peppers, so it should come as no surprise that this bright spice comes loaded with carotenoids. These carotenoids, called lutein and zeaxanthin, are thought to benefit eyesight. They can keep your dog’s vision sharp by protecting delicate eye tissue from harmful UV rays. Paprika may also benefit eyesight thanks to its high Vitamin A content—Vitamin A is thought to play a key role in developing the cells inside the eye that are responsible for night vision. Foods rich in Vitamin A may be the key to keeping your pup from walking headfirst into the coffee table at night!
Paprika also offers a moderate amount of Vitamin E, which can boost the immune system and support a healthy, silky fur coat. Vitamin E may also help prevent or alleviate skin problems like dandruff and itching.
Spices such as paprika are perhaps most often touted for their antioxidant content—and for good reason. The antioxidants in paprika and other spices are thought to decrease the risk of countless chronic diseases in both humans and dogs. Though paprika certainly will not make your dog immortal, antioxidants are thought to lower their (and your!) risk of developing everything from arthritis to dementia to cancer.
How? Because they combat free radicals. Free radicals are natural byproducts of various metabolic processes, but they tend to cause problems in large numbers. They are highly reactive particles with a strong charge, which means that they cause damage to many of the body cells they come into contact with. Sometimes, this damage kills cells or proves to be relatively harmless. The real danger, however, occurs when free radicals damage the DNA particles within cells, causing genetic mutations that can eventually lead to cancer and other diseases.
Things to Consider
There is some thought that free radicals may be partially responsible for the physical and psychological problems associated with aging. Foods containing antioxidants, such as paprika, have the power to neutralize free radicals, preventing cell damage.
Though there may be some small benefit from including antioxidant-rich foods in your dog’s daily diet, it is unlikely that they will be able to comfortably eat enough paprika to experience any huge changes. Paprika may be delicious and full of micronutrients, but it also contains capsaicin, which can cause stomach problems. Dogs who eat too much paprika (either in one sitting or over an extended period) may suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms of gastrointestinal irritation. If your dog has a fragile stomach, avoid feeding them any spices. Other antioxidant-rich plant foods, like apples and carrots, can give your dog many of the same health benefits while being a little easier on their stomach.
In conclusion, it is safe to give your dog food containing paprika every now and then, but it probably isn’t a good idea to feed it to them regularly. This antioxidant-rich food can offer some powerful health benefits when it is part of a diet that includes other antioxidant-rich foods, but it can cause stomach problems if it is given in excess.