Can I Give My Dog Squash?
There are very few vegetables we readily eat year-round, but there is only one type of vegetable that seems to work its way onto our plates throughout the year while still feeling seasonal: squash. From the hearty winter squashes (like pumpkins) that fit perfectly onto our Thanksgiving plates all the way to the watery summer squashes (like zucchini) that adorn our salads when it’s hot outside, squash is always appropriate, always delicious, and always nutritious. And, since the squash is ever-present in our kitchens, we are often faced with one of the worst dilemmas of pet ownership: to share, or not to share?
Face it: your dog is going to beg whether or not the food in question is good for them, so it’s up to you to figure out what’s safe and what isn’t. You already know to exercise caution with onions and raisins, but what about squash? Can dogs have squash? Are there specific varieties to watch out for, or can we treat our dogs to these delicious vegetables year-round?
Yes, dogs can eat squash! It appears that your dog can eat all the same types of squash that you can, so feel free to share your roasted squash and your sliced zucchini. For ease of digestion (and for maximum enjoyment), you should probably stick to mostly cooked squash. Your dog may turn their nose up to a plate full of raw squash—and if they don’t, they may suffer from digestive distress. That being said, raw squash is not ‘toxic’ to dogs, per se, so you need not panic if your Labrador digs some raw squash out of the trash can.
In moderation, squash makes a great treat for your canine companion. Dogs are omnivores, which means that they can benefit from some plant foods. This can be very helpful if you have a dog who loves people food but also needs to drop a few pounds. Squash in particular is affordable, nontoxic, easy to prepare, high in fiber, and fairly low in calories. That makes squash an excellent way to sneakily cut back on your dog’s caloric intake—simply by ‘bulking up’ their food with small helpings of high-fiber squash, you can reduce the amount of calories your dog eats without reducing the volume. That means that your dog gets a belly full of squash with a fraction of the calories they would have gotten by eating calorically dense dog food.
But your dog doesn’t have to be overweight to benefit from the occasional taste of squash! Most varieties of squash are very high in potassium, which is one of the key nutrients involved in lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Squash also contains calcium, magnesium, and manganese, which help support healthy muscles, bones and skin.
Many varieties of squash are rich in Vitamin A, which can be particularly helpful for dogs’ health as they age. Vitamin A can improve vision, reduce the risk of cataracts, and slow down macular degeneration. It also protects skin and fur health, which makes for less shedding and less itching!
Squash is also loaded with antioxidants, which combat the dangerous free radicals that can damage cells and result in cancer, heart disease, and other forms of life-threatening, chronic illness. Antioxidants are the dietary key to slowing aging, fighting disability, and extending your dog’s lifespan. On top of that, squash is a powerful anti-inflammatory food. A diet high in anti-inflammatory foods can reduce the risk of many illnesses, alleviate muscle pains and arthritis symptoms, and soothe the symptoms of many chronic inflammatory diseases. Squash may not be the ‘cure’ to all that ails your dog, but it may improve your sick dog’s quality of life—assuming your vet gives you the thumbs up, of course.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you want to give your dog squash, it’s important to stick with cooked squash. Dogs don’t contain as much amylase (the enzyme responsible for predigesting carbohydrates) as we do, so they can’t digest fruits and vegetables quite as well as we can. Giving your dog raw squash may result in indigestion, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Plus, if your dog can’t digest the squash, they can’t extract the vitamins and minerals from it!
Reminder: no matter how healthy squash may be, it still should not make up the majority of your dog’s diet. To make sure your dog is having all of their nutritional needs met, they should consume mostly veterinarian-approved dog food. However, cooked squash is perfectly safe for your dog, and it can serve as a powerful supplement to any dog’s diet. Feeding your dog cooked squash of any kind in moderation can improve their eye health, lower their risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer, slow the negative effects of aging, and help them maintain a healthy weight without going hungry.