Updated - Feb 28th, 2022
Tender asparagus spears find their way into many salads and side dishes at our dinner tables. These tender stalks are a nutritious and tasty addition to any diet, but is it okay to toss a morsel to your dog?
In short: yes, it is. But dogs have different digestive systems than us dog parents. Many fresh fruits and vegetables provide nutrients that benefit our canine companions’ health, while others can cause harm. Asparagus belongs in the first category – so long as we take some precautions while preparing it, you can offer it to your pooch.
Asparagus, whose scientific name is asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family. It grows in a variety of colors, such as white, green, and purple. Asparagus stalks are high in fiber, low in calories, and an excellent source of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and antioxidants.
The asparagus stalk is the part of the plant we eat. When allowed to grow to maturity, they become beautiful asparagus ferns with red berries. Those berries are poisonous to both us and our dogs. The risk these berries from the mature asparagus plant pose is the reason we only eat the tender shoots before they turn into ferns.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of asparagus and its benefits for your dog.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Dogs can eat asparagus with few side effects. This low-calorie veggie provides many nutrients, powerful antioxidants, and loads of fiber. Here’s a rundown of the nutrients found in asparagus and why they may improve your dog’s health:
Fiber: Most of a dog’s immune system lives in their gut, and dietary fiber keeps the digestive tract healthy, thus boosting the immune system. Asparagus is rich in two kinds of fiber—soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber: Because this fiber is indigestible, it’s key to healthy bowel movements. It adds bulk to the stool by remaining intact and moving things along through your dog’s digestive system.
Soluble fiber: This fiber dissolves in water, becoming a gel-like substance that feeds the good bacteria in the gut. It’s prebiotic.
Antioxidants: The antioxidants in asparagus are vitamin A, Vitamin E, and vitamin C, glutathione, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Antioxidants fight the free radicals that cause oxidative stress and damage cells in your dog’s body. Oxidative stress comes from environmental factors like pollution, pesticides, daily stress, and illness.
Folate: Folic acids are essential nutrients that dogs need for DNA formation and red blood cell growth.
Vitamin K: This important vitamin helps blood clot and supports bone health.
Calcium and Phosphorus: Phosphorus works with calcium to support strong bones and teeth.
Potassium: Potassium is a vital electrolyte that aids the electrical functions in your dog’s heart, muscles, and nerves.
B-complex Vitamins: Vitamins B6 and B9 and thiamin support your dog’s nervous system, heart, and coat health.
Micronutrients: Asparagus contains small amounts of zinc, iron, riboflavin, and manganese. These micronutrients regulate energy from carbohydrate metabolism. Your dog’s diet should include well-balanced dog food with the daily recommended amount of these nutrients.
Calories, fats, and sugar: Asparagus is low in calories, low in fats (a stalk has 2%), and no sugars. Overweight dogs can benefit from eating this veggie instead of high-fat commercial treats.
Be aware, though, that any fruit or vegetable that’s more than an occasional treat is not healthy. A dog’s daily diet should follow the 90/10 rule: 90% of your dog’s daily caloric intake should come from well-balanced dog food and 10% from treats. Feeding your dog too many treats will lead to weight gain and obesity.
Even with all those benefits, there are some minor risks involved when you feed your dog asparagus. Let’s take a look at them.
Risks of Asparagus
Asparagus has LOTS of fiber. Raw asparagus stalks are very tough and can be a choking hazard if not properly prepared. Small dogs are at greater risk of choking. To remove the risk, cut the stalks into bite-size pieces before you offer them to your dog. And be careful not to feed them too much, as an excess of fiber can cause gassiness, stomach upset, and vomiting.
We add all kinds of different ingredients to our asparagus dishes to complement the flavor of the vegetable. Many ingredients can be dangerous for your dog, especially onion and garlic, which are toxic to canines. Other ingredients like butter or cheese won’t harm your dog but can lead to stomach upset. It’s best to separate any asparagus meant for your dog before you add the tasty ingredients you enjoy.
Raw or cooked asparagus is okay for your dog, but it’s hard on their digestive system because of the indigestible fiber. During cooking, asparagus spears become soft, reducing the risk that your dog could choke on them. Bite-sized pieces of soft, cooked asparagus are the safest option for your dog.
Canned asparagus has too much salt and is unhealthy for your dog.
Check with your veterinarian whenever you consider offering your dog new food. Then start slow, offering them tiny pieces at first. Watch them closely for any reactions or signs of stomach upset before you offer more.
Now that you know the health benefits and risks of asparagus, here are some fun ideas for offering this healthy vegetable to your dog.
Smoothies: Blend healthy, safe fruits and vegetables with plain, Greek yogurt, asparagus and sweet potatoes for a tasty smoothie that packs a dog-approved nutritional punch!
Into the bowl: Asparagus contains few calories and no sugar, making it a safe vegetable to cut up and add plain to your dog’s food bowl. Diabetic dogs and overweight dogs will appreciate the fiber, which fills them up and keeps them satisfied longer.
Occasional Treats: Offer a plain, unseasoned morsel to your puppy-eyed, waiting-for-a-treat canine when asparagus is on your menu.
Asparagus soup: Sodium-free chicken broth, chopped spinach, diced chicken (no spices, please), asparagus, and some diced, cooked sweet potatoes make for a healthy soup that your dog will slurp down on cold winter days.
Can My Dog Eat Asparagus?
The quick answer to “Can My Dog Eat Asparagus” is yes. With its low-calorie, low-fat, and high-fiber content, asparagus is acceptable for even diabetic or overweight dogs. Cut up into small pieces and served without seasoning or fat, it’s a healthy snack with many nutrients that boost your dog’s overall health. Just make sure you don’t overfeed this high-fiber veggie – unless you want a gassy dog, or one with a tummy ache.
For more information on healthy foods that support your dog’s health and add some variety to the dog treat menu, click here.