Updated - Aug 4th, 2020
Many family dinners include broccoli. When preparing the meal, it’s so tempting to share tidbits of food with your canine companions, but not all foods are safe for your dog. Fortunately, broccoli is one healthy vegetable you can share with your pooch, patiently waiting for a nibble of human food goodness.
We classify dogs as carnivores, but they’re actually facultative carnivores. This means meat should comprise most of their diet, but they also eat and digest plant protein.
The plant protein comes from fruits and vegetables, but can’t make up their complete diet if they want to stay healthy. That being said, they really don’t require as many fruits or vegetables as humans do to thrive. However, there are some benefits to feeding plant proteins as treats or when it’s included in commercial dog foods. Broccoli is one of those plants. Let’s look at why it’s an excellent addition to your dog’s menu in moderate amounts.
What are the health benefits of broccoli for my dog?
Broccoli is teeming with vitamins and minerals, is low in calories, and filled with fiber to keep their digestive system moving along. Dogs can safely eat all forms of broccoli. If you want to offer your dog a piece of broccoli, do it prior to adding any seasoning or extra ingredients like onions or oils that could upset their tummies.
The health benefits of broccoli are many and here are a few reasons this crunchy, green veggie is an amazing choice for an occasional dog treat:
- Fiber: Broccoli has a lot of fiber which helps your dog’s digestive system to keep moving along. The stems can be problematic though because they are harder to digest.
- Vitamin K: This is a vitamin powerhouse that improves bone density and provides a host of other benefits. If your dog is active, bone strength can keep him active longer. Bone density decreases as our dogs age and can reduce their mobility. It also has coagulating properties. Broccoli carries the highest amount of Vitamin K found in vegetables.
- Vitamin C: Boosts the immune system of your dog and provides anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C is produced naturally in a dog’s body, but that ability decreases as they age. It’s also a water-soluble vitamin, so passes in their urine if they receive too much.
- Minerals: Broccoli contains magnesium, sodium, chromium potassium, and several others that all work together to strengthen your dog’s immune and nervous systems.
- Folic Acid: Helps produce and maintain healthy cells, especially for pregnant dogs.
So while broccoli definitely has some positive health benefits, there are also some precautions to consider when feeding broccoli to your dog. Let’s look closer at the broccoli plant to see why.
What parts of the broccoli plant are safe for my dog to eat?
Think of the broccoli plant in two parts: the florets and the broccoli stalks.
Both are safe to eat, either cooked or raw in small pieces. However, the broccoli florets contain small molecules called Isothiocyanate, which are present in all cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, or kale. The Isothiocyanates can irritate your dog’s gastrointestinal system.
For that reason, it’s very important to portion broccoli to your dog properly. Too much of the Isothiocyanate in the florets can cause nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If your dog eats a significant amount of broccoli, the upsets could become severe or cause significant health problems or even death.
Broccoli stalks are very fibrous and can cause a choking hazard if given in large pieces. It’s best to cut them up, or even better to serve them steamed or roasted to avoid this problem.
Can my dog eat cooked broccoli?
Yes, cooked broccoli is safe for your dog. There’s less chance of choking hazards or intestinal blockages if you cut the cooked broccoli into small pieces prior to feeding it. This is also the best way to add it to your dog’s food bowl as an addition to their regular dog food.
You’ll want to make sure your dog’s portion is without added fats – like processed cheese frequently added to the family dish – or any additional seasonings or ingredients. These add extra calories and fat your dog doesn’t need and could upset its tummy.
What about frozen broccoli?
Frozen broccoli is fine also, but cut it up prior to feeding to your dog. As with any fruit or vegetable, when feeding them to your dog, avoid any added ingredients, oils, or seasoning.
How much broccoli can my dog have?
Portion control is important for your dog’s diet and treats play an essential part when motivating or rewarding your pooch. As with any treat (and broccoli would be considered a treat like all fresh fruits and vegetables), it should comprise only 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Anything more and you risk obesity or upset stomachs. Because of the Isothiocyanate in the florets, if your dog were to ingest broccoli near the 25% ratio, it would be considered a toxic level of broccoli for your dog.
Keep in mind that all dogs are different and what works for your friend’s dog may not work for yours. Start out with a small piece and if there are no negative reactions, you can offer more.
Puppies have different nutritional needs than mature dogs. They need a developmental diet specific to their growing bodies. For that reason, it’s best to hold off offering broccoli as a treat until their bodies are more mature. It’s also easy to feed too much broccoli to a small puppy, causing the same gastrointestinal distress older dogs may get when they’ve eaten too much of this crunchy vegetable.
Can my dog eat the broccoli stem?
Some dog owners will give their puppies a broccoli stem as chew toys when they’re teething believing it’s a healthy alternative, but it is not. The fiber content may be too hard for your puppy to digest. Puppies can also swallow larger pieces of the stem and potentially cause an intestinal blockage.
What are some feeding suggestions for this veggie?
Broccoli is a safe, nutritious treat as long as it’s not one offered on the sly under the dinner table. Portion control and cooking to keep its natural vitamins and minerals is the best way to serve this tasty veggie to your dog.
There are several resources available online for healthy, dog-friendly broccoli recipes, but here are a few ways to quickly and easily serve it up to your pooch for an extra nutritional boost.
- Raw: Cut up in small chunks or pieces and fed as a treat or added to your dog’s regular dog food. It should only be 10% of the caloric intake to remain at safe levels. The florets are the most nutritious part of the plant, watch portions to avoid excessive amounts of the isothiocyanate.
- Cooked: Whether it’s frozen or fresh broccoli, cooking, steaming, or roasting is fine for your dog as long as you avoid seasonings, oils, and other ingredients that may be harmful to your dog (like onions or processed cheese).
- Smoothies: Puree broccoli along with some dog-friendly fresh fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, bananas, or watermelon. Some veggies to include would be green beans, cauliflower, carrots or cooked sweet potatoes. You can add fresh fruit juice (without sugar) or yogurt to the mix for a refreshing treat on sweltering summer days when your dog needs a nutritional boost. You can also try freezing the mixture in ice-cube trays for an occasional treat too!
Can my dog eat broccoli?
Yes, broccoli is nutritious and considered one of the safe vegetables for dogs. Just remember to start with small quantities to avoid any tummy or digestion issues. This cruciferous plant carries many health benefits for your dog, so it’s a worthwhile addition to your dog’s occasional treat list when you’re looking for a healthy snack or nutritious motivating treat for your beloved canine companion.