Updated - Oct 15th, 2022
Brussels sprouts – those slimy little cabbages our grandmothers served at holiday meals – are taking on new life in the healthy food options category. Filled with essential vitamins and minerals and packed with powerful antioxidants, these little cruciferous veggies provide us humans and our canines with many health benefits.
Let’s look at what makes Brussels sprouts an excellent snack option for your dog – and not just tasty human food.
Meet the Brussels sprout
The Brussels sprout is a cruciferous plant and part of the brassica genus of plants. “Cruciferous” means they’re members of the cabbage family. But they’re also a member of the mustard plant family, with cousins including broccoli, kale, arugula, cabbage, radishes, and watercress.
Low in calories and carbohydrates but high in fiber, Brussels sprouts contain only 28 calories and two grams of fiber in a half-cup serving. This makes them an ideal treat for overweight dogs or dogs with diabetes.
But that’s not all they offer. Check out the health benefits of eating Brussels sprouts!
Health benefits of giving Brussels sprouts to your dog
Dietary Fiber: Fiber keeps your dog’s digestive system healthy – and Brussels sprouts have a lot of fiber to ensure healthy bowel movements.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, so it remains intact as it travels through the intestines, attracting water to the stool. As it travels through, it pulls all the other food and waste along with it, reducing the incidence of stomach issues, constipation, and diarrhea.
Vitamin K: This fat-soluble vitamin contains prothrombin, a protein essential for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Vitamin K also helps regulate blood calcium levels – reducing the risk of heart disease – and aids in blood circulation.
Vitamins B1 and B6: These important vitamins boost your dog’s metabolism by helping release energy from foods. They also help in making new cells and support your dog’s nervous system.
Antioxidants: Brussels sprouts are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your dog’s health by fighting against free radicals that cause oxidative cell damage. But they also provide some important age-related and cognitive benefits as well.
Vitamin C, vitamin A, sulforaphane, Kaempferol, and folate: These are potent antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory properties, boost your dog’s immune system, and prevent some cancers and heart disease.
Kaempferol: This reduces the risk of chronic diseases like cancer.
Isothiocyanates: These are phytonutrients that provide anti-oxidative protection. They can slow cancer growth and reduce the risk of heart disease and cognitive aging.
Minerals: Potassium, calcium, and manganese are essential minerals found in Brussels sprouts. Their job is to support your dog’s bone health, fluid balance, cell function, nervous system, muscle function, and overall integrity.
Weight loss: Fiber slows down your dog’s digestion. This can sustain fullness after meals, which reduces begging and aids in weight loss. Since they have few calories, no sugar, and high fiber, Brussels sprouts are an acceptable treat for obese or diabetic dogs.
With all these benefits for your dog’s health, you might think there’s not much of a downside to Brussels sprouts. But there are a few side effects you’ll want to know about before you offer these crunchy veggies to your dog.
The downsides of Brussels sprouts
As is true for any member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain isothiocyanates.
These phytonutrients are beneficial because they help intestinal muscles push food and waste through the digestive tract. But they also build excess bacteria – tiny organisms that aid in the fermentation process of digestion.
These little organisms create a lot of gas, which is how a body releases excess bacteria. If your dog eats too many Brussels sprouts, you may have to open the windows to rid the house of stinky dog farts.
Beyond this, Brussels sprout stalks are very fibrous and tough. They can present a choking hazard for your dog, or else cause intestinal blockages or impaction problems. However, if you peel the outer skin off the stalk, it’s relatively safe for your dog to eat. The leaves are also okay if they’re chopped and cooked.
Raw Brussels sprouts are hard to digest. Your dog’s digestive system will have a hard time processing their fiber if you feed them to your dog raw. This could cause gastrointestinal upset, bloating, or diarrhea.
So with all these health benefits and precautions noted, how should you offer this tasty vegetable to your dog? Let’s look at that now.
Pet Pro Tip: If you have a dog that is prone to ‘snacksidents’ – you should consider getting a dog insurance plan as soon as possible. It can help you afford the best care in the future by covering eligible vet bills for digestive illnesses, toxic ingestion, and more.
How to serve Brussels sprouts to your dog
You should always check with your veterinarian before offering your dog any new food. Your vet knows your dog’s health and can give you advice on how you should feed a particular food to your dog.
When choosing Brussels sprouts, pick green sprouts – organic (if possible) – with no wilted or brown leaves. Old sprouts can cause watery stools, so give fresh ones to your dog.
Wash your Brussels sprouts to remove any pesticides or chemicals that could upset your dog’s stomach, and cut off the stem.
Steamed, boiled, or microwaved Brussels sprouts are the easiest to digest. Steaming is the best way to preserve your sprouts’ nutritional value and antioxidant properties. Boiling them is the worst because the nutrients will leech out into the water, leaving the Brussels sprouts without their nutritional benefits.
Frozen Brussels sprouts may cause a choking hazard, since many dogs gulp their food. It’s best to offer them cooked Brussels sprouts.
Any added seasonings or oils will give your dog an upset stomach and could lead to pancreatitis or worse. As tasty as we find onions, garlic, or salt to be, they’re toxic to your dog. Oils or butter can also wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive system, so avoid those and give your dog unseasoned Brussels sprouts with no oils.
The amount of Brussels sprouts your dog can eat depends on the size of your dog. Small dogs can eat one sprout with no problem, and larger dogs may eat up to five. Check with your vet for the correct amount you can feed your four-legger without giving them stinky sprout gas!
Only offer your dog ¼ to ½ of a sprout the first time you feed them. Watch for signs of discomfort or gas, which will show up in a few hours or less. If you notice any discomfort beyond smelly gas, contact your veterinarian.
When feeding your dog any food besides their regular dog food, follow the 90/10 rule. 90% of your dog’s calories should come from balanced dog food, with the remaining 10% coming from healthy treats.
Should your dog eat Brussels sprouts?
Brussels sprouts are healthy, low-calorie treats that dogs seem to love. As long as you’re serving your dog plain, fresh, and cooked sprouts, Brussels sprouts are a tasty addition to your dog’s dinner bowl (or an excellent quick snack). Overweight or diabetic dogs can even benefit from these cruciferous vegetables – so long as you prepare them properly and offer them in moderation.