Updated - Feb 3rd, 2021
Many dog parents are well aware of how tempting human foods are for our dogs. Who hasn’t gotten the pleading pressure of puppy eyes when eating a meal or snack?
While we know many fruits and vegetables are not as healthy for dogs as they are for us, what about the cucumber? Let’s look closer at this tasty treat.
Cucumbers are technically fruit. They come from the same family as zucchini, some melons, squash, and pumpkin. They grow throughout the world and are found in the produce sections of most markets year-round.
The good news is, they’re healthy for both humans and our beloved canine companions. They’re packed with water, are low in calories, and offer the benefits of Vitamin C, K, B’s and a host of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and calcium.
The crunchy cucumber also provides a moderate supply of fiber, making it excellent protection against gastrointestinal sluggishness.
Let’s look at some health benefits cucumbers offer our furry friends.
Health benefits of cucumbers
- Water: Cucumbers are 95% water, making their hydration properties very high.
- Calories: The high water and very low sugar content mean this fruit is low calorie, with only 8 calories in a half-cup.
- Fiber: The skin or rind of a cucumber supplies most of the soluble fiber. This means it soaks up water going through the digestive system. Soluble fiber aids in a food’s movement through your dog’s digestive tract and can improve stool quality.
- Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant searches out and eliminates free-radical molecules that can damage cells. It also supports the immune system by reducing inflammation, fighting some cancers, and reducing cognitive aging.
- Vitamin K: This vitamin is needed to aid in blood clotting and coagulation.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Regulates energy and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): This helps with energy production.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Supports red blood cell generation, nervous system function, hormone regulation, and immune response.
- Potassium: This important mineral keeps your dog’s kidneys functioning well. It also supports efficient heart function, muscle function, and a healthy digestive system.
- Manganese: This micro-mineral supports the metabolizing of proteins and fatty acids. It also supports energy production and the role of ligament and bone maintenance.
- Molybdenum: This is a micro-nutrient required for normal cell function. It metabolizes carbohydrates and protects the body against excess copper.
- Calcium, Zinc, and Iron: These are present in trace amounts in a cucumber. They’re beneficial in bone growth and integrity and support immune system function.
Because of the high water content in cucumbers, the nutrients are not as dense as some other fruits and veggies like broccoli, strawberries, pumpkin, and blueberries, but they still offer some nutrient value to your dog.
Cucumbers are natural breath fresheners!
Cucumbers provide phytonutrients and phytochemicals that help freshen your dog’s breath. They also destroy the odor-causing bacteria present in the mouth.
However, these crunchy fruits, or any other fruits and veggies, are not a good substitute for a consistent oral hygiene routine or a dog-approved toothpaste.
Are there risks to feeding cucumbers to my dog?
The quick answer is very few risks come with cucumbers. The seeds and skin are not toxic to your dog, but there are some precautions about how much you should offer them.
As with anything you offer your dog besides their daily diet, treats should only be 10% of their daily calories. This is also true for a fruit or vegetable low in calories.
The dog food your dog eats has been scientifically proven to provide all their daily nutritional needs. Treats are just a supplement to a balanced diet.
Fresh cucumbers bought commercially can have added waxes to the skin. Be sure to wash this off with water to make it safer for your dog.
The high water and fiber content in cucumbers can cause gastrointestinal upsets like gas or diarrhea if your dog eats too much.
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you might see a tummy ache when your dog first tries cucumber or eats too much.
Dogs that have consumed a milk or dairy product prior to eating cucumber can also develop a tummy ache or stomach upset.
Most dogs don’t have any reaction or intolerance to this tasty fruit, but whenever you offer your pup a new food, care should be taken to watch for any allergic reactions like excessive itching, tummy upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. And we always recommend talking with your vet before you offer any new food.
Puppies are still developing their immune systems and shouldn’t eat cucumber unless they are fully weaned and safely eating solid foods. They can be very susceptible to stomach upset, so go slowly with very small amounts at first.
What about pickles?
Pickles are fermented fruit that can contain salts, spices, and ingredients like garlic or onions that are toxic to your dog. It’s best to stay away from them and stick with fresh, frozen, steamed, or dehydrated cucumbers as a healthy treat for your dog.
Snack Time! Best ways to offer cucumber to your dog
Cucumbers are well-liked by dogs for the same reason we like them. They’re crunchy, juicy, have a mild flavor, and are a superior alternative to the commercial dog treats that may include additives and artificial flavors.
A whole cucumber isn’t a good idea even for a large dog, because there can be a choking or blockage hazard if they bite off large chunks and gulp it down, as my dogs would. Cucumber slices or cubes are a wonderful choice.
As a summer snack, cucumbers can give your dog extra hydration when needed. Cut up into bite-sized pieces, they’re easy to pack along when you’re out and about in the sun with your dog.
The skins can be hard to digest, but they carry much of the nutrients. Cutting them up into small pieces, or in thin slices will keep your dog safe from any choking hazard, or intestinal blockage.
Teething pups can benefit from a frozen cucumber spear. Not only will it satisfy their need to chew, but it will also provide hydration.
For a chewy snack, cucumber spears can be dehydrated and offered to your dog. The hydration properties are gone, but the nutrients aren’t.
Here are some great recipes that look easy and good enough for my dogs to enjoy:
Other healthy ideas for cucumbers include mixing them with other fruits and veggies. Cubed or sliced cucumbers mixed with strawberries, pineapple, apples, or many other fruits make a tasty fruit salad for your pup!
Smoothies blended or pureed with plain yogurt with added fresh fruits and veggies is a treat your dog will love on a hot summer day. You can pour the mixture into ice-cube trays for a frozen snack, or offer the smoothie as a slurpy treat.
Can an overweight dog eat cucumbers?
Yes! The low calories and high water content make this fruit an excellent choice as a training treat (cut up into small cubes) or as an afternoon snack if your dog is prone to overeating. Just be sure to offer small amounts until you know your dog will tolerate them. You may also want to discuss this treat with your veterinarian.
The best remedy for an overweight dog is a balance of diet and exercise, and offering your dog cucumbers may help satisfy their desire for treats without contributing to obesity.
Can Dogs with diabetes eat cucumbers?
The very low sugar content in cucumbers makes them ideal for diabetic dogs, but you always want to check with your vet prior to offering them to your pup.
Some studies have shown cucumbers may be beneficial in fighting diabetes in animals because they don’t include starches. Starches turn to sugar in your dog’s system. But cucumbers, with no starch, can actually help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. Good news, right?
So cucumbers are healthy snacks for us dog parents and our dogs. If you monitor the amount consumed and offer them as only 10% of your dog’s diet, they not only add some beneficial nutrients, they can also help with issues like obesity and diabetes. They provide necessary hydration on scorching summer days, and make a healthy alternative to commercial training treats, or when you need a healthy and fast treat on the go.