Thinking of feeding your dog some broccoli to increase the antioxidant profile of their diet? Broccoli is a common vegetable in our diets. For humans, broccoli is sometimes hailed as a super-food, boasting anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people even take broccoli as a concentrated supplement.
However, human digestive systems are not the same as our dogs. Some things that we eat are not tolerated well by our pups, and can even be toxic. So what about broccoli? Is Broccoli safe for your canine companion?
Your dog’s main food should be complete and balanced. This means it should contain the correct nutrients in appropriate quantities to support him when it is fed consistently, every day. Commercially produced dog food is usually best and should make up 90% of what your pup eats. The remaining 10% can be chews, training treats, and other snacks. So, should broccoli be one of those treats?
Is Broccoli Good For Dogs?
Broccoli is a relatively safe choice to share with dogs. It will provide a variety of beneficial nutrients and can be fed raw or cooked.
Some words of caution though—broccoli can be damaging to dogs if fed in excess. It contains compounds that can cause gut irritation. As with many foods, it can also be a choking hazard if not fed in bite-sized pieces, and it should never be fed if covered in sauce or seasoning.
Is Broccoli Nutritious For Dogs?
Broccoli is rich in a variety of vitamins, including A, C, E, and K, as well as several types of B vitamins (there are lots of different B vitamins). Broccoli contains nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, selenium, potassium, and iron. Broccoli is rich in fiber and low in calories. In addition, it has a good protein content compared with other vegetables.
Your dog’s nutritional requirements will be satisfied by their main food, as long as you are feeding a complete and balanced doggy diet. However, it’s a great health bonus if their treats are nutritious too!
Vegetables that are high in fiber provide our dogs with bulk, without excessive calories. Broccoli is a good choice for this as it helps dogs feel full but is unlikely to make them fat. Sadly, many of the dogs we see in our clinic are overweight, which can lead to other health problems, so low-calorie treats are good.
Eating fiber helps the “good” bacteria in your dog’s gut to thrive. This means your pup can digest his other food more effectively, has a more settled tummy, and produces tolerable poop—firm and scoopable rather than soft and smelly!
Vitamins in Dog Snacks
A few extra vitamins can boost your pup’s immune system, skin and coat quality, and levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent unwanted cell damage—cell damage can lead to disease.
Some vitamins can cause harm if eaten in extremely high volumes, but you won’t overdose your dog by feeding healthy treats in moderation, alongside his main food.
Protein Sources For Dogs
Your pup should eat a suitable amount of high-quality protein. How much protein is needed varies from dog to dog—an athletic dog’s requirement will differ from an older dog with kidney disease, for example.
Meat protein is a good source of protein for dogs, but protein can also be obtained from vegetables. Broccoli contains a good amount of protein compared with other types of vegetables.
Broccoli for Diabetic Dogs
When selecting treats for a diabetic dog, it is even more important that they are low in sugar and fat. As with diabetic humans, it is important to be careful when it comes to the sugar intake of dogs with diabetes. It is more difficult to control diabetes in overweight dogs, so being low-fat is also key. Broccoli is a good choice of treat for diabetic dogs. However, every dog’s requirements are different, so, if you’re feeding a dog with diabetes, always seek guidance from your veterinarian.
Diabetes can cause dogs to get cataracts—cloudiness in their eyes that can cause blindness. Broccoli contains a type of antioxidant that has been shown to reduce cataract formation. Feeding broccoli could have additional benefits for diabetic dogs, but it is difficult to say for sure.
Broccoli contains other things that can irritate a dog’s gut and cause them to be ill. Feeding your canine companion enough broccoli to help reduce cataracts may be too much for their gut to tolerate. Research in this area is ongoing.
When is Broccoli Bad?
Broccoli is a good choice of treat for most dogs when fed appropriately—but, as always, there are some important rules. Broccoli should be fed on its own, not covered in sauce or additives like salt and pepper. Rich sauces made with tomatoes, and seasoning can irritate your pet’s gut and can lead to other problems, like kidney damage.
If you feed broccoli cooked, make sure it has cooled down before feeding it to your pup. His mouth is likely to be much more temperature-sensitive than yours! Feed broccoli in bite-sized pieces, to suit your own dog’s mouth—a Labrador has a bigger mouth than a shih-tzu! Chunks of broccoli can be a choking hazard if fed in large pieces, especially if raw.
Broccoli alone is not appropriate as the main food for dogs. Broccoli in dog foods is fine as an ingredient alongside other things. It is also OK to feed as an occasional treat, as part of the “extras” portion of your doggy’s diet (no more than 10%).
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning it contains compounds called isothiocyanates—this is what gives them their slightly bitter taste. Humans can tolerate these well, but they are toxic to dogs in large amounts.
Even in small excess amounts, Isothiocyanates can cause irritate a dog’s gut, causing symptoms like tummy pain, sickness, and diarrhea. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, among others) should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet.
How Much Broccoli Can My Dog Eat?
The amount of broccoli a dog can eat depends on the size of the dog and how sensitive they are—some dogs can’t eat broccoli at all. If introducing broccoli for the first time, do so gradually, to find out how your pup copes.
Broccoli should only be fed in small amounts, as a treat and not as the main ingredient. Treats and extras with meals should not account for more than 10% of what your pup eats in total. Bear in mind that 10% for an inactive or small dog will be a lot less than 10% for a large, active dog, so it is hard to put a figure on how much broccoli is appropriate.
Just remember, if in doubt, feed less—and always check with your veterinarian if you’re not sure.
So, Can My Dog Eat Broccoli?
Yes, it is safe for most dogs to eat broccoli, either raw or cooked, if fed in bite-sized pieces. Broccoli contains a wealth of vitamins and nutrients that can be of benefit to dogs. However, it is not nutritionally balanced to provide everything that our dogs need, so shouldn’t be fed as a main meal.
Remember, Bite-Sized Pieces
Bite-sized pieces are important because dogs can choke. Please remember short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of dog, like pugs, French bulldogs, and bulldogs, can be more likely to choke on food. For this reason, broccoli should be fed to them in extra-small pieces.
Introduce Broccoli Gradually
Every dog is different, and some dogs do not tolerate certain foods. Introduce new foods gradually and monitor your dog for signs of tummy pain, sickness, or diarrhea. This is especially important with broccoli because it can cause gut irritation.
Never feed your dog more than a quarter of his diet as broccoli—this amount would be toxic to dogs. A quarter of their diet is extreme, but anything over 10% can cause serious tummy upsets.
It is always sensible when introducing new foods, to discuss it with your veterinarian, especially if your pup has a history of tummy issues, food allergies, or other illness that affects what they can eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
To recap, broccoli is a safe and nutritious treat for dogs, as long as fed in moderation. It should ideally be a very small part of your dog’s diet, with 90% of their diet coming from a high-quality commercially produced dry kibble. If your pup has consumed more broccoli than recommended, this may cause bowel obstruction or other toxic effects. However, it would need to be a significant amount that was consumed to cause that to happen.
Stick to small, bite-sized pieces of broccoli mixed with other veggies on occasion, and your canine companion should enjoy the snack, as well as gaining some antioxidant boosting properties along with it.