Food for humans and dogs are not the same. Dog food is certainly not made for human consumption. However, there are certain human foods that your canine pet could ingest just fine, provided it’s served the right way and in the correct proportions. So, can dogs eat broccoli?
Dogs can certainly eat broccoli (raw or cooked), provided the vegetable is not swathed with oil or any kind of seasoning. Also, make sure you don’t go overboard feeding your dog broccoli as the vegetable’s chemical composition or its isothiocyanate content could cause gastric troubles in your pet.
Keep reading to learn why broccoli is not completely unacceptable as dog food, and also why it’s not what your dog is supposed to eat on the regular. If you’re considering sharing your broccoli with your pet dog, you must read this before proceeding any further.
Why is Broccoli Perfectly Acceptable Dog Food?
Vegetables are usually not ideal dog foods, and broccoli is no exception. But if you are contemplating adding broccoli to your dog’s list of food, your canine friend should have no issues eating the vegetable. It, in fact, could end up benefiting from it. Here are a few things you should know about dogs and broccoli.
Limited Intake is Safe and Healthy
Broccoli is safe for your dog if it’s not more than 10 percent of your dog’s total daily food intake. If the broccoli consumption exceeds 10 percent, isothiocyanate comes into play and may cause gut irritation in your dog. The upper or maximum tolerable limit is 25 percent. Anything above that is considered toxic. At those levels, isothiocyanate could turn into a truly deadly toxin.
What is the 10 percent rule? A dog can typically eat 10 percent of its calories from veggies, fruits, and treats. The remaining 90 percent should be its regular, protein-rich affair. And if you are feeding your dog a host of other fruits and vegetables, the broccoli supply should be much lower than 10 percent.
Also, the 10 percent rule is not standard or varies with your dog’s age, size, physical activity, and other variables. Sled dogs, such as huskies, would require a lot more meat on their plate than regular dogs.
Broccoli is Nutrient-Dense
Broccoli is a fiber-rich, highly nutritious vegetable. Here are the nutrients packed into the vegetable:
- Like every other green veggie, broccoli is low in sugar and fat.
- It is high in vitamins, particularly vitamin C and vitamin K.
- The vegetable is also known for its potassium and calcium content.
Vitamin K is Essential for Healthy, Stronger Bones
Vitamin K helps promote denser and stronger bones, both in humans and dogs. It is particularly helpful for older pets who could be having bone density issues and, as a result, suffering from limited mobility. Younger dogs who are relatively more active and need stronger bones to help them put up with their routine adventures will also benefit from vitamin K.
Vitamin C – The Important Antioxidant
Vitamin C is a critical antioxidant that helps reduce cognitive aging and inflammation. Unlike humans, dogs make vitamin C naturally within themselves. But as they age, their bodies find it increasingly difficult to produce adequate amounts of vitamin C by themselves. This is where broccoli and other dark green vegetables come to the rescue.
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Vitamin C helps your dog ward off certain cancers and diseases, helping them feel good and healthy for much longer. On a related note, the sulfur-packing compounds in broccoli also help reduce cancer risks – particularly the ones associated with the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract and prostate, and also melanoma.
If the vitamin C ingested through broccoli exceeds recommended levels, your dog will be able to eliminate the excess amounts via its urine.
Potassium Ensures a Healthy Heart
Broccoli, like bananas, is high in potassium. This electrolyte mineral helps regulate multiple bodily functions both in humans and canines. For instance, low potassium levels are linked with arrhythmia, a condition that could lead to faster, slower, or irregular heartbeats in both humans and dogs. Dogs with shorter muzzles such as bulldogs, boxers, pugs, etc. are more at risk. And as the dog ages, its arrhythmia risks only go up.
Therefore, smaller broccoli servings every now and again can help keep your pet’s heart in good shape as it ages. However, do not use broccoli as medicine for your dog’s heart ailments. Talk to your vet and get expert care instead.
The Negatives of Broccoli for Dogs
Your dog can certainly eat broccoli without causing itself any damage. But then there are a couple of things you must be wary of to ensure the broccoli ingestion is truly beneficial, or at least not hazardous.
Isothiocyanate is the Problem (Sort Of)
Isothiocyanate, as mentioned above, is the chemical compound that renders broccoli not completely safe for consumption by dogs. The compound is found in other cruciferous vegetables as well, including kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli, however, has the maximum concentration of the compound of all vegetables in its family.
The toxin is primarily found in the head of the broccoli. Its stalk is relatively toxin-free. If you are feeding just the stalk, the isothiocyanate problem would not be an issue. But then if the stalks are not cooked enough or cut into smaller pieces, they could pose choking risks.
Too Much Fiber
The high-fiber composition of broccoli is good for humans, but it could be a bit too much to handle for dogs – particularly when the vegetable is not cooked before being served. The highly fibrous constitution of broccoli could lead to digestive blockages in your dog. That’s more so the case with puppies as their digestive systems are still developing or not mature enough to work with fiber.
Feeding Your Dog Broccoli
More than the actual constituents of broccoli, it is how and in what proportions you feed your dog broccoli that determines how the vegetable contributes to the health of your pet or works to its detriment.
Continually Monitor, At Least Initially
Different dogs may react differently to broccoli. In fact, broccoli, along with other cruciferous vegetables could cause bloating and gas in dogs if the intake exceeds recommended amounts.
Therefore, if you are feeding your dog broccoli for the first time, it’s critical to monitor the dog’s reactions to the vegetable besides limiting the quantity. If it doesn’t react adversely or does not develop belly troubles, you could stop with the rigorous monitoring after a few days. If it, however, starts to experience diarrhea or bloating, you may have to cut out the veggie completely.
If you are concerned about your dog’s adverse reactions to the vegetable but would still like to give it a try, introduce broccoli into your pet’s diet slowly or in phases. This could significantly bring down the possibilities of your dog experiencing issues with the vegetable, even if it’s predisposed to the condition.
Cut the Vegetable Into Bite-Size Pieces
Broccoli is a crunchy, hard food and, as a result, a potential choking hazard. Also, broccoli stalks could be a tad too big for your dog to swallow and would likely cause an obstruction in its esophagus, particularly in puppies.
Therefore, cut the vegetable in bite-size chunks and serve them in smaller quantities. The smaller broccoli portions also make it easier to ascertain how much broccoli you’re feeding your dog.
Cook the Vegetable
Though your dog should have no problem eating broccoli raw, it’s recommended to cook the vegetable. Broccoli, as mentioned above, is fibrous and may present digestive problems. Cooking helps make sure they are easy to chew and relatively soft.
You may steam or sauté the vegetable if your dog likes it that way. Steaming the broccoli would soften the stalks, reducing your pet’s risks of choking. If you’d like to make the treat extra-delicious, add some olive or coconut oil to the pan.
But make sure you don’t go overboard with the oil. Unlike humans, dogs do not prefer their broccoli with toppings such as salt, butter, or ranch dressing. They like their veggies close to plain. Too many additional ingredients only add up the calories, contributing to weight gain and also increasing the possibility of stomach irritation in your pet.
Use It More as a Snack or Treat
If your dog likes broccoli, the veggie could be its reward for good conduct or worked in as an occasional snack. Broccoli doesn’t have sugars, dyes, synthetic vitamins, or any potentially toxic constituents – which makes it better than processed snacks any day of the year.
If your dog feels exhausted or doesn’t have the appetite and energy to eat its regular food after eating broccoli, you are likely feeding the dog broccoli above recommended levels. Talk to your vet if you’re not sure about how much broccoli should you be feeding your dog.
Broccoli is ideal for human consumption, and there’s no real upper limit to the amount of broccoli you could eat. Isothiocyanate, in humans, works more as an anti-inflammatory than as a toxin. The vegetable, in fact, is often recommended to people suffering from inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.
But when it comes to dogs, broccoli can be a cause for concern, particularly if the consumption levels are out of bounds. Keeps the feeding limited, and your dog should be fine. If you don’t want to tread the thin line, however, you can always replace the broccoli with more dog-friendly veggies such as spinach. Seaweed is an option too.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.