Vegetables For Dogs: Top 10 Benefits

Vegetables For Dogs: Top 10 Benefits

Amy Thompson

One thing's for sure when it comes to feeding vegetables for dogs: it sparks a lot of debate among pet owners and veterinarians alike. While some vets and raw feeders argue that dogs don’t need vegetables, others believe they're essential for a balanced diet.

This can be confusing for dog owners who want to do what’s best for their dog. To shed light on this topic, we consulted pioneering raw food veterinarian Dr Ian Billinghurst. Known for his groundbreaking books "Give Your Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pups With Bones," Dr Billinghurst is an advocate for including vegetables in dogs’ diets.

Dr Billinghurst firmly believes that most dogs can and should eat vegetables. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider adding vegetables to your dog’s diet and dog food.

1. Vegetables Contain Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are powerful plant compounds found only in fruits and vegetables, and they offer numerous health benefits. These nutrients have been shown to support overall health by:

  • Supporting healthy cells
  • Promoting gut health
  • Supporting liver function

Vegetables rich in phytonutrients include broccoli and kale. By incorporating these vegetables into your dog’s diet, you can help them gain access to these beneficial compounds, enhancing their overall health and well-being.

2. Vegetables Support A Dog's Digestive Tract

Enzymes are crucial for digestion and metabolic processes, and many vegetables are rich in these beneficial proteins. Vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes contain enzymes that can aid in digestion and support overall metabolic health.

Some enzymes survive the acidic environment of the stomach and pass into the intestines, where they continue to function. These enzymes can help reduce signs of aging and degeneration, supporting your dog’s long-term health.

3. Vegetables Contain Antioxidants

Antioxidants are essential for protecting your dog against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage. Vegetables and herbs are excellent sources of antioxidants like lutein and beta-carotene.

These antioxidants help stabilize free radicals, preventing them from causing harm to your dog’s cells and organs. Including antioxidant-rich vegetables in your dog’s diet can support their overall health and protect against the damaging effects of free radicals.

4. Fiber Boosts Your Dog’s Health

Fiber is a critical component of a healthy diet, and raw vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber passes through the digestive system mainly undigested and reaches the colon, where it is fermented by beneficial bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are used for energy, immune cell production, and protecting the gut lining.

Fiber also has several other health benefits for dogs:

  • Providing antioxidative properties
  • Supporting gut health
  • Clearing toxins from the body
  • Promoting a feeling of fullness

By adding fiber-rich vegetables to your dog’s diet, you can help support his digestive health and overall well-being.

5. Research Shows Vegetable Benefits For Dogs

Studies have shown that vegetables can provide significant health benefits for dogs, particularly in terms of gut health.

One study at Seoul National University found that dogs fed a natural diet with 10% vegetables and 90% meat had more diverse gut bacteria compared to those on commercial processed diets. The researchers concluded that the natural diet group had higher richness and diversity in their gut microbiota, which is essential for overall health.

A diverse gut microbiota also strengthens your dog's immune system.

6. Vegetables Help Alkalize Your Dog’s Body

Balancing the pH levels in your dog's body is crucial for maintaining optimal health. Certain organs, such as the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, heart, and kidneys, function better in a more alkaline environment. Excessive acidity in the body, on the other hand, can lead to health problems.

Proteins, especially meat, tend to increase the acidity in the body. To counterbalance this effect, incorporating alkaline-forming vegetables into your dog’s diet can be beneficial. Some vegetables that help to alkalize the body include:

  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Seaweed
  • Watercress
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Avocados
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Peas
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower

Adding these vegetables to your dog’s meals can help him maintain a healthy pH balance.

7. Nutrients in Vegetables for Dogs

Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. While dogs need meat to obtain a complete array of amino acids, vegetables can complement their diet by providing additional nutrients that meat alone may not supply.

For instance, vegetables are rich in phytonutrients, which are beneficial plant compounds not found in meat.

However, it’s important to avoid feeding your dog grains and legumes like peas and beans. These foods are high in starch, which can cause or aggravate various health problems. Additionally, many grains and legumes are treated with harmful herbicides like glyphosate, which can pose a health risk.

8. Vegetables Hydrate Your Dog

Hydration is essential for your dog’s health, and vegetables can be a great source of water. Dogs that eat kibble are often in a chronic state of dehydration, which can contribute to issues like kidney disease and bladder stones.

Adding vegetables to your dog’s diet can help increase his water intake, promoting better hydration.

Vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are more than 85% water. Including these hydrating vegetables in your dog’s meals can help keep him well-hydrated and support his overall health.

9. Vegetables Are Rich in Vitamins for Dogs

Raw vegetables provide a variety of essential vitamins that contribute to your dog’s health, including:

  • B Vitamins: Support energy production, enzyme function, nervous system health, immune response, and metabolism. While vegetables contain many B vitamins, they are low in B12 and B1, which can be supplemented with foods like liver and eggs.
  • Vitamin C and Co-Factors: Although dogs produce their own vitamin C, additional co-factors from vegetables can help their bodies utilize it more effectively. An extra boost of vitamin C may also be beneficial for aging or stressed dogs.
  • Vitamin A: Enhances immunity, protects eye health, prevents skin disorders, and promotes strong teeth and bones.
  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that helps prevent disease and promotes healthy skin and hair.
  • Vitamin K: Plays a role in bone formation and repair, and supports liver function.

Incorporating a variety of vegetables into your dog’s diet can ensure he receives these vital vitamins.

10. Vegetables Provide Minerals

Dark leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of essential minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Vegetables such as alfalfa and seaweed are particularly rich in minerals. Alfalfa roots can reach deep into the soil, absorbing a wide range of minerals, while seaweed collects nutrients from the sea.

However, it’s important to choose organic vegetables to avoid the risks associated with synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic vegetables ensure that your dog gets the maximum nutritional benefit without the exposure to harmful chemicals.

Bonus: Dogs Eat Vegetables In The Wild

If you're still not sold on why vegetables can be beneficial for dogs, we can also look at their natural dietary habits. Dogs, wolves, and other wild canids are not strict carnivores. Unlike cats, which are obligate carnivores, dogs fall somewhere between omnivores and carnivores on the dietary spectrum. This means they consume a variety of foods, including vegetation.

In the wild, canines often eat the gut contents of their prey, which typically includes partially digested vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Additionally, wild dogs are known to scavenge for vegetation such as berries, grasses, and other plant materials. This varied diet has been part of their natural eating habits for thousands of years, supporting the idea that vegetables can be a healthy part of your dog’s diet.

Can Dogs Eat Vegetables Every Day?

Yes, dogs can eat vegetables every day. Dr Billinghurst recommends feeding vegetables daily to any dog over six weeks old.

Just keep your dog’s vegetable and fruit intake to about 10% of their overall diet.

If your dog feels sick or stressed, vegetation can temporarily be as high as 50% of their diet.

How To Feed Vegetables To Dogs

For the greatest nutritional benefits, you should feed your dog raw vegetables. However, you’ll need to crush or pulverize them in a juicer or blender; otherwise, your dog won’t be able to digest them.

Chopping or grating isn’t enough to make them digestible. You can also lightly steam them if you prefer, but note that cooking will cause some nutrient loss.

Use whatever vegetables are in season, feeding lots of variety. Your goal should be to feed a rainbow of vegetables to your dog. If you’re missing a color, consider adding some fruit as well.

Vegetables Dogs Can’t Eat

Many vegetables are safe for dogs, so asking "what vegetables can dogs eat?" isn't necessarily helpful. Instead, it's better to know which ones dogs can't eat, as not all veggies are safe. Here are a few vegetables that you should avoid or feed in moderation as an occasional tasty treat.

Avoid onions and macadamia nuts, which can be toxic to dogs. If you feed avocados, don’t give the skin or the pit, just the flesh.

If you want to feed your dog safe vegetables, it’s also best to avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and legumes (including fresh or frozen peas and green beans).

However, potato skins contain a lot of nutrients and you can pulverize them and add them to your dog’s dish. Just make sure the skins aren’t green because that makes them toxic.

Wild mushrooms should also be avoided. If your dog eats them, he could become poisoned.

Note: Garlic is often said to be unsafe for dogs, but that’s not true. Fresh garlic in the right amounts has many health benefits for your dog.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating vegetables into your dog’s regular food provides essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support overall health, gut function, and the immune system.

Even if your dog is eating commercial dog foods or isn’t on a raw diet, adding vegetables is a great way to enhance his nutritional intake.


What vegetables can dogs eat daily? Dogs can eat a variety of healthy vegetables daily, including raw carrots, bell peppers, and canned pumpkin, all of which provide essential nutrients (like vitamins C and K) without causing stomach pain or an upset stomach.

What vegetables must be cooked for dogs? Sweet potato and some leafy greens must be cooked for dogs to aid in digestion and prevent stomach pain, ensuring they can safely enjoy these nutritious additions to their diet.

What is the healthiest food to feed your dog? The healthiest food to feed your dog combines a balanced raw diet with healthy vegetables like bell peppers and raw carrots, which offer vital nutrients not found in many commercial dog foods.

How can I add vegetables to my dog's diet? You can add vegetables to your dog's diet by mixing prepared vegetables like canned pumpkin or raw carrots into their regular pet food, providing a great snack that supports their overall health and well-being.