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Can dogs eat broccoli?

A crown of broccoli

Dogs can be just as much work as kids when it comes to feeding the right foods! 

Knowing what your precious pooch can and can’t eat is one of the most important things about being a dog owner. Although you can’t watch what your dog eats all the time, you’re the one in charge of his meals and snacks—and it’s easy to mistake something that’s good for us for also being good for your dog.

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of 'human' foods that your pup can enjoy alongside you. Many dog owners are surprised to learn just how varied their dog’s diet can be when they add in some fruits and vegetables.

Broccoli is one of those foods. This popular green vegetable is known for its large flowering head and thick stalk. Broccoli is part of the cabbage family Brassicaceae, and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. When cooked properly, it’s a delicious addition to stir fries, soups, and other savory meals. But is broccoli safe for dogs?

Is broccoli good for dogs to eat?

Yes! Broccoli has long been hailed as a superfood for humans due to its powerful nutritional value. And the good news is that may benefit your best friend in lots of ways, too. 

The edible part of broccoli includes the florets and the stalk. It’s possible to eat these parts either raw or cooked. However, broccoli florets contain small molecules called isothiocyanate. These compounds are produced by several plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family. They're also present in cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Isothiocyanates are tolerable in small amounts. Large amounts, however, can irritate your dog’s gastrointestinal system. This can lead to gas, nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.

If your dog eats more broccoli than he should, these tummy upsets can have more severe consequences. For that reason, it’s very important to know how much broccoli your dog can handle. 

The benefits of giving your dog broccoli

Broccoli can help support bone health 

Just half a cup of broccoli contains 110 mcg of vitamin K—more than nearly any other vegetable. This nutrient plays a valuable role in your dog’s bone health because it’s directly linked to bone density. It works by promoting production of the protein that is needed for stabilizing calcium in the bones.

This is especially helpful for older dogs whose bones have started to weaken. Puppies also require plenty of vitamin K to support their growing skeletons. Vitamin K also activates the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms and supports bone health.

Broccoli provides vitamin C

Although your doggo can make this vitamin on his own, it’s still an important addition to his diet. Vitamin C provides powerful antioxidant protection against harmful free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and increase the risk of disease. Antioxidants such as vitamin C help control the free radical damage while slowing the aging process. Research has shown that vitamin C can even help ward off certain diseases and cancers.

Broccoli is rich in minerals

Dietary minerals are crucial to your dog’s many bodily systems—and broccoli contains loads of them. Potassium is an important electrolyte required for healthy nerve impulses. It also helps with brain and muscle function. Low levels of potassium have been linked to a condition called arrhythmia. This can cause your heart to beat too quickly or too slowly. Arrhythmia can affect all canines but especially dogs with shorter snouts like boxers, bulldogs, pugs, and shih tzus. 

Broccoli is also a source of calcium, which is essential for your dog’s bone and cartilage development. Calcium also helps with blood clotting. It's important for his neuromuscular, cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine function. Phosphorus works alongside calcium, supporting healthy bones and teeth.

Broccoli is an excellent source of fiber

Like humans, dogs need plenty of fiber—and broccoli is packed with it! This includes the two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is the type that can’t be broken down in the gut. Instead, it adds bulk to your dog’s stools, helping to keep his bowel movements regular. Insoluble fiber also supports the healthy renewal of intestinal cells. 

Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is a form of ‘food’ for the healthy bacteria living in your dog’s gut. These bacteria are very important in supporting his digestion and immune function. Up to 70 percent of your dog’s immune system is in his gut… so a little fiber can go a long way. 

Can broccoli be bad for dogs?

For the most part, the health benefits of broccoli far outweigh any negative side effects. Broccoli is considered safe in dogs as long as it makes up less than 10 percent of their daily intake. A diet that contains more than 25 percent broccoli (or other cruciferous vegetables) may be toxic for your dog. This is due to the isothiocyanate molecules described above. 

Fortunately, small amounts of isothiocyanates are perfectly manageable in most dogs. The trick is to keep their intake small! 

The other important thing to remember is that broccoli stalks can be quite tough and have been known to cause obstructions in small dogs. This means you should make sure any broccoli you give your dog is cut up into small pieces that he can chew easily. 

How to prepare broccoli for dogs

As with any new food, it’s best to start with a small serving and watch for his reaction. If he seems to handle it okay, you can try feeding him more. But keep his intake low. 

Lightly cooking broccoli will also make it easier to chew. Avoid using butter or cooking oil as this adds unnecessary calories to your dog’s diet and can make him ill. Instead, steam or boil it. You can then add it to his main meal, or serve on the side like a salad! 

It’s also a good idea to check with your vet about how much broccoli is safe for your dog, or if it’s suitable for him at all.

Learn more about foods that you dog can and can't eat:

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 23, 2020.

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