Safe and Unsafe Vegetables For Dogs & Cats

Author: Dr. Beth Turner

Published: August 9, 2021

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doodle dog eating a carrot

I think that if vegetables smelled and tasted like bacon, more folks would be willing to eat them. I mean, let’s face it, while it may taste great, the smell of broccoli cooking just isn’t appealing. The good news is our pets (well, most of them!) are not as picky as us, and that is a good thing!

One thing that everyone can agree on, whether they like veggies or not, is that they have a lot of health benefits, and many are low in calories. Even better yet, is that our pets can share in some of these benefits. Plus, veggies are a great snack to share and bond with our pets without any of the guilt.

It is important to remember, just because we can eat something safely and gain benefits, the same doesn’t always apply to our pets. While there are many safe veggies for pets, there are some that are toxic. Additionally, just because a vegetable is safe, too much of a good thing can cause your pet issues. Therefore, only give vegetables in moderation and use the serving suggestions provided below.

cat on counter looking at vegetables

Safe Vegetables for Dogs and Cats

As many people may know, vegetables can be hard to digest, but cooking helps make them more digestible. Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) are easier on a pet’s digestive system when boiled or steamed before serving. Cats generally do better when vegetables are pureed or mashed.

Even though vegetables are typically low in calories, they should only be given in moderation and never more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories. Smaller pets should receive the lower end of the serving suggestion.

  • Be sure to wash the vegetable before giving. Any bacteria or pesticides used on food can be harmful, just as it is for humans.
  • This list of vegetables is for fresh vegetables, but it can be given frozen as well. Do not use canned versions since they are often high in sodium and heavy in preservatives, especially for cats. Do not apply any seasonings, salts, butter/oils.
  • All serving sizes and calories listed below are approximations and are for illustrative and comparative purposes only.

artichoke

Artichoke

Serving: Cooked and cut into small pieces. 2 to 3 small pieces = 1calorie

Note: Dogs can handle raw artichoke but cooked is easier for digestion. It should not be given often.;

Warning: Artichokes are difficult to chew and digest if not cooked. Can cause intestinal issues and blockage if not chewed properly. In rare cases, some pets can be allergic.

Nutritional Benefit: Antioxidants, Minerals, High fiber, Low cholesterol, Fat-free, Vitamin C, Folic acid, Potassium, Niacin. Possible benefit for dogs with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

asparagus

Asparagus

Serving: Cooked. 1 spear = 3 calories
Dogs: 1 to 3 tablespoons
Cats: Give sparingly, 1 to 2 teaspoons

Note:

Asparagus has a high alkaline content. When cats consume it regularly, it can change the pH of their urine. With time this can cause the formation of crystals which can lead to urinary tract blockages.

Warning: The whole stalk can be a potential choking hazard. It should be softened by cooking it and then serving in bite-sized pieces. Not that many cats may show interest in asparagus but if they do, only give them small pieces.

The inedible fern part featured below, is toxic.

asparagus ferns toxic to pets

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins C, E, and K, Antioxidants, Folate, Copper, an excellent source of potassium


beets

Beets

Serving: Cooked, peeled, puree, mash, or small chunks in very moderate amounts. 1 tsp to 1 tablespoon = 1.3 to 4 calories

Warning: Large amounts of oxalates are present in beets. For some pets, this can lead to bladder stone formation. Do not use in pets who have a history of bladder stones or a predisposition for them. Beets can be acidic and can cause stomach upset, especially for pets with a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. Do not use canned beets due to the high salt content. Do not give pickled beets. If they are not cut into small chunks, they can be a choking hazard. Do not feed raw beets due to the risk of intestinal obstruction.

Note: Due to the pigments in this vegetable, it may change the color of your pet’s poop. It can make it look like it contains blood. Beets are high in sugar.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Nitrates*, Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, Manganese, Folate, Potassium, Choline, Iodine, Iron, Antioxidants, Betalains
*In plants, nitrates are a naturally occurring chemical – not artificial as in the nitrates added to foods like some deli meats, hot dogs, etc. The body converts these natural nitrates into nitric oxide, which aids in blood flow and stamina.


Bok Choy 2

Bok Choy

Serving: Cooked and cut into small pieces. ½ tbsp to 3 tbsp = 9 calories/leaf

Warning: Can cause gas. Do not give whole as it can be a choking hazard. Since it is a cruciferous vegetable, use caution with pets with thyroid issues.

Nutritional Benefit: Vitamins A, C, and K, Calcium, Potassium, low-calorie

broccoli for pets

Broccoli

Serving: Cooked without stems. 1 to 2 florets = 5 to 10 calories

Warning: Too much can cause stomach irritation. Ideally, cook before serving, cut off stems and serve in small bite-sized pieces.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamin C


brussels sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

Serving: Cooked. ½ to 2 sprouts (dependent on the size of pet) = 4 to 16 calories

Warning: Cook until softened and serve in bite-sized pieces. Whole brussel sprouts can be a choking hazard.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins A, B1, B6, C, K, Folate, Manganese, Potassium

cabbage

Cabbage

Serving: Shredded and cooked.
Dogs: 1/8 cup for every 20 lbs for dogs = 2 calories;
Cats: 1 to 2 teaspoons over a period of a week

Warning: Only give in moderation and slowly introduce to dogs and cats, so there are no harmful effects on their thyroid gland. Cabbage contains thiocyanate, which can suppress the thyroid gland if given in large quantities over a long period of time. Cooking helps lower the levels of thiocyanate.

Nutritional Benefit: Aids in digestion, improves the health of skin and fur

carrots

Carrots

Serving: Peeled and cut up. 1 to 3 baby-sized carrots per day = 4 to 12 calories

Warning: Carrots are high in sugar and therefore must be given in moderation. Too many carrots can cause your pet to gain weight and suffer dental decay.

Note: Cats and small breed dogs should have them cooked to avoid choking hazards.

Nutritional Benefit: High fiber, Beta-carotene, Vitamin K, Potassium, low-calorie

Pro Training Tip: If you're concerned about giving your pet too many treats during training sessions, you can choose low-calorie treats or slighty reduce the overall calorie intake from their regular meals. But an easier way is to cut up carrots or other veggies your pet loves into small treat-sized bits and mix them into your training pouch. This way, you'll be offering your pet variety, which they love, and mixing in lower-calorie treats. Just make sure to keep the treats with the veggies in the fridge.

cauliflower

Cauliflower

Serving: Cooked, small bites without stems and leaves. ½ tablespoon to a cup = 0.9 to 27 calories

Warning: If given in large amounts, pets can suffer from gas and gastrointestinal upset.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Antioxidants, Vitamins

celery

Celery

Serving: 1/4 to 1 stalk = 2.5 to 10 calories

Note: Cooking celery makes it easier to digest and makes the vitamins and minerals more available to pets. To prevent choking, be sure to cut into small pieces for small breeds and fast eaters. Too much celery will cause dogs to urinate more than normal since celery acts as a diuretic. Additionally, too much can cause gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Antioxidants, Iron, Calcium, Sodium Phosphorus, Vitamins A, B, C, K high water content, low-calorie, fat-free. Bonus: Freshens pet's breath

Collard GreensCollard Greens

Serving: Cooked and chopped. 1/8 to 3/4 cup = 1.4 to 8.25 calories

Note: Overcooking and exposing to high heat will destroy nutrient content.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Riboflavin, Protein

corn

Corn

Serving: ¼ tablespoon to 2 tablespoons = .5 to 14 calories

Warning: The whole corn cob or a large piece can be a choking hazard and can cause intestinal injury or blockage. Some pets can be allergic to corn, so monitor pets after feeding it.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber

fennel

Fennel and Fennel Seeds

Serving: Chopped leaves and stalks (including bulb-like stem). 1 teaspoon = 7 calories

Seeds for Dogs. Grind 1 teaspoon and add to 8 ounces of boiling water. Mix well. Cool completely. Then add ½ to 1 tsp per 10 pounds (weight of dog) to their dry or wet food.

Fennel aids in digestion, supports the immune system, and helps puppies with gas and bloating. It has also been shown to benefit bad breath!

fennel seedsWarning: Never use concentrated oil for dogs or cats.

For Cats – While they can eat the leaves, stem, and seeds, they do not gain the benefits of fennel to the same extent dogs do. Additionally, it can only be given in small amounts. Too much of the plant material can cause gastrointestinal upset, bloating, diarrhea and vomiting. Kittens are at a greater risk for negative side effects of fennel as compared to adult cats.

Nutritional Benefit: Antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Minerals, may help with indigestion, bloating, and gas.

green beans for pets

Green Beans

Serving: 5 beans cut up into bite-sized pieces (for cats) to ½ cup (approx. 10 to 15 beans) = 8 to 15.5 calories

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Protein, Iron, Vitamins A, C, K, Folate

lettuce for pets

Lettuce

Serving: Chopped or shredded. 1/8 cup to ¾ cup = 1.25 to 2.5 calories

Warning: Avoid iceberg lettuce with cats since it can cause runny diarrhea.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, adds water to diet, low-fat vitamins

Kale

Kale - Not toxic, but avoid

Warning: Kale is high in calcium oxalate and can cause kidney and bladder stones. It also contains isothiocyanates which can cause gastric irritation and can be toxic if consumed as more than 10% of your pet's diet.

mushroomsMushroom

Serving: Organic and only from the grocery store. Cooked, chopped, or sliced. 1/8 cup to ½ cup = 3 to 15 calories (depends on the type of mushroom). 

For Cats: No more than 1/2 to 1 tablespoon.

Warning: Some wild mushrooms are toxic. Some pets are very sensitive to mushrooms and can have severe reactions. Monitor very closely after feeding them. Do not use the canned or dried versions. Cooking is needed since dogs lack the enzymes needed to break down the sugars and fiber in raw mushrooms.

List of safe mushrooms:

  • White button
  • Cremini
  • Portobello
  • Porcini
  • Reishi
  • Shitake
  • Maitake
Nutritional Benefit: Antioxidants, Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids, supports liver and kidney function, low cholesterol, helps weight loss, aids in preventing fatty liver disease, reduces blood pressure


peas

Peas

Serving: ½ tsp to 1 tablespoon = 2 to 7 calories

Warning: Pets with kidney issues should not be fed peas because they contain purines. Purines are a component of uric acid. If there is too much uric acid in the body, kidney and bladder stones can be the result. Do not feed canned peas because they are high in sodium and preservatives.

Nutritional Benefit: Vitamin B, Thiamin, Potassium

potatoesPotatoes

Serving: Peeled, cooked, plain (no butter or extras added) cut up, or mashed. ½ to 3 tablespoons = 7 to 50 calories

Warning: Do not feed raw potatoes. Raw potatoes contain solanine which is toxic to dogs. Cooking reduces these amounts to safe levels. Additionally, raw potatoes can cause intestinal blockages. Do not feed potatoes to diabetic pets since they can spike blood sugar levels. Besides the fact that skins can cause stomach upset, they contain oxalates. While in moderation, they are fine. If your pet gets too much, they may develop kidney problems.

Note: Do not give whole small, boiled potatoes since they can be a choking hazard for smaller pets and can potentially cause a blockage if swallowed, not chewed. Do not give canned potatoes for the same reason.

Nutritional Benefit: Digestible proteins, carbohydrates

radishRadish

Serving: Peeled and chopped. ¼ to 1 teaspoon = 0.08 to 0.33 calories

Warning: May cause gas. While not toxic to cats, they cause stomach discomfort. Whole radishes can be a choking hazard, and raw whole radishes can cause intestinal blockages.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Potassium, Vitamin C. Bonus: The rough texture can help remove plaque from teeth.

RutabagaRutabaga

Serving: Peeled, cooked, and mashed. 1/8 to ¼ medium-sized one = 18 to 36 calories



Nutritional Benefit: Folate, Calcium, low in calories

spinach

Spinach

Serving: Chopped and steamed. 1 to 3 tablespoons = 2.6 to 7.8 calories

Warning: Since spinach contains oxalic acid, do not give large amounts to pets with kidney issues because it can be harmful or worsen their condition. Puppies should not be fed large amounts of spinach due to the fact that their kidneys are not fully functioning since they are still developing. Additionally, spinach naturally contains large amounts of sodium. These high levels can cause health problems in pets, especially those with heart issues.

Note: Always provide an ample supply of water when feeding spinach to flush and counteract the high sodium levels and oxalic acid.

Since cats have a higher rate of urinary and kidney issues, only give rarely or not at all.

Nutritional Benefit: Contains almost every vitamin and mineral, as well as antioxidants

sweet potato

Sweet Potatoes

Serving: Peeled, cooked, plain, cut, or mashed. 1 to 6 teaspoons (giant breeds can handle 12 teaspoons) = 5 to 24 calories

Warning: Do not feed raw since this can cause intestinal upset as well as intestinal blockage. Do not feed peels since they can cause stomach upset. Only give in moderations because high levels of Vitamin A can cause issues for pets such as bone problems and muscle weakness.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Antioxidants, Vitamins A, B6, C, Beta-carotenes, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, low-fat

turnip

Turnips and Parsnips

Serving:
Turnips – cooked or raw – finely chopped up or mashed. ½ tbsp to 1/8 cup = 1.1 to 4.4 calories
Parsnips – cooked or raw – finely chopped up or mashed. For small dogs, 1/8 to ¼ medium-sized parsnip; for medium to large dogs up to ½ of a medium-sized parsnip =11 to 45 calories

Warning: Do not give it to pets with thyroid issues since parsnips and turnips can further suppress its function by blocking the body’s ability to absorb iodine. Only give in small amounts infrequently since they can cause digestive issues.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Antioxidants, Vitamins B6 and C, Folic acid, Potassium, Magnesium, low-calorie, helps stimulate kidney function (beneficial for pets with kidney disease)

To Be Or Not to Be A Veggie

Not to cause more complications in your life, but certain veggies are not veggies at all, but they are actually fruit. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself they are a fruit, it won’t work – I tried! I think these particular foods should be called fruggies (hey, it works for celebrities to combine names). We also have a more comprehensive list of safe and unsafe fruits for dogs and cats.

acorn squash

Acorn Squash

Serving: No seeds, plain, and cooked. 1 tsp – 1 to 2 tbsp = 2.4 to 14.25 calories

Warning: Do not feed the shell since it can cause your pet to choke. 

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins A and B-6, Folate, Potassium, Magnesium

bell pepper

Bell Peppers

Serving: Chopped. 1/8 to ¼ cup = 3.5 to 7 calories

Warning: Remove stem and seeds because they can be a choking hazard for pets.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Beta-carotene, Antioxidants

butternut squashButternut Squash

Serving: No seeds, plain, and cooked. 1 tsp – 1 to 2 tbsp = 1.3 to 7.9 calories

Warning: Do not feed the shell since it can cause your pet to choke. 

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins, Minerals, Anti-oxidants, Niacin, Thiamin, Folate, Pantothenic acid

cucumberCucumbers

Serving: Peeled. 5 to 10 slices = 7 to 15 calories

Warning: Never give the whole cucumber, because it can cause an upset stomach in large amounts and it can cause your pet to choke. Also, they can also potentially lower your pet’s blood pressure. Therefore, if your pet has issues with their blood pressure, consult with your veterinarian before giving.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins K, C, and Magnesium, low in carbohydrates and fats – ideal for overweight pets. Bonus: May freshen breath.

eggplant for pets

Eggplant

Serving: Tastes better to pets if cooked; the flavor is not appealing raw. Peel and cut up into small pieces. ½ tablespoon to 2 tablespoons = .16 to .66 calories

Warning: DO NOT GIVE TO CATS – it is poisonous to them. There is a risk of allergic reaction since they are a member of the nightshade family. They contain solanine and therefore must be given in moderation. High concentrations of solanine are toxic. Eggplants also contain oxalates and should be used with caution with pets with kidney issues. Oxalates can lead to kidney and bladder stones. Not recommended for pets with inflammatory issues as it can make them worse.

Nutritional Benefit: High Fiber, Low-calorie, Vitamins B6 and K, Potassium, Folate, Niacin, Phytonutrients
okra

Okra

Serving: Cooked and cut into small pieces. 1/4 to 1 okra = 1 to 2 calories

Warning: Do not give routinely and only give small amounts. It can cause gas and gastrointestinal upset. Never give pickled okra due to the garlic and high salt content.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamins B and C, Folic Acid, Calcium, helps regulate blood sugar

pumpkin for pets

Pumpkin

Serving: 100% pumpkin puree. Dependent on the size of pet – 1 tsp to 3 tbsp (3-tbsp amount is for giant breeds). 1 tsp = 2 calories

Warning: Too much of a good thing can cause issues. Pumpkin is high in calories. It can also cause problems due to high fiber content. Consult with your veterinarian before giving if your pet has pre-existing medical issues. Do NOT feed pumpkin pie filling.

Note: Dogs can handle raw pumpkin (though it is not ideal). It's best served cooked and pureed. 

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins like A, C, and E, Minerals like iron and potassium

spaghetti squash

Spaghetti Squash

Serving: No seeds, plain, and cooked. 1 tsp – 1 to 2 tbsp = .88 to 5.25 calories

Warning: Do not feed the shell since it can cause your pet to choke. Feeding too much spaghetti squash or too often can cause diarrhea.

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins A and C, Potassium, Magnesium, Anti-oxidants

yellow summer squash

Yellow Squash

Serving: Peeled, chopped, and seed removed. ½ to 1 cup = 5 to 20 calories

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins A, B6, C, Folate, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus

zucchini for pets

Zucchini

Serving: Peeled, chopped, and seed removed. ½ to 1 cup = 5 to 20 calories

Nutritional Benefit: Fiber, Vitamins, Minerals, low-calorie


Toxic Vegetables for Dogs and Cats

The good news is that this list is very short!

Onions, Garlic, Chives, Leeks, Scallions, and Shallots: Cats are more susceptible to their toxic effects than dogs, but both are affected. In addition to gastrointestinal irritation, they can cause red blood cell damage and anemia.

Eggplants are toxic to cats!

As mentioned above, mushrooms are fungi and not vegetables, but some wild mushrooms can be toxic.

Wishing you and your pet share good health while sharing some of these veggie options.

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Beth Turner

Dr. Beth Turner

Beth Turner is a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience. She graduated from North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and following graduation, she began her career as an associate veterinarian and worked closely with the local shelter.

In 2007 she accomplished her dream of practice ownership, designing and building her own clinic. Another meaningful role, while running her clinic, was serving as her county's shelter veterinarian. This gave her the opportunity to help improve the lives of many animals in her community as well as work with the rescue she loved. She sold her practice in 2019 to move across the country.

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