- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Did you know that the top of the broccoli florets are truly flower buds? Maybe that’s why it’s one of the healthiest foods in our diets. Broccoli is rich in vitamins and minerals, a great source of dietary fiber, and delicious when roasted, steamed, or any way you cook it. But can dogs eat broccoli?
Read on to learn if you can give your dog a quick taste of this vitamin-packed mini-tree next time they beg for some of your dinner.
Maybe. Dogs are omnivores, and they benefit from many different fruits and vegetables for the same reasons humans do: these foods are low in fat and sugar, and high in vitamins and fiber.
Broccoli, however, isn’t among the most ideal vegetables for dogs. It does pack plenty of vitamin C and healthy fiber, but it also contains a potentially dangerous ingredient known as isothiocyanate that can cause severe abdominal pain and digestive issues if a dog eats too much broccoli.
In small quantities, yes. Dogs can benefit from the nutrients in broccoli, including vitamin K, calcium, and potassium. Vitamin K promotes strong bones and higher bone density, and in combination with broccoli’s many nutrients, it can be a real boost for growing dogs.
How much is too much? A dog shouldn’t get more than 10% of their daily calories from broccoli, which varies quite a bit depending on the size and activity level of your dog.
The main concern with broccoli is a naturally occurring compound called isothiocyanate, which can cause mild to severe irritation to the digestive tract.
Isothiocyanate is also present in other cruciferous vegetables, like kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, although broccoli is particularly rich in the compound. Isothiocyanate is very useful to the plants—it helps protect them from insects and infection by bacteria. In fact, the compound is part of the signature flavor of these foods.
A small amount of isothiocyanate is harmless, but if a dog eats more than 10% of his calories from broccoli, isothiocyanate can cause gut irritation. The real danger starts if a dog eats large quantities of broccoli, around 25% of his daily calories. At that high concentration, isothiocyanate can become a deadly toxin.
With broccoli, it’s a good idea to follow the 10% rule: a dog can eat 10% of his calories from fruits, veggies, and treats. Start out slow with broccoli to make sure your dog digests it well. Watch closely for signs of belly troubles, like gas or diarrhea.
If broccoli agrees with your dog, feel free to feed him a small amount each day if you want to. Stay within that 10% rule and you’ll be safe in terms of gut irritation caused by naturally occurring isothiocyanate.
It’s worth noting that the isothiocyanate in broccoli is dangerous for dogs in large quantities, but is considered to be very healthy for people. In humans, isothiocyanate functions as an anti-inflammatory, and broccoli has been recommended to people suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The compound is also being investigated as a cancer drug.
If you do serve your dog broccoli, be sure to chop it up into bite-sized pieces and to cook it before serving. Broccoli can be fibrous, so test the pieces to make sure they’re very soft and easy to chew. Also, serve it only as an occasional treat, and in small quantities.
Learn more about feeding your dog a wonderfully varied diet while learning the limitations of a dog’s sensitive digestive system. We offer a collection of articles on foods that are safe, dangerous or even toxic for dogs to eat, including vegetables, dairy, bread, and junk food.
Learn more about the veggies that are safe for dogs in articles such as Can my dog eat cabbage?