Remember all those dinners when your mom would give you broccoli and you’d do everything you could to get out of eating it, including slipping it under the table to your waiting dog? Your dog probably didn’t drop dead from their broccoli snacks, so that shows broccoli doesn’t present any immediate danger to canines. However, keep a few things in mind before you pretend you don’t notice your kids “accidentally” dropping their broccoli under the table.
Is Broccoli Safe for Dogs?
Broccoli isn’t necessarily poisonous to dogs, but it should only be fed in very small amounts. There’s a difference between being able to tolerate a food and being able to digest it. Your dog might be able to tolerate things like the stuffing from their favorite toy or the poo from your neighbor’s chickens, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually digesting any of it. Dogs just aren’t made to digest fruits and vegetables like a human can. Even if they can digest them, it doesn’t mean they’re gaining any nutrition from them.
Broccoli is very dense in nutrients, but dogs can’t absorb them like humans do. Despite their digestive systems working best with meat, the soluble fiber in broccoli is beneficial to a dog. The fiber keeps their bowel movements regular and supports their intestinal health. Broccoli’s bioflavonoids have been linked to cancer prevention in humans, and may help reduce a dog’s risk of cancer.
If a dog eats too much broccoli, two things may happen. First, the dog might experience a lot of flatulence, which is normal since broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable. If the dog eats a significant amount of broccoli, though, it can actually be poisonous. Broccoli contains a substance called isothiocyanate, and when it’s ingested in large amounts, it can be toxic to dogs. The isothiocyanate is found only in the head of the broccoli, and how much is considered a “large” amount depends mostly on the dog’s size. A smaller dog can become ill from just a floret or two, while larger dogs will have to eat more.
How to Feed Broccoli to Dogs
You probably shouldn’t feed your dog raw broccoli. Raw vegetables can be very hard on the dog’s digestive system, and if your dog likes raw broccoli, you might notice an increase in your dog’s gas or loose stools. Steaming broccoli–sans any seasoning–is a better option for your dog’s digestion. Don’t make the vegetable any more than five percent of your dog’s diet to avoid potential toxicity issues. Before you start giving your dog broccoli, talk to your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s specific risks. If your dog is older or very small, broccoli might not be in their best interest and might need to be avoided altogether.
If you don’t want to take the risk of your dog getting sick from broccoli, then you can safely feed the stems instead. Since the majority of the isothiocyanate is found in the head, the stems are a better option for small dogs, seniors, or puppies. Steam them to make them easier to chew and digest.
If you notice that your dog develops diarrhea or a stomachache from broccoli, you should stop feeding it immediately and stick to their regular food. Signs of a stomachache can include lethargy, a lack of appetite, slow movement, and walking with an arched back.
Broccoli is okay for your dog in moderation and can actually benefit them nutritionally if it’s fed with discretion. Before you introduce any new food to your pup, even something as nutritious as broccoli, make sure you’ve discussed the move with your veterinarian.