This veterinarian says the cruciferous vegetable can actually be a healthy treat for your pup now and then when prepared correctly.

By Chad Taylor
January 18, 2021
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Broccoli is a polarizing vegetable among humans. Some people love and swear by it at every meal they can. Parents can attest that getting kids to eat broccoli can sometimes be a chore. But what about your dog? Just like with people, the first question you'll most likely have to discover about your dog isn't "can they eat broccoli" but more "will they eat broccoli?" Beyond that initial question of personal tastes, broccoli can be a healthy, safe treat alternative, as long as some simple rules are followed.

Can My Dog Eat Broccoli?

Yes, broccoli is safe for dogs to eat both cooked or raw. Though if it's not raw, then steamed is the way to go since most other cooking methods tend to involve butter or oils (both of which can cause dogs some stomach upset in the short term and weight gain in the long run). Otherwise, not only is broccoli safe, it's also a good source of vitamin C, making it a nice boost to their nutritional intake.

"Broccoli is a vegetable that's high in fiber," says Kaci Angelone, DVM, MS, from Denver, Colo. "High-fiber treats can help keep your pets feeling full, which can cut down on counter surfing or overeating."

Yellow lab in front of broccoli illustration
Credit: Emma Darvick / Nupat Arjkla / EyeEm / Getty

How to Feed Your Dog Broccoli Safely

We mentioned steaming broccoli over pan cooking to cut down on the use of oil or butter. Similarly, fresh is always preferable to frozen or bagged because of the potential increase in sodium. However, no matter how you prepare your dog's broccoli, you'll want to start with a small amount and see how your dog handles it before giving them any larger amounts or making broccoli a regular in your treat rotation.

Broccoli florets contain chemicals known as isothiocyanates, which can cause moderate to severe gastrointestinal distress in some dogs. So starting with a couple pieces then watching how your dog's stomach handles it can be a good way of knowing if a regular intake of broccoli will cause your pup any problems.

Additionally—and this goes for almost any kind of treat you give your dog—moderation is key. Make sure the amount they're ingesting doesn't become a significant portion of their daily calories. Most vets recommend keeping treat intake to about 10 percent of a dog's diet, but with broccoli—again, because of those isothiocyanates—if that amount starts to creep up to 25 percent, toxicity issues can occur.

Finally, as with just about anything not specifically made for dogs to eat, you'll want to make sure that you're giving your dog broccoli in portions that are small enough to not become a choking hazard for them. Dogs are not well-known for their patience when eating treats, and the broad heads of broccoli florets can easily become caught in the throat if they aren't cut up properly.

"I would say that it's a risk if you leave it intact and give them larger florets," Angelone says. "Steaming broccoli makes it a little easier to chew and digest. Also, make sure you're giving your dog plain broccoli, rather than broccoli casserole or anything like that, because the added cheese and sauces can provide too much in the way of fats."

Broccoli Isn’t the Only Vegetable Dogs Can Eat, Right?

Right! Many vegetables are healthy options for dogs that can provide a nutritional boost while also helping curb appetites and keep your dog's weight on track. When prepared safely, a few of the healthiest veggies for your dog include:

Whenever feeding your dog non-toxic human foods, moderation is always going to be the name of the game. Keep the portioning low, don't use veggies in lieu of a nutritionally complete dog food, and don't weigh them down with any extra ingredients or flavorings.