As you probably already know, there are multiple ways to add dog meal toppers to your pup’s daily meals. If you find the options overwhelming, we’ll simplify them for you. This article gives you a health-focused road map so you can choose what healthy food toppers you can add to your dog’s bowl and what veggies dogs can eat safely.
The Importance of Vegetables for Dogs
Years ago we used to say “eat your veggies it’s good for vitamins. Today we know so much more about nutrition.
We know health starts off in the gut and dogs that eat vegetables have healthier microbiomes due to the three compounds only found in plants.
Polyphenol content in plant food help to slow down the development of diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Flavanoids describe plant chemicals that protect against oxidative stress by fighting off free radicals to protect your dog’s body against everyday toxins and stressors.
It also helps against inflammation by dismissing the inflammatory reaction to reduce those symptoms.
Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds that help boost your dog’s immune system because they offer protection against viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
24 Veggies Dogs Can Eat as Meal Toppers
We organized a list of healthy food toppers for dogs based on the health benefits you can expect from each vegetable.
Dog food is dry, and hydrating it, will make it easier for your dog to digest. Sure, you can add water, but why not turn to vegetables for that added nutritional boost.
- Cucumbers are made of 96% water. It’s a cooling vegetable that helps refresh dogs that tend to run hot. It also has diuretic properties and can help dogs that have sweaty bellies. Feed cucumbers raw or pulsed in a food processor.
- Celery is up there with cucumbers and is 96% water. It’s great to feed because it helps detox and eliminates waste. Celery is best pulsed in the food processor before feeding them to your dog, although some will eat them raw.
- Bok choy is another hydrating vegetable that has the added benefit of improving digestion. Traditionally found in Asian markets, it has now found a place in your local neighborhood grocery stores. Bok Choy can be lightly cooked, steamed, or pulsed in a food processor.
- Jicama is around 86% water. It also contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that helps lead to a healthier gut. Jicama can be fed raw.
Alkalizing vegetables help against inflammation. And why do we want this? Because inflammation is the root of a lot of ailments so we want to help keep inflammation low.
- Radishes are a low oxalate, alkalizing root vegetable. They add crunch and texture and can be fed raw.
- Parsley is both an alkaline and an apiaceous vegetable. It also helps detox dogs against cancer-causing substances like mycotoxins found in feed-grade dog food. Blanch it before you feed it to your dog.
- Spinach is an alkaline vegetable rich in chlorophyll which is excellent for building blood. Spinach contains oxalate, so skip feeding this if your dog is prone to oxalate stones. For otherwise healthy dogs, feed it blanched lightly steamed.
- Arugula is an alkaline vegetable that has a bitter profile. It is full of vitamins and can also help dogs with sweaty bellies as it has a slight draining effect. Cook or steam arugula before you feed it to your dog.
Probiotics certainly have their place in your dog’s health and while you might think of probiotics as a supplement, we invite you to look at pre and probiotics coming from a whole food source.
- Broccoli sprouts provide a fantastic source of digestive enzymes. It also contains sulforaphane which has anti-cancer benefits. You can feed these cooked or raw.
- Asparagus has both types of fiber (soluble and insoluble), which help support regular bowel movements. The prebiotic in asparagus allow your dog have a healthier gut. Asparagus can be fed raw or lightly cooked to your dog.
- Jerusalem artichoke is packed with inulin and a prebiotic food that helps feed the probiotics in your dog’s stomach, leading to a healthy gut. You can feed them raw to your dog.
- Radicchio is part of the chicory family and is loaded with prebiotic fiber. It can be fed raw or cooked by blanching or steaming.
Helps Against Cancer Cells
Certain vegetables are cancer-fighting because they are rich in antioxidants that help protect cell membranes.
- Peas are great for eye health as well as help fight against cancer. You can keep frozen peas in the freezer and have them available year-round. Peas can be fed cooked or raw to your dog.
- Turkey tail is the most famous mushroom in the fight against cancer. It also helps to boost immunity as well as help crowd out yeast. If you can find turkey tail fresh, you can lightly cook it in coconut oil or a little butter before adding it to your dog’s bowl.
- Brussel sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable high in vital vitamins to keep your dog stay healthy. Its high fiber content helps to keep the colon happy and provides anti-cancer support. Cook brussels sprouts before you feed them to your dog.
- Parsley can help slow down tumor growth. It also helps keep your dog’s urinary tract healthy. Chop a small amount and sprinkle it raw on top of your dog’s food.
The four apiaceous vegetables below contain polyacetylenes which play a crucial role in several detoxifying cancer-causing substances such as mycotoxin in kibble.
- Cilantro can help fight against infections. Chop a small amount and sprinkle it raw on top of your dog’s food.
- Carrots are one of the most commonly fed vegetables for various reasons. It helps regulate loose stools, and the beta-carotene in it is an excellent source of vitamin A. You can feed carrots raw or cooked to your dogs.
- Fennel also has anethole which is an anti-inflammatory and the main active ingredient. It’s best when it’s blanched or steamed before adding it to your dog’s bowl.
- Parsnips are high in fiber and antioxidants that fight cancer. You can boil or steam them before adding them to your dog’s bowl.
Fresh vegetables are packed with vitamins that lead to a higher level of health.
- Dandelions are great for dogs that have gas. It also helps reduce inflammation and lowers the effects of inflammatory bowel disease. It has a diuretic effect, so feed it sparingly. You can feed it fresh, make it into a tea, or lightly steam.
- Arugula is high in vitamins A and K, which can help with eyesight. Feed it steamed or blanched.
- Cauliflower not only has a high level of vitamins but also has a chemical called isothiocyanate that plays a prominent role in potential anti-cancer benefits. Cauliflower is best lightly cooked before feeding it to your dog.
- Green beans are packed with essential vitamins as well as fiber. Most dogs love the crunchy texture and slightly sweet flavor. You can feed these lightly cooked or raw.
How Many Vegetables To Feed As Meal Toppers.
Now that you know what veggies dogs can eat, how many should you include with your dog’s meals?
When the vegetables have small leaves (like parsley and cilantro) – chop a small amount to sprinkle onto top of your dog’s food. It should appear like a garnish and not be overfed.
For the other vegetables, it should not be more than five percent of their meal. This can be difficult to assess when you’re looking at your dog, especially if they are fluffy.
The best way to estimate the correct portion is to look at your dog’s paw and imagine their pawprint on the sand. The portion should be no larger than their pawprint.
Finally, you can add any combination of one to two vegetables each meal but keep an eye out on their stool because too much fiber can cause food to pass through too fast.
When you have a health goal in mind, such as reducing inflammation or detoxing your dog, it becomes easier to select healthy food toppers for your dog.
If you identify a vegetable that would be beneficial for your dog but they aren’t interested in eating it as a food topper, consider making healthy homemade dog treats with that veggie as the main ingredient.
Feed what’s fresh and in season, and rotate the vegetables you feed so that your dog benefits from all the different nutrients. With so many veggies dogs can eat available, there are many options to consider!
And remember to go slow and feed small portions.
Do you have a favorite dog meal topper in your house? We would love to hear your go-to healthy food toppers in the comments!
About the Author: Dog nutrition is Hannah Zulueta’s life calling. She’s on a mission to bring nutrition to as many dog parents as possible by demystifying and simplifying how you can feed your dog fresh food. You can find more from Hannah at Daily Dog Food Recipes.