Sometimes, when you are out of the treats your dog loves, you look around in the refrigerator to see if there is any people-food that you can use to reward good behavior. Or maybe you just want to let your dog know you love them. Chances are that you have carrots. But can dogs safely eat carrots?
Yes, dogs can eat carrots! In small amounts, carrots are a crunchy treat that most dogs love. They are low in calories, fat-free, and a great source of beta-carotene that a dog's body can transform into Vitamin A. Chowing down on raw or lightly steamed carrots helps to control tartar, and the fiber in carrots helps your dog stay regular.
In this post, we’ll discuss the nutritional benefits of carrots and how you can serve them up to your hungry pet.
- Are There Benefits To Feeding Your Dog Carrots?
- Aren't Carrots Too High In Sugar For Dogs?
- What Kind Of And How Much Carrot To Offer Your Dog?
- Can Dogs Eat Carrots?: FAQs
- Final Notes
Are There Benefits To Feeding Your Dog Carrots?
Chances are that you already know that carrots are the best natural source of beta-carotene, the plant pigment that makes them orange. In humans, beta-carotene is an important building block for vitamin A, the nutrient responsible for healthy hair and healthy skin.
In dogs, Vitamin A is essential for preventing skin problems,ensuring a healthy coat, for night vision, the ability to heal cuts and scrapes, and a strong immune system.
The free-roaming ancestors of today's dogs didn't eat carrots. Even today, dogs get most of their Vitamin A from animal fat and liver. Craving vitamin A is one of the reasons dogs love the liver. But over thousands of years of living with humans, dogs have developed the ability to transform the beta-carotene in foods humans eat into the vitamin A they need, unlike other pets, such as cats.
But making vitamin A isn't the only reason carrots are good for dogs.
Like apples for dogs, carrots are a good source of the plant chemical quercetin. This compound has a chemical structure very similar to an antihistamine called cromolyn sodium, the active ingredient in Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra. Quercetin stops allergies the same way cromolyn sodium does, but without the side effects.
Carrots are also a good source of Vitamin C. Dogs don't need Vitamin C from food (their bodies make the Vitamin C they need), but the extra antioxidant power of Vitamin C and lutein help prevent an older dog's cataracts.
Aren't Carrots Too High In Sugar For Dogs?
Dog diabetes is a generally misunderstood subject. Humans make most of the glucose that powers every cell from the carbohydrates in their food. Dogs make most of their glucose from the excess amino acids they get from eating large amounts of protein.
Dogs can convert some of the carbohydrates in carrots into glucose, but their bodies aren't as efficient at it as humans. Carrots in small amounts don't raise a dog's blood sugar levels. In dogs, diabetes has more to do with getting too many calories in general than it does with getting too much carbohydrate in particular. Of course, the best amount of added sugar in your dog's diet is none at all.
Complex carbohydrates in carrots, like cellulose, have a far greater effect on your dog's health than the small amount of simple sugars the vegetable contains. Cellulose is "fiber" for dogs, but it is food for the probiotic bacteria that live in your dog's large intestine. Probiotic bacteria convert cellulose into butyric acid, the perfect fuel for the defensive cells that line the gut. They create nutrition for immune cells in your dog's lower digestive tract that isn't found in their food itself.
What Kind Of And How Much Carrot To Offer Your Dog?
Can dogs eat raw carrots? Can dogs eat cooked carrots? How many carrots can dogs eat every day?
Dogs can enjoy their carrots raw or cooked. They don't usually chew their carrots thoroughly. You don't want your dog choking, so be sure to peel and chop the carrots you feed your dog into 1/4 inch (6 mm) segments. If the carrot is more than 1 inch (25 mm) wide, split it lengthwise before you dice it into smaller chunks.
Dogs can also eat carrot tops and carrot peels. Carrot tops provide an extra dose of quercetin. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly and give them a fine dice before you add them to your dog's food. A tablespoon or so (about 15 grams) is enough. Dice peels, too, so they won't get caught in your dog's throat.
There actually is an upper limit to how much carrot is safe for your dog—but it is really high. Scientists have determined that the beta-carotene in carrots could become toxic if a 25-pound (11-kg) dog were to eat about 7 pounds (3 kg) of carrots.1
This is not likely to happen! However, serving your dog more than 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) of carrot per day interferes with the absorption of essential nutrients from meat and grains. Giving your dog too much cooked carrot, or giving her carrots every day, can cause diarrhea. Offer carrots as a treat, not as an everyday part of your dog's diet.
Can Dogs Eat Carrots?: FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions of pet parents who give their dogs carrots.
Why do dogs love carrots?
Dogs of all ages judge their food on the basis of its scent. Dogs like the way fresh carrots smell. Most of a carrot's scent, however, comes from its fresh green leaves, not from the root that people eat.
Adult dogs also enjoy frozen carrots as chew toys. Keep a few carrots in the freezer to give your dog when he is bored, or as a special treat. Just be sure you freeze the bottom of the carrot, not the top. Frozen carrot leaves can make a mess as your dog plays with them.
Puppies that have teeth coming in love chewing on frozen miniature carrots. The cold numbs the pain of teething, and the carrots do double duty as a chew toy. They are just hard enough to be fun to chew, and not so hard that they damage the puppy's new teeth.
Do carrots improve your dog's vision?
There are some good indications that the beta-carotene in carrots and other foods can help maintain your dog's vision. The degenerative changes in canine vision happen more slowly when dogs receive beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These are plant chemicals found in colorful vegetables and colorful meats (like salmon). But once your dog has already developed age-related vision problems, carrots and other colorful vegetables are not enough to reverse them.
Which is better for dogs, cooked carrots or raw carrots?
When there is no choking hazard, both cooked carrots and raw carrots are fine for dogs. Cooked carrots, surprisingly, have more concentrated nutrition than raw carrots, but both cooked and raw carrots are great sources of beta-carotene and fiber. The most concentrated beta-carotene and vitamin K1 is found in dried carrots.
For puppies, it is a good idea to steam carrots first, so they won't become a choking hazard. For adult dogs, offer the kind of carrot your dog enjoys the most, as long as you wash, peel, and dice it first.
Besides carrots, which vegetables are best for dogs?
Here is a rundown of the plant foods that benefit canine health.
- Asparagus. Asparagus is a good substitute for a chew stick. It is a great source of niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, potassium, selenium, copper, and chromium. It may give your dog's urine an off odor, however, and it should be steamed before you serve it to your dog.
- Beets. Both cooked and raw beets have an earthy flavor that dogs enjoy. They are relatively high in sugar content, but this is not a problem for dogs unless they are given in excessive amounts. If you are serving raw beets, dice them first to prevent a choking hazard.
- Boiled potato. Potatoes in small amounts are a source of resistant starch that feeds probiotic bacteria. Always peel potatoes before you cook them, because the peel can contain a highly toxic compound called solanin, especially if it is green.
- Cooked spinach. Steamed or boiled spinach also provides nitrites that increase circulation and give your dog more energy. Raw spinach, however, contains oxalates that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Cooked Swiss chard (silverbeet) and beet greens are also high in nitrites.
You can serve your dog a single serving of fruits and vegetables every day. That's no more than 50 grams (1-3/4 ounces) of fruits and vegetables a day for a small-breed adult dog, no more than 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) of fruits and vegetables a day for a mid- or large-breed dog, and just one or two tablespoons (15 to 30 grams) for puppies.
Which vegetables should I not feed my dog?
Raw dry beans are toxic to dogs. Once they have been soaked, rinsed, and cooked, they are OK in small amounts, but they can cause gas. Green beans are OK in small amounts as a crunchy snack.
Broccoli contains cancer-fighting isothiocyanates, but they can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and gas. There are similar problems with cabbage, cauliflower,collard greens, Brussels sprouts, radishes, and kale.
Any part of a vegetable that is toxic for people is likely also to be toxic to a dog. Never let your dog eat tomato vines, Irish potato vines (sweet potato vines are edible). And keep your pet dog away from avocado, chocolate, garlic, onion, pickles, and cannabis edibles.
Carrots are a great snack for dogs. Be sure to cut them up so you can serve them safely. Ask your vet how many carrots a day are best for your dog and how best to prepare them for maximum benefits.
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